Any toy can be adapted to target speech and language, but there are some tips you can follow to help select toys that are optimal for targeting speech and language.
Pick open-ended toys
Open-ended toys do not have one specific way that they are “supposed” to be played with, which means your child can use his or her creativity to use them in their own way. Toys like this include wooden blocks, legos, stuffed animals, cardboard boxes, and costumes.
Back to the basics
While there are tons of cool, new toys on the market, focus on the traditional ones. Traditional toys tend to be more open-ended, so they’re more conducive to language development. Some examples of traditional toys include cars, trucks, trains and other transportation toys, play kitchens and play food, farm sets, doll houses, Mr. Potato Head, Play Dough, tool sets, tea sets, and baby dolls.
No need for batteries
Many toys with batteries include talking or environmental sounds (like a car driving). Without the batteries, there is no sound, so your child will have to make the noises on their own! Rather than letting the toy do the talking, they can do the talking. If you already have a favorite toy that has batteries, don’t worry, you can always take them out!
Don’t worry about gender
You don’t have to stick to gender a specific toy. Let your girls play with trucks and your boys play with baby dolls! These toys promote problem solving, social interaction, and creative expression in both boys and girls.
Skip the “ABCs and 123’s”
If you walk through any chain store, you’ll likely see sections advertising a toy as “Educational”, “Teaches Colors and Numbers”, or “Teaches the ABCs!”. You don’t need these toys to teach your child because, as discussed in the “skip the batteries” section, they tend to do all the “doing”. Let your child do the “doing” (and talking!) instead.
Less is more
Despite all of these recommendations, it’s important to remember that less is more. Kim John Payne, co-author of the book Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids says, “As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.”
By limiting your child’s toy options, she/he will spend more time with each toy, allowing her/his creativity to grow. One way to limit the amount of toys your child has to choose from is to use a toy rotation.
Sometimes the best “toys” are not toys at all
Some of the best tools for language development are not actually “toys”, but everyday objects that your child can play with (like forts made out of bedsheets, cardboard boxes, and pots and pans). Not only will you save money by using these common items that you already have, but your child will have room for their creativity to run wild!
In addition to these everyday objects, never underestimate how much your child wants to play with YOU! Whether you’re telling stories, singing, playing patty-cake, talking in a funny voice, or being silly, remember that YOU are the best toy for your child!
Thank you for reading! I hope this blog can help you select tops for further your child’s speech and language development. For more speech-language resources, please visit our Resources for Families page. For additional content, be sure to visit CSHC’s YouTube channel.
This blog, written by Maggie Boorman, M.S., CF-SLP, has been adapted from an article entitled “10 Tips For Selecting Toys For Your Speech Delayed Child” by Katie Yeh, M.A., CCC-SLP. Maggie is a Speech-Language Pathologist at Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center.