During speech therapy sessions, many parents ask me to recommend toys and activities for their children to use at home to develop their communication skills. I would recommend any non-electronic toy that engages your child and encourages them to use language. There are many electronic toys like tablets, baby cell phones, and talking dolls, that are touted as being educational for young children. However, a recent study revealed that “while children were playing with electronic toys, the parents spoke less” and “the babies were also less vocal and produced less words while playing with noisy electronic toys, than when playing with traditional toys.” Children should be learning and actively participating in their play. This recent study suggests that when children are playing with electronic toys, they are observing the toy instead of communicating and actively interacting with it. Instead, look for toys that allow your child to actively interact. Sometimes the simplest toys and games can be the most fun for children.
Here are my top 10 toys for early language learners.
1. Toy Ball- Your child can practice throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing and rolling the ball. A game of catch can help your child learn turn taking skills and social interaction during play.
2. Bubbles- Your child can blow bubbles and pop bubbles. You can practice direction words by blowing the bubbles up and down. You can practice descriptive words by blowing big bubbles and small bubbles. The possibilities are endless!
3. Dolls- You can practice a variety of action words with dolls, such as “eat, drink, walk, talk, jump, run, sleep, wake up, brush, etc.”
4. Books- Books are a wonderful way to increase your child’s vocabulary, improve joint attention, and expand upon language skills. Younger children can talk about the illustrations on each page of the book and older children can listen as you read the story aloud.
5. Cars- Cars are a fun and interactive toy for young boys and girls. You can race the cars, roll the cars off of a ramp, pretend to wash the cars, and talk about each part of the car.
6. Mr. Potato Head- This is a great toy for teaching basic concepts, like body parts, colors, and shapes.
7. Puzzles- Puzzles are a great way to teach spatial concepts, since children have to turn each puzzle piece and decide how it fits together with the others. Children can practice labeling and describing each puzzle piece.
8. Blocks- Blocks are a great way to teach shapes, colors and sizes to your child. Talk about what you are building with the blocks, like a house, a train, or a tall tower.
9. Musical Instruments- You can purchase children’s instruments or use items around the house to make music. A box of rice can become maracas and a pot can become a drum! Practice descriptive words like quiet, loud, fast, and slow while playing instruments. Or have your child close their eyes and guess which instrument you are playing. This is a great way to teach listening skills to your child.
10. You!- You are the most exciting and motivating ‘toy’ or participator during your child’s play. Try interactive games with your child, like peek a boo, piggy back rides, and hide and seek. The more excited and engaged you are, the more excited and engaged your child will be.
Language Development Slowed By Electronic Toys: Advice For Parents - Free Baby Development Videos: Gymbaroo: Active Babies Smart Kids Articles
Lynn Crawford M.A. CCC-SLP is a practicing speech-language pathologist licensed in the state of New Jersey. She is a certified member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) who obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Language Pathology at Stockton University and her master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology at Kean University.
As a certified therapist, Lynn has extensive clinical experience treating medically fragile patients with cognitive-communication and swallowing difficulties in skilled nursing facilities and inpatient and outpatient settings. She evaluates and treats patients in English and Spanish and she is a certified VitalStim provider. Lynn is also an adjunct clinical supervisor at Monmouth University. She enjoys keeping up to date on the latest clinical research and prides herself on continuing to learn and grow as a therapist. Lynn’s proudest accomplishment is her strong record of community service and dedication to helping her patients grow and reach their greatest potential.