Emily Cohen, M.A., CCC-SLP is the owner of Tandem Speech Therapy, a private pediatric speech therapy practice in Austin, TX. She is also the author and developer of Playing With Purpose–a framework for using play to build speech and language skills.
Play is how children learn and interact with the world around them. So, it should be an essential component to speech therapy–especially for our youngest clients. During play, children learn to problem-solve, form relationships, develop their social skills, learn and use language, and build executive functioning skills. An opportunity to play and explore is crucial for a child’s development!
When choosing toys for speech therapy, keep these tips in mind:
- Toys without batteries provide children the most opportunities for learning. Toys that make a lot of sounds or have flashy lights can be engaging, but we want the child to do the work–not the toy. So, either take out the batteries (if the toy came with them) or turn off the sound.
- Think back to the basics–the toys you played with as a child. Choose toys such blocks or a dollhouse. These are all open-ended toys. They are toys that have no beginning, middle, or end. They can be used in a variety of ways and allow the child creative freedom in how to use and manipulate them.
- Get down on the floor and play face-to-face with the child. Toys are great, but children crave adult interaction. Sing with the child, play patty-cake, talk in a funny voice, tell stories, be silly, play hide-and-seek, teach the child finger plays, or play a lap game. Interaction is the basis for communication.
My 10 favorite toys to use in speech therapy are:
- Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head
- A Ball
- Simple board games
- Farm Set
- Everyday household items like a cardboard box or paper roll tube
Next time you are shopping for therapy materials, keep these tips in mind and choose a toy that will support the development of critical early language and play skills.