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Toy Recommendations: An SLP's Perspective

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

My brother and sister-in-law recently had their second baby (YAY! I’m an Aunt again!) which means that my parents are constantly buying my 2-year-old niece new toys to keep her busy. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about which toys are best for language and social skill development. Check out my recommendations below!

1. BUBBLES: What kid doesn’t love bubbles? Think of all the single words and two-word combinations that you can provide your child with simple bubbles! “Up, blow, go, pop, more, all done, uh-oh” just to name a few.

2. PUZZLES: Puzzles are great for language development AND problem solving, visual processing, and hand-eye coordination. Plus, kids feel SO successful when they can get a piece in independently! It takes patience, hard work and concentration to get those pieces in! Target words: “go, in, more, done” and label the puzzle pieces. Melissa & Doug makes some fabulous puzzles worth checking out.

3. SHAPE SORTERS: Again, kids LOVE putting things in and taking things out and repeating these tasks over and over. With shape sorters, you can assist in their language by labeling shapes, colors, and prepositions, “go in, take out, put in, go, more, all done”. Check out this shape sorter by Fisher Price.

4. BOOKS: I cannot stress this enough, BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS. The amount of language input and vocabulary that children learn from books surpasses those heard in

conversation ! Some of my favorites are The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Dear Zoo, and any pop-up, lift-the-flap, or touch and feel books that are engaging for kids. Check out these amazing books by Usborne.

5. PLAY-DOH: Obviously, play dough can be tricky with kids that enjoy mouthing things, but with some parent modeling, your child will LOVE play dough in no time. You can easily target colors and actions like "push, pull, roll, squeeze".

6. MR POTATO HEAD: What a great way to target body parts! Again, kids love putting things in and taking them out and making crazy faces on their potatoes.

7. FARM WITH ANIMALS: Pretend play is so engaging to our little ones, they want to hear you be the cow and make cow sounds along with them! This is a great way to encourage imitation and get your little one talking.

8. MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS AND MICROPHONES: What better way to get your child up moving and dancing around than with musical instruments!? I love matching a word or sound with a beat to the drum or maracas and it is HIGHLY MOTIVATING to your little one.

Microphones are also a great way to have your child imitate or explore with their own voice.


PRETEND FOOD AND PLAY KITCHEN: Target words: Eat, Drink, Put, Pour, Hot, Cold, MMMM, Yummy, Ew, Yucky!, Wash, cut.

DOLLHOUSE: Easy way to incorporate everyday routines in play! Target words: Eat, Sleep, Wash, Hi, Bye, Open, Shut, Knock Knock.

CARS and Train Sets: Target Words: GO! Stop! Uh Oh, Crash, Boom, Ready - Set- Go!

Doctor Set & Veterinary Set: Target Words & Concepts: Ouch! Hi! Bye! Emotions, Body Parts, and Actions!

BABY DOLLS & PUPPETS: Target Words & Concepts: Baby, hug, kiss, cry, sleep, eat, drink, on, off, shh.

BOOKS! Visit Big City Reader's Amazon Store for great book recommendations for all ages!

These are just a FEW of my favorites and go-to toys, but blocks, cars, buses, airplanes, strollers, pretend food, etc. are GREAT ways to engage with your child. Did you notice that these toys all require ADULT language input? They do not need batteries and the toys DO NOT do the labeling, talking, etc. THIS is what is truly engaging to your child and this engagement means all the difference in their language development. Just remember to keep it simple!

Keep playing, friends!


Dana Gartlan is a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist that has been working with both the pediatric and adult populations for over 7 years. She has recently opened a private practice that provides in-home speech therapy services to patients in the Chicagoland area.

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Love this guide! Awesome suggestions for my 2 years old.

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