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Early Language Development Toy Gift Guide

By: Karissa Rutten M.S. CCC-SLP

The gift giving days are around the corner and there are SO many toy options to choose from.  The purpose of this gift guide is to offer recommendations of some toys that best support early speech and language development.  However, it’s important to remember, the biggest factor with building your child’s speech and language skills is YOU – engaging in play with them, talking about what you and your child are doing.  Simpler toys help encourage this.  I try to avoid toys that are loud and have bright flashing lights, as those can be a distraction from your language modeling. Listed below are some of my favorite toys that easily facilitate play and communication. They build skills such as receptive and expressive vocabulary, following directions with a variety of concepts (i.e. prepositions, colors, opposites, etc.), and social interaction.  

  • Play Kitchen.  Many of our speech therapists use this in our sessions every day.  All of my clients ages 1-8 years old+ love it!  You can talk about the foods you’re making, actions you’re doing (stirring, cutting, baking, washing) and create pretend play scenes. 
  • Farm + Farm Animals.  Especially fun for younger children who are working on imitating speech.  You can use the farm animals to practice animal sounds – Moo, Baa, Qwack! 
  • Ball/Car Tower. You can model lots of fun verbs such as Go, Stop, Drive, Race and Crash.  And of course, ‘Ready… Set… Go!’
  • Blocks. So many fun types – wood blocks, magnetic blocks, Mega blocks.  All fun!  Blocks are great because there are so many pieces.  So depending on your child’s age, they can practice asking you for ‘More’ with a word or sign.  You can also use lots of descriptors while playing with blocks such as Tall/Short, Big/Small, and Colors.  Blocks are great for social skills too such as turn-taking with building or crashing the tower you make.
  • Books.  It’s never too early to start building early literacy skills.  Some examples of my favorite books for early language development are: Brown Bear Brown Bear, Dear Zoo, and Pat the Bunny.  And a new recent discovery for me has been the Poke-A-Dot Books – so fun and entertaining.  For children who have a harder time attending to story time, I encourage books that involve some type of interaction such as opening flaps or feeling textures.  Also, keeping your ‘reading’ short and sweet on each page by maybe only labeling 1-2 pictures your child may be looking at before they help you turn the page.
  • Baby Doll Set.  Not just for girls!  Playing with baby dolls builds language skills within routines your child is already familiar with such as feeding, diapering, playing, and sleeping. 
  • Play Doh. Options are endless with Play Doh!  You can make anything you want – Shapes, Animals, Foods.  You can practice Colors and talk about a variety of actions you’re doing such as Cutting, Smashing, and Rolling.  

Hopefully this list gives some inspiration and ideas for ‘Santa’ this year (;  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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