Top Toys for Language Development

In Blog, Communication, Early Language by Julie

Welcome to December.

As Christmas approaches, a number of parents have asked me about which toys and games can support their child’s early speech and language development.
This blog post gives some general ideas which may help support your Christmas shopping list for the children in your life.

Top Tips to think about when buying toys to support early speech and language development. Choose toys which:

  • Encourage social interaction – social communication is a vital foundation skill. Toys which encourage turn taking toys are useful to encourage these skills. Even simpler than that, people games such as ‘peek-a-boo’ allow you to model social interaction and do not require any additional resources.
  • Inspire creativity and pretend play– toys which can be used in a variety of ways are great for promoting language development. Toys such as building blocks allow a different game every time. Children can build different things (e.g. a house or a tower) and can take turns with an adult to build these (and then knock it over!)
  • Encourage the child to be active – for example pushing, pulling, jumping, dancing. Toys which encourage physical activity can keep children interested in different ways and allow opportunity for modelling verbs as well as nouns.

Think about what your child can do with the toy rather than what can the toy do!

For babies: adult interaction is so important, and toys such as rattles, mirrors, lift the flap books or bath books can be useful additions to facilitate adult-child interaction with very young children.

Some useful toys for developing early language development. This is not an exhaustive list but it provides some ideas to get started. The toys have been divided into different categories but many of the toys will support the development of a number of skills.

Attention, Listening and Early Language

Attention and listening is the foundation of language development and there are so many fun toys that help develop these skills. As well as developing attention and listening, these activities are also great for encouraging turn taking and first words such as ‘go’, ‘more’, ‘bubbles’, ‘pop’, ‘uh oh’ ‘stop’.

Top Tip: Increase the time before saying go (in ready, steady, go) to encourage a child to wait a second longer each time.

  • Cause and effect toys such as Click, Clack, Track or Frog in a Box
  • Blocks
  • Bubbles
  • Windup toys
  • Cars and trains

Understanding and Using Language

There are lots of toys which encourage understanding and use of vocabulary.
Adults modelling language through commenting during play allows children to hear a range of vocabulary while doing something they are interested in.

These toys can develop a range of vocabulary such as early nouns (e.g. inset puzzles with animals or transport), concepts (colours, big/little, shapes, textures), prepositions (under/on), verbs (roll, squash, squeeze).

  • Puzzles
  • Lift the flap books
  • Mr Potato Head
  • Playdough

Pretend Play

Pretend play is important to develop social interaction, language skills and learning about routines. Adults can model simple sequences such as feeding teddy or baby, while talking about what they are doing.

  • Farm animals
  • Tea set/play food
  • Dolls and teddies
  • Bricks such as Duplo or Lego

Many of the toys mentioned here can be used in a variety of ways with children of different ages.
As your child develops they may use the same toys in different ways with increasing amounts of language.
One of the most important toys your child can have is an adult who is engaging and playing with them, showing them how to play with the toys and modelling a range of language.