Thursday, December 8, 2016

Therapy Tip: Early Speech-Language Christmas Toy Guide

Welcome to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a parent of a child with special needs and a pediatric speech-language pathologist.
Today's tip is:

Christmas Shopping: Early Speech-Language Toy Guide

Christmas will be here in a few weeks.

About this time of year, parents often ask me about appropriate Christmas presents for their toddler who I am treating in speech therapy. Today, I am offering my ideas for gifts in case there are parents, friends, or grandparents who are buying toys for a child with speech or language delays and need help.
In general, almost any toy can be used to build language (i.e. increase vocabulary or encourage words/phrases/sentences). When I am looking for a toy, I go by this rule of thumb in general: The more basic the toy, the better.
Toys that make noise or sounds or are motorized USUALLY result in less talking since the child is busy pushing buttons or watching the toy. So, I try to avoid most noise making toys or moving toys for children that have very little language. These types of toys have their uses, but if you are specifically looking for something that will help promote verbal speech, look for toys that do not have the extra bells and whistles. I want the child to make the noise and the sound effect, not the toy.
Another important thing to remember when purchasing a toy is the child's developmental age. The development age describes where the child is functioning versus their chronological age. Many toys have suggested ages on the box. If you have a child with large delays, these ages will not match up for what they child may need. For example, a box may say 24 months. Now, if you have a child with Down syndrome who is 24 months, their developmental age may be closer to 12 if they have just started walking. So choosing toys with a 12-18 month age listed on a toy's box may be more appropriate than the one with 24 month age listed.

Here's some more specific ideas:

Toys for children developing vocabulary, working on phrases, or using verbal speech: 

-Any type of food related toy can work on basic words like eat/drink and naming foods

-Any book or flashcard set…I especially love books and cards that have real photographs versus cartoon drawn pictures.

-Baby doll sets with a few accessories like a bottle or diapers to work on actions and basic words

-Car sets with a garage or ramp to work on words like in, up, go, stop, etc.

-Non-motorized train sets are great too for working on sound effects (choo-choo) and action words.

-Animal sets/toys in any form such as puzzles, puppets, or figures can allow you to work on naming animals or saying animal sounds.

-In general, I like the Melissa & Doug wooden toys. There are a variety of these that can be used to work on action words, spatial concepts (in/out), and basic vocabulary (go, up, more). 

-Of course, I love bubbles to work on words like pop, more, dip, bubble, etc.

For children working on articulation/speech sound development:

-I love the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD for teaching letters & sounds. I have had kids really pick up on sounds watching this DVD.

-Many Leap Frog toys in general are good for teaching letter/sound connections. The sooner the child with articulation errors can get this, the better off they will be for school.

-Bath foam letters allow for a way to work on producing the sounds of letters during bath time. I also like to squirt water on glass doors and stick the letters to the glass to use the foam letters in a different way.

-Bath paints or markers can be used to write words or letters with the sound your child is working on. You could also draw pictures of things with the sound your child is working on. For example, if your child is working on /b/, then you can draw a ball, boy, or boat to practice this sound.

-Alphabet puzzles allow for the sound/letter connection and a chance to practice your child's difficult sounds in isolation by themselves.

-Letter magnets again allow for the sound/letter connection or sound practice. Besides sticking them on a refrigerator, you can buy a small cookie sheet to stick the magnets on.

-Alphabet stamps or alphabet stickers again allow for sound play and letter/sound connections in a variety of ways.

Hope this gives you some ideas for Christmas. Remember, you can always ask your child's therapist if you need more specific ideas. Happy shopping! 

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

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