Holiday Gifts to Help Your Kiddos Meet Speech Development Milestones
Jump into the mind of an All About Speech & Language speech therapist: remember the role of play in a child’s life is how they learn, grow, and develop! Our ultimate goal when engaging with children in play through the toys used at our offices is to foster their development of talking and interaction with those around them by meeting them where they are at developmentally. Embedded into our toy choices during treatment include underlying goals and objectives–ultimately we want our job to come across like we are just “playing” with your child, however, there is so much more going on behind the scenes, especially in our minds as we prepare for each therapy session!
We consider: embedding new concepts with language, speech sounds, labeling vocabulary and new words, following directions, building functional play and/or pretend play skills, responding to questions, understanding roles/routines, building social skills, and fostering early narrative skills…just to name a few.
Enjoy our list below of toy suggestions that are selected, with love, to not only be fun but ALL ABOUT speech-language learning for your child!
Holiday Toy Suggestions from your AASL Speech Therapy Team:
Mirrors: For all of our friends but especially our littlest ones, the best avenue to learn speech and language is through an adult! YOU are the best teacher; babies, toddlers, and children learn language through interaction and play with YOU. Our goal for our babies and toddlers is to provide them many multi-sensory experiences in which they can build cognitive skills as well as early verbal skills. Mirrors are a simple way to promote so many early skills: they engage your baby or toddler’s senses while you are able to map on sounds and language. Whether you engage in vocal play (imitating the sounds your baby is making or modeling new ones) or simply model joint attention (looking at your baby then to the mirror, then back to your baby), all these skills are so critical in the early days, months, and years of your child’s life!
Balls, Blocks, Bubbles for the Babes: and also Stacking/Sorters, Puzzles, and Mr. Potato Head– Most of our recommended toys for all ages don’t involve noises or flashing lights or batteries!! We often take out those batteries and engage with the toy and child together! Our simplest pleasures for our littlest ones bring us back to the basics: balls, blocks, bubbles, and other building things. All of these items provide opportunities for gaining motor and cognitive skills, practicing joint attention and other interaction skills like turn-taking, understanding object permanence, and learning new vocabulary (i.e. “in, on, under, up, down”, “where is it?” games, my turn/your turn, body parts, colors, sizes, etc). With expectant waiting, you can help to shape your child’s use of sounds and words as they request for more items or your interaction to continue!
Get Moving: Bean Bag Toss, Bikes, Hula Hoops, Swings, Scooters, Tunnels/tents, Trampolines, Clapping/rolling/sliding, Obstacle courses– Physical movement is a great way to not just build gross motor skills but also language development with children as well! Many of our children are even more verbal when they are engaged in movement activities! So much language can be mapped onto the social routines that go with the items above, as well as in talking about what you are doing, the experience you are having while using the item(s), and embedding a variety of rich language concepts (spatial locations, colors, direction following, opposites, asking/responding to questions).
Bring on the Pretend Play and Imaginative Sets: Playhouses, Farms, Trucks/Trains, Tools, Kitchen/cooking, Groceries, Doctor, Magic kits, Puppets; the list goes on and on! Taking familiar, everyday experiences and finding pretend play toy sets that support those are great for building social routines/experiences, understanding roles tied to occupations/jobs, building vocabulary, language concepts, and imaginary play skills. The beauty of these toys is that they grow with kids (i.e. a pre-assembled child’s playhouse from FisherPrice for toddlers all the way up to the playhouse kit your child builds him/herself, to the outdoor, real-life play houses/forts that you can put in your backyard)–there’s something for every age to meet your child where they are at! Additionally as children grow, fostering their imaginative play outside of familiar routines with magic kits, puppets, make believe and fantasy-like creatures/lands continues to expand their thoughts, and capacity to bring new, creative ideas to life!
Smush, Mold, Shape: Clay/Kinesthetic Sand/Play Doh– Shaping materials are an excellent way to target language skills as well as fine motor development and problem solving skills. Pair a rolling pin, some cookie cutters, and playdough scissors, and you’ve got yourself so many concepts you can talk about and learn! Provide the vocabulary labels for the playdough tools or cookie cutters, address basic concepts like locations and sizes, label new verbs such as rolling/cutting/folding/stretching/squeezing, target WH-questions or following directions, and address social skills like sharing. If you didn’t want to buy playdough, look up a recipe online to make your own at home (our kids LOVE to do this together in our social group programs, which provide great opportunities for our older kids to work together, follow directions, take turns, and sequence/retell the steps of the activity)!