Christmas Gift Guide to Grow Your Child's Language Skills

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it's that time of year to find gifts for the children in your world. There are so many options available so we thought we'd put together a list of the best toys to engage your child's language skills - after all learning through play is one of the greatest ways to help your child develop their communication and have fun!

Looking for some last-minute stocking fillers or a Christmas present for under the tree?  The masses of toys you find in the stores can be rather overwhelming.  You may find yourself asking which ones will they enjoy and will also help with their development? To help you choose, we’ve put together of few of our top suggestions for some great presents this Christmas that everyone will love and won’t send you rushing out for more batteries on Boxing Day.

1. An experience voucher

Not every gift has to be a toy. An experience voucher is a great way to explore the world around us together. Whether it is a voucher for the zoo, movie tickets, an interactive play centre, a wildlife park, adventure park, water park, aquarium or science centre.  There are so many fabulous places for children of different ages.  Your child will love spending time with you and seeing something new.  And, of course, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to learn new things too!

2. Books

The benefits of books are enormous and a great gift for any age!  For younger children, colourful picture books and books with lots of repetition and rhythmical language are perfect.  Some wonderful authors include Mem Fox, Pamela Allen, Eric Carle and Julia Donaldson. For older children, you’ll probably know what they’re interested in reading.  Some great series include the Treehouse series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Bad Guys and Captain Underpants. All of these chapter books have images and text to be able to engage your child in a love for reading.

3. Construction Toys

Think soft or plastic blocks for babies, wooden blocks or Mega Blocks for toddlers, Duplo or LEGO for preschoolers and Technic LEGO for school children.  They will spend hours constructing whilst using their imagination and motor skills. When playing together construction type toys give the opportunity to talk through steps and further develop vocabulary and an understanding of prepositions (i.e. in/on/top/under) which can be explored at any age.

4. Board and Card Games

Games are a great way to explore communicating within a fun framework. They encourage children to take turns, read and process information, express themselves and develop strategies for communicating. When finding games for preschool seek out ones that are simple and encourage taking turns like Snap, Match-Ups, Memory games or Snakes and Ladders. As they get older children can further explore multiple-step instructions and turn-taking along with other literacy skills in a fun way with games like Top Trumps, UNO, Scrabble - Kids Edition, Kids Know Best or Monopoly to develop these skills.

There are lots more specific and detailed suggestions out there. One of the things you’ll notice about these lists is the toys do not need batteries! Studies have found that toys with lights, sounds and automatic actions actually reduce the number of ways a child will play with it and reduce the amount of talking that happens during their play.

We hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and you find a gift that’s your child loves.

Happy Christmas shopping!


Toy Central – Pizza, Pizza!

Playing Games Together

No doubt you’ve heard the message “play with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what games are good to play and how to play them.  Did you know it’s these two things – the what and how - that makes the difference to your child’s development?

So why take the time to play with your child? Well, research shows us play allows children to use their creativity as they develop their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and social and emotional skills.  Phew! That’s a lot of areas play can influence. Play is also so important for healthy brain development. Most of all play is fun and simple joy that children love and by playing with your child,  you are giving them time when they feel special.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how for playing with your child by telling you about a game we like to use in clinic and sharing our top three tips on how to play the game to encourage your child’s listening, talking and thinking skills.

Name of game

PIZZA, PIZZA! by Orchard Toys

What’s it about?

This is a fun and interactive game in which players take turns spinning both spinner and choosing a pizza slice card from the table that matcher either the colour or the shape shown on one of the spinners and place it on the correct space on their pizza board. However, if the pizza slice shows bug/insect toppings, all players shout “in the bin” and the slice is put onto the bin on the Head Chef board. The first person who makes a delicious bug/insect free pizza wins!

3 ways to play

When it comes to games you don’t have to follow the instructions. Modifying the way you play means you can teach your child a whole bunch of new skills using just one game! So, here are 3 ways to play:

1. Ask your child to describe the pizza slice and the toppings on it.

Have the pizza slices faced down on the table and ask your child to spin the spinners and pick up the corresponding slice.

2. Take turns asking for a slice of pizza from each other's board

Have different slices of pizza on your boards and take turns asking for a slice of pizza from each other’s board by describing and using simple phrases, for example, “can I please have the x”. Your child will need to listen carefully to your descriptions to choose the correct pizza slice. Make it fun and pretend to pay for each pizza slice and add in some funny characters and phrases, for example, “that will be $2 please sir”.

3. Create your own pizza's

Have fun choosing all the slices with the same colour on the back and then once your pizza is complete flip the slices over and share with each other the types of pizza slices you have and whether they would be delicious or disgusting (depending on whether they have bugs/insects on them).

