Buying second-hand for your classroom, speech room, or your own children makes so much sense! You save money while saving the planet. And, yes, you can find like new (emphasis on new) games, puzzles, and resources with all their pieces at many second-hand stores.  Here are the top five toys I find most often and how I use them in speech-language therapy.

Early Childhood: Little People Toys

Little People toys are great for a variety of language goals! Like targeting wh-questions, specifically “who” and “where.” Speaking of where, playing a quick game of hide-and-seek helps you target prepositions like placing the people and animals in, on, next to, in front, and behind the barn. Finally, as this barn (pictured above) produces sounds and some actions, it’s also great when teaching cause and effect.

Overall, Little People toys are durable, washable, and you can constantly add new animals and people to your collection by visiting your local second-hand store.

  • Found at Kangaroo Kids
  • Price: $12 (included farm people and animals),
  • Retails for: $32
  • Condition: new (see tags in photo)

Early Childhood/Lower Elementary: Elefun

Elefun! I find this more and more at thrift stores, there is no good reason to buy this game new!

I use this with my lower elementary students (kindergarten and first) to target present progressives like blowing, flying, catching, etc. It’s also great for pragmatic and social language like requesting a turn (it’s my turn), giving a compliment (you got five! Good job!), and directing the play of others, (turn it on, you catch blue, take the red net, etc.).

I also love using this with emerging AAC users. Great for core words: go, on, up, down, more, stop, and like.

  • Found at: Savers
  • Price: $3.99 (included all parts and works.)
  • Retails for: $25
  • Condition: like new (minor wear on nets)

Elementary: Operation

A classic game that kids still love–Operation! It’s also another game you can find in almost every second-hand store. I will advise you to open the game or look for a second-hand store (like Ditto, local to Missouri) that guarantees all parts to games.

I like using this game as reinforcement between trials for students. They get a kick out of it, and work hard for a another turn at the game. You can also use this to build utterance length. Personally, I like doing this in a predictable, repetitive manner.

“I want the small, white bone.”

“I want the small, white heart.”

  • Found at: Savers
  • Price: $6.99 (included all pieces)
  • Retails for: $14-20
  • Condition: like new (minor wear to box)

Middle School: Cadoo

Cadoo, you know that game that you constantly confuse for Cariboo (inside reference, ask an early childhood SLP), well it’s actually a pretty great game for speech-language therapy!

This game played as-is is great for students who exhibit increased processing time or Autism. The various cards require quick thinking, understanding concrete and abstract thinking, expressing an idea in more than one way, and accepting when a peer/partner rejects your answer or idea.

  • Found at: Goodwill
  • Price: $1.50 (half off red tags that day)
  • Retails for: $17-25
  • Condition: like new (minor wear to box. Though always check pieces at Goodwill. I find mine is hit or miss)

High School: Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples, fun for adults and a great way to target semantics in speech therapy. Really the possibilities are pretty endless for this game. Choose nouns and see who can come up with the most adjectives to describe the noun. Select 10 adjective cards and find synonym pairs, now find antonyms!

Play a game of “Which Is Worse/Better?” you select one adjective card and students have 5-7 noun cards. For example, the adjective “beautiful” and students may select garden or Mona Lisa. Students provide their reasoning stating full sentences, or you for lower grades build syntax with a sentence builder, I chose Mona Lisa because ____”

  • Found at: Goodwill
  • Price: $6
  • Retails for: $15
  • Condition: like new (again, always peak inside if the store doesn’t guarantee or note missing cards/parts)

We just spent a total of $30.50 on five games that retail new for $103. That’s a 70% savings. I don’t know about you, but if I spent $103 on five games I will spend a quarter of my speech budget. Something I could reallocate for new assessments, continuing education, or sustainable supplies. Saving your budget and saving the planet all by changing where you shop!

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