Mr. Potato Head

Mr. Potato HeadMr. Potato Head was one of the first toys in my collection starting out as a Speech-Language Pathologist.  Its a very motivating toy and is a great tool for early vocabulary and concepts.  During play, I usually have all the body parts in my possession.  I present each body part, one at a time, and model the appropriate vocabulary (e,g., “nose”) and wait for the child to imitate me before giving him the toy.  You can also offer two choices (e.g., “nose or hat?”) if the child already has the vocabulary in his repertoire.  To increase the complexity for children who already know body parts, you could also work on the functions of body parts (e.g., “You see with your eye.” “Your hear with your ears.”).  You could ask the child to fill in the blank, “You see with your…” to increase conceptual understanding.  You can also work on spatial concepts while putting on the facial parts (e.g., “Hat on!” “Put it above the nose.” “Put it below the mouth”).

Melissa and Doug Farm Sound Puzzle

These wooden sound puzzles bring back great memories!  They were one of my first therapy materials as a young therapist and were very effective as a tool to elicit speech from my little kiddos.  Melissa and Doug also make a few other sound puzzles, including pets and vehicle sound puzzles.  When the right puzzle piece is placed in its appropriate location, your child will hear the corresponding animal sound.  These puzzles create great excitement for children and are great tools to help your child start talking.  Here are some ways to use this toy to your advantage in helping your child talk:

Keep the puzzle pieces in your possession: This is one of the key elements of motivating children to speak.  A child needs to have an incentive to speak.  For young children, the incentive to speak would be to obtain something tangible, like a toy or food item. 

Label the animals with your child to work on vocabulary:   You can also sing “Old McDanold Had a Farm” to introduce the various animals.  Kids love this song!

Use carrier phrases (e.g., simple phrases that help your child to communicate his wants and needs):  Before giving your child the pieces, model for your child, “I + want + (appropriate animal name).”  If your child is not very verbal, present each word in isolation and allow your child to imitate you first, before moving on to the next word.  Once your child imitates you, quickly reinforce your child by giving the puzzle piece.

Build receptive vocabulary skills (i.e., your child’s understanding of spoken vocabulary):  Ask your child to point to the animal that you name.  For example, you can say: “point to Horse!” or “show me horse!” or “where is horse?”

Suggestion:  If your child is not speaking yet, you can just work on the simple word, “more,” when your child wants more puzzle pieces.  Exaggerate the “m” sound for your child by saying “mmmmore.”  This will help your child to say the word.

Busy Ball Popper Toy

This is one of the best speech toys that I have for young children.  When you push the plunger, the music will start and balls will pop out from the tube, roll down the shoot, and then pop back up the tube.  This toy works wonders for me, especially with nonverbal children.  You can work on requesting, early prepositions, actions, counting, colors, and turn taking while playing with this.  Here are examples:

Requesting:  Keep the balls in your hands.  Present the balls one at a time to your child.  Prompt your child to say, “more,” to request for the ball.

If your child is able to say “more”, prompt your child to say, “I-want-ball”.  Use verbal chaining if needed (Break the phrase up, presenting one word at a time, so your child is able to imitate you).

Prepositions: Say the words “in” and “out” when balls are placed in, or when they come out of the tube.

Actions:  Words you can say while playing with your child-push, roll, go, catch, and put in.

Counting:  Count the balls with your child when you put the balls in.

Colors:  Name the colors of the balls with your child.

Turn taking:  You can also take turn putting balls into the ball popper, or take turns catching the balls.  You can say, “my turn,” or “your turn” to teach your child how to indicate his/her turn.

“Moo Moo..Baa Baa”: How farm animals help your child speak

Farm animals are especially wonderful toys for speech because their names and sounds are usually easy to say and teach.  Many early developing sounds, such as the “p,” “b,” “m,” and “w” sounds are sounds that can be elicited through playing with toy animals.  While playing with farm animals with your child, say the sounds that the animal makes.  Examples of animals and their sounds are below:

Vocabulary: Cow, Sheep, Horse, Duck, Cat, Dog, Pig

Sounds you can model: “Moo” for cow; “Baa” for sheep; “Neigh” for horse; “Quack” for duck; “Meow” for cat; “Woof” for dog; “Oink” for pig

How to Elicit Speech from your Child:

Parents sing the “Old MacDonald Song” with your child.  Every time there is an animal name, or animal sound in the song, pause to allow your child to fill in the blank.  Use toys or animal pictures to cue your child on which animal to say.  This is a great way to get your child to start saying their sounds and learn words.  If your child has a difficult time saying his sounds, exaggerate the initial sound.  For example, you can say: “mmmmmoooo” instead of just “moo.”  This is a very valuable speech technique that therapists will use.


“Go Car! Go!”: Toy Vehicles and Speech

Toy Vehicles are great toys to elicit more language and speech from your child.   While playing with your child, model key vocabulary words, actions, concepts, and sounds.  If your child is saying mainly one word utterances, model two word utterances.    Examples of target vocabulary words, action words, and concept that you can model are below:

Vocabulary:  car, truck, airplane, train, boat

Action words: go, stop, push, pull, fly, drive, ride

Concepts:  fast, slow, up, down, over, under, on, off

Sounds:  “Wroom Wroom!”; “Beep Beep!” “Choo Choo!”

You can put these words together to make two word utterances:  “Fast car!”; “Push car!”; “Car on!”

How to elicit speech and language from your child:

Parent says “go car” and pushes car, while making “wroom wroom” sound.  Parent stops car, looks at child expectantly, and says, “go…” to prompt the child to complete the sentence.  Your child may need you to model the phrase for him a few times before learning what to say by himself.