The following post was written by our own Katie Burch, M.Ed., CCC-SLP and originally posted on Jake’s Journey. We have been given permission to repost it here in its entirety.
Wondering how to pick just the right toy for your little one? Allow me to share some of my favorites as well as give you some insight into my thought process regarding choosing therapy materials.
I tend to look at a toy, puzzle, book, or game in terms of how many ways I can utilize it for addressing speech-language goals. Additionally, I, of course, look for those items which I think will be highly motivating for most kiddos.
Any toys/activities which provide multiple trials, such as cutting Velcro fruit/vegetables, putting money into toy banks, stacking nesting blocks, stringing beads, putting together jig-saw puzzles, picking ducks or fish out of a pond, pulling items out of a bag or box, and placing picture pieces on a felt board are super terrific for motivating children to imitate or produce target sounds, syllables or words. They also often provide opportunities for learning new vocabulary.
When buying books, I typically look for those which are interactive in nature. By this I mean books that include magnets, sliding parts, flaps, stickers, and the like. Receptive and expressive vocabulary as well as pronunciation of target words can be meaningfully addressed with active participation from your child.
Some of my preferred toy/book/game companies include www.lakeshorelearning.com and www.superduperinc.com. A seemingly endless supply of materials are available from these sites which include skill areas such as phonemic awareness, following directions, memory, sequencing, grammar, vocabulary, basic concepts, and questions.
Feel like singing? Fantastic CDs along with picture boards and manipulatives are available at http://www.kidscantalk.com/speech-enhancing-songs/.
Pretend play sets including kitchen, tools, baby dolls, and doctor/vet provide opportunities for exploring pronouns, following directions, vocabulary, and sentence structure. Playing with these sets opens up dialogue found in daily routines allowing for repetitive use of functional phrases needed for everyday communication.
Appealing active play items I’ve found to hold the interest of my little friends include Stomp Rockets, Velcro Mitts, Tic Tac Toe, and Elefun.
Traditional games like Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Connect Four, Dominos, Go Fish, and BINGO can be transformed into excellent speech-language tools. I love to use Chutes and Ladders to practice using longer sentences and past tense verbs. Many games involve spinners/dice and counting which provides multiple opportunities to practice difficult sounds in number words (e.g., /f/ in “four” and “five,” /th/ in “three”). Similarly, color words offer articulation practice (e.g., /r/ in “red,” /gr/ and /bl/ in “green” and “blue”). Varieties of Dominos, Go Fish, and BINGO contain kid-friendly and trendy vocabulary.
Beyond motivation and interest, a nice starting point for choosing toys is your child’s current speech and language goals. It’s amazing how creative one can be when he/she begins looking around the house or in toy stores having a specific target sound, phrase, or skill in mind. Likewise, begin with a toy you think your child will like and brainstorm how many different teaching opportunities you can find while playing with it!
Happy Shopping and Merry Christmas!