Which Toys Are Best for Language Development?

Little boy playing with wooden toys shaped like the number three, two and four.Learning to talk is one of the biggest and most exciting milestones for toddlers and their parents. Gaining the ability to communicate verbally transforms all aspects of a child’s life. As a parent or caregiver, you might wonder how you can help your little one hone their language skills. One way to do so is by selecting toys that teach kids communication capabilities as they play.

However, it can be difficult to figure out which playthings are best for children putting together their first sentences. Are electronic gadgets that light up, talk and/or play music the way to go for a talkative kiddo? Or are low-tech, traditional toys better?

If you’re looking for guidance on which toys are best for language development, here are a few essential recommendations to keep in mind.

1. Avoid electronic gadgets in favor of lower-tech toys.

Kids can find toys that light up and/or make noise mesmerizing, and parents might purchase these playthings thinking that their modern features promote learning. However, research has shown that electronic toys actually discourage communication between parents and infants, according to the Early Intervention Research Group (EIRG) at Northwestern University. The theory is that if the toys make too much noise by themselves, kids (and their caregivers) remain quieter.

As a result, if you’d like to encourage your children to develop their communication skills, more traditional toys (e.g., blocks and dolls) are the way to go.

2. Pick playthings that promote pretending.

Constructing make-believe worlds helps children grow their language skills, according to Action for Children. Therefore, toys that encourage playing pretend are great for toddlers building their vocabularies and learning to create narratives. Some examples include a toy kitchen, garage, farm or doctor’s office.

3. Don’t forget that books can count as toys.

Instilling a love of reading as a leisure activity can do wonders for your child. One study by University of Iowa researchers found that babies made more speech-like noises during reading than they did when playing with puppets or other types of toys, and their mothers responded more to those noises during reading than they did during other kinds of play.  

4. Explore the potential of everyday objects.

Stocking up on toys that help children communicate doesn’t have to break the bank. The EIRG suggests repurposing objects you already have at home. For instance, a laundry basket might become a make-believe boat, or a paper towel tube can become a telescope.

5. Let kids take the lead.

You might have preconceived ideas about how your kids should make use of the toys you give them, but it’s best to let them follow their own inclinations (as long as they’re safe), the EIRG states. For example, they might decide to treat a slinky like a doll and feed it food from the pretend kitchen. Step back, relax and let them get creative.

Ultimately, there are plenty of ways children can build communication skills by playing. If you have any questions about speech and language development and which toys facilitate learning, our pediatric speech therapists would be happy to assist you. Connect with us today by calling 847-707-6744 or emailing info@littlestepspt.com.

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