As They Grow: Top 10 Toys to Encourage Communication

Pediatric Interactions is an LLC partner. This post is part of their partnership with Little Lake County. Written by Clinical Director and Speech-Language Pathologist, Sarah Rosten; all thoughts and opinions belong to her.

As they growMay is Better Hearing & Speech Month and the beginning of garage sale season!  Speech/language pathologists at Pediatric Interactions want to share some ideas of how to use different toys to encourage your child to talk more. These are only a few suggestions and we have shared more ideas with families on our website and Facebook page this month.

toys to encourage speech

1. Puppets

Kids enjoy when adults turn into a character and it’s fun for them to watch the mouth of the puppet move as it’s talking.  Puppets are great for tickles/eating the child.  Parents can build anticipation by moving up their child’s body with anticipation “I’m going to eat your…..” and getting the body part.  You can ask your child which body part or give them choices.  Just a word of caution…tickles often appear fun, but can be “too much” for some kids and may not be as pleasant as we think they should be. ~ Sarah Rosten, MA, CCC-SLP/L

Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions
Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions

2. Ball 

Playing with a ball is great for a wide range of ages.  Young children not yet talking can practice those “precursors”, such as eye contact, gestures and the back/forth of turn taking.  Children will then start to verbalize to request and follow directions ( “put it in the hoop,” “throw it to me,”or “roll it to Dad.”) Kids love to roll/kick/throw balls back and forth to peers. With this, your child may join a team sport someday! ~ Jill White, MS, CCC-SLP/L

3. Cause effect

Think about toys kids can’t do by themselves which require an adult to activate (e.g., wind-up toys, blowing up balloons.)  Kids love seeing the result and have to communicate with an adult to get the toy to “work!”  Natural words to model are “help” when your child hands you the toy.  Create anticipation by using “ready, set” and having your child fill in  “go” before you activate the toy.  If your child is already using these words, create more problems around the activity by asking questions, “How should I make it go?  Spin or shake?) or model two word phrases “Blow balloon.” ~ Marni Steinfort, MA, CCC-SLP/L

Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions
Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions

4. Puzzles

You might think of puzzles as an activity that a child would do on their own, but they can be a great interactive activity to encourage your child to talk! Give your child choices to have him/her ask for specific puzzle pieces. Make sounds associated with the pieces, it’s more natural if the pieces are animals or vehicles, but make other silly sounds “boing” for ball, “num num num” or “yuck” for food pieces. When your child is done putting together a jigsaw puzzle, they can tell you about what they made and make up a story about it! ~ Lane Hepp, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions
Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions

5. Stacking cups/blocks

Kids love to build towers and even more to knock them down!  Use stacking cups, blocks (even cans from your pantry) to build and encourage problem solving, letting them figure out which fits next.  We too quickly give our child the solution, let them figure it out through trial and error. Early speakers use a lot of repeated words “up up up” and affective words/phrases “oh no,” “uh oh.”  Because of the emotion that accompanies these, they are often the first repeated and used words. Some of these toys have animals or other figures on them.  Model labels and words about size, color and categories. ~ Lisa Morris, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions
Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions

6. Farm set

Playing with the farm is obviously a great way to animal sounds.  You can encourage these sounds also when singing “Old McDonald.”  What other sounds do animals make?  Be creative and model these while animals do things like eating or sleeping.  Taking the batteries out of toys allows you and your child to use greater imagination.  For kids who are using more words and phrases, a farm set can be used to practice vocabulary regarding animals, what they are doing, requesting additional pieces/characters and answering questions during role playing with. ~ Jean Campbell, MA, CCC-SLP

Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions
Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions

