With the holidays fast approaching,
the sense of overwhelm you feel when walking up and down the toy aisle may feel especially overpowering. The pressure to make the “right choice” about which toys to give to loved ones can sometimes take the joy right out of gift giving! Here is a short list of guidelines to consider when looking for toys to help facilitate language during play.
Try choosing a battery free alternative
Toys with batteries can be great at teaching young children cause and effect. They know that if they press a button, it will make a certain sound or light up in a certain way. However, not much language development may occur beyond that. The songs and lights are so eye catching that the child may not feel a sense of curiosity about what else the toy can do, or how else they can use it to play. A battery free option will help foster creativity and explorative play. For instance, when choosing a wooden train set over a light up electric train set you can practice stop/go, and labeling with younger children, and encourage older children to get creative by making elaborate tracks and pretending to be train conductors. Another option is to take the batteries out of a toy the children already have. You can demonstrate ways to play with the toys beyond pushing the buttons.
Pretend Play Toys
Pretend play toys include, but are not limited to items such as dress up outfits, play kitchens, dolls, action figures, or construction tool toys. You can assist your children by “setting up” pretend play scenarios by giving them adventure ideas to go on, or by giving them a problem to solve as their characters. When children are allowed to practice problem solving in a low stress way, they can be more inclined to take risks. You can encourage children to ‘be the boss’ during play time and let them give you instructions. The options are endless!
Books are a great option for any age group. Babies and toddlers love ‘Touch and Feel’ books, and books with flaps they can lift up. These books typically involve labeling common items like body parts, animals, or types of transportation. Books for older toddlers and elementary schoolers often contain lessons or stories that they can learn from. Don’t be afraid to ‘go of script’ when reading a book and talk about what you see on the page, ask your children questions, or play games like ‘I spy’ with the illustrations. If you’re currently saying “My child just doesn’t like books”, there are multiple ways you can spark their interest. Pick a familiar book to read to them regularly, even if they’re moving around the room and playing. Hearing the same story repeatedly can given them comfort, and allow them to feel like they know what to expect. You can also turn a book gift into an experience gift by reading a series book (llama llama, magic school bus, etc.) then taking your child to the library or bookstore to chose which of the books they want to read next.
These recommendations are not exhaustive, but they can be a helpful starting point for holiday shopping. Young children learn communicative skills through play and exploration, so don’t be afraid to let things get silly and maybe even a little messy this holiday season!
Happy Holidays from Autumn Oak