If you are working with preschoolers aged 3-5, keeping them engaged in your speech therapy sessions can be tricky! Sitting for long periods with flashcards and worksheets usually works poorly. Instead of working on speech and language goals, you might find yourself redirecting and managing behavior. When you can use a play-based learning approach in your sessions, you will see a BIG increase in engagement with your preschoolers. Today, I share the best preschool speech therapy toys to rock your play-based sessions.
Considerations When Purchasing Preschool Speech Therapy Toys
Many of you may be on a budget for buying speech therapy toys. It isn’t realistic that you can purchase toys for every stage of development. And spending money on toys that meet your students’ interests is tough. The best way to approach purchasing preschool speech therapy toys is to look at a toy and envision all the skills you can cover with it. Typically, battery-operated toys have specific actions or sounds, which could limit creativity. That’s why finding good toys with various functions and the ability to be simple or complex in the play will be the best bang for your buck.
Consider The Child’s Motor Stages
The other thing to consider when purchasing speech therapy toys for toddlers and preschoolers is what motor stage of development your clients or students are functioning in. When the toy or play activity requires heavy motor or sensory work, it may be harder for your client or student to focus on the communication and language skills you want them to practice. For example, fine motor skills develop around 24-48 months (2-4 years). Fine motor toys may include puzzles, or filling containers with smaller objects. So, if you have a student who is 3 years of age but whose fine motor development is delayed, participating with toys with many fine motor skills may be difficult. So, I like to look at preschool toys to see if I can adapt them for simpler gross or fine motor skills or if I need to adapt them for play-based speech therapy sessions.
Preschool Toys for Parallel & Associative Play
Children doing parallel play can work together, doing their own thing. Having toys that allow kids to play parallelly and then work towards associative play is easy to adapt as the child progresses. Associative play is when kids start sharing and have more interest in other children.
- Bubbles are great for associative play, cause and effect, and if you have multiple wands with one bubble tray, children can do parallel or onlooker play.
- Stacking cups or stacking towers to model verbs, spatial concepts, and CORE words such as more, look, etc. This toy can then move into sharing, waiting, and turn-taking.
- Blocks or Jumbo Legos are always great to have on hand because you can start with simple one-action play and later move into turn-taking. These toys are good for kids still in the gross motor stage and struggling with fine motor tasks.
- Playdough is a sensory-friendly toy that can have many possibilities when it comes to play and works well for kids at the parallel or associative play stages.
If I Had to Pick Only One Toy for Preschoolers
Magnetiles are awesome because you can use these for parallel to cooperative play. They are so versatile and easy to adapt that this is my overall pick if you can only pick one toy set in this list for parallel play. You can use this toy with younger kids; older students also think this toy is awesome. Plus, it has elements of building and stacking, so if you can’t afford to get blocks, stacking towers, and magnetiles, just get these!
Have Speech Therapy Cheat Sheets To Use With Your Toys & Games
If you love doing play-based speech therapy but struggle to remember targets for articulation, verbs, vocabulary, adjectives, basic concepts, carrier phrases, and wh-questions, use these cheat sheets with 45 of your favorite toys and games to reduce brain fatigue when following your student’s lead with play. Each toy companion has 10 ways to use the toy and evidence-based practices when doing play-based learning in your sessions.
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With associative and cooperative play, preschoolers are learning how to interact with one another. During associative play, children do the same activity or use the same toy but do not necessarily move toward a common goal. So, for example, with associative play, two children could be playing with a farm toy house, but one is playing with the cows while the other is driving the tractor around the farm. As children progress into cooperative play, they will solve problems together, engage in pretend play, or create stories or games with the toy.
Here are some great toy sets that will allow you to work on speech and language goals at both stages:
- The farmhouse toy is versatile and can be used any time of the year, and kids love animals!
- Play food makes for a great toy to invest in because you can cover a variety of themes such as food, breakfast, picnic, dessert, and cooking, and you can use the food as props with books you read.
- Critter Clinic is a pet vet toy with so many options when working on speech and language goals. This toy works well for open/close, verb action, taking care of pets, and more!
- Having a play toy house is something to invest in because you can cover furniture, rooms of the house, and play schemes related to the child. We all have a home, and working on vocabulary and concepts familiar to the child is meaningful.
- Dinosaurs are a fan favorite and can be adapted in many ways in therapy.
- Train or all-around town toy sets allow you to cover verbs, transportation, basic concepts, wh-questions, and more!
What Speech Therapy Toys Do You Recommend for Preschoolers?
If you have a toy set that you always use with preschoolers, share in the comments what you recommend! It’s always nice to hear from other SLPs to see what tools and toys they use to work on play and other speech therapy goals.