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Top 5 Toys for Working on Language at Home {According to Us}

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

Article Written By: Victoria Mannella-Gupta

As Speech-Language Pathologists, we are often asked which toys are the most beneficial to helping children talk. Our advice is to pick a toy that will help you engage with your child, NOT a toy that makes your child engage with only the toy. For example, a toy with flashing lights and sounds might get your child’s attention, but the toy does not help you interact with your child. Not to mention, many of those toys with bright lights and sounds are too bright for your child’s eyes or too loud for your child’s ears. Generally, stay away from most toys that require batteries (or take the batteries out)!

In a previous blog post, we discussed commenting not questioning. When you are playing with your child, keep in mind that you want to comment on what you and your child are doing when working on EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE, rather than asking, “What animal is this? What sound does it make? What colour is the sheep?”. Instead comment, “nose on”, “black sheep” “baaaaaa”. Remember to get down to your child’s level, sit on the ground, face them, and make eye contact.

Here are five inexpensive toys that we always have in our toolbox to promote your child’s language development and how we use them to target early language, expressive language (speaking), and receptive language (understanding):

1. Potato Head This toy is a must-have! There are so many language goals you can work on while playing together!

a. Early Language Goals:

· Gestures (on, all done, open box)

· Single words (hat, shoes, eyes)

b. Expressive Language Goals:

· Prepositions (shoes on, shoes off, hat on top)

· Verbs (Potato Head is running, Potato Head fell down)

· Pronouns (he/she/they- He is wearing shoes).

c. Receptive Language Goals:

· Following Directions (put Potato Head’s hat on his head, point to Potato Head’s eyes)

· Answering Wh-Questions (What is Potato Head wearing on his feet? Who is Potato Head playing with?)

2. Farm For imaginary play, don’t be afraid to mix figures from other toys and let them visit the farm!

a. Early Language Goals:

· Gestures (open door, in, out)

· Single words (pig, cow, goat)

b. Expressive Language Goals:

· Prepositions (horse in, horse out, rooster on top, farmer on tractor)

· Verbs (bunny hop, cow eat)

· Pronouns (he/she/they- They are riding the horse).

· Vocabulary (cow, horse, pig, goat, farmer, barn, tractor etc.)

c. Receptive Language Goals:

· Following directions (Put the horse in the barn, close the door, put the cow beside the chicken)

· Answering Wh-questions (Where is the horse? What is the farmer doing? Who is driving the tractor?)

3. Dolls Remember, the doll does not have to have batteries to be engaging!

a. Early Language Goals:

· Gestures (drink, cry, rock baby)

· Single words (baby, bottle, sleep, cry, eat)

b. Expressive Language Goals:

· Prepositions (baby in bed, dress on, shoes off)

· Verbs (baby sleeping, baby crying, baby eating, change diaper, wash baby)

· Pronouns (he/she/they- She is sleeping).

· Object Vocabulary (baby, diaper, bottle, bed, dress, pants, shoes)

c. Receptive Language Goals:

· Following directions (put baby to sleep in her bed, give baby her bottle, wash baby, pick baby up)

· Answering Wh-Questions (What is the baby doing? Where is the baby sleeping?)

4. Blocks. This toy can be considered a “cause and effect” toy where children learn that their actions can cause something to happen. if you build a tower one block at a time, the child will soon learn that eventually the tower becomes unstable and falls down. Say “up” each time a block is adde on top. Soft blocks are best so that no one gets hurt!

a. Early Language Goals:

· Gestures (up, down, again)

· Single words (up, down, uh-oh, boom, again)

b. Expressive Language Goals:

· Prepositions (block up, block down)

· Verbs (building, fall down)

· Object Vocabulary (colours, blocks)

c. Receptive Language Goals:

· Following Directions (put the blue block on top, knock down the tower)

· Answering Wh-questions (What are we building? Where is the green block?)

5. Piggy Bank Here is another “cause and effect” toy that children love! It’s a great example of a toy that uses batteries but does not take away from engagement. When the child drops a plastic coin into the piggy bank, it makes a sound to show the coin was deposited. The coins are different colours, have animals on one side and numbers (1-10) on the other side. Once all the coins are in the piggy bank, the child opens the side compartment to take out the coins. As the parent/caregiver, you can hold on to the coins and have your child request another one by gesturing, making a sound, or saying the word. Make sure to hold the coin up to your eye level.

a. Early Language Goals:

· Gestures (in, out, open, all gone)

· Single words (in, out, open, more, again

b. Expressive Language Goals:

· Prepositions (in, out)

· Verbs (push)

· Object Vocabulary (pig, coin, numbers on coin, animals on coin, colours)

c. Receptive Language Goals:

· Following Directions (put the coin in the bank, take the coins out, put the yellow coin in the bank)

· Answering Wh-Questions (Where did the coins go? What should we put in the piggy bank?)

There are so many toys available that it can be overwhelming! Our best advice is to keep it simple. Toys do not have to be expensive, they do not need to make noise, and they do not need flashing lights. Turn off the television, put away your phone, and limit distractions as best you can. Use your imagination and engage with your child through toys that promote language development!

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