Buckaroo-Great for Reinforcement, Language, and Articulation

I’ve written many posts about the different toys and games that I recommend for both parents and SLPs to use to work on speech and language skills both in therapy sessions and in the home. One of the games that I have gotten a TON of use out over the years is Buckaroo.

That is, until he stopped working! That was a sad, sad day my friends. Especially for my little friends who loved playing.

So you can imagine my complete and utter happiness when I was wondering the aisles of Toys R Us last week and saw it on clearance for under $10! And this version is Toy Story themed also which the kids get an ever bigger kick out of!

What is Buckaroo?

Buckaroo is a fun game where you need to carefully stack different items on Buckaroo…but be careful because he could buck everything off at any second! Here is the description from the manufacturer Hasbro:

Kick Up Some Fun with this exciting never-know-when-he’s-gonna-buck stacking game! Load up the moody mule for your gold mining trip, but watch out — he may buck at any second with no warning! Gently saddle him up and load on your gear. Will he remain calm or will he kick up a storm and send everything flying? You never know what will set him off! So pick a piece and stack it on. He’ll make you jump with excitement as he kicks the load off his back! Be the last to load the mule without losing your gear, and win! 3 Skill Levels Easy Setup Includes Plastic mule with Base and Plastic Game Pieces…

How do I use it for articulation?

This is a really great game for targeting /k/ and /g/ (I just realized this last week while working with a client who is working on just that!) The game pieces that are included in the Toy Story 3 version are 3 saddle pieces, rope, wagon wheel, lantern, horseshoe, guitar, Sheriff’s star badge, cactus, plastic Bullseye with base, Woody’s cowboy hat, boot and boot spur, and Prospector Stinky Pete’s pickaxe. However to focus on the /k/ I wil; have the student say “cowboy’s” before the item name. For example, the cowboy boot and the cowboy hat. If working on /k/ and /g/ I will have the child say the word 5 to 10 times (depending on age and ability) before he/she can attempt to stack the item.

If the children are working on other articulation targets, I’ll use it as a simple reinforcer. I explain how below.

How do I use it for language?

There are MANY ways you can use this game for language! Here are just a few examples:

  • Vocabulary (the items)
  • Describing skills (have the children describe the item they want to stack next)
  • Answering WH questions (ask the child questions about the different items based on the individual child’s goals)
  • Categories (what categories to the items on the game fall under? What else falls in the category?)
  • Following/giving directions (I may give the child directions on exactly where I want them to hang the item, and have them do the same for their group mates or to me)
  • Grammar/syntax (I may have the children talk about each item in a sentence or describe the items using correct grammar)
  • Use of objects (have the children explain what each item is used for, or have them find the object you are talking about by use)

How do I use it to work on social/pragmatic skills?

As with most games, this one is a great to work on social/pragmatic skills such as turn taking, eye contact, topic maintenance, answering and asking WH questions, etc.

How do I use it as simple reinforcement?

Most of the time with my articulation kids, I end up using this game as a simple reinforcer (or with mixed groups of language/artic depending on the goals of the children). There are two ways I typically use Buckaroo (and other games) as reinforcers:

  • I have each child say 5-10 words (or one sentence of they are at that level) and then take a turn (This is usually more if the children are very young and new to speech or if I am working 1:1)
  • I have each child say as many words as they can in a specific amount of time, and I use a timer. Usually its 1-2 minutes each child. I do the same with sentences, reading, or conversational level. This is my FAVORITE way to do things because it keeps us on track.
  • If the children are working on language goals, I will modify this for their goals and set the timer for 1-2 minutes. For example, if I have a child working on WH questions, I will work with the child for 1-2 minutes on their goal and then they get a turn.

But what about all the reviews?
If you go check out this game on Amazon, you will see a lot of bad reviews. In fact, the majority are only ONE STAR!! I will admit that Buckaroo can have a learning curve…it took me a while to get to know how the bucking mechanism works (there are three levels of difficulty, or sensitivity, you can set it at). That said, I honestly have found this to be a great game. I don’t blame you if you skip this one because of the reviews but if you happen to see it on clearance for 5 bucks….you might want to check it out 😉



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  1. Jane Harrison says

    I fully agree… I am also a speech therapist (but in South Africa) and my clients love this game and a similar one based on Mater from “Cars”. I have found it to be one of the more motivating reinforcers to use in therapy.