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