Wondering what to buy your child this holiday season? The OTG Speechies compiled a list of their favorite toys that can provide a variety of ways to expand speech and language development during play at home! Hear from our expert team on their favorite picks that promote learning and play that are perfect gift ideas for your little ones or other family members. Many of these can be purchased online or locally in some of their favorite stores.
Jessica: My two favorite toys are Mr. and Mrs. Potato head and Pop-Up Pirate.
1. Mr. and Mrs potato head helps kids identify and label body parts on themselves and objects. It helps children understand where body parts our located and can describe what we use them for. (e.g. eyes are for looking, ears are for hearing, etc). You can also put the body parts in the wrong places on purpose which is very silly!
2. Pop-Up Pirate! helps build turn-taking skills with children. Since it is random when the pirate pops, there is no predicting who wins until he pops. It helps kids understand the concepts of winning/losing and helps promote appropriate social skills (e.g. what to say when we win/lose, what to say to others when they win/lose, etc.). Additionally, kids are able to label and count the colored swards they put inside the barrel.
Shari: Two of my favorite toys are baby dolls and echo-microphones.
1. Baby dolls encourage children to act out familiar routines and engage in pretend play, and both boys and girls love to play with them! Baby dolls often come with accessories like clothing, brushes, strollers, bottles, etc. but even if they don’t, use familiar toys and items from around your home to facilitate pretend play.
2. Echo-microphones are so fun and so affordable! Echo-mics amplify your voice when you speak into them without being too loud. Kids love to sing and talk into them and just be silly. You can find them at stores like Walmart and Target, or online through Amazon.
Kylee: My favorite toys to encourage language are Interactive books (lift the flap books) and farm houses/farm toys. These items are usually very inexpensive (especially if you buy them used) yet great tools to encourage your child to use language.
1. Lift the flap books are a great way to get your child interested in books and keep them engaged while reading. Reading with your child is a great way to increase your child’s language skills. Interactive books help your child to understand cause and effect concepts (e.g. opening a flap reveals a picture) and are great reinforcers for when your child does use language. Books are also a great way to work on pointing and increasing your child’s vocabulary. My favorite lift the flap books are “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, and “Where’s Spot?” by Eric Hill
2. Farm houses/farm toys are another great and simple toy that encourage pretend play and language in children. Examples of pretend play that can be targeted are: making the animals eat/drink, putting them to bed, and making animal sounds. You can also introduce location words (e.g. putting the pig on top of the house, or inside the farm) and even fact based yes/no questions (e.g. is this a pig?).
Maegan: Two of my favorite toys for promoting speech and language learning are Pop the Pig and Play-Doh.
1. Pop the Pig is an interactive game that every child loves (for ages 4 and up due to the presence of small toy parts). Roll the die to see what color hamburger you should choose, look at the number on the back of the hamburger, and then feed and pop the pig’s head until his belt pops off! Pop the Pig promotes turn-taking, color identifying and labeling, counting, preposition understanding and labeling (just place or label the hamburgers around the pig before a turn) and verb use to describe actions (e.g., “I am feeding the pig, I am popping the pig”). If your child is working on speech sounds you can also have him/her practice speech sounds in words, phrases or sentences before each turn. You can buy Pop the Pig online or find it at your nearest Target or Walmart.
2. Play-Doh is a wonderful hands-on toy that children of all ages (2 and up) enjoy. Play-Doh is great to work on direction following, describing actions (e.g., “I am rolling, cutting, squishing, etc.”), answering “what” questions to label what animal or object was made, preposition labeling and turn-taking with shared use of Play-Doh utensils. There are a plethora of Play-Doh store and food kits too, which add a layer of imaginative, pretend play. Additionally, Play-Doh can be helpful in talking about and identifying your child’s smooth and bumpy speech if he/she stutters. Besides being fun and versatile, Play-Doh is also inexpensive and can almost always be found on sale at HomeGoods, TJMaxx or Marshalls.
Amanda: My two favorite toys are the Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? book and the Just Like Home pretend microwave with foods.
