5 Great Toys Parents and Speech Therapists Can Use to Stimulate Language
Times have changed since the Monopoly iron was still cool with the kids. Today’s toys have evolved to include new and innovative ideas in building and pretend play. Here are some great toys for at-home speech therapy, as well as for therapists looking to stimulate play, language, build social skills and keep sane during those winter months. They are all non-electronic toys available through orders online (some in stores) and the language suggestions below are aimed at fostering connections between children, their parents and their peers. They might not all be toys made specifically for children with special needs, but they might just capture their attention and provide the right motivation for play and participation in language therapy.
1.) Buildopolis – Reinventing Fort Building with Eco Friendly Materials
There’s a new kind of fort in town. Made from 40% recycled-content cardboard this kit can transform durable cardboard from a 2-D layout into a 3D rocket ship, castle or house. Simply attach the boards using the included Velcro dots. Each kit comes with square, rectangle and triangle shapes to get your buildings started. According to the company, kits are best for children ages 6 and older with adult supervision.
With Buildopolis, language targets can include:
- Following directions (put the square under the rectangle)
- Sequencing (first get a square, then a triangle)
- And of course, pretend play (pirate ship, astronaut).
2.) Olliblocks – Better than Building with Regular Blocks
With this clever idea, parents can revamp their children’s boring old blocks and give them a fresh face! Give the blocks a head to toe, side-to-side makeover with printouts. Just download the PDF, print, cut out and adhere the pieces to wooden blocks to create a fun and functional toy. PDFs are just $5. Sets include boys, girls, animals or a mix and match starter kit. Watch for new sets during the holidays. This makes a great preschool or early-elementary toy.
With Olliblocks language activities might be:
- Use vocabulary such as “same,” “different” and “match.”
- Practice pronouns such as “he” or “she”
- Arrange into silly figures and create a mixed-up story!
- Mix it up with personal pictures for using “I”
3.) Dino Hands – Decorate your Hands with Characters
Forget the action figures, bring your own dinosaurs to the party with just your hands. These temporary tattoos shape children and adults’ thumb and pointer fingers into friendly characters and set the stage for great language learning.
Language activity ideas:
- Storytelling. Ask the right hand to talk to the left and give a great tale about jungles and the Jurassic age.
- Pretend play with Dino Hands can include pretending to “eat” items around the environment. Use your dinosaur hand to pick up and “eat” vocab words placed on flashcards or letter blocks for articulation targets.
4.) Magnatiles – 3D Building Tiles
Smaller than the Buildopolis blocks but similar in concept, these easy to put together tiles adhere with magnets and easily stay in place. With so many shapes and colors your imagination can run wild with this tabletop activity. While it might seem simple in its design and concept, these toys are sure to hold your child’s attention – trust me I’ve seen them in action! They’re easy enough to assemble that children can independently get creative, but engaging enough to encourage cooperative play.
Build language around Magnatiles by:
- Practicing color and shape words
- Placing articulation targets on each tile and practicing them before building
- Encourage cooperative play by negotiating a shared structure to build and designating roles (who will build the walls and who will build the roof?)
5.) Bake and Decorate Cupcake Set – Serve and Decorate your Treats
The Melissa and Doug company makes great products, but this one is great for being creative not only with pretend play, but with decorating and designing. The creative component of this toy makes it great for language learning and invites others to join int the fun. The kit comes with a set that has 4 dry erase markers shaped like icing tubes to decorate the smooth, wipe-off cupcake tops. It also comes with colorful baking cups and decorative wooden candles.
- Get creative with language tasks by:
- Writing a letter of the alphabet on each one and decorate it around that theme. If you decorate with a “C” think of all the things that start with “kuh” to decorate (cat, cookies) to help promote early literacy skills.
- Encourage question asking and turn taking by practicing giving and taking special cupcake orders.