Best Learning Toys for Kids

As you hit the stores this holiday season for the latest toys, why not look for gifts to help your child build speech and language skills? Jennifer Pollock, CCC-SLP, CLC, speech therapist at Memorial Outpatient Rehab Services shares ideas on what toys and games help facilitate your child’s development.

  • DVDs that focus on particular sounds, words or topics. Baby Einstein, Leapfrog and Nickelodeon character items are all great choices. Children can develop new vocabulary as they watch by imitating speech sounds and words. Older kids might enjoy learning a new language or new dance moves.
  • Electronic toys that produce sounds and words for vocabulary building and early reading skills. The child presses a button or touches a pen-like stylus to hear a sound or word, which allows for interactive literacy. Some toys may ask the child to press a button corresponding to a sound or a word or just name items when buttons are pushed. Leapfrog has many of these toys in various age and skill levels. For older toddlers and early school-aged kids, a tablet and FisherPrice iXL are cool early game and learning systems with an educational twist.
  • Older school-aged kids can get their game fix from various creative Wii and DS games but may also enjoy a subscription to a magazine, a series of books (Little House, Vampire Academy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) as well as science or craft kits.
  • Infants may enjoy exploring toys that allow them to learn shapes, colors or music with talking characters like Woody from Toy Story, Mickey Mouse, Dora the Explorer or Leapfrog’s Baby Tad. Many of these toys are FisherPrice and Playskool brands.
  • Books, games and puzzles are the perfect opportunity to initiate conversation with kids. Books allow you to talk about the story, the characters and what is going to happen next. Also great are Little People sets, play food and housekeeping toys for small children and board games or e-readers like Kindle or Nook for older kids and teens.

If you are shopping for a child with special needs, Pollock recommends and These websites are devoted to toys designed with these children in mind.

Were there toys that helped your children develop early language skills?  Tell us your favorites below.