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  • Genna Nichol

Gifts For Child Development

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

To help you find the perfect gift for the little ones in your life, we've put together this handy holiday gift guide. Not only will these toys delight your child, they're approved by our Aspire Speech team to help with speech, language, physical, emotional, and social development.

Blocks, shape sorter, ball, book and toy for children under 18 months
  1. Shape sorter: Shape sorters are great to keep little ones entertained with colours and shapes. They help strengthen hand-eye coordination, fine motor, and problem-solving skills. In addition to naming the shapes, model simple words to your child like fit, out, in, push, and no when the piece doesn't fit. Encourage joint attention and communication by being the keeper of the pieces and having your child use gestures, finger pointing, eye contact, sounds, or words to ask for the pieces.

  2. Touchy-feely books: It's never too early to start reading with your child. Usborne touchy-feely books have textured patches on each page to help with sensory development. Model describing words such as soft, bumpy, fluffy, rough, smooth, or shiny while your little one feels the robin's beek, feathers, and tummy. The text has a musicality and repetition to it that can be read with emotion and emphasis to increase your child's language awareness.

  3. Oball: The award-winning Oball has the perfect shape and texture for babies to grasp, hold, move around, and put to their mouths! As your child grows, it is an easy ball to take turns tossing and catching. Model action words such as roll, throw, kick, and bounce while playing with your child.

  4. Building blocks: These beautiful building blocks by Haba are made in Germany from high-quality beech or maple wood and non-toxic water-based lacquers. They allow for hours of safe, creative play. In addition to helping develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, talk to your child about their creations to encourage language development.

  5. Sophie la girafe: A classic French toy, Sophie la girafe is made of 100% natural rubber and food quality paint. But did you know it's more than a great teether? It is also a cause and effect toy which teaches children that when they do something like squeeze it, something like a sound happens. You can also hide the giraffe and encourage your child to respond to "where is Sophie?" It's the perfect toy for the babies on your holiday gift list.

Imaginative toys including a train, kitchen and pretend food
  1. Play food: How fun are these fruits and vegetables?! Children can "cut" food with a wooden knife, reassemble the pieces, and prepare fun meals for their dolls or stuffy toys. Model vocabulary like hot, cold, boil, bake, cook, stir, mix, and wash. You can also teach simple sequencing such as steps on how to assemble a salad. Sustain Ecostore in Huntsville has a stunning collection of all-natural Erzi wooden toys for the play chef.

  2. Tomy Gearation: Children can arrange these brightly colored gears and watch in delight as they spin, twist, and turn. Model those words as they play. Each gear has a magnetic back to stick on metal surfaces or your refrigerator.

  3. Duplo: Large Duplo blocks are a great way to introduce your child to the fun of building Lego and teach them to follow simple directions as they assemble the blocks. They are also a great motivator to practice speech sounds. When the child says a sound correctly, they are rewarded with another piece of Duplo.

  4. Play kitchen: Children this age may start to develop an interest in activities that you’re doing, so toys like a kitchen set where they can cook just like you are great fun. The kitchen shown is from IKEA and has a light up cooking surface just like the real deal! Allow your child to "cook" for you and build their vocabulary by talking about their creations.

Little Blue Truck book, games, play-doh, Calico Crtitters and train set
  1. Books: Giving our children a love for reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Choose fun books that peak their interest and get them excited about reading! Learn on our blog how Little Blue Truck helps with speech, language development, and literacy. The Hanen Centre Book Nook is an excellent resource on children’s books and ways you can talk with your young child to promote their emergent literacy skills.

  2. Calico Critters: These adorable little animal families encourage children to engage in imaginative play alone and with others and to work on using dialogue and voices for the characters they create. Minds Alive in Bracebridge has a large selection of Calico Critter toys.

  3. Dress-up: Children at this age love to dress-up and pretend. Doctor, firefighter, or police kits can be great for role playing different professionals children may encounter in their daily lives. These toys can also be used to help kids feel more comfortable around these professionals.

  4. Play-Doh: A great tactile toy that allows children to get creative and use their imagination to make their own creations. Model words like big, small, squishy, and round. Encourage sharing and taking turns by playing together or with a sibling. Keep this gift simple and extra special by making your own homemade play dough.

  5. Memory: This fun card matching game has been around for ages and comes in many variations for all ages. The player to match the most pairs of cards at the end is the winner. It is a fun game that teaches concepts such as same and different while helping build memory, cognitive function, and concentration.

  6. Toy trains: Children put tracks together to build fun train routes. There are many manufacturers of this classic wooden toy with a variety of trains, bridges, stops, villages, and characters to create a unique and entertaining play environment. Trains and tracks are a great way to introduce location concepts such as under, over, or beside. You can also teach sequencing such as "Thomas comes first, then comes Percy."

Games, crayons, and playmobile for 4- to 5-year-olds
  1. Zingo!: Zingo! is a matching game that encourages pre-readers and early readers to match the pictures and words to their challenge cards. The first player with a full card to yell “Zingo!” wins the game.

  2. Enchanted Forest: Another award-winning game, players work on their memory skills by matching pictures under trees to the cards displayed. The beautifully illustrated scenes from well-known fairy tales will delight your children. Encourage communication by discussing the story characters.

  3. Playmobil: From tiny sets that make great stocking stuffers to more elaborate playsets, Playmobil has something for all interests. In building detailed sets, children learn to follow directions and then engage in unscripted, imaginative play.

  4. Animal upon Animal: This fun animal-stacking game is an absolute favourite in our house! Although we always encourage supporting local business, this game is not always easy to find, which is why we were thrilled to see it available on Amazon. As players take turns stacking animals on top of the alligator to form a pyramid, they develop hand-eye coordinator and fine motor skills. In therapy we use stacking games to model speech sounds like the /t/ sound "put on top." When the child says the sound correctly, they are rewarded with another animal to stack.

  5. Art supplies: Encourage your children to explore and express themselves through art. Practice following directions by playing barrier games such as this one described by Super Duper Handy handouts. There are a wide variety of books, papers, crayons, pencil crayons, markers, or even art classes you can give this holiday season. Muskoka residents can gift a class at Let the Cat Go art studio in Bracebridge.

Games, Lego, and art supplies for children ages 5 and up
  1. Race to the Treasure: We often use games in therapy as a fun way to practice speech sounds. In this cooperative game, kids work together to build a team path to the treasure before the ogre gets there. They'll have so much fun they won't even know they're learning to strategize, cooperate and work together.

  2. LEGO: You can never go wrong with LEGO. Building kits are available for children as young as four right up to adulthood. A box of bricks is also a great idea to encourage children to create their own original builds. Another classic for good reason!

  3. Story Cubes: Roll the dice and use the images displayed to make a fun story. Children and parents will love this game that encourages conversation, vocabulary development, story sequencing, and lots of laughter!

  4. Draw your own puzzle: Available at art supply stores or online, these blank puzzles are sure to delight the artists on your gift list! Alternatively, encourage your child to make their own puzzles to gift to friends and family. The puzzle shown was created with love by one of our little speech clients.

Disclaimer: We only recommend products and services that we use and believe will help your child. We do not receive any compensation or benefits from any of the links mentioned in this post.

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