“Play is the work of childhood” is one of my favorite quotes as a pediatric speech language pathologist. I also think incorporating some play into our adult life is a key component to living life to the fullest, but I’ll save that for another post…
You might wonder where to begin when choosing toys that give you the most bang for your language buck. Read on for a few tips, ideas, and tried and true toy recommendations.
1.) Back to the Basics:
Balls (big, small, sensory, squishy, etc)
Baby Dolls (not just for girls!)
Baby Doll accessories
Transportation Toys (Cars, trucks, trains with tracks)- not just for boys!
Animal Sets (farm, dinosaurs, jungle, etc) and environment/accessories to incorporate (barn, toy ferns, etc.)
Pound a Ball
Play food/Play Kitchen
Vet Set/ Critter Clinic
The list goes on! Why choose traditional toys like the ones mentioned above? They are open ended, while fostering creative thinking, and imaginative play. Parents can provide a language boost by utilizing parallel talk- the act of describing what your child is doing as she is doing it. Parents can also play an active role in their child’s play scene (participate in the tea party, bring in an injured stuffed animal to the vet clinic, whip up something delicious in the pretend kitchen, etc.)
2.) Ditch the Batteries (most of the time)
Sure, battery operated toys may be engaging for little ones, but they also may limit your child’s creative use of a toy and his own use of sounds during play ( e.g. your child making animal sounds or car honking noises instead of the toy). Of course some battery operated toys are fine, but pick and choose toys that you feel absolutely need batteries or wouldn’t be the same without them (e.g. that cool clicking camera, the toy blender).
3.) Provide a wide variety of toys
Ditch the gender stereotypes. Provide your boy freedom to play with the kitchen and tea set, and let your little girl play with dinosaurs and trains. The benefits of toy variety include improved problem solving, social interaction and creativity skills.
4.) Rotate your toys
Children may become overwhelmed with too many toy options. You may also feel that they get “bored” of their toys, or they may move quickly from one toy to the next without sustained interest to any one toy or activity. This can limit their play (and language) opportunities. To achieve an effective balance, try swapping out toys every 2-3 weeks while limiting the number of toys your child has access to at a given time. This will help ensure that they pay adequate attention to the few toys that are available.
5.) Limit Alphabet, Shapes and Numbers Teaching Toys
Our ABC’s and 123’s are important, but knowing these concepts are not top priority if a child has a speech delay. Also, since many of these types of educational toys are often battery powered, with lots of flashing lights and sounds, a child’s interaction with these objects may be limited to pressing buttons. While It is great if a child masters shapes and the alphabet, there are many other age-appropriate language concepts that can be more practical for his/her communication needs at home.
5 ½ ) Don’t forget the books!
Finally, my "half" tip- No, books are not toys but they can definitely be fun! Books are one of my favorite materials to use in therapy and with my own child. If your child is not a big fan of them, try some interactive books with flaps, pop-ups, stickers and textures along with your participation and supervision. Another great way to boost language skills is to pair a toy activity with a book with the same theme.
Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out this post :) I love toys (probably more than a grown adult should! ) If you need toy suggestions and ideas please do not hesitate to contact me.
Happy Playing, Learning, and Communicating!