Holidays are a great time to score some wonderful deals on toys that encourage speech and language skills and family time! Christmas. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. It really doesn’t matter which holiday you celebrate in Winter, we all know that right after Thanksgiving there is that mad dash to the stores to get the super sales. In our home, we celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and Yule. You can say my daughter has been spoiled over the years. Since our only immediate family here in Vegas is my Gambling Guru Grammy, we always fill out the various store wish lists for our scattered family members. Here is my confession, when she was super little, I always thought about what would be a fun toy that would facilitate the growth of speech and language skills (that I could also use later for work once she outgrows it).
Here are some wonderful toys that I would suggest, both personally and professionally, putting on Santa’s list to facilitate speech and language growth and quality family time:
BOOKS– Books are great for all ages! For the little ones, you can use them to build basic receptive and expressive vocabulary, prepositions, adjectives, wh-questions, etc.. as you talk about the pictures in the storybook (“Look! Santa is trying to come down the chimney. See his boots? Show me Santa’s boots. Boy! He will be dirty coming down that chimney…”) For older children, the story vocabulary increases in complexity so they continue to increase vocabulary but begin using context clues to determine the meaning of the word or phrase. They can also work on the higher level wh- questions such as how and why.
CAUSE and EFFECT Toys– These are great for the little itty bitty ones! Especially those that are just developing language. You can entertain for long periods of time while working on basic concepts such as colors, stop vs go, more, roll, pop, fast, etc.
PLAYSETS– So much language can be built from playsets such as dollhouses, farms, Duplo sets, etc… With the Duplo or block sets, you can work on colors, prepositions, size, following directions, and prepositions when first creating the scene. With all of the playsets you can continue to work on receptive and expressive language vocabulary, action words (verbs), basic concepts, following directions, and narrative skills.
REUSABLE STICKER SETS– Playsets can get expensive and sometimes they are not easy to move around from location to location. The reusable sticker sets by Melissa and Doug allow you to work on all the same skills as the playsets. I love that they are reusable stickers so they can be used over and over for half the price of the playsets. Plus, they are easy to bring from location to location (including those long car trips).
BOARD GAMES– Board games are great for learning social language and bringing families together! From board games, kids can learn that there are rules that must be followed such as turn-taking, eye contact, social exchanges (“It’s your turn. Oh wait. It’s my turn. Give me the dice, please”), which are all important skills for functional communication and conversational exchange. One game that is full of wonderful family fun and builds language is the game Headbandz. While playing this game, the following language skills can be worked on: categories, descriptive concepts, and asking and answering questions.
GOLDIE BLOX– My daughter is in love with Goldie Blox! If you do not know about these sets, I would definitely suggest you check them out. They were designed with teaching girls about engineering concepts. However, boys can find entertainment with them too. The sets come with a book that explains the concepts and gives step-by-step directions (in a fun way!) of how to build the set. It teaches higher-level vocabulary and concepts while incorporating fun! It is a fun way to also incorporate social language exchanges (making requests, conversational exchange, etc..), following directions, addressing how and why explanatory concepts, and more.
Too often, myself included, it is easier to let our children play with the tablet. We tell ourselves that they are still engaging in learning activities since they are using academic apps or apps created to encourage speech and language skills, but at the same time if we only provide them with technology we are missing wonderful experiences that we can enjoy with our children. Family time with laughter and fun! Teaching the art of conversation. Learning opportunities that only can occur with the interaction of another person. Those moments are sacred. Those moments are what make us human and those moments fly by far too fast. So when you are thinking of what to get your child for the holidays, think of the activities and toys that would include YOU and PLAY with them. It makes for wonderful memories and natural opportunities to facilitate speech and language skills.