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Christmas Shopping with Language in Mind

Now that the Christmas season is in full swing, most parents are in a frenzied state brought on by the stress of shopping for the perfect gifts for their children. As a speech therapist, one of the most common questions I get from parents around this time of year is, “What games and toys does my child love in speech that I can get for our home?” The problem with this question is that it’s often a combination of the WHAT and the HOW, meaning that the toy selection (the WHAT) is only half of it, and how you use it (the HOW) is also very important!

I’ve made a list here of my 5 favorite toys for therapy and I’ve broken it down into some vocabulary related to the toy, a non-verbal task, and a verbal task related to the toy. I’ll give an example for each toy but you can absolutely mix and match toys with strategies!

VOCABULARY: body parts, clothing, verbs (pull, put, wear, push, take, help)

NON-VERBAL: Making Choices- parent holds up two parts and the child gestures toward his/her choice.

VERBAL: Describing items and combining words -“long arm,” “blue eyes”, “hat off”, etc.

TOY: Play Doh Playsets

VOCABULARY: colors, tools, shapes, animals, verbs (cut, push, roll, squeeze, open, close)

NON-VERBAL: Imitation- parent models rolling, cutting and creating!

VERBAL: Making Requests- “I want yellow."

TOY: Farm Set or Doll House (any such play set)

VOCABULARY:animals/animal noises, furniture, verbs (eat, sleep, run, walk, go)

NON-VERBAL: Pretend Play- reenact everyday activities such as bedtime, taking a bath, feeding the animals, and playing.

VERBAL: Talk about the activities you are reenacting and the sequence of each activity i.e. “first I climb into bed, then mommy kisses me goodnight”.

VOCABULARY: vehicles (car, truck, boat, airplane), basic concepts (in, on, near, in front, behind, up, down) verbs (go, stop, drive, stuck) NONVERBAL: Creating Routines or common phrases used or repeated in similar contexts, “ready, set, go,” “1..2..3..,” “follow me!” Even if the child isn't using the phrases yet, creating a learned response is the first step. VERBAL: Fluency (a.k.a. “Stuttering) Awareness- Drive a car on a bumpy road while imitating disfluent or "bumpy" speech and drive a car on a smooth road while imitating fluent or "smooth" speech. Have the child practice.​

TOY: Hedbanz

VOCABULARY: food, animals, furniture, clothing, vehicles, occupations

NON-VERBAL: Use the cards as vocabulary flashcards- you can match pictures to real items throughout your home or sort pictures into categories. VERBAL: Answering/Asking Questions-"Is it an animal?""Can you eat it?" "Does it move quickly?"

If you're interested in some of the products above, just click the toy titles to link to where you can buy online. There are so many ways to make language activities out of the toys and games you have at home! Even if you've finished shopping, I hope you can take some inspiration from these suggestions.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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