The holidays are a wonderful time to promote speech and language development with our littlest learners through intentional play. As recommended by a speech-language pathologist and mom of a busy toddler, I know finding toys that are both fun AND boost communication skills can be tricky. That’s why we put together this holiday gift guide filled with our favorite toddler toys and games to get those tiny tongues wagging!
We aim for these featured holiday toddler toys to carry over into therapeutic play, modeling, and growth happening within structured intervention sessions. Furthermore, coaching caregivers to utilize the same strategies implemented in ECI during fun toy interactions bridges the learning. The language promoted through playful teachable moments during a bubble bath, dance party or game night incorporates the same goals targeted in early childhood special education.
In the list below, you’ll discover unique and classic preschooler-approved ideas that we’ve used in our own sessions and playtime at home. Additionally, we included tips from speech-language pathologists on eliciting language surrounding concepts like actions, counting, describing, positions, and more. Our goal is that children will be motivated to use new vocabulary and verbal expression not just in play with these featured holiday toys, but in all their interactive adventures with you!
We hope you and your tiny talkers find this speech-promoting gift guide helpful as you shop for the holiday season. So, let’s get those little voices warmed up! Scroll down to begin exploring favorite language-learning toys and games.
Our Holiday Gift Guide for Toddlers Toys
Toddlers Toys should not be flashy or make a significant amount of sound. You want toys that allow communication partners to make the sounds/words themselves and provide more engagement. This helps with pretend play and encourages vocal play/language.
The toys listed below are versatile and have multiple ways they can be utilized or combined with other toys creating language and cognitive-rich play.
LANGUAGE AND COGNITIVE FOCUSED TODDLER TOYS
- Potato Head
- Play Food
- Wooden Puzzles (transportation, animals, foods, household items)
- Shape Sorter
- Ball Drop
- Barn and animals
- Animal Hospital with Keys
- Magnetic Tiles
- Wooden Train set and track
- Piggy Bank
- Bus and People
- Animal Pop Toy
The following are board books that provide the best opportunities for engagement and language development.
- Little Blue Truck
- Brown Bear Brown Bear
- Dear Zoo
- Where is Baby’s Belly Button
- Let’s Find Momo
- 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed
- Very Busy Spider
- Poke a Dot Farm
- Llama Llama Hide and Seek
- Open the Barn Door
EASY TODDLER GAMES
- Banana Blast
- Shark Bite
- Catch the Fox (contains small pieces)
- Don’t Break the Ice
- Jumping Jack
- Pop Up Pirate
- Pop The Pig
OTHER ITEMS TO HAVE THAT CAN BE PAIRED WITH TODDLER TOYS
- Plastic opaque cups
- Muffin tin
- Big Plastic Mixing bowl
- Any container with lid (Clorox wipe container, dish tabs, corn starch, etc)
CRAFT AND SENSORY ITEMS FOR STOCKING STUFFERS
- Jumbo Crayons
- Construction Paper
- Glue Stick
- Masking Tape
- Play Doh
- Kinetic Sand
- Cotton Balls
TODDLER TOYS AND GAMES TO AVOID
- Leap Frog Leaptop (any pretend looking tablet, computer, phone with lots of buttons, sounds, and screen.
- Letter and number puzzles
- Books with overly busy pictures, abstract pictures, and lots of words
- Items with screens
- Vtech Toys with screens
You can request other caregivers and loved ones go in together to purchase experiences such as a Texas State Park Season Pass, memberships to the zoo or museums, or local events. Pictures of the location along with a small item can be wrapped and placed under the tree so you still get the joy of unwrapping a present. So much language can be taught and experienced in local places.
Our goal for these items is to create opportunities for children to engage with their caregiver. When caregivers can provide exciting models for children, more imitation and attention happens. As speech-language pathologists will attest, more imitation and improved attention both lead to communication. Time spent with a caregiver is far more beneficial than flashy, expensive items. Besides, at the end of the day we all know toddlers just want the empty box.