Friday, November 28, 2014

12 Essential Preschool Toys For Your Speech-Language ToolBox 2014

List created by Ricki Block, MS,CCC-SLP
Previous owner of Ariel’s Child for 22 years – a specialty toy store for school supplies, toys and materials for children with special needs and speech pathologist for 38 years.
Your kids will have so much fun playing and learning they won’t realize they are working on their speech sounds and language concepts!     Listed below are some of my students’ favorite toys. They maintain their interest and they don’t even realize they are working.  Each of these toys can be used  to work on language skills or articulation and especially helpful when compiling a speech-language sample.  They improve their ability to learn to respond to Wh questions, increase mean length of utterance and/or initiate pragmatic verbal turn-taking skills, to make requests, greet, comment and label . Before the activity I  write down key words or phrases to target while the child is playing. Many of these items I carried in my store for years and I still use today!  Click on the title and it will link you to  Visit my website at to connect to my TPT store and Pinterest site.  There are lots and lots of fabulous resources.
1.     Body Parts & Clothing
Mr.& Mrs. Potato Head ($5.00 ea) and Magnet Dress up (boy-12.99, girls-17.19)are staple tools  and there are many ways you can use them to expand speech and language skills   Teach body parts, colors, basic concepts( top, bottom, on, under), pronouns (he has, she has, his, her) , possession (mine, yours)  

2.     Animals
 The  Battat Farm Set is durable (33.99 )  and I would suggest getting additional Farm Animals (7.49 US Toy) and Wild Animals (7.70 US Toy). It increases the skills to teach, e.g. matching the same animals, concepts of more, less, all, NOT, counting.    Animal sounds are a great place to start with little ones learning CV & VC combos, e.g. moo, baa. 


3.     Pretend Play Rooms of House, Friends & Family
 The doll house is for girls AND BOYS. Boys love to pretend play too.  The  Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Dollhouse (35.48)  is durable and mobile and it folds up for easy storage or portability. I bought the Fisher Price Fold & Go Doll House on e-bay because like the lightweight feature of the plastic dollhouse.  I purchased a family (KidKraft) additional furniture (Le Toy Van Deluxe Starter Furniture Set $45.55) and Fisher Price outdoor playground( 19.22).  My students who are easily distracted can maintain their attention with the doll house. This is the perfect situation to work on following directions too – 1 step, 2 step, location words, and work on critical elements e.g. big blue chair.)  I have my list of words in advance to target and am ready with paper and pen to get a speech & language sample of phrases and/or speech sounds.


4.     Cause & Effect
Wind up trains (12) 10.45 Fun Express, Push and Go Toys Kavaya 7.75  Emergency Vehicles Toysmith 12.80
Teach “Sabatoge” in a fun way – when child can’t figure out how to make the toy go they can be encouraged to request “help or go”, engage in eye contact and interact with the adult.

      5.  Vehicles
One of my most utilized toys in therapy has been trains, cars and trucks for boys AND GIRLS. I made the mistake once of only offering a doll to a little girl  a long time ago- the mother proceeded to inform me that she liked to play with her vehicles and did not like dolls. Never assume!  Viking City road set ( 19.29).Melissa and Doug Train set 22.91  Duplo My First Creative Car Building Set 10552( 19.99) and PlayGo My City Car Park (25.85). 

     6. Pretend Play  Provider
Another favorite -  playing with baby dolls, especially if there is a baby brother or sister in the family.   Here are the accessories  which I like using for encouraging basic sentence structures, e.g. agent+action+object- I feeding baby, I brushing hair, etc. (Mommy & Me Doll Collection - $14.99)      Choose a dolls that do not require batteries . Two dolls are even better to engage in verbal turn-taking with a peer or adult.  I bought my dolls at the Dollar Store believe it or not. Add a Battat medical kit (17.69) to the mix and watch the language take off.  Include a favorite stuffed animal and you now have a vet kit too!


         7.     Food
 When my little ones see the food coming their eyes light up.  We set the table for mealtime and often have the dolls out so we can feed them too. Teach food categories – breakfast, lunch, dinner, hot foods, cold foods, dessert, fruit, vegetables, etc.  I also made sure I purchased food sets that have food I can use for final consonant deletion and with multisyllables, e.g. celery, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and use with one of my pacing boards from TPT.  (Step 2 101 food pieces 24.57 , Learning Resources Little Sprouts Breakfast  16.26 and Pretend and Play Sliceable velcro fruits and vegies 13.77 are a few of my favorites. I found some great deals on e-bay too.)

      8. Household
The dishes and pots go hand in hand with the food. It complements the whole learning experience. Include a tablecloth and have a “Teddy Bear Picnic.” Educational Insights Dishes  11.99  and Pots & Pans 13.99 are colorful and durable.   

       9.     Greetings
 Teach greetings with Hi and Bye. Social skills/pretend play: Your child can use the play phone to “practice  social speech and language skills and “talk” to mommy, daddy, friends, staff, etc.  Grab yourself another play phone, and have a conversation.   This is the basic foundation for turn taking!  The microphone is another tool to encourage children to talk and sing.  I am an advocate of singing songs to emphasize prosody and inflection.  Most of my sessions include a song or a rhyme!

          10.        Balls
Big balls, little balls, hard balls, soft balls, colored balls light up balls, bouncy balls. Concepts of in, on, off, through, up, down, next to, in front, behind, top, bottom (while using the balls in different activities and with other items like basketball hoops, baskets, tunnels, cups, boxes, etc.) Engage in turn-taking by using words to express request for an action, e.g. roll ball, throw, catch, kick, bounce. This requires awareness on many levels:  1-Watch your friend  2-facial expressions, gestures) 3- Wait patiently for your turn to   4-put hands out to Catch the ball.  Light up molecule ball 5.38 Play Visions, Knobby balls 8” (5) 7.99, Melissa & Doug Playground Ball 6.99  Ed Insights Shape Beanbags  14.94

11.  Puzzles
Chunky puzzles have a dual purpose – use as a puzzle or use during a pretend play activity.  These are durable wood animal shapes which can be used to sort animal categories, respond to “Where live” questions, “Which animal lives in zoo?”,  use for teaching location words, e.g. put cow on the barn.   Use with other animals you are playing with, include the pets when playing with the doll house or use as props when playing with the balls or bean bags.

       12.           Playdough

I use playdough as a tool to work on the child’s IEP objective and as a reinforcer. The goals are endless, but to name a few , e.g. basic sentence patterns (I am, I made a color item , Can I have?, turn-taking, speech sounds – SH, CH (push, make fish, sharks, choo choo),  K, G (cut, make cookies, K, get, got, green), F (fork, knife, fish. face, 4,5)  I laminated a place setting board and face template so the child has a mat to play on.    I have collected many playdough items over the years, e.g. rollers, stamps, small cookie cutters, scissors.   I just bought a new kit from Play-Doh and added it to my collection -    Play-Doh: Toolin' Around Playset (14.99-I bought my set at Kohl's  for $10  using discounts.  I also use Model Magic (19.81) - add gems, pipe cleaners, beads and then paint.



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