With the holidays upon us, there are so many wonderful ways we can celebrate and show each other love. If one of your ways to show love is by giving gifts then this guide is for you!
I am breaking the gift guide into age groups and providing you with some of my favorite toys that target:
- speech and language development
- play skills
- fine motor skills
- social skills
- problem solving skills
- hand eye coordination
- gross motor skills
- cognitive development
- sensory input
- social interaction
- AND SO MUCH MORE!
Click on the links to take you to the exact item in the guide! BONUS: almost all gifts are under $30!
Best Toys for Age 6-9 Months
Mini Sensory Books:
Mini sensory books are a great way to begin introducing your little ones to the wonderful world of literacy! These books not only provide great visual stimulation, but great tactile stimulation too! Your child will learn through touch and exploring their senses! Make sure to model vocabulary like nouns, animals, and body parts. BONUS TIP: when you are reading with your child, use animated facial expressions to make it fun! Learn more about reading with your kiddo here.
Wooden Ball Drop:
Great cause and effect toy and fun for so many kiddos! Model how to use it for your little one and model new vocabulary like colors, actions, and prepositions. This is also a great way to target joint attention, eye contact, and fine motor skills.
At this age, kids love to pick things up and bang things together. As they get a bit older, they will love to begin stacking and making tall towers! This simple toy is a fun way to target fine motor skills, as well as identifying new vocabulary.
Similar to our stacking blocks, stacking rings are another one of those simple toys that children love! Model descriptive words like colors and different word types like action words and prepositions. This is another great way to boost your child’s vocabulary while engaging in play with a classic toy!
Spinning Rainbow Mirror:
This toy is a great motivator to promote speech sound development, language learning, and joint attention It is also great practice for spinning and reaching. Because of all the fun colors, playing with this toy provides great visual input without being overly simulating.
Best Toys for Age 9-12 Months
Pop Up Toy:
This is one of my favorite go to toys for cause and effect that your child will love! It is one of the best toys to keep your child engaged, promote language development and work on motor skills. Your little one is also learning prepositions (like “up,” “down,” “in,” and “out”) and learning vocabulary like animals, animal sounds and colors!
Simple Knob Puzzles:
Knob puzzles and puzzles of any kind are such a wonderful way for children to practice hand eye coordination, visual motor skills, and problem solving skills. Puzzles are also a great way to work on speech and language skills, like identifying colors, shapes, animals and following directions, and even targeting some of your child’s first intentional sounds!
Sensory Tissue Box:
This sensory tissue box is filled with multicolored handkerchiefs that you can push in and pull out of the box, a great way to begin following directions and working on location words. This interactive play toy also makes for a great speech and language learning activity! Your little one can learn cause and effect, work on fine motor skills and explore their senses with textures and visual stimuli!
Wooden Peg Drop:
Another wonderful cause and effect toy for your little one! This is also a great way to target joint attention, eye contact, and fine motor skills. Model how to use it for your little one and model new vocabulary like colors, actions, and prepositions and early developing speech sounds!
Books are a great way to bring literacy into learning and play! Model vocabulary like nouns, animals, and body parts. BONUS TIP: when you are reading with your child, get at eye level and use animated facial expressions to make it fun! Learn more about reading with your kiddo here.
Best Toys for Age 12-24 Months
One of my new speech and language favorites (thank you to our fabulous OT team for this new toy introduction)! Coming in so many different colors, Squigz is great for targeting language goals, like expanding vocabulary, combining words together, identifying and labeling colors, using prepositions (on, off) and learning action words like “pull” or “push.” For our older kiddos, you can work on following directions and turn taking too! Squigz are a great travel toy and your little one can push/pull them on to many different surfaces!
Wooden Car Ramp:
Toy cars are another great activity I love to use to help develop language skills and to target speech sounds. This Wooden Car Ramp can be used to expand vocabulary and teach new word types, like colors (blue car), adjectives (fast/slow), actions (go, push stop), and to teach spatial awareness (up/down). This is definitely one of our kiddo’s favorite toys to play with in our speech therapy sessions!
Pull Apart Eggs:
Kids love these pull apart eggs and there are so many skills you can practice! Your kid is not just going to play with this toy, but they are going to learn too! Children can match colors and shapes, develop visual motor skills and work on their problem solving skills. This is also another great toy to target language development and speech sounds!
Crawl Through Tunnel:
Kids love to play with this tunnel! My favorite thing to do is to throw toys/objects in the tunnel and have our little ones crawl through after them. This is not only a great motor activity, but amazing for targeting language skills like prepositions “in” and “out” and working on word combinations!
Farmer’s Market Color Sorting Set:
Little kids really have fun with this play set! Your kiddo can will build color recognition and critical thinking skills as they sort and match fruits and veggies and learn new vocabulary for food items. Not only is this set a great independent play activity, but it is a great way to encourage pretend play skills as your little one explores their imagination!
Wooden Cookie Baking Set:
Bake and create delicious cookies with your little one with this amazing (and durable) wooden cookie set! Model new vocabulary for baking and food items, work on fine motor skills like cutting and slicing, expand language by combining words together and work on turn taking skills too! This pretend play set is one of my favorite speech therapy activities and children love playing with it!
Best Toys for Age 24-36 Months
All the fun of sand without the mess (well…kinda)! I love to hide mini objects in the sand and have my kiddos dig to find them. Not only is this a great motor skill activity, but it is a great way to introduce new words, target speech sounds, and increase your little one’s language development. Help your little one combine words together to describe what they dig up in the sand, answer questions (like “what do you see”) and follow directions! Kinetic Sand is a therapist favorite at Valued Voices when targeting speech and language goals!
Reusable Sticker Pads:
Reusable sticker pads are great for in the home or when you and your little one are on the go! These sticker pads empower your kid’s creativity and are a great way to encourage speech and language development. Your little one can point to items you name, label items, describe what they see/what they are doing, and follow directions. Your child will love learning through play as they discover new places, like airports, farms, grocery stores, and so much more!
Empower your little one’s imagination through a classic toy that kids adore! Legos help develop fine motor and critical thinking skills as your child stacks, pulls apart and creates from their imagination! Legos are also a great way to work on color identification, following directions, turn taking, and language development through combining 2-3 words together. Children love playing with this toy for hours on end!
This Activity Board helps children develop basic life skills all while playing! Empower your child’s cognitive skills as they develop hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills and discover life skills like getting dressed. This busy board contains so many fun activities for your toddler and is great to take with you on the go!
Theme-based sets encourage open ended play and what better way for kids to learn than through playing! Play sets are a great way for kids to practice their language skills through exploring their imagination, including their social language skills! Below are some of my favorite play sets:
As you begin your holiday shopping, I hope you find this guide useful in finding the perfect gift for your children and those of a friend or family member.
Don’t forget, less is more! Often the most simple toys are the best way to develop your little one’s skills and empower their expression! Happy shopping and wising everyone a beautiful, warm and love filled holiday season!
Sholeh Shahinfar, MA, CCC-SLP, RYT
Sholeh Shahinfar is the founder of Valued Voices, and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist, Child Communication Specialist and Certified Oral Motor Therapist. She is passionate about uplifting children’s voices in the world and inspiring self-expression. In her free time, she loves going to the ocean, exploring nature with her pup Kobe, and spending time with her family and friends!