Sound effect apps: using the iPad to develop your child’s listening skills


Use of an iPad/tablet doesn’t just need to involve watching the screen. You can also use it to develop listening skills which are a crucial element of language development. There are hundreds of sound based apps which could be adapted for a What’s That Sound? game with your child at home and some are adaptable for pretty much any age.

img_1232A few suggested free sound effect apps are listed below in categories.

Some ideas for how to play:

  1. Which picture? Play the sound first, then
    show your child the screen and see if they can pick the right picture. Next, swap round and it’s your turn to guess.
  2. Name that sound! Play the sound and see if your child can name it.
  3. Where is it? Play the sound of a household object (e.g. tap running) and ask your child to go and find the source of that sound in the house.
  4. What does it sound like? Play the sound (especially if your child doesn’t know what it is) and try and describe it using as many adjectives as you can.


Animal and transport:

I Hear Ewe is a great store of animal and transport sounds with pictures. Make sure you go to settings to turn off the verbal descriptions!

SoundTouchLite is similar to I Hear Ewe and the lite version has animal and transport sounds but you can pay to unlock more.

Animal Sounds Farm Jungle Forest Voices for Kids has a wider range of animal photos rather than cartoons as with the previous two. And a good one for guessing games as the selected picture does not become enlarged when you click on it.

In the Box is a listening game which can be played independently – the child must touch the box and listen to the sound, then guess which animal it corresponds to. A great idea but I got it wrong when asked to identify a giraffe…


Music sounds:img_1227

Discover Musical Instruments Free is a long time favourite of mine – photos of several different instruments which play a tune when selected. Note: you need to turn the iPad on its side to access the grid with many different instruments displayed.

 Shake Musics is a great variation on this where you have to shake the iPad to create a sound.


General sound effects:

SoundEffects has a limited free range of human and outdoor sounds and allows you to record a few of your own. (as opposed to Sound Effects which had too many pop up adverts for my liking).

100 Button Sounds Has a wide range of buttons including church bells, can opening and animal sounds but you do have to put up with quite a few adverts. is a website rather than an app but has hundreds of different sounds such as ‘creaky door’ and ‘footsteps walking on gravel’. Doesn’t have pictures but does have excellent descriptions of sounds e.g. ‘Garbage truck, hissing of hydraulics, clanging of metal’. It might give you some inspiration for talking about the sound that you hear!



Speech and language group activities using art and craft iPad apps


Following on from my blog on using cooking apps, here’s some ideas for using art based apps to stimulate functional language and talking with small groups of children – ideal for school based language groups.


Describing what someone else has done

doodlecastDoodlecast (£2.29) is a motivating app for annotating pictures which records a video of the drawing process. Take a photo of each other or something in the room or use one of the inbuilt templates. Ask the first child to draw a picture. As you replay the video of this, take turns to describe what that person did e.g. “then she drew some flowers next to the tree” “then she drew some glasses on my face.”


Planning and team work 

Faces iMake (£2.29). A great team work task for primary age – ask children to make quirky faces with a range of basic and more complex vocabulary from lollipops and bananas to violins or chess pieces. Lots of opportunities for different levels of language from frequently used to less common words. Also opportunities for practising categorisation. Set the children a task such as “make a face from yellow and green fruit” or “make a face from toys”. There’s also a surprisingly catchy theme tune which you find yourself humming after a while…

funny face








Listening to others

Colouring in apps work well when supporting children to listen to instructions from others.

Splash of Colour (£0.79) has lots of colouring in templates included and for younger children Peppa’s Paintbox (free) has a theme or background pictures to insert. There is lots of scope for giving simple instructions that your child needs to listen to and follow e.g. “colour the box blue” or “put some flowers next to Peppa.”

It is possible to do these activities with children who are not very familiar with colour words by asking them to colour in particular parts of a picture but not specifying a colour.

Don’t forget to take turns giving each other instructions so your child gets practice in directing as well as listening!











Ideas for speech and language therapy activities using iPad videos and photos


Time for a blog on my favourite iPad tool – taking photos and videos.

As long as you have an iPad 2 or more recent, you’ll have an inbuilt camera which makes it incredibly easy to use photos in activities with children (and you can delete them at the end of the session if there are any difficulties with consent).

