There are TONS of toys out there, that with just a little parent involvement, make the top of the “SLP RECOMMENDS” list. I am not talking about 500 bazillion pieces to put together. Toys that you can take out of the box and start playing with are the ones I am referring to. I have several of these that I use often in therapy. Many of these are ones I recommend to parents with young children in that 18 month-3 year range. I am bringing you several of my favorites in no particular order.
SLP RECOMMENDATION 1: BLOCKS
You may not realize it but giving a child a bag/box of blocks opens the “Language Box!” Depending on the type you by, these could grow with your child for many years. Lincoln logs may not be the best for toddlers but preschooler will love them! These are the type that you are child can start using now and still play with them at 8 or 9 years old. The giant blocks or MegaBlocks are better for toddlers. They are easier to push together and take apart. Using concepts like “up,” “down” while building or phrases like “uh-oh” or “it fell” are just a few things you can encourage during play. Assemble a fence or “house” and place animals in the house or take them out. You can encourage animals names, animal sounds, in/out” and following directions all while just playing! Just interact naturally with your child during play.
SLP RECOMMENDATION 2: MR. POTATO HEAD
Ask any SLP and she/he will tell you how much love they have for this guy! Little guys love them. Pair Mr. Potato Head with the accessories kits and you just added more to the language experience! Body parts, clothing, concepts like “top, middle, bottom” are just the basic talking points. Add Mrs. Potato Head and you can encourage pronouns too. For instance, you can say “She has a hat” or “Those are her shoes.” You can make things a little harder such as your child to find something that we see with or smell with. Have fun interacting and playing with your child.
SLP RECOMMENDATION 3: PLAYDOH
I know, not a lot of parents like playdough. It’s messy. It gets stepped on and then mushed into the carpet. I get it. But set a jar or two of that out and watch your children’s eyes light up! Throw some cookie cutters out there on the table too. The language you will be able to encourage is so worth the mess. An afternoon of rolling playdough between your hands will ease the stress levels too. (It’s not proven by a lab or anything. It’s just relaxing.). Be sure to test this out first. Some little ones may put the playdough in their mouth. If they do this with me, then I don’t bring it anymore.
SLP RECOMMENDATION 4: WOODEN FOOD SETS
These are AWESOME!! This portion is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Melissa and Doug Toys. They just have ridiculously awesome sets! I have several that I love to use. Each time I see one I don’t have, I immediately buy it and come up with an activity for it. the sets that you can “cut” the food apart is really great. You can work on verbs like “cut,” “slice,” as well as concepts like “part,” “whole,” etc. Teaching food names is easy when playing with the food too. Have a picnic. Work on following directions, pronouns, and table manners. The best part of playing with these sets is there are no dirty dishes!!
These are 4 of my favorites. Not all of these are absolutely perfect for every child 18 months to 3 years. Make sure to get the toys that are developmentally appropriate for your little one. Some toddlers I have love to play with playdough while some 3 year olds I see will still try to eat it. If you are lookin for more ideas, check out Part 1 which talk about board games.