1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Book: The repetition of language in the Brown Bear book makes it easy for kids to sing along with me (yes, you can sing it instead of reading which makes it fun for kids!) and they can fill in the words as they become more familiar with the book. It's also great for learning basic animal vocabulary and colors. I use a magnet board and magnet pictures I found online and made to increase the interaction as we read.
2. The Just Like Home Pretend Microwave is always a hit with kids because it simulates a real microwave at home. You can push the buttons and watch the food go around inside as it “cooks” it. It's great for having kids make requests “I want + food item” and sequencing steps to cook the food. You can find it on Amazon!
Pam: Some of my favorite toys are dress up costumes and puppets.
1. Dress-up costumes are great for targeting pretend play skills, building vocabulary within a theme (e.g., firefighters, princesses, etc.), and can be used for social role-playing. WH questions can also be incorporated in play, such asking a child what they are wearing, who they are pretending to be, etc. Post-Halloween sales are a great time to find fun costumes and accessories.
2. Puppets are fun and engaging! They can be incorporated into any language activity and are sure to grab your child’s attention. They can be used to encourage interaction skills such as joint attention in a peek-a-boo game. You can model spatial concepts in a game of hide-and-seek by moving the puppet around the room and asking where the puppet is hiding. Also, puppets can make doing flashcards an exciting and silly activity by having your child feed the puppet a card after each turn.
Vanessa: Two of my favorite toys are Food Play Sets and a Doctor Kit.
1. Food play sets are one of my favorite toys to use in language building activities and to promote play skills. You can target food-related vocabulary and understanding and use of action words, such as “cut, roll, eat, slice, drink” etc. Melissa and Doug have a few great wooden sets that are fun and durable. They can be found at any big chain store, but I’ve always found the best prices at Marshalls/Ross/TJMaxx/Homegoods.
2. Doctor Kits are a great toy to practice pretend play skills, target functional vocabulary, and even get kids familiar with doctor visit routines to make the the real-life encounters a little less stressful. You can practice taking turns playing the doctor/patient and incorporate body part vocabulary in your game (“Let me check your ears/mouth, etc.).
Written by: The Speech and Language Dept. at Oceanside Therapy Group
Parents often want to know at what age they should be encouraging their child to grasp the pencil correctly. While it is important to facilitate the development of a functional pencil grip, it is crucial to understand the normal development of a pencil grip to avoid forcing your child to use a grasp he or she may not be ready for.
Typically, the development of a pencil grip in young children follows this predictable course:
An efficient and functional pencil grip is one that allows the child to write neatly in a timely manner without fatiguing the hand muscles. Poor pencil grasps engage the incorrect hand muscles, leading the child to fatigue quickly and produce messy handwriting.
How Occupational Therapy Works on Pencil Grasp Development
Occupational therapists facilitate the development of a functional pencil grasp through the use of various therapeutic activities and exercises. Sometimes the use of an adapted grip is implemented to facilitate a functional tripod grasp. There are many grips to choose from so please consult with your child's occupational therapist on this matter.
Activities that facilitate the development of a tripod pencil grasp...
-Coloring with small or broken crayons is a great activity as it facilitates the use of the thumb, the index, and middle finger as there is limited space for the other fingers to come and join the party
-Coloring on a slanted surface - this promotes the wrist to extend backwards, which facilitates controlling the writing tool with the finger joints instead of using the entire hand
Manipulating Theraputty or Play-Doh is a good activity to strengthen those hand muscles needed for sustaining a pencil grip during writing activities. You can hide beads in Theraputty and have your child find them. Other ideas include:
-Attach clothespins to the brim of a cup
-Operate trigger spray bottles
Fine Motor Control and Finger Isolation
-Play Lite Bright
-Roll 1/4 inch balls of clay or theraputty between the tips of the thumb, index, and middle fingers
-Pick up small objects (pom poms, pegs, cheerios) with a tweezer or tong
As a child's postural control and shoulder strength improves, the child's ability to control the pencil with the fingers will begin to emerge.
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact your occupational therapist.
Written By: Nalleli Reyes, MS, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group
Case-Smith, O (2010). Occupational therapy for children. Missouri: Mosby Elsevier.
Fleming-Castaldy, R. P. (2014). National occupational therapy certification exam: Review & study guide. Evanston, IL: TherapyEd.
