Gift Ideas That Encourage Speech & Language Development

by Nikki Doyle | December 4, 2017 7:37 pm

Check out more posts from Children's Speech Therapy Center[1]

Children’s Speech Therapy Center[2]

Dear Children’s Speech Therapy Center,

As the holidays are quickly approaching, what are some gift ideas that will encourage my child’s speech and language development?

— Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,

Different toys elicit different types of interactions. Focus on toys that will increase joint attention, expand vocabulary, and offer opportunities for pretend play. You would be surprised at how much language you can elicit from your child if you just get creative with how you use toys.

Board games are interactive, and they promote turn taking and basic communication skills. Parents can offer appropriate language models to their children and many board games incorporate concepts in them such as colors, numbers, comparing/contrasting, directions, and word relationships. Many language games target skills such as describing, asking/answering questions and vocabulary development. Board games also allow our children to practice social skills such as losing and winning in a safe environment.

Reading books is one of the best things you can do to help develop your child’s language. Look for books with engaging pictures that are focused around your child’s interests. Try to provide your child with a variety of books such as picture books, pop-up books, fabric books, noisy books, or I spy books. Wordless picture books are fabulous for developing narrative language skills.

Creative play items such as pretend food, Legos, blocks, and Play-Doh encourage creativity and imaginative play. They offer the opportunity to use new vocabulary and introduce new prepositional concepts as well as descriptive attributes. They also encourage children to be flexible with their play, use new vocabulary, and follow multi-step directions. They promote executive functioning skills such as planning and problem-solving.

Balls encourage joint attention between play partners and address gross motor skills and motor planning. They also promote eye contact and reinforce non-verbal language skills. You can also use them to teach positional concepts (e.g., in, on, off, next to), colors, and size concepts (e.g., big vs. little).

Mr. Potato head provides parents the opportunity to expand vocabulary and grammar (e.g., clothing items, body parts, descriptive attributes, positional concepts, pronoun use). You can also address following directions, answering wh-questions, and turn taking.

At Target or AC Moore, you can find a variety of craft kits or science kits. These kits allow children to develop their executive function skills further (e.g., planning, predicting, following a timeline), follow multi-step directions, and expand on concepts and following directions. If completed as a family, they also allow children to work as a team to complete a single task.

You can use cars, trucks or trains to teach parts of a whole (e.g., door, tire, trunk) and new vocabulary/concepts (e.g., fast/slow, numbers, positional concepts, first/last, bumpy/smooth). Cars also offer the opportunity to teach action words and verb tense (e.g., driving, drove). You can always pair cars with wh-questions, and imaginative play such as “where is the car going,” or “who is driving.” If your child isn’t talking yet, you can pair cars or trains with their environmental noise for children to imitate (e.g., vroom vroom).

Stacking towers or cups are great for infants and toddlers. They teach cause/effect and object permanence. They also encourage fine motor and motor planning skills. You can easily pair stacking cups with prepositions (e.g., in, out, on, off), size concepts, colors, and number concepts.

Last but certainly not least on the list is imaginative play sets such as castles, farms, or kitchens. In our technological world, many children are not given enough opportunity for imaginative play. By using play sets to encourage imaginative play, we allow our children to develop their own play schemas and interact appropriately with peers. You can also always embed new vocabulary such as concepts, labels, and verbs into your play with your child. Playsets allow your children the opportunity to communicate their own novel ideas to you and to their peers.

If you have any questions regarding education toys and your child’s language development, please do not hesitate to reach out and ask. Happy holidays!

— Alicia McFadden M.A., CCC-SLP, Co-Director[3]


Children’s Speech Therapy Center[5] (CSTC) is a well-known private practice specializing in pediatric speech therapy and conveniently located in Ashburn, VA. When your child needs a speech and language professional, navigating all your options can be time-consuming and frustrating!

Let Children’s Speech Therapy Center[5] help! Their team provides diagnostic and therapeutic services including screenings, evaluations, and therapy for all ages, from infancy to adolescence. From more routine challenges to complex conditions, their team of licensed and accredited speech language pathologists are prepared to help with your child's unique speech and language needs.

Learn more, including what insurances they accept, by connecting: Online[6] | Facebook[7] | Services[8] | FAQs[9] | Contact[10].

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