March 24, 2014

Using Marble Runs in Speech Therapy

Marble runs are versatile, super fun, and can be used to target multiple communication goals.

When I was working in a private pediatric setting in Texas, we had a giant marble maze in one corner of the common therapy area. And the kids went bonkers over it! It was a great reward at the end of our sessions, and almost every kiddo asked to use it each day. As time went on, I began incorporating it into my therapy, because marble runs have plenty of opportunities for speech and language practice!

Since leaving that clinic, I have missed having a marble run in my bag of tricks. Luckily, I acquired a small table-top sized one over spring break, and let me tell you, EVERY student I worked with today wanted to use it! Here's a rundown of the many ways you can use marble runs in your speech therapy sessions.

*Basic Concepts: talk about the colors of the marbles and the maze pieces; the number of marbles being used; count the marbles at the bottom of the maze; discuss the shape of the marbles; construct different shapes out of the maze; talk about which marbles were first and last; are the marbles going fast or slow?

*Emerging Language Skills: Marble mazes are excellent because there is a definite start and a definite end, and it doesn't take long for the marbles to reach the bottom. You will have lots of chances to elicit "ready...set..." and wait for your student to yell "GO!". Marble runs are also the perfect opportunity for students to practice requests: more, please, my turn, more marbles, all gone

*Turn-Taking and Pronouns: Some of my preschoolers have a behavior goal for turn-taking. Marble runs are perfect practice for this. We also get tons of opportunities to practice pronouns: my turn, your turn, we go at the same time, his turn, you do it, etc.

*Prepositions: up, down, around, bottom, top, inside, through, first, last - they're all covered here!

*Following Directions: You can instruct your kiddos how to build the marble maze, or have them practice telling each other directions. Since the maze pieces are different colors and shapes (curved, straight, wheeled, etc), it's perfect for adding describing words to your sentences: "Put the curved red piece on top of the short purple piece."

*Articulation: I have my articulation students practice their target sounds a designated number of times before they can shoot a marble down the run. Or they earn the marbles as we practice and enjoy sending them all down at once :)

Marble runs are a versatile and FUN addition to my speech therapy supplies. I hope you get great use out of them too!

(Note: The small size I have is perfect for me to carry with as I travel between buildings, but the bigger sets include additional exciting pieces such as rotating wheels. If you have the budget and the space, I'd spring for a larger set.)

Abby assembled her marble maze as soon as she got home from the store, and played with it by herself :)


  1. So fun!! Now I wanna pull out my old marble run from when I was younger!

    1. Do it. You won't regret it, and your students will love you for it :)

  2. discovery toys has a perfect one---young version too that I use all the time!