Top Toys & How They Can Support Speech & Language Development (Part Two)

Welcome to part two of four of my Top Toys series! To read more about why I am doing this series, please check out Part One Here.

I am writing these posts to help parents pick good, quality toys for their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers that can be used to help support speech and language development. As I share with you my personal top picks for toys for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, I will also be sharing the areas of speech and language that these toys can help support. However, as I noted in part one, it is important to know that for these toys to help support speech and language development you, as the parent or caregiver must help to facilitate that language. What I mean is this: You can’t just give a child a shape sorter and expect him to magically know and use the names of shapes and colors! You need to sit with your child and facilitate his learning. You need to use some strategies that I have mentioned before including:

Parallel Talk, Self Talk, & Descriptions

Expansions, Extensions, and Repetitions

Commenting and Asking Questions

If you are a fellow speech pathologist and work with infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, you may also find this series of posts valuable for choosing therapy materials.

Here are my next five top picks for toys (in no particular order)

Baby Doll

The baby doll is such a fantastic toy that I wish ALL children (Yes, even BOYS!) could have. It is a toy that can really help open up and expand a child’s pretend play. Let’s look at just some of the language concepts that a baby doll can help teach and support:

  • Body Parts: Use the dolls to teach all the body parts: eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands, fingers, tummy, feet, toes, knees, elbows, etc.

  • Clothing Labels: Using the doll and its clothes, you can teach the names of clothing items like shirts, pants, shoes, socks, jammies, etc.
  • Basic Concepts: Use baby with other baby toys (bed, blankets) to teach some basic concepts like: prepositions (baby in the bed, baby under the blanket), colors, size concepts (using different sized dolls)
  • Verbs/Feelings: Use the baby with some other baby toys (bed, bottle, clothes) to teach verbs/feelings/etc. like: eat, drink, sleep, sit, stand, hungry, sleepy, thirsty, etc.
  • Answering “wh” questions: You can ask your child an array of questions to work on her understanding of these words. Where is baby? Where is baby’s nose/fingers/belly button? What does the baby want to eat? Why is the baby crying?
  • Social/pragmatic skills: Baby dolls can be a great tool to use to help teach appropriate social/pragmatic skills. Take turns playing with different dolls. Practice using language to ask questions about the dolls and what they are doing.

Baby stroller and/or grocery cart

I decided to put these toys together because, in reality, they can be used interchangeably in a lot of play pretend play. My own children actually have both of these toys, and inevitably babies end up in the shopping cart and play food ends up in the stroller (not to mention all kinds of other…interesting items). Think these toys are expensive? They don’t have to be! My daughter got her first stroller as a gift, but you can find them for $10 at Target. We ended up getting her grocery cart FILLED with fake food for only $5 on sale at Toys R US! Also check out garage sales and second hand stores for great deals. Let’s look at just some of the language concepts that the doll stroller and/or grocery cart can hep teach and support:

  • Food vocabulary: When used with some simple, inexpensive fake food, you can teach the names for all KINDS of food items. IKEA and Target both sell really inexpensive fake foods.
  • Basic Concepts: Using baby dolls, food, and any other items, you can work on concepts like in, out, on, under, between, next to, etc. You can work on full/empty, some/most/all, first/then/last, big/medium/small, big/bigger/biggest, etc. You can push them THROUGH things and AROUND things and BETWEEN things (like chairs, furniture, and other toys).
  • Verbs: While playing with these toys you can work on the words push, stop, go, run, walk, jump, skip, etc.
  • Answering “wh” questions: Work on answering Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How while you play with the cart/stroller. Where are you going? Where is the baby? Where is the food? What color is the apple?
  • Social/pragmatic skills: You can use these items to work on turn taking, a very important social skills. Take turns putting things in, taking things out, and pushing them around the house.

Cars/Trucks/Trains

Here is another toy that I believe all children should have despite their gender. Girls should have at least a couple toy cars and/or trains too! My daughter was actually really into trains for a while, but she has now converted to all things girl: princesses, princesses, and more princesses! Let’s look at just some of the language concepts that toy cars can help teach and support:

  • Basic Concepts: You can basically work on all the major basic concepts using cars. Pair the cars with a simple ramp that you can make out of cardboard or wood, and you can target anything you want! You can target colors, numbers (if they have numbers on the cars), counting, big/small, some/more/less/all, fast/slow, all the propositional concepts like in/on/under/over/top/bottom etc.
  • Part/whole relationships: Cars are great for teaching part/whole relationships. Work on naming all the different parts of the cars: Wheels, windows, bumpers, doors, etc.
  • Verbs and Adjectives: Cars are great for working on all kinds of action and describing words! Go, stop, fast, slow, etc.
  • Social/pragmatic skills: You can use these items to work on turn taking, a very important social skills. Take turns racing the cars on the floor or down a ramp. Take turns playing with different cards. Practice saying “My turn” and “May I have that car please?”
  • Answering “wh” questions: Work on answering Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How while you play with the cars. Where is the car? Who is driving the car? What color is the car? Where are the wheels?

Farm Set

Ahhhh yes. The Farm set. If this isn’t a staple in your home/preschool/child care center/therapy tool box, it should be. Let’s look at just some of the language concepts that the farm set can help teach and support:

  • Animal Names and Animal Sounds: Work on teaching the names of all the animals and the sounds they make!
  • Basic Concepts: Using the animals and the barn, you can work on all the prepositional concepts like in, out, on, under, between, next to, etc. You can work on some/most/all, first/then/last, big/medium/small, big/bigger/biggest, etc. and all the colors.
  • Answering “wh” questions: Work on answering Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How while you play with the animals. Where is the horse? Which animal is next to the cow? Who is eating? Which animal makes the Mooooo sound? Etc.
  • Social/pragmatic skills: You can use these items to work on turn taking, a very important social skills. Take turns with the animals. Work on asking “May I have a turn please?” or “May I have the horse please?” Work on eye contact while you play and talk.

Mr. Potato Head

Another classic toy, Mr. Potato Head can help teach SO MANY language concepts and vocabulary! This is one of the first toys that I bought when I started working with preschool children. I have also used Mr. Potato Head with young elementary school children to work on basic concepts and following directions in a Barrier Game Format. Let’s look at just some of the language concepts that Mr. Potato Head can hep teach and support:

  • Body Part Names: Obviously, Mr. Potato Head is excellent for teaching body part names. Just be sure to teach the child the body part names on her own body as well.
  • Clothing Item Names: Mr. Potato Head also comes with many different clothing items and accessories. This is a great way to teach items like earrings, purse, hat, etc. If you purchase multiple sets, you can have different types of items to target also. For example, you can get ones at Halloween time and target the different costumes. You can even get Santa ones at Christmas! (We have a Santa one, and my daughter LOVES it!)
  • Basic Concepts: Mr. Potato Head is great for working on all color concepts as well as the concepts of in/out. You can also work on concepts such as first/next/last and left/right and prepositional concepts like over/under/top/bottom etc.
  • Social/pragmatic skills: You can use these items to work on turn taking, a very important social skills. Take turns with the animals. Work on asking “May I have a turn please?” or “May I have the horse please?” Work on eye contact while you play and talk.
  • Answering “wh” questions: Work on answering Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How while you play with the cars. Where is the car? Who is driving the car? What color is the car? Where are the wheels?

Cheers!

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