I recently started a new part-time job of providing speech therapy for children receiving Early Intervention (ages 3 and younger). I purchased some news toys to bring into the child’s home with me to help work on receptive and expressive language skills. I also am continuing to use some toys that I’ve had for awhile that seem to work really well for this age group. I wanted to take a moment to share with you the most successful toys I have found, and give a brief explanation how to use them to work on your child’s language skills.
1. Senso-Dot Ball
This ball is the PERFECT size for your little one. The sensory dots all over the ball are just an added bonus. The ball is great to play catch with your child or even to roll back and forth. You can work on increasing your child’s eye contact when playing with the ball. Wait for your child to look up at you before rolling it or throwing it. You can also work on expressive language with the ball. Say “Ready, set, _____” and see if your child responds “go” prior to throwing him the ball. Give your child a few seconds to fill in the blank. If he does not, you can say the word “go”, and then throw the ball. Provide your child with options, Do you want to throw it or roll it?. See if your child will choose an option. The ball also provides good opportunities for turn-taking. If your child has difficulty giving the ball back to you, have another adult provide hand-over-hand support to help your child roll it back until your child understands this important concept.
2. Tolo Roller Ball Run
This is a fantastic cause and effect toy that provides many language opportunities. The toy consists of three different colored balls. The toy works best if you stay in control of the balls. Hold a ball up by your face so your child looks at you. Have your child request for the ball by the color (green, blue, or orange). If your child has difficulty with this step, you can provide the name of the color and see if your child will repeat. Next, have your child put the ball on the top. After completing this step with all the balls, your child can then push the balls down to the top section. Make sure the gear on the side is turned in the correct spot so the balls don’t immediately fall down the ramps. Have your child request to “push” before performing the action. After pushing all three balls, it will be time to watch the balls go down the ramp. Your child can request to turn the gear on the side. You can also try the phrase completion “Ready, set, ____” (go) prior to turning the knob. Finally, your child can watch the balls fall down the ramps (the best part!).
3. Melissa & Doug Hide and Seek Puzzle
I’ve mentioned this puzzle before in a previous post, but it’s so perfect for this age-group that it deserves to be mentioned again. This Melissa & Doug puzzle has 9 doors with various objects. It’s best if you stay in control of the puzzle to give your child the most opportunities to request. Have your child request to “open” each door. I sometimes like to have the child knock on the door and repeat the phrase “knock, knock” and then request to open it. Once the child requests to open it or provides you with eye contact, then let the child open the door. Now you can talk about what’s behind the door. Each door has a different common object such as a cow, teddy bear, and car. Have your child label the item. If your child’s language is more advanced, you can ask your child a question about the object. For example, Where does a cow live? or What color is the car?. You can also practice receptive language skills with this puzzle. Ask your child to open a specific door and see if he can follow the direction (i.e. Open the cookie jar).
4. Lakeshore What’s Inside Soft Feely Box
I’ve had this toy for awhile now and it’s a great one! The toy comes with 10 different objects inside a mystery box. Your child will love the surprise of pulling a toy out of the box each time. Have your child request to get a toy from the box. He can do this by saying “toy” or “my turn”. Once he pulls out a toy, have him label the item. If your child is able to, you can then ask him simple questions about the object (i.e. Where does the butterfly fly? or What color is the ball?”). Provide your child with options when answering the questions if he has difficulty. After pulling out all the toys, you can practice receptive language skills with your child. Provide your child with a 1-step direction such as, Put the lion in the box. You can also make your own mystery box out of a tissue box. Learn more about that by clicking here.
5. Playskool Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head offers endless opportunities to practice body vocabulary, requesting, and following directions. Review the body parts with your child prior to playing with the toy. Have your child point to different body parts on himself. Stay in control of the Potato Head accessories. It’s best to keep them in a closed container or bag. Have your child request for specific body parts to put on Mr. Potato. Help your child expand his sentences when requesting. If your child says “ear” you can say want ear and have your child repeat the 2-word phrase. After placing all the parts on Mr. Potato then you can have Potato do different actions. Show your child how Mr. Potato can jump, walk, dance, or sleep. Give your child directions to follow, such as Make Potato walk. When it’s time to clean up, provide your child with 1-step directions to follow (i.e. Put the eyes in the bag).
Please comment and let me know your favorite toys for children 3 and younger.