The Origins of Jenga and How We Could Help Inspire Our Speech Therapy Students

The Origins of Jenga and How We Could Help Inspire Our Speech Therapy Students

I don’t know of any surveys out there that have asked school-based speech-language pathologists to list off what materials they use most often with the kiddos on their caseload. If there was such a survey (and I’m sure there is, I just don’t know of it), I’d assume that the game Jenga would be at the top of the survey’s final results. And if Jenga isn’t in the first slot, it certainly would have to be somewhere in the top five. It’s wildly popular and almost every single elementary and middle-school aged student of mine LOVES playing it. In short, Jenga is quick to learn (carefully take one block out of the tower and don’t let the tower tumble down), easy to play (use your physical and mental skills to remove a block juuuuuust right), and always triggers a wave of happy hoots and hollers from my kiddos. Big thanks to Leslie Scott for inventing it.

Wait. Leslie Scott?!

Yup. Here’s the crazy thing about Jenga, from a clinician’s point of view. Most of us use this game on an almost weekly basis. Most of us have cheered sweet cheers of victory when our opponent knocked the tower down by mistake. Most of us have cried tears of defeat when WE were the ones that caused the tower of 54 blocks to come crashing down. If ever there was a game so intertwined with the world of speech therapy, it’s this one. But yet, I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard of the name Leslie Scott before.

Don’t worry, I didn’t either.

Leslie Scott is the inventor of Jenga and let me tell you, her latest video interview on YouTube is quite interesting. During the interview you’ll learn how Jenga was invented by her in the 1970s, the origins of the name, and some examples of early Jenga marketing that’s beyond fascinating. You’ll also learn how down-to-Earth the inventor is and how hard work and dedication always pays off.

Inspiration. Pure inspiration.

I plan on showing most of my students the Leslie Scott interview video over the next few weeks. Why? Well, for the obvious reason that we play the game often and the information within the interview opens up a whole new appreciation and respect for the game, but also because I have a feeling that it will change the way that my students look at everyday items.

Everything was invented by someone.

Jenga, that was invented by someone. The shoelaces on my sneakers, that was invented by someone. The eraser at the top of my pencil, that was invented by someone. Heck, the pencil itself, that was invented by someone. I want to remind my students this simple but powerful fact because I believe that MY STUDENTS are some of the most creative youngsters on the planet. When we, as clinicians, have conversations with our students about the humble beginnings of everyday items, we are giving them permission to dream. To dream about something they might want to invent. To dream about something they’d like to try to do. To dream about making their mark in this wonderful world we live in.

In closing . . .

You and I, we are SLPs who have the great honor to be working with some of the next BEST creators and innovators of tomorrow. And I really do believe that in my heart. Right now, as they sit in front of you at your speech therapy table, they might have some communication difficulties. They might be struggling to express themselves. But ya know what? There’s no one more qualified than you to help your students succeed. Sure, increasing communication doesn’t happen over night. It takes time and commitment. And you know what else takes time and commitment? Making your mark in this world. Leslie Scott never gave up. It took time and commitment to get to where she is today. So do me a favor, talk to your students about all of this whenever you can. Inspire them and give them permission to dream big.

P.S. In regards to Jenga, has THIS ever happened to you before? HAHA!

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