Hey Mommies! I’m happy to welcome back, speech language pathologist, Tricia Kaelin, for an SLP Holiday Gift Guide!
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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least around the Kaelin house. Christmas with two young kids also means lots of new stuff. My boys each have a Christmas list over a page long filled with video games, legos, books and action figures.
The mommy in me wants to give them everything on their list, but the SLP in me wants to help their language grow and provide opportunities to practice cognitive skills.
This Christmas my husband and I are going to practice what we preach and pick experiences over stuff (mostly, we can’t break their hearts completely).
Toys and technology can be great, but experiences provide tons of opportunities for well-rounded language expansion. Think about all of the new vocabulary a child can acquire with one trip to the zoo (sloth, antelope, carousel, giant turkey leg), but a year of trips to the zoo, museum, botanical gardens, Butterfly House, Magic House or similar can make their vocabulary explode.
Experiences give children much more than vocabulary. They provide opportunities to practice social language, ask questions and problem solve. The best part about experiences is that they can be free! A trip to a new local park or even a drive in an unfamiliar setting provides ample opportunity for a child to expand their language skills.
Of course Santa still needs to put something under the tree and an envelope from the zoo just won’t cut it sometimes.
Thoughtfully picked toys can provide great opportunities for language expansion. Toys that require imagination, problem solving, sequencing, social interactions or creativity are always my picks. Here are a few items from my favorite categories.
Imaginative Play and Dress Up: Imaginative play encourages creative thinking and is also a great tool for social language development. Children can practice turn taking, giving directions, following direction, asking for help and expanding their sentences with adjectives and adverbs.
Some great suggestions are toy food and cooking sets, dress up clothes (princess, superhero, chef, SLP, etc), cars/trucks, dolls, yard tools, doctor sets, magic sets, puppets.
Following examples from Amazon
Arts and Crafts: Again, creativity is a great opportunity to learn new vocabulary and follow sequential directions. Most crafts include picture directions that encourage students to think about next steps, visually plan, and follow directions in order.
Here are some of my favorites: Melissa and Doug sticker scenes, art supplies, craft kits, and play dough.
Bath Toys: Bath time is great for quality one-on-one time with your kiddo. They can use cause and effect toys to learn that some actions lead to other actions (e.g. Flow and Fill Spout, Water Pipes). They can use creativity with bath crayons and paint. Foam animal shapes and alphabet encourage vocabulary and pre-reading skills.
Blocks: Building tools not only help with fine and visual motor, they are a great language tool. You can teach basic concepts such as location (on, off, beside, under, over), color, size, shape, distance (near, far), quality (heavy, light, open/closed) Building toys include wooden blocks, foam blocks, Duplo blocks, marble sets, tool kits, tinker toys and K’Nex.
Puzzles and Games: These toys target basic concepts also. Melissa and Doug have a whole line that encourages problem solving. Games encourage great social skills such as taking turns, waiting, being a good sport, and asking for help.
Here are my favorites: Candy Land, Hi Ho Cherrio, Chutes and Ladders, cause and effect toys (ball poppers, Whack a Mole).
Books: My favorite gift of all. Not only do books target almost all aspects of language, pre-reading skills are also practiced and observed when a parent reads a book to a child.
Try to be as interactive as possible. Ask your child questions about the book (Who is that?, What will happen next? Where is…?, Why did he do that?)
Some of my favorite books include Pop-A-Alphabet and Pop-A-Farm, Pete the Cat, Eric Carle books, “If You Give a…” books by Laura Numeroff, “Go Away Big Green Monster” by Ed Emberly, I Spy books.
Apps and Technology: Technology should be used sparingly during the early years due to its impact on neurological development. There is not a lot of good research that supports an increase in language skills through technology.
When used for very limited amounts of time the following can be fun and introduce new concepts: abcmouse.com, Disney Junior Appisodes, Talking Carl, The Monster at the End of This Book, matching games, Camp Discovery Pro, Eric Carle’s My Very First App, Super Duper Publications apps.
No matter if you choose experiences or stuff, it will be the interactions you have with your children that will truly expand their language skills. Merry Christmas and happy shopping!
By: Tricia Kaelin, MS, CCC-SLP
Tricia is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist and mommy of two spirited boys. She lives in the St. Louis metro area with her husband and sons. She had lots of hobbies before having a Kindergartner and a toddler. Now she just tries to contain the chaos!