With the holidays approaching, shopping for your children can feel a bit like the Hunger Games. Where do you start? What do you buy and will you get trampled at Target on black Friday? We thought we’d take out some of the guess work for you by putting together a list of toys that are beneficial for speech and language development in various age ranges. I have a 17 month old son, so the 1-2 age range is near and dear to my heart. These are toys that I have used with my speech therapy clients over the years as well as with my own children. I hope this helps take a little pressure off your holiday shopping list and gets you thinking about what toys to buy and how to use them in fun and engaging ways.
About: This is a retro style kitchen with doors that open and close, knobs that click and a toy phone. You can purchase in a variety of colors including red, teal, white and pink.
Why we love it? This kitchen has been a huge hit with both my son and daughter. There are so many opportunities for language when using a play kitchen. You can talk about a variety of foods, how they taste, how they smell, what the look like, how you cook them and what your child likes to eat most. You can discuss colors, shapes, sizes and also categorize. You can begin introducing pretend play by pretending you are cooking, eating and drinking. My son’s favorite part of the play kitchen is taking things out of the fridge and putting them in. This has taught him the words “open”, “close”, “in” and “out”. Not only is this play kitchen fun to play with, but it’s absolutely adorable. It will look beautiful in any child's bedroom or playroom. It has the look of a pottery barn kitchen with a much better price tag.
Get it here: KidKraft Kitchen
About: This is a magnetic puzzle with 9 doors. Each door has a removable magnet in it. You can move the magnets around and hide the pieces in various doors.
Why we love it? This activity board is great for building both expressive (what your child says) and receptive (what your child understands) language skills. Receptively you can ask your child to point to the items you want them to identify, as well as ask them to put the item where it belongs. For example, "Where does the cow go? In the dog house or in the barn?" Expressively, you can ask them what the items are or ask them to tell you where the item goes. This is also a great toy to practice “yes” and “no”. You can ask them, "Does the dog go in the garage? No." "Does it go in the doghouse? Yes”. This is one of my seventeen month old son’s favorite toys right now.
Get it here: Hide and Seek Board
About: This is a portable, wooden farm set with 7 different animals and a fence.
Why we love it? A farm set is a great gift for any toddler. Most children are enamored with animals and love learning about them. It is common for toddlers to start using environmental sounds and animal sounds before they use actual words. Sounds such as “moo”, “baa”, “neigh”, “meow” and “woof’ are great because they all begin with one of the early consonant sounds that are easiest for young children to produce. The earliest consonant sounds children use are usually: /m, b, p, d, t, n, w, h, y/. Exposing them to words with these sounds in them gives them a better chance of imitating them. A farm set is also great for introducing positional words such as on top, beside, in and out. I like to put the animals in different positions and ask children to find the one who is on top of the barn, or which one is outside. They can learn many basic concepts with a farm set, but to them they are just having fun with a toy that they love.
Get it here: Wooden Farm Set
About: This is a simple shape sorter with 5 different shapes and an easy to remove lid.
Why we love it? A shape sorter is a great addition to any toddler’s playroom. They can begin learning their shapes, while also learning visual/motor and problem solving skills. This is a great toy to introduce shapes and colors. I also love shape sorters for teaching yes and no. I will put the shape somewhere that it doesn’t fit and say, “No”. Repeat that a few times with other shapes that don’t fit and then find the correct spot. "Does it go here? Yes.” You can then push it through the correct slot.
Get it here: Shape Sorter
About: This toy has 4 colorful balls that roll down a shoot when pushed or hit with a mallet.
Why we love it: This is a very favorite toy with my speech therapy clients. I’ve had many children use their first words with this toy because they are so motivated to play with it. We use this toy to encourage the words “ball”, “more”, ‘up”, “boom”, “in”, “out”. You can also count the balls and match them with the colors at the top of the ball chute. After each turn I take the balls and have the child request them before putting them back at the top. If you want your child to learn to request, this is a great toy to elicit that skill.
Get it here: Be Whacky Ball Toy
About: This is a set of 4 board books including first words, colors, animals and trucks. The pictures are simple, but engaging and there is only one picture per page.
Why we love it? These are my favorite books for teaching vocabulary to toddlers. Most books have multiple pictures per page, which can make it hard for young children to figure out which picture represents which word. One large picture on each page helps simplify the learning process. I like to target receptive vocabulary (words that a child understands, but may not say verbally) first when using these books. I will ask “Where is the dog?” When the book is open there are only two choices since each page only has one picture. Your child can point to the correct picture, or you can help them point by using hand over hand assistance. Once your child is able to identify familiar vocabulary by pointing, you can then target their expressive vocabulary (words they can use verbally). You could ask them, “What do you see?” If they are not yet using words spontaneously, you can provide them with a verbal model and encourage them to imitate you.
Get it here: Bright Baby Book Set
About: These fun books have raised buttons throughout them that children can pop, almost like bubble wrap. The buttons are geared towards engaging children in the story and helping them learn to count.
Why we love it? These books are kind of addicting, and adults love them too. They bring back lots of bubble wrap popping memories from when I was a kid. My 17 month old son, who used to have difficulty sitting through a story, will happily sit with these books and listen to every word. It helps that he has the physical task of popping the buttons to help keep him engaged in the story. My kids take turns popping the buttons and counting aloud on each page. This has helped teach one to one correspondence and introduce counting. There are many different Poke-a-dot books, but Old MacDonald’s Farm is the favorite of my kids right now.
Get it here: Poke-a-dot books
We hope this list has been helpful and that you are able to relax and enjoy your holiday season. Bonus, all of these toys are available online! Thanks Amazon!
*Disclosure: This post includes links to items listed on Amazon. ToddlerTalking is an Amazon affiliate.