Kids Gift Ideas
We often get asked for help with choosing suitable toys for children, especially children who are experiencing speech and language difficulties. First of all, we want you to be aware that we are not affiliated with any toy manufacturers or suppliers. These suggestions come from years of working with children of all ages and all interests, helping them learn to communicate. We are also sharing some tips about how to use toy organisation and tidying up to facilitate language development too.
It is important to remember that it is the interaction between a child and their caregivers that builds communication skills, not toys alone! In fact, how many of you have seen your little one put their new toy aside to play with the packaging? You do not need to spend a lot of money on toys, you can always borrow some from a local toy library and used second-hand toys (provided they meet safety standards) too. The key is to interact with your child while they play, model the language related to playing with the toy and have fun! Respond to your child’s vocalisations, gestures and words to keep that interaction going. Stay in the moment with your child!
Toys don’t need to be electronic, require batteries and have fancy buttons or make unusual noises. In fact, these “bells and whistles” can be so absorbing that they get in the way of communication.
So, now that we are clear that it is you and not the toys that make the difference in helping your child communicate, let’s look at the types of toys that you can use as tools and props for learning and language development.
Choose toys that require interaction to stimulate communication are key: which is where the learning occurs.
If you have been to our clinic you will have noticed that we keep our toys organised in their own containers. This enables us to keep our rooms (reasonably!) tidy and helps us find toys that are needed quickly. In addition, having toys in a container or out of reach, encourages the child to initiate communication to request a toy, be it by gesture, vocalisation or words. They see the train set up on a shelf in a clear box, so they point and say “choo choo.” When we take the box down for them, they need help to open it, so may bring it to Mum or Dad to open or say “open.”
So, when your child receives amazing toys, plan how you will store and care for them. This teaches your child about caring for their belongings and has the added benefit of helping them (& you!) tidy up.
Using and re-using toys
Try rotating toys. Put some toys out of sight for a while, especially when your little one receives new toys as a gift. When you take those ‘old’ toys out again, they will be soooo excited to see them again and have a renewed interest in playing with them.
Language Skills Learned from Cleaning Up
In speech therapy, we always include a “tidy-up” or “clean-up” after each activity. We frame it as a necessary step before starting a new activity because we need the “space” to set up the new toys, with give the tidying up a real purpose. This helps your child learn about “first” and “then”, i.e. “first we pack away, then we can play with the farm.” This helps them learn to wait before focussing on the new activity (when the old toys are packed up). In tidying up, you actually practice so many speech and language skills , such as following directions (“pass the big trucks” or “first pass me the box, then pass me the ducks”), they learn the names for items , even words to do with quantity, inclusion/ exclusion (some / all). This ability to pack something away will be called on in day-care, preschool and school.
So, now to the actual toys! We have organised them into age-groups, but just pick and choose depending on your own little one’s interests. With the holiday season right around the corner, you can keep these ideas in mind whilst shopping.
Babies & Toddlers
Babies are taking it all in. They are looking around them, listening, and need have you close. You are their focus. Choose toys that facilitate tummy time like a colourful playmat and baby gyms with toys that dangle above them, kick and play piano. Balls or toys that move when you push them, encourage crawling, and learning tables for when they pull to stand and walkers (push-along toys) when they are taking their first steps.
- Fabric books with various textures, mirrors, lift the flap books
- Play mats with dangling toys
- Roller toys & soft balls
- Bath toys like little boats, mini buckets, ducks etc
- Safe Mirrors
- Toys easily grasped and held in hand
- Shape sorters
- Ball run
- Stacking / nesting cups
Sample words you can model with these toys are:
Pop, more, up, down, in, out, under, though, bang, shake, push, stop, go, tap, squeeze, roll, uh oh, hello, bye, where are you? There you are! Knock knock, building up, all fall down, on top, crash, all done, all gone, roll, ounce throw, catch, my turn, squeeze, your turn, naming body parts / clothing, push/pull, vroom, beep beep, choo choo, hon honk. Shhh, night night, sit down….the list goes on!
Games that you could play include peekaboo, pat a cake, round and round the garden like a teddy bear, sing nursery rhymes/ songs.
Older toddlers are moving about and exploring so try these types of toys:
- Balls of all sizes and textures
- Noise makers and musical instruments
- Magnetic doodle boards
- Blocks – wooden, plastic, soft
- Water / sand table
- Slide / climbing frame
- Mini sports like baseball hoop, baseball / cricket
- Coloured circles / discs that can be used as mats, frisbees, steering wheels (pretend play)
- Snap blocks / blocks that you can stick together and pull apart
- Tunnels / pop up tents
- Don’t forget about books! Large picture books and lift the flap books are great!
These littles ones are getting more active. Try to keep up! They have started role-playing and engaging in pretend play
- Puzzles (you can get some simple to more complex puzzles depending on the child’s age)
- Books with real pictures, focus on sounds not stories, lift the flap books (e.g. Spot Books), short stories, touch/feel, noise makers, sound books
- Mr Potato Head
- Toy vehicles – cars / trucks / large trucks to transport cars/ helicopters/ fire engines
- Trains and Tracks
- Dolls & Doll accessories
- Farm & Farm animals
- Zoo Animals, dinosaurs
- Kitchen accessories, Play food, tea set shopping trolley / basket
- Kids size toy appliances, mini microwave, mini microphone, Telephone, mailbox
- Dress ups clothes
- Dolls house and figurines
- Creative toys – Crayons, craft, paint, Paper
Early Board Games for Pre-schoolers – Here are some of our favourites!
- Pop up pirate
- Shopping list, Humpy Dumpty (lots of Orchard Toys games are great for pre-schoolers)
- Music – songs for kids, instruments, DVD singalongs (join in!)
It is never too early to start reading stories and looking at books with your child. Speech Pathology Australia have a listed the 2019 “Book of the Year” winners in each age group on their website. Here is the link to check them out!
Remember, these are just suggestions. Every child will have their own interests. Just take time to keep interaction with you in their play and that will help them develop stronger communication skills.
Happy playing and talking!
The Buzzwords Speech Pathology Team.