7. Books  

Reading books with children of ALL ages exposes them to vocabulary and topics that a child might not experience otherwise. Babies enjoy the contrast with big, brightly colored pages and can explore different textures of touch and feel books. Toddlers can begin to imitate simple words in picture books that parents model for them repeatedly as they read the same book several days in a row.  Preschoolers love to begin to “read” by themselves and tell the story based on their memory of being read to and looking at pictures.  Uses books with repetitive phrases or start introducing rhyming words, letting your child fill in the last word of a phrase.  Books are the perfect alternative to screen time while your child is riding in the car or grocery cart or waiting on the toilet during potty training. Don’t forget to include your child in going and signing up for their very first library card. ~ Jamie Fox, MA, CCC-SLP

Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions
Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions

8. Baby doll or stuffed animal and accessories

Your little girl may love baby dolls, but have you introduced dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures to your son?  Kids can practice daily routines with characters.  It’s fun for children to feed others, have the character respond to foods they like/don’t.  Children can learn empathy with nurturing and caring responses (e.g. rock a crying baby.)  With doll play, your child can work though “problems” and new situations. Ask your child, “Is the baby hungry or tired – what should we do?”  You can introduce new routines and interactions with characters.  Practice potty training the doll or introduce a doll to a new sibling if you are expecting another child.  ~ Deanna Riggs, MS, CCC-SLP/L

9. Pretend food

Kids love to play with food and pretend to cook for others.  Help them prepare silly foods by using Velcro foods and sticking two different ones together.  This is also a great way to work on matching correct halves.  Encourage your child to tell you which they want by giving them choices (“Do you want to cut orange or banana?”)  You can create a deliberate error, giving them the “wrong” food and modeling protest when they aren’t really that upset (“No banana”. Practicing cutting these foods teaches children about “safety” (e.g., be careful, knives are sharp!) Expand your child’s vocabulary with foods, beyond labels and colors, but use different action words, descriptors and lots of exclamation (e.g., cut, chop, break, yummy, juicy, sour, sweet, sharp, etc.) ~ Thao Witbeck, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions
Photo courtesy of Pediatric Interactions

10. Bubbles

Bubbles are so fun, it’s almost impossible that your child won’t request “more.”  You can model the word and wait for them to imitate.  If your child isn’t talking yet, you can model the sign for more and carry this into many other times during the day when your child wants something.  Use short/easy words (pop, blow) several times during this play.  Even give your child the wand and they may need “help” to blow.  Using their lips/cheeks with the right amount of air flow to blow can be difficult for some children.  Explore some of the bubble pipes or take a short/cut straw and place it in front of the bubble want to encourage this movement.  Then practice turn taking, either with you and your child or between siblings or friends. ~ Lindsey Fry, MA, CCC-SLP/L

Pediatric Interactions
15 Commerce Dr #116, Grayslake
(224) 360-2542 | [email protected] | Facebook

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Pediatric Interactions and WeeBits invite families to these upcoming events:

Baby-Led Weaning for Parents, Grandparents, and Caregivers
Thursday, May 19, 2016 – 3:00 p.m..- 4:00 p.m.
Speech Pathologist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Jill Rabin, will be leading a special presentation geared toward parents, grandparents, and caregivers that examines the transition from breast and/or bottle feeding to solid foods and how the use of the Baby-Led Weaning approach can impact overall health, oral structural development and overall developmental abilities in at-risk babies.

If you have any questions or are having trouble registering, please email Ally Simpson or call her at 847-223-7433 x.202.

Singing and Signing Class
Tuesdays, May 3-24, 2016 –  10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Location: Waukegan Public Library, Bradbury Room (Downstairs)
128 North County Street
Waukegan, IL 60085
Tuesdays, June 7-28, 2016 – 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Location: Grayslake Public Library, Youth Program Room
100 Library Lane
Grayslake, IL 60030

* Suggested age: 6 months to 3 years old with a grown up

Pediatric Interactions is a Speech and Language Clinic located in Grayslake and McHenry that supports independence and self-esteem using creative therapy approaches. Pediatric Interventions provides FREE developmental screenings, individual and group therapy, classes, workshops and other resources to help children better communicate.

WeeBits is a non-profit organization bringing awareness and guidance to those families with infants/toddlers who fall outside the boundaries of existing child developmental programs.

About Melissa Haak 626 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.

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