Author: Karen KEI
Speech and Language Therapist
When considering what toys to get for your child, make sure you look for toys that offer lots of interaction and learning opportunities. Children learn best when they are having fun with endless possibilities! High-tech toys seem appealing with flashy buttons, switches or lights, but it might not be the best to facilitate receptive and expressive language skills. Afterall, language acquisition requires interaction with other people, and the best tools are often toys and games without batteries!
Stacking/Nesting toys are great for infants and toddlers age 0-3. Not only do these toys help with eye-hand coordination, they are fantastic for developing spatial awareness and attention span. It is highly interactive and best for exposing your child with language and vocabulary around size concepts (e.g., small, big, bigger, biggest), colours, numbers and prepositions (e.g., in, on, under, next to) and basic concepts (e.g., full, empty). You can also use them as props for activities such as hide-and-seek and pretend play. You can hide small toys under different stacking cups and ask your child to find where the toy went!
Who doesn’t love a classic farm set? It is one of the most well-loved and well-used toy-sets in every early childhood setting. It brings so much fun and laughter to both children and adults! Take turns making different animal sounds (e.g., moo, baa-baa, neigh-neigh, woof-woof), placing the animals around the barn and have your child find them. It is also great for teaching action words such as running, jumping, galloping, sleeping, eating. You can also model different sentence structures such as “Cow says moo”, “The pigs are playing in the mud”, “The horse is running so fast!”.
Another must have that is perfect for young boys and girls. Children love to move the toy furniture and dolls around to make space for their room. Your children can learn different types of vocabulary such as toilet, shower, bedroom, chair, bed, sofa etc. It is also a great way to learn action words such as sleep, sit, stand, run, go etc. Model short sentences such as “Mummy is sleeping”, “Daddy goes to bed”, “Brother is in the toilet”.
Insert (chunky) puzzles and simple jigsaw puzzles are great for young children. You can put all the pieces into a bag and have your child pick out one at a time. Label the puzzle pieces as he/she pulls out and include the accompanying environmental sounds if you can using themed puzzles such as animal, transportation or daily routine themes. You can play hide-and-seek by hiding the pieces around the room. Give your child clues for where to look (e.g. “Is it under the chair?”, “The cow is in the cup”). Once a piece has been found, the child can put it in the correct spot.
A doctor set helps the children to make the doctor experience more fun and relatable. It is a fantastic way to be creative, build empathy and increase vocabulary. You can learn all the words that are associated with the experience such as band aids, thermometer, needles, injection, medicine, tummy ache etc. etc. You can introduce feeling words such as pain, ouchy, sick, hurt, healthy etc. Take turns asking questions such as ‘’Are you okay?”, “Where does it hurt?”. “What happened?”.
It is always cooking time! A toy kitchen set is a fantastic way to promote language through play. Children love to pretend to cook and it is great to develop social skills and imagination. Other than learning different food names, appliances and kitchen tools names, you can ask your child to follow simple instructions such as “Put the chicken in the oven”, “Let’s stir the soup’’. Don’t forget to add sounds into your play – Oven – “ding!’’, timer – “beep beep!’’, stove top – “taa taa!’’.
Best to get bubbles with a bubble wand rather than an electronic bubble machine. This way you are in control of the pace and amount of bubbles. Encouraging your child to request for more by making eye contact before you blow the bubbles. For one word – you can say “bubbles’’, “pop’’, “go”, “blow’’, “up’’, “gone’’. For two-word phrases – “more bubbles’’, “bubbles gone’’, “go up’’, “pop bubbles’’, “big bubbles’’. Encourage your child to use his/her index finger to pop the bubbles. You can also ask your child to label different parts of the body where they want the bubbles to land, e.g. “nose’’, “tummy’’, “face’’ etc.
The possibilities for speech and language skills are endless with a great set of blocks. Young babies will enjoy tapping two blocks together to make noise such as ‘da-da’, ‘boom boom’. Coupled with a song, the tapping blocks can be used to explore rhythm as you sing. As your child grows, the blocks can be used to make tall towers to knock down and finally as a stage for more complicated pretend-play with small toy cars and action figures.
Children love music and singing! Music helps children to tune in and learn different speech sounds as well as words in a fun and relaxing way! It is an instant hit and one of the easiest ways to engage with young children. By banging the drum with the drumstick, you are teaching your child about beat, rhythm, and turn-taking skills. A very important skill for language acquisition and making conversation. Incorporate with nursery rhymes such as ‘’Old Mcdonald had a farm’, ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’, ‘Wheels on the bus’ for a mini concert. You can teach basic concepts such as fast, slow, loud, quiet, stop.
This is an excellent toy for developing language as adults we talk and use our phones to communicate on a daily basis. Pretend to have a conversation with your child about what is happening around them. You can incorporate the toy phone in different pretend play such as ordering food delivery, calling the police, and phoning the doctor for an emergency!