Speech Therapy Top Picks: Low-Tech Gifts for Language Learning
Our Brecksville speech therapy team at Therapy & Wellness Connection understands that more screen time among children is practically an inevitable pandemic reality. Parents are overwhelmed with juggling work, childcare and other responsibilities. But if you’re shopping for families of young children just learning to talk or those who are speech/language-impaired, there are many options that don’t involve high-tech.
The good news is non-tech games and toys are typically less expensive while also yielding rich developmental benefits. Some of the features our speech therapy team looks for in toys are those that help teach:
- Hands-on play
- Real-world interactions.
We look for those that boost all of the foundational learning and language skills that we’re focused on building and sharpening in speech therapy.
In contrast, non-tech toys are usually less expensive and yield rich developmental benefits by encouraging real-world interaction with loved ones and hands-on play. These features build children’s vocabulary and social skills, and teach cause and effect, problem-solving, and nearly every other foundational language and learning skills.
We like toys that help kids grasp the basics of numbers, shapes, colors and larger language concepts (action words, comparative adjectives and prepositions). Most kids experience something called the “language explosion” between 18 months and 2 years, and we like to promote toys that encourage this. Examples are things like nesting cups, balls, blocks, ring-stackers and shape-sorters.
Speech & sound-producing.
Producing speech sounds takes practice, but make it fun, and you’ll be amazed at how much faster this skill is acquired! Look for toys like people and animal sets, vehicles and garages, musical toys and farms and barns that help with not only naming the objects, but also associating them with the sounds they make. Make it a group activity by singing together, playing musical instruments and making up songs.
Learning cause-and-effect is a pivotal cognitive skill. You turn a knob, a door opens. You push a button, the light comes on. Our speech therapy team likes toys that pop-up, wind-up, drums, bubbles or pretend games (workbenches, blocks, etc.).
Problem-solving skills are developed with toys that allow for trial-and-error. Start off with simple matching games, sorting toys, activity cubes, chunky wooden knob puzzles and then graduate to pretend cash registers and things that prove a little trickier to operate. These can help kids grasp concepts like numbers, sizes, shapes and comparative words and develop and fine-tune math skills.
Sequencing is when we learn the ordered steps of an action or activity. Our Brecksville speech therapists LOVE sequencing toys because it’s a key language skill. Non-tech toys that are great for building sequencing skills are things like simple craft kits, knitting sets, color-by-number books and make-your-own jewelry sets. Kids will learn to identify and practice not only the individual parts but the steps that go into putting them all together. Books are great too because they help children recognize and ultimately verbalize what comes first, next and last in stories.
Pre-literacy skills like reading and writing.
Obviously, books are the go-to for developing this skill. Make sure they’re age-appropriate. For babies and younger toddlers, look at books that are larger/easy to handle with lift/peekaboo flaps, touch and feel and basic picture books that are likely to grab their attention and engage all senses. Rhyming/play words are great, and the stories should become a little more complex as kids get older.
Role Playing & Imagination.
Anytime kids can dream up their own dialogues and stories, practice perspective-taking and express their own feelings, they are honing their speech-language abilities. This is true even when they are playing by themselves! Speech therapy favorites for this are things like kitchen sets, toy food and grocery carts, veterinarian/doctor sets, costumes, figurines, strollers and dolls.
Planning Skill Development.
Costumes, building toys (Legos, Lincoln Logs, Magnatiles, etc.), train tracks, puppets/theater, crafting supplies – any time a child can put their creative skills to use, they are honing their planning skills. Think about toys that require kids to envision an end result, plan its development and execute it. Planning skills like these will be valuable in academics with school projects and later in the workforce.
Ask Our Speech Therapy Team for Special Recs!
Our speech therapy team loves any toy that engages multiple senses (unlike screens, which may allow kids to see and hear, but not touch, taste or smell). We also love toys that engage and get kids practicing their social skills and imagination. If you are a patient of Therapy & Wellness Connection, ask your speech therapist for specific recommendations for your child!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Non-Tech Holiday Gifts to Build Kids’ Language and Learning, Dec. 9, 2020, By Diane Paul, ASHA Wire
More Blog Entries:
Akron ABA Therapy Tips on Planning for Tough Transitions, Nov. 28, 2020, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog