I get questions all the time for toy recommendations. There are so many options to choose from but it’s hard to know what the right toys are.
From a true communication perspective I have to say that toys don’t really matter. It’s the interaction that happens with the toy (or activity) that allows the true magic of communication.
This age range can be tricky as it is easy to be overwhelmed in the toy aisle with so many “educational” toys with lights and music and sounds and second languages and buttons and spinning parts, etc. etc. Of course toys that light up, play music, and have lots of buttons to push can be entertaining but there’s minimal opportunity to interact with others when using electronic toys.
When shopping for the little ones, the best toys:
Do not require batteries
Encourage building or construction
Encourage active play
Allow for pretend play
Toys should allow kids to create, be active, and pretend.
Here is a toy list for helping babies and toddlers with speech and language development!
Bubbles- “up, pop, more, all done, uh-oh” (good for mouth movement and blowing practice as well)
Musical Insturments- “bang, shake, tap, go, stop” (also fun to practice imitation)
Books- look for real pictures (not drawings) and rhyming or repetitive books. Books that focus on sounds rather than stories and those that have hidden pictures are some of my favorites for first birthdays and little ones.
Tunnels – “in, out, hi, bye, peek a boo”
Playdough– “open, push, squeeze, poke, roll”
Pop up houses or tents – “knock knock, hi, bye, where are you?”
Puzzles and Shape Sorters
Touch and Feel Picture Cards– So many great uses for these!
Nesting Cups- “up, on, in, crash” (make noises into the cups for an echo effect)
Wooden or soft blocks – “up, crash, more, all done, bang, tap”
Balls of various sizes and textures – “roll, whee, bounce, me, mine, my turn”
Potato head – body parts; “in, out, push, pull”
Cars, Trucks, Trains- “vroom, beep, choo choo, honk, chugga chugga, stop, go”
Dolls – “night night, ssshhh, hi” (early pretend play – sleeping, eating)
Toy stroller – “sit down, in, go, stop, fast, slow”
Shopping Cart – “push, go, more, in, out, bye bye”
Farm with animals – animal sounds, following directions
Kitchen with food – eating sounds, naming foods, feed dolls, sort/organize
Music– Even if your little one isn’t yet talking or if talking is taking a little longer to develop, music and singing are excellent ways to encourage using your voice!
Toy phone/microphone – “hello, bye” (ANY silly sound).
Dress up clothes or hats – body parts, singing songs, pretend play (check out the sales just after Halloween)
For the little ones (not yet sitting on their own), toys are really insignificant for speech and language practice. Adult interaction is the key! So, if you are looking for toys in this age range, think about your senses – touch, see, hear, smell, taste (because all of the toys will go in their mouths) – think mirrors, rattles, bath books, and toys of various textures.