I am linking up with Ashley from Sweet Southern Speech to share some of my favorite gift ideas that help to develop speech and language skills. As I’m writing, I can’t help but think back to when I was buying all kinds of toys and games for my boys. It seemed that I could fill the living room without breaking the bank. We are basically down to clothing, gift cards and electronics at this point, piles that seem to be the fraction of the size and triple the cost of years past. Anyway, as fun as it was, I did have the challenge of buying for three boys. How many trucks and army guys can you have? With the youngest having a Christmas Day birthday, there was even more to buy and at times I felt like I was buying just for the sake of buying. I always welcomed the suggestion for a gift that I hadn’t quite thought of or wasn’t on the list. I found that sometimes the gift I picked up at the last minute that wasn’t on the list, sometimes turned out to be the favorite.
Here are some of my suggestions for gifts that may or may not be new to you. Maybe some will become unexpected favorites. They are all gifts that can help develop speech and language skills. In no particular order…
- CHILDREN’S COOKBOOKS: It doesn’t really matter which one. There are so many to choose from now. I may be a little partial to the Betty Crocker Junior Cookbook. I still have mine from when I was about 6 years old. Benefits, kids will be reading, following directions, sequencing, learning vocabulary for food and equipment. They will be learning a life skill, while they are spending time with you! They may even discover some new favorite foods.
- UNO: I’m sure you’ve already heard of it but it has such universal appeal. With all the different theme choices now, there’s something for everyone. It’s a game that can be played with adults and little ones. For some little ones, I modify the game by removing all of the “special” cards, such as reverse, skip and wild. It then simplifies the game to matching. This game helps with turn-taking, winning and losing, colors, numbers, some strategy, joint attention and directionality. These games are affordable and portable making them perfect for travel and keeping on hand for emergencies if you find yourself waiting somewhere unexpectedly. If you’re stuffing stockings, it’s a perfect fit!
- MELISSA AND DOUG STICKER PADS: These sticker books are appealing to boys and girls alike. They really get the creative juices flowing. The pictures and stickers are so fun ranging from cupcakes and donuts, to animals and habitats to vehicles and castles with princesses. These books are loaded with opportunities to develop vocabulary. These books also naturally give little ones something to comment about. I know in my speech room, they are so excited about their pictures they can’t help themselves but talk about what they are doing. If sharing the sticker pads with others, there will be opportunities for negotiation. These pads are available directly from the Melissa and Doug website but I have also seen them at various craft stores that offer significant discounts.
- LAST WORD: We are big gamers in my house. Not the gambling type. The board game type. We play every holiday and we are always looking for a game that both the adults and the younger ones can play. This one fits the bill! This game is perfect for categorizing. The object is to name as many items in a category as possible at the same time, starting with specific letter. No repeats allowed. The last one to call a legitimate answer before the timer goes off gets to move ahead on the board game. We have modified to remove the letter requirement for younger players. I’m not going to lie, this game has come out at night with just the adults and can take on a no-kids allowed in the room version. For about $20 you can find this game at most stores carrying games (e.g. Target and Walmart). If you are working on winning and losing, negotiating and being flexible, or your children are working on those things, this is a must have game.
- ORCHARD TOY GAMES: I have recently discovered Orchard Toys. These bright and engaging games appear to be simple, but can offer a bit more complexity for older ones (7-8 year olds). If you don’t want your child to play a game with a burping gorilla, then you should avoid the Greedy Gorilla. All of these games develop some type of skill which is outlined on their Orchard Toy Website. Many games target vocabulary, memory, turn-taking, using strategy, winning and losing and joint attention. I have ordered my games on Amazon and have been able to get most for around $12-$15.
- PHOTO BOOK OR CALENDAR: It may be too late for this year but could be something to think about for next year. My students LOVE when I take their pictures. They love when I send them home to parents and they especially love when they see themselves and their friends on the monitor in the front of the school. I think a book or calendar chronicling the year of the child would be so exciting to open. So many opportunities to talk about past experiences. When looking at these books with others they will be asked “where were you?”, “who did you go with?”, “what did you do there?”, questions many of our kiddos are working on. I have made photo books through snapfish and have found them very easy to use. I’m sure there are other sites that provide the same service. I am just posting the one I have had experience with. I have made books for vacations but wish I had done this for my kids when they were small. A gift, a keepsake and a language developer. Win. Win. Win.
- My last suggestion is not actually a gift but an activity. Even though this can be a crazy and hectic time of the year, it really is a nice time to go through the old stuff (toys, books, games) and decide what is worth keeping, what is worth throwing away and what is worth finding a new home.I know that it’s easier to do it without the kiddos but it does provide a good opportunity for some early developing executive functioning skills. Most little ones won’t be able to do this alone, but once we provide a framework and a system to use, they often find it easier to complete the task. Providing a physical space, whether it be a bin, box or a sheet labeled for each group, will help to provide visual support for the sorting. You may also have an “I don’t know” area as well. Doing this, we are providing kids the opportunity to explain why they might want to keep something or get rid of something that we think may have been costly and hasn’t been used enough. If you are wondering what to do with toys, books or games that need a new home, find a school based therapist or preschool. We hardly ever say no to those gently used items.
We all have different traditions and feelings on gift giving. What ever your philosophy may be, most of us are still buying gifts for younger ones, whether they be sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren or an “adopt a family” child. If you are purchasing for a young one, you may want to consider one of my suggestions for gifts that promote speech and language. For other suggestions, link back to Sweet Southern Speech to see what other therapists are recommending.