Toys and Games Designed to Help Increase Vocabulary and Build Language Skills
It’s that time of year again! Everywhere you look is another advertisement for yet another toy that your child MUST have! Barbie, Play Dough, Nintendo Wii, Lego sets…these are always great gifts that most children will love. But, what about toys that are fun for kids and can help build language skills and increase vocabulary at the same time? Is that even possible? The answer is yes. But will the kids enjoy these toys? Again, the answer is YES, and you may be surprised that some very famous toys are actually excellent language building blocks.
Early language proficiency has been linked to better performance in school, reading, writing skills and generally improved social ability. As parents, we are often looking for ways to boost these skills, even from a very early age. From a child’s first word, to a first sentence, to a first story – language proficiency is at the root of the child’s ability to make these connections. Of course, nothing can replace good ole’ fashioned parent/child interaction. However, toys and games are a good supplement to conversation and can be an excellent way to encourage your child to engage in the world around him or her and increase vocabulary and build early language skills.
A good rule of thumb is to look for toys that encourage imagination.Often, children’s playrooms are jam-packed with every toy one could imagine, but nothing that would encourage imaginative conversation. Look for toys that can foster interaction and dialogue. A great quote to keep in mind when selecting an educational toy for you child is, “The more a toy does by itself, the less the child can do with it. The goal for play should be to engage, rather than entertain,” says Michelle LaRowe, author of A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists. “Playing is your baby’s primary mode for learning and development. Choose stimulating, age-appropriate toys to foster your baby’s cognitive, physical and social development.”
A few favorites:
Stacking/Nesting Toys: Cups, cubes, rings, nesting dolls are all terrific toys for a young child to work on fine motor skills, as well as problem solving. The simpler the better for these type of toys, as simple toys help promote pretending and serve to engage your child in imaginative play. Talk to your child about the sizes, shapes, colors and how each piece fits together.
Barn Yard Set: This is a great gift idea for the younger child in your family. A play farm offers multiple opportunities for your child to learn. Animal sounds are a good modeling tool for early speech skills (think “moo” for cow or “ney” for horse) and a foundation for early vocabulary skills. Your child will start to make a correlation between the animals and the sounds they make. Additionally, this type of toy foster’s your child’s creativity as he or she can create conversations between the characters.
Mr. Potato Head: This toy has been a staple of playrooms for years, and it is as popular today as it was decades ago. Children are able to identify body parts, colors, shapes and how they all work together. Additionally, your child will begin to work on prepositions (“put the nose ON the face”). And, as your child finds new and interesting ways to put Mr. Potato Head back together, you may hear he or she narrate what she is doing as she plays.
Tea Party Set: Children begin to mimic their parents as their language skills develop and their vocabulary increases. A tea set is an excellent way for your child to encourage imaginative play. Don’t be surprised if you see your child repeating your words to her teddy bear – in fact, rejoice! She is making important connections in the world around her.
For parents who may be looking for a little more technologically advanced toy, Leap Frog offers a wide selection of interactive tablet-style sets, with age-appropriate apps, game cartridges and accessories. This is an excellent way to introduce your child to the world of technology, but in a safe, age-appropriate way. Leap Frog also offers parents and children access to a website designed to offer printables, games and tips tailored to your child’s age.
Tell us some of your favorites!