Here are a few ideas for short language based group or individual activities using the camera function which don’t even require you to download any apps.

Attention activity – What’s different?

  • Take a photo of a person, room or area.
  • Change one thing about it or them and take another photo.
  • Ask the children to work out what has changed.

This provides an easy attention activity without having to rely on children closing their eyes!





Social skills activity – Guess the emotion

A quick activity for a social skills group exploring different emotions.

  • Ask each child to make a facial expression and take a photo.
  • Show the photo to the group and talk about what the expression might mean.

Expressive and receptive activity – Listen and Make

  • Ask someone to carry out a simple activity, e.g. making a collage, building a tower or threading beads.
  • Take several photos which break down the activity into several clear stages.
  • Show the photos to one child and ask them to convey the instructions to another child without showing them the pictures.
  • Compare the end photo with the finished product.

The emphasis in this activity is on one child using their language to tethreading picll the other child how to do something. In addition, the other child can develop skills in listening to their peers. The art/craft activities work particularly well with younger children who are not confident with colours and preposition words. Examples of stages from a few different activities below:


boat collage






Expressive and receptive activity – What’s happening?

I’ve already blogged about this in the past but worth repeating here as this is a tool I use regularly.

  • Take a short video of a real or acted out scenario and ask the group questions about it. It could be a video of a busy road on your way to work, a video tour of a supermarket aisle or an acted out scenario by a teacher who has discovered her bike is broken.
  • Show the video, ask Wh questions and talk about what could happen next.

There are plenty more ways of using photos and videos – please share any other ideas you might have tried!

Developing use of Wh questions using videos


Making the most of the iPad video function deserves a few entries on this blog. It’s not a very groundbreaking idea to use videos in sessions but it’s now so easy to record and playback on an iPad that ideas which might have been too fiddly or time consuming until recently can be revamped.

I have been using short videos to work on developing understanding and use of Wh questions but it could be used to work on a range of language targets. This idea has worked well with both preschool and primary age groups and is very simple to plan:

– Find some willing members of staff to act out an everyday scenario and film it on the iPad e.g. someone pouring out some cereal in a bowl, then going to the fridge to find that there is no milk. It might only be a 5 second clip – you can do a lot with a very simple scenario.

– Play the video to the group and ask questions about it based on the question words or other targets that you might be working on, e.g. “what is he pouring into the bowl?” “why does he open the fridge?”, “where can he go to get some milk?”

I usually preferred to film two part sequences (only a few seconds each) as having a second video to play proved to be a successful way of maintaining attention during the activity for groups who had particular difficulties in this area.

The children loved watching familiar staff members act out scenarios and they sometimes chose who they wanted to see in the video the following week. (I didn’t have any problem recruiting staff to star in the videos – I think it helped when they saw how much the children enjoyed watching them!)

I got most of my inspiration from the book Language for Thinking (Stephen Parsons & Anna Branagan, 2005). It has a wide range of pictures, each of which describe an unfolding scenario. Each picture is accompanied by questions which are separated into different levels of difficulty. The pictures were easily adaptable into video scenarios which made it very easy to set up and hand over to a member of school staff for running a language group.LFT

There’s lots of ways of extending this activity – am hoping to try out a few different versions myself and will report back on what works over the next few weeks!

Say Hi AAC! for key word understanding assessments


This week I wanted to make an easy to use receptive language assessment without having to gather together toys from across the say hinursery every time I wanted to assess a child’s level of understanding. Most of the receptive language apps that I have found use vocabulary which is inappropriate because it is not everyday vocabulary or because it is mainly American English.

I took photos of the following items for a basic receptive language assessment: A crocodile and a teddy wearing various combinations of scarf, hat and glasses.

I inserted these photos into Say Hi AAC! which is a free app that allows up to 9 photos at once on a page. There’s room to add another3kw screenshot 3 pictures so including another animal with the same combination of hat/scarf/glasses it makes a basic noun-based 3 key word understanding assessment.

Taking photos and inserting directly into the app was tricky as it ended up sideways – much easier to take photos first and then insert from the photo library

Overall this app works for storing some basic receptive language assessments in your ipad to use at short notice during sessi