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'Tis the season for talking about toys. Besides the most obvious reason for buying toys at this time of year, I'm cashing in on the deals and updating my therapy closet. Let's be honest though, I don't need a sale or holiday to buy toys because I pretty much shop all year round. The toys that catch my eye typically have three things in common:
1) They make HARDLY ANY noise. I'm probably not the first SLP to make this comment and I surely won't be the last! Bottom line is that I/we want the kids to do the talking. Sometimes that talking is a noise or part of a word and sometimes it's a word/phrase/sentence. It's nice to be able to hear these moments without interruptions. Now, having said that, a good, old fashioned single, noise making toy never hurt anyone. For example, the Elefun makes a whirling sound when activated and I'm ok with that because it motivates kids to request "more", "go", and "stop." You The bottom line is: I steer clear of those toys that kids get trigger happy with and all you hear are a million sounds and words all at once. Not fun. Personally, I avoided noisy, talkative toys when my son was little and I have lived quite happily in my SLP world for a couple decades without all the noise.
2) They fit right in with my theme. Herein lies my year-round shopping problem. I'm always looking to add materials to my theme units. I can't help myself. I have to admit that I love bringing out the Fisher Price Thanksgiving sets and Holiday train, Learning Resources camp fire sets, and Super Duper magnetic fish. When these toys are only available for a short amount of time, I think you get more bang for your buck from them. It's the same concept of rotating toys in your home so the old ones feel like new when you cycle through them.
3) They stand the test of time. This rationale is two part: durability and traditional. I like a toy that can take a beating and clean easily, so I reach for the plastic Velcro foods and walk right by felt food. If I can't clean them fast with a Clorox wipe, then I can't have them in my therapy closet. While there are always cute, new toys being released, I stick with traditional themes like Mr. Potato heads to work on learning about body parts. Another great option is any toy that is alphabet-related. Two of my favorite hits for kids in my private practice aged 2-8 years old are my wooden ABC puzzle and alphabet soup. What better way to work on letter-sound recognition than with toys?!
Now that you know what I look for in a toy, I'd like to leave you with my top 20 favorite toys (in no particular order) in my speech and language therapy room. Hopefully, this list will help you when shopping for someone you love this Christmas.
ABC puzzle (I especially like the puzzle with objects in the shape of the initial alphabet
ABC soup by Learning Resources
Camp set by Learning Resources
Melissa and Doug magnet puzzles
Mr. Potato heads
Lift the flap board books
Velcro fruits and vegetables
Lego ice cream cones
Gymboree bubbles (they last for a few seconds and don't leave much residue)
Storyteller Writing Box by Lakeshore
Foam magnetic fish by Super Duper Publications
Nesting boxes (I have a SUPER cute touch and feel one with animals from Eric Carle's book: Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear?)
Portable Vet Clinic
Klip Klop Princess Play sets
Melissa and Doug sticker collections
Learning Resources Magnet track