By Victoria F. Burnos, MSP, CCC-SLP
Today, I went to Target.
This is nothing new. I am a speech therapist. Target trips are necessary, frequent and life-giving. Where else can you find $2.50 Fall Bingo, hand sanitizer, dollar-spot crafts, fidgets and planner supplies? Target speaks to my (Basic) SLP heart. Read on to discover my favorite (speech) toys for this holiday season.
For the Itty-Bitties
Even though your infant may not speak, they are soaking in language. Touch, sounds, textures, lights all assist their neurons to make connections. The neuro-pathways you are helping to build now will become speech later. Here are my favorites for itty-bitties (under 1):
This vibrant, handheld toucan is just joyful! Not only does it play music and sing numbers, but also the portability and size will increase your child’s independence with play. Using both hands to manipulate this toy is another great developmental milestone to encourage.
Stacks of Circles
If you don’t have a stacker of any kind, you should definitely ask Santa to bring this to your itty-bitty one. This particular stacker caught my eye because of the vibrant colors, different shapes and textures. What a wide variety of vocabulary to introduce! Rigid, bumpy, narrow, thick, wide, smooth, rough. It is never too early to introduce descriptive words and this simple stacker packs a large language punch!
For the Tots
As a speech therapist, I am often drawn to toys without motors, batteries and wind-ups. Toddlers are starting to explore and the best toys to foster imagine are the simpler ones. Here are some of my favorites for the two-three-year-old crowd:
Play without limits
Not only is this boat and little friends adorable, but also great for targeting loads of prepositions – in, out, top, bottom, over, under. When we teach language, we focus lots
on nouns, so it is great to add in other parts of speech to expand your child’s utterances. This farm is also a great pick for a toddler. So many animal noises, creatures, levels and room for exploration found within this farm set.
Snack is Served
Wooden and velcro food toys are timeless. Use descriptions, talk vocabulary, introduce new and different “toppings” without the expectation of consumption. These and toys like this are perfect for your toddler working to expand food vocabulary, interest and knowledge. They can feed them to their teddy bear now, set up kitchen and serve you later and maybe even open a “food truck” when friends visit in the near future. Working on “cutting” is a fine-motor skill that our kids need to develop as well.
With a toddler, you can never go wrong with Play-Doh (except playing with it on carpet – hehe!). Not only will your child enjoy creating the car with Play-Doh, but also hours will be spent knocking down, crashing, rolling over and smashing towers of dough-blocks. This is a great way to build knowledge and skill related to cause-effect, part-whole relationships, following directions and playing well with others. What more does a 2-year old need?
Preschoolers may be interested in playing independently. These finds not only foster independence, but give room for the child to explore, “make mistakes” and be creative.
Oldie but such a Goodie
Y’all, look what I found. If you aren’t fortunate enough to have saved this for nearly 25 years, you are in luck. Lite-Brite is back. If I remember correctly, the Lite-Brite comes with designs to create lots of images, but there are blank sheets to explore and create independently. What a great way to introduce and practice inferencing, part-whole relationships, following directions and matching. Although a four year old could enjoy this alone, this is also an activity to enjoy with a friend. Simple, collaborative, creative fun for the win.
Dress without a Mess
Wooden Dress-Up Dolls are perfect for the little preschooler looking to explore on a rainy day. Little ones can dress these dolls up into different characters, toting them around the house, creating new stories with the change of a pair of shoes. I love that these fit into a box for easy organization. Don’t forget to use rich language and vocabulary while “cleaning” up toys. Sorting clothing items is not only a great activity to boost language skills, it is a life-skill we all must learn.
Do you ask yourself: “Are my child’s speech and language skills where they need to be?” Request a complimentary screening today!