Frequency, length, and duration of therapy will vary according to the needs of each child. In order to achieve therapy goals, consistency is the key. It can be difficult to incorporate a therapy schedule into your weekly routine on top of all the other responsibilities and commitments you may already have. However, the more regular your child's attendance, the more likely he/she will make therapeutic progress.
Having the ability to communicate with your child's therapist regularly will help you to carryover a successful home program. Your pediatric therapist can give recommendations, tips, tools, and resources for your child's unique needs and personality to empower you, as the parent, to help your child thrive in the outside world with his/her peers. Parental involvement will positively impact your child's therapy progress.
Routine practice with therapeutic activities and exercises are crucial to gaining and maintaining new skills. Regression may become a concern if therapy is inconsistent. As a parent this can be frustrating and disappointing. For your child and therapist, that means more time spent re-teaching previously learned skills. Sticking to your therapy schedule and practicing learned skills at home will give your child the best opportunity to progress. When our children succeed, we all win!
Oceanside Therapy Group, Copyright 2017
Happy OT Month! April has been recognized as occupational therapy month since 1980. In addition to April being OT month, this year occupational therapy is celebrating its centennial, 100 years as a profession!!!
For occupational therapists the goal in therapy is to assist individuals in developing life skills and to participate in everyday activities. An individual’s “occupation” often depends on their stage in life: childhood, adulthood, and older adulthood. Occupational therapists also use a holistic approach to treat the “whole person”, and address the occupations of each individual in a unique way.
Children who are currently affected by developmental delays, or have a diagnosis which impacts their development often benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation (determining the child’s current level of performance), observation, treatment (intervention and strategies to address the child’s delays/areas of need), and consultation (working with the parent and/or family to carry over skills and strategies within the home environment).
Pediatric occupational therapists assist children in developing their “occupations”: playing, learning, socializing, and developing all of the skills needed to explore the world around them. At Oceanside Therapy Group, our occupational therapists assist their pediatric patients in developing grasping skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, sensory processing skills, and self-help skills (feeding, dressing, hygiene, toileting, etc). Each child is uniquely different, therefore treatment is individualized to help each child achieve their goals and be successful in everyday life skills.
Please join OTG in celebrating 100 years of occupational therapy this month! Feel free to ask our therapists how occupational therapy might help your child with their daily occupations to achieve their life skills.
Written by: Sarah Cortez, MOT, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group
AOTA. "About Occupational Therapy" Aota.org. The American Occupational Therapy Association, 2002. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
AOTA. "Child Development." Aota.org. The American Occupational Therapy Association, 2002. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
OTG. "Pediatric Occupational Therapy." Oceanside Therapy Group. Oceanside Therapy Group, 2017. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
Many parents may wonder why occupational therapists are focusing on strengthening versus the desired activity to meet goals relevant to their child’s fine motor skills. Therapists continue to use words and phrases such as “proximal stability for distal mobility,” but if we don’t understand the importance, why would we challenge our kiddos?
Muscle strength is a vital feature in our lives that most of us take for granted. Without realizing it, we use a tremendous amount of movement recruiting both small and large muscles simultaneously to perform and complete functional tasks everyday. Children struggling to control writing utensils or requiring assistance to complete fine motor skills, often lack appropriate stability and control of their shoulder girdle muscles.
From infancy, we sequentially build muscle strength from our core extending outwards to our limbs, ultimately meeting developmental milestones and improving our skill set. When one's body, shoulder, or arm is moving in space, small movements of the hands and fingers become difficult due to the lack of stability and limited control.
Weight bearing activities develop the muscles of the hand that are responsible for in-hand manipulation skills and dissociation of the two sides of the hand. These hand skills are important for everyday childhood activities such as coloring, cutting, writing, manipulating fasteners, as well as twisting or tearing to open containers. Shoulder exercises can increase shoulder stability, ultimately improving your child’s handwriting and fine motor skills.
Please consult your child’s occupational therapist for further information, questions, or specific home exercise programs.
Written By: Jaclyn Jerse, MS, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group.
Case-Smith, J., Allen, A. S., & Pratt, P. N. (2001). Occupational therapy for children. St. Louis: Mosby.