Are some toys REALLY better for learning???

Its that time of year again Well meaning relatives ask What does Jonny want for the holidays? I dont know about you, but my son has 10,000  vehicles and he doesnt need anymore
Its that time of year again! Well meaning relatives ask “ What does Jonny want for the holidays?” I don’t know about you, but my son has 10,000  vehicles and he doesn’t need anymore but I often find myself at a loss for toy recommendations.  At a recent conference, I had the opportunity to listen to speakers from  Northwestern Early Intervention Research  group speak about how to empower PARENTS...

to support communication and meaningfully play with their child. Which is really what its all about right? If Jonny can do it with me, ok fine- but if he can do it with you that’s AMAZING!  In this blog post, I’ll summarize one way to describe the levels of play, and provide links to some of their (and my) favorite toys for language development. 

Overall Guidelines
1. Pick toys that can “be” things instead of toys that can “do” things. We are often drawn to the toys that light up, sing songs and dance or are “educational”. While these have their place, they often take the imagination out of play. These flashy additions impact the flexibility of your play and often take away opportunities for caregiver-child interaction. Its hard to find toys that don’t have some sort of battery addition, so I often remove the batteries to remove temptation ( on both my son’s and my part!) . 
2. Toys should be appropriate to your child’s current play level. Recommended ages are like sizing of women’s clothing- all of over the place and not ever exactly what they are advertising. Below are Northwestern’s levels of play. 
  • Simple:  Your child is doing 1 thing with 1 toy. For example, pulling apart Velcro fruit, pushing a car or crashing blocks. If your child is holding objects in their hand, mouthing or shaking toys simple play is your next step. 
  • Combination: Your child can use 2 or more objects in play. For example, putting people in a bus, making animals hide in your block tower or putting toppings on a pizza. 
  • Pre-symbolic: This is the first step of pretend play. Your child can act out familiar actions from your daily life. They can pretend to eat the pizza you made, make a doll drink from a cup or take a bath in the tub. 
  • Symbolic:At this stage, your child can string multiple actions together. They may have multiple “actors” such as a mommy and a baby in their play. They can make the mommy wake up the baby, give her a bottle and then go out to the park. 
Ok so now that you know the big picture guidelines, check out Northwestern’s outlines for how to use the toys at each level of play. BONUS! There are Amazon links right on the page… because who doesn’t love prime? 

As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to schedule a time to overlap so we can work together to support your child’s communication and play development! 

- Cherise Tompkins MS CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist 

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