Thursday, February 15, 2018

Therapy Tip: 3 Great Toys for Toddler Language Development

It's therapy Thursday! It's the day I share a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and the mother of a child with special needs. Today's tip is:

3 Toys I Love for Encouraging a Toddler's Language Development

If you search online or in stores, there are no shortages of toy options for children of any age. Any parent can get overwhelmed by the numerous toys that claim to work on different developmental skills. There are many good toys out there. Today, I'd like to share with you the 3 main toys I use to encourage language development and why.

1. Potato Head
Potato heads are great for many reasons. First, you can target the basic body parts like eyes, nose, and hands. Secondly, you can target the concepts in/out as your child places the parts in the potato head. Next, you can target the concept of 1 and 2 (2 ears, 2 hands, 2 eyes, 1 nose). Finally, you can hoard all the pieces from the child. Have them say a word or phrase to receive a piece to complete it. The multiple pieces gives you a chance to elicit your desired word or phrase multiple times. Beyond language, placing the parts in the body is a great fine motor experience.

2. Simple Puzzles
I love using 6-9 piece puzzles in therapy for language development as well. Puzzles are wonderful for some of the same reasons as the previous toy. First, the puzzle generally has a theme that hopefully has words to grow a vocabulary. Some pictures on puzzles are just not great for teaching vocabulary, so you have to think about this before purchasing a puzzle. There are many good puzzles featuring pictures of food, animals, vehicles, or familiar characters. If you hold all the pieces and give the child one at a time, you can really have them focus on the vocabulary of the pieces. Secondly, you can address following directions and vocabulary identification by holding 2 puzzle pieces in front of the child and tell them to get a certain piece. ("Get the cow.") Next, spatial concepts of in/out can be targeted. Finally, you can count the puzzle pieces to work on simple counting. Besides the language targets, puzzles are great for matching, cognitive skills, and fine motor.

3. Vehicles
Little cars, trucks, trains, and tractors are also wonderful toys for language. If your child is working on saying just 1 word at a time, you can use these toys to model simple words or sounds (whee, go, beep-beep, stop, mine, up, down). If your toddler is working on saying 2-3 word phrases, then the vehicles provide many opportunities to build phrases. Some examples of these include: go truck, stop car, green tractor, fast car, slow down, let's go. Next, you will notice that you can target many adjectives and actions using vehicles, which is really important if your child is working on phrases or sentences. Finally, you can use the vehicles to teach spatial concepts if you add in a table, box, container, or ramp. Using another object like this, you can show the child on top, under, in, on, and off.

As you can see, my top 3 toys for language development for toddlers are pretty common and easy to find. They are also relatively inexpensive, and you may already have them in your home. These toys can be maximized for language development IF you take time to engage WITH your child while they are playing with them. They do not have the same effect if the child is left on their own without an adult modeling words or sounds.

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice. 

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