That’s it: the crazy run of holiday shopping is already well underway. And whoever says “gift” also often says “request for gift suggestions”. It’s because Santa Claus needs a little help to guide his choices! As a speech therapist, I sometimes get asked, “What educational toys should I give my child to stimulate his language?” Here are my tips and thoughts on this subject.
Interact first and foremost
Above all, it should be noted that there is no toy capable of replacing the interaction to stimulate the development of communication and language. Thus, in the same way that motricity develops in movement, language develops in exchange. The child who plays alone with an electronic toy reciting the alphabet or who watches a DVD called “awakening” has no details on what he hears nor a concrete indication of the context of use of words. A nice gift to offer the child is to spend time playing with him, following his interests, simply. You will notice that when your child is playing, he or she often has a lot of things to say, so he or she practices communicating or talking.
Well … if I stopped here, I would probably make several small enemies, because, for the majority of children, the magic of Christmas passes through pretty boxes packed. It’s concrete and it’s dreaming! Personally, I too like to enjoy the holidays to spoil my boys a little.
Pretend, a winning game
So, what to choose from the wide range of toys offered in stores? To stimulate language, the symbolic game or game of “pretending”, to which several educational toys lend themselves, is a sure bet. It is that the language and the symbolic play both call on the mental representation. Thus, the child who uses a spoon as a phone will represent in his head the object in the same way as the child who says the word “phone”. Playing pretend and talking requires a certain level of abstraction.
My mother bought for my Renaud, 14 months, a doggie panda (he loves this animal!). I suspect that he will pretend to fall asleep by cradling him and singing “aaa”, which he does these days with all the doggies and is a first symbolic game great! I plan to play with him pretending to feed Panda and verbalizing what we do. He should love!
For my Jules, I will soon buy a Playmobil set. The symbolic game of my four-year-old has become more complicated over the years. He can now imagine elaborate scenarios and make the characters speak, which contributes to the development of his language. He learns to make complex sentences, to tell small stories, to use a vocabulary adapted to the game, etc. I would invent with him fires, wounded and thieves!
Fit to the child, a must
Maybe your kid hates doggies and Playmobil! In fact, you will understand that I have given examples of educational toys that can lend themselves to the symbolic game, but there are a ton of others. Dolls, games with figurines and disguises can lead to interesting symbolic games. The important thing is that the child is interested in the gift received. This is the first condition for creating a motivating communication context. In this sense, a toy adapted to the level of development of the child is more likely to reach the target. Thus, if I offered Playmobil to Renaud, I’m not sure he would find his account. In this perspective, several manufacturers indicate the target audience of their toys on their packaging. In all cases.
So what educational toys will you offer your children to stimulate their language?