Picking out the perfect gift for a child can be overwhelming. Just entering the toy department can be overwhelming, with all of the bright colors, buzzing, snapping and other sounds.  There are so many choices, yet, there is only so much time to decide, purchase and wrap.

As the gift-giving season begins, I have a few suggestions for how to choose toys that would make great gifts and inspire speech and language development and usage by children.

I am a speech-language pathologist that loves using toys and games in therapy. It is a natural motivator for children and the most natural way in which children learn. I’m pretty picky about the toys I use because I want all of them to encourage communication–that back and forth banter between myself and my student.

Here are 5 tips in selecting toys:

  1. Pick toys & games that require interaction with others.
  2. Pick toys & games that allow children to create or design.
  3. Pick toys & games that involve functional/everyday language.
  4. Consider skipping battery-powered toys.
  5. Keep it age-appropriate.

There are so many high-tech gifts available but scaling it back and keeping it basic is better. For one, children have their entire lifetime to use technology but the majority of speech and language development happens within a short span of their life starting when they are babies.

Providing toys to children that are within the framework above will inspire speech and language skills. Here’s how:

They will build verbal expression because children will seek out communication with parents/siblings/friends to tell them about the toy, to seek out a play partner, to show off their creations, to describe their toy and how to use it.

They will build their receptive language (what they hear and understand) by listening to their play partner, following their directions and participating in turn-taking activities.

They will also build their cognitive skills (i.e. organization, planning, memory, impulse-control, etc.) by learning to play reciprocally with another person.

Playing with age-appropriate toys will help build their attention and problem-solving skills by encouraging longer periods of play and interaction while also reducing or eliminating frustration and/or giving up on an activity.

For toddlers & preschoolers ideal toys to spur speech and language skills are: pretend play items, a farm with accompanying animals, a dollhouse with a family, a kitchen with play food, hand-puppets, finger paints and crayons.

For older children ideal toys and games might include card and board games that require multiple players, such as Sorry or Sequence; building toys such as Legos or magnetic pieces; art sets and stencils.

Another thing to consider is that play for younger children should involve movement–and a lot of it. So avoid buying something that requires them to sit still for too long. Ideas for this include tunnels, leaping games, bean-bag toss, Twister, etc.

After selecting, purchasing and wrapping the gift, get ready to play!

Stay tuned for the next in this series in which I’ll discuss my favorite toys and games.


Speech With Sara LLC offers comprehensive evaluation services for speech-sound disorders, orofacial myofunctional impairments (tongue thrusts, orthodontic relapse, weak lip closure, etc.), receptive/expressive language and literacy development & remediation.

Have questions about your child’s speech and language development, contact Speech With Sara LLC, 313-815-7916 or email: sara@speechwithsara.com. 

Toy Selection: How to Inspire Speech & Language

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