3 skills your child can learn:

  1. Taking turns, waiting, and following instructions
  2. Using descriptive language and extending their vocabulary by targeting specific words or groups of words (e.g. pronouns, adjectives, etc)
  3. Roleplay and conversation skills (e.g. turn-taking, topic maintenance, asking questions, making comments)

 

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Toy Central - Mr Potato Head

Playing the right games in the right way

No doubt you’ve heard the message “play with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what games are good to play and how to play them.  Did you know it’s these two things – the what and how - that make the difference to your child’s development?

So why take the time to play with your child? Well, research shows us play allows children to use their creativity as they develop their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and social and emotional skills.  Phew! That’s a lot of areas play can influence. Play is also so important for healthy brain development. Most of all play is fun and a simple joy that children love and by playing with your child,  you are giving them time when they feel special.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how for playing with your child by telling you about a game we like to use in clinic and sharing our top three tips on how to play the game to encourage your child’s listening, talking and thinking skills.

Name of game

Mr. Potato Head by Hasbro

Image Credit: Hasbro

What’s it about?

Mr. Potato Head is a game that allows children to use their imagination to mix and match different combinations of outfits for Mr. Potato. This game is great for our toddlers and preschool-aged children who love to build. Mr. Potato Head now comes in a variety of outfits and themes such as Avengers and Star Wars.

Our top 3 tips

1. Focus on vocabulary

Mr. Potato Head is filled with so many opportunities for developing basic vocabulary. Singing the nursery rhyme ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes’ is a great way to encourage our toddlers to learn and use common words such as ‘shoes’ and ‘eyes’. Once your child is able to sing along with you, leave some words out of the nursery rhyme and encourage them to fill it in. Setting up predictable patterns of language, such as nursery rhymes of common phrases like ‘ready, set, go’ is a great way to encourage language use for toddlers who are late to talk.

2. Have more than one

If you are lucky enough to have two sets of Mr. Potato Head, you can build on your child’s visual-matching abilities by first completing a Mr. Potato head yourself then letting your child copy. This is also a great one for introducing the concept of ‘same’ vs ‘different’. For preschool-aged children, you could also deconstruct your Mr. Potato Head then ask your child to recreate it the same way you did. This helps them use their visual memory skills.

3. Practice requesting

Mr. Potato Head can be used as a resource for developing your child’s ability to request. A simple activity you can do with Mr. Potato Head is to have all the pieces in front of you, while your child only has Mr. Potato’s body. Your child is then has to ask for all the pieces using their talking skills (e.g., “Can I have a nose, please?”). See if you can extend your child's request by 1 word. For example, if your child is currently requesting by saying "nose", you can model "want nose" then wait and see if they'll copy your words.

And don't forget the most important thing: HAVE FUN TOGETHER!

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3 ways to help your child play well with others

Is your child having trouble playing with other children? If you answered yes, then keep reading!

If your child is having difficulty playing with other children, this can impact their ability to form and maintain meaningful friendships and thrive in day-to-day activities. By developing this skill, you will have a child who can build long-lasting friendships, feel confident in understanding and talking about their emotions and can support and respect others when playing together.

So, if you’d like to help your child play well with others, check out our top 3 tips below:

Play a game that requires taking turns

Children typically love playing games and you will sometimes find they would much rather take all the turns themselves than share them around, especially when they’re younger. Playing a game that requires them to have to take turns is a great way to introduce the importance of turn taking and encourage your child to say whose turn it is in the game, for example ‘my turn’, ‘your turn.’ Using direct language to explain to your child what they’re expected to do in a game helps them to learn how to appropriately take turns.

Talk about emotions and help your child to tell you how they feel in different situations

We all experience lots of emotions throughout our everyday lives and the same goes for children, especially when they're playing (and possibly losing). However, for children these feelings can be quite scary and overwhelming at times. Talking about how your child is feeling and labelling their emotions allows your child to develop a healthy understanding and acceptance of their feelings and know it is normal to feel different emotions during different situations.

Make sure you win the game sometimes

We’re all guilty of it, letting your child win every game that is played to avoid them getting upset or having a tantrum. However, making sure you win the game sometimes is super important so they can learn to cope with a loss. Showing them how to react and manage disappoint is a great way to teach this skill. Providing them with a number of opportunities to practice will help your child learn how to deal with loss and disappointment in a game, as well as teach them good sportsmanship and respect towards others they are playing with.

If you’re worried about your child’s play skills, a paediatric speech pathologist can help. Please feel free to send an email to info@talkplaygrow.com.au and we will be sure to get back to you.