The best toys for developing early speech and language are those that allow children to play with language. These are toys that help kids to not only learn new words, but to use those words in meaningful ways that will help them to communicate. Open-ended toys are best; these can be used in a variety of ways over an extended period of time. This list also includes toys that mimic social situations, and that look like familiar experiences for your child (play kitchens, dolls with accessories, etc). That way, the language that is practiced during play will apply to real-life situations. Here are some of my recommendations for toys that encourage language development.
1. Puppets – Hand puppets, finger puppets — anything your child can use to get into ‘character’ and use their language.
2. Play Kitchen/Grocery Store – Real-life situations allow children to develop real-life language skills. The more time they spend talking about food or grocery items, the greater their vocabulary surrounding these things will be.
3. Puzzles – I like the chunky Melissa & Doug puzzles, but as your child grows, you can change the level of difficulty.
4. Stacking Cups – Items can be put inside the cups for a game of memory, towers can be built, cups numbered or labeled by colour.
6. Stickers – Really, what kid doesn’t like stickers? Name them, count them, put them in/on/under/behind things!
7. Building Blocks – Anything you can think of that can be built with blocks can also be talked about while you’re building with blocks.
8. Costumes – Dress up encourages kids to use a variety of language to express their new roles.
9. Doll and Accessories – Dolls can have conversations, can be dressed up, and can easily take on any personality your child would like. Work on receptive language and direction following when you ask your child to ‘feed the baby’ or ‘diaper the baby.’