Let's Play: the speech and language way

Speech and language therapy ideas for playing at home



Happy Holidays from Columbus! Tips for the season from local bloggers

The holiday season means many things to many people.  Even though most people who read my blog are probably interested in activities for little ones, we have other interests too… right?  santa

I have teamed up with other bloggers from the Columbus, Ohio area to bring you a wider variety of holiday ideas, tips, activities, money savers, etc!  So after you’ve read my post Santa Claus is coming to town for ideas using Christmas sounds, songs, and words with little ones during the Christmas season, be sure to visit some of these other awesome local bloggers.

For Holiday Nature Crafts, check out Ashley’s post from Columbus For Kids:nature craft

For a list of 10 Favorite Columbus Christmas Traditions, read Julie’s post from What Should We Do Today Columbus? christmas-940x650

Malini from Lakes & Lattes has a fun family idea for a scavenger hunt Christmas in Columbus: A family adventure landl

Need some local gift ideas?  Kim from Where Love Wanders has a great list Columbus Gift Guide WLW_GiftGuide2017

Tara from Pennies From Heaven Home has some beautiful ideas for decorating an artificial Christmas tree From Walmart to Wow TreeD

Want to stay healthy during the holidays?  Kathleen from Just Keep It Simple Fitness has some helpful tips How to Keep the Holidays Healthy but Still Fun title-pic-600x900

Mary from Mission to Save has you covered for Black Friday shopping and finding great deals all season long Tips for Black Friday Shopping Shopping cart

Shannon from My Life in the Blink has 5 tips for How to Simplify Holiday Gift Giving design

Lindsay from Find Where You Fit gives you ideas for healthy gift giving Healthy Columbus Holiday Gift Guide fwyf

Last, but definitely not least, is Eryn from 614 Mom with The Best of Christmas in Columbus  614 mom


Thank you for your support





Santa Claus is coming to town!

The holiday season with little ones can be a magical time.  It can also be a lot of work and stress, but let’s focus on the fun stuff for now.  Time to practice sounds and words and songs with a Christmas theme to help little ones learn to talk and enjoy the festivities!

Some of our favorites activities at this time of year are going to the zoo to see all of the lights, watching the Christmas parade, driving around to see all of the lights/decorations (which is easier once the little ones can face forward in their car seats), and visiting Santa.  That Santa visit took us a few years to accomplish as sitting on a strange man’s lap dressed in a costume didn’t seem like a good idea to either of my kids when they were babies or toddlers.  I get it.  We just waved and watched.

Christmas is a great time to practice fun sounds and songs whenever you start to see decorations pop up.  In fact, running your daily errands in stores may be your little one’s first experience with lots of new sparkly, musical, brightly colored objects they’ve never seen before!

Here are just some of my favorite sounds/words/songs to use during Christmastime…

1. Tongue clicks for reindeer hooves.  Anytime you see Rudolph in a book, a store window, or hear his song playing while you shop – go ahead and click your tongue.  Don’t forget to point out his flashing “red nose – ooo aaahh”.

2. Sing “Jingle Bells” with shakers/bells and make sure to get a big “HEY” in there at the end!  This song isn’t all that easy for little ones, but the ending can be fun to SHOUT!  “Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh – HEY!”

3. Make lots of excited sounds while looking at Christmas lights “ooo”, “wow”, “blink blink”, “tada”, “yay!”  Gasping with excitement is good too!

4. Yummy sounds for all the treats and cookies “mmmm”, exaggerated sniffing to introduce the smells of cinnamon, Christmas trees, gingerbread, and minty candy canes.

5. Sing “Deck the Halls” and change the “Fa la la las” to different consonants…”ba ba ba…da da da…wa wa wa”.  Heck just change ALL the words so that it makes sense for your little one:

“Time to eat let’s go have dinner – yum yum yum yum yuuuuum yum yum yum yum.”

“Time for bath let’s pour the water – rub a dub a duuuuub dub dub dub dub.”

“Time to sleep let’s go to bed – night night night night niiiiight ssssh ssssh sssh sssh.”

6. Cold sounds… “brrrr”.  Yep, you’ll get a lot of use of this one.  Depending on where you live, you may get to introduce lots of words for playing in the snow, too.

7. If you have a train around your treechristmas train(or you go visit one of the many on display this time of year) “choo choo”, “ding dong”, “hi” and “bye”.  My son’s first true word was “bye” as he waved to the train going around the track at Christmastime so this one has a special place in my heart.  It was a highly repetitive way to practice the same two words “hi” and “bye” over and over and over again as that train kept his attention LOCKED.

8.  Last but definitely not least…. Santa!!! “Ho, ho, ho”.  Whether Santa visits your house or not, it would be hard to avoid images of this big bellied man dressed in a red suit throughout the entire month of December.  Fortunately, he has a silly and fairly easy sound for your little one to repeat.  Hard to say “ho, ho, ho” and not play with your voice even a little bit!

Books can help little ones get a better understanding of what is going on with all of the new sights and sounds.  Here are some that I like (photos are affiliate links to Amazon):

Other get-ready-for-Christmas toys that also encourage interaction and language learning:

If you’re looking for toy ideas for little ones that will encourage interaction and help children learn to talk, go to my full list of creative, active, and pretend toys Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list! then check out Toys that do nothing! 

Don’t forget to save all of those boxes that the toys come in (another good reason to buy from Amazon – more boxes) because they may be your baby’s favorite gift!

Merry Christmas!!!

christmas kids

Toys that do nothing

Have you ever been shopping for toys and picked up various boxes wondering “What does this toy do?”  Well, if you want a toy that will truly encourage interaction and communication then I hope the answer is nothing.

If the toy does nothing then the child gets to do everything.  He can make whatever noises he wants, organize it according to whatever concept makes sense to him, put the parts in various places, stack it up or knock it down.  He could even just push it around in his toy shopping cart.  The toy does nothing without the child.  No batteries, no second languages, no flashing lights, no automated directions to follow, no lengthy songs that play without rhyme or reason.  The “do nothing” toy will allow the child to Create, be Active, and/or Pretend (CAP).  If you’ve already read Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list then you are familiar with CAP!  Instead of asking “what does this toy do?” ask yourself “what can my child do with this toy?”

Some of my favorite toys for speech and language development that do nothing are Melissa & Doug toys!

(Disclosure: the photos below are affiliate links to Amazon.)

Stacking Blocks Set Learning Toy

The best part of stacking is often knocking it all down!  If your little one is not yet able to stack, then let them be involved by counting down the “kaboom” or “crash” or completing the ready, set… “GO”!  Stack it up again by saying “up”, “on top” and naming the colors.  This particular toy also serves as a shape sorter which is perfect for practicing words like “yes”, “no”, “in”, “push” in addition to naming the shapes.   However, my favorite part of this toy is what I call the Mystery Box that serves as the base of the tower.  The yellow cube has an opening with a flap – that’s the “mystery” part and you can use it for anything that fits inside!  Use it as intended – to pull out the shapes that come with the toy – but then use it apart from the tower as a box to hold your favorite  puzzle pieces!  This adds an element of surprise to basic puzzle play.  Practice guessing “what’s next?”  Then excitedly name the piece that you find!  Practice taking turns “my turn” and “your turn”.  For more “mystery box” ideas click here.

Farm Magnets

Get your animal sounds ready!  Animal sounds and other meaningful sounds such as “uh-oh”, “brrrr”, “aha” and “hmmm” are super important to speech development.  With farm magnets, you get to practice “neigh,” “moo,” “oink” and tractor sounds “chug chug chug.”  If your refrigerator holds magnets then these toys can give your little one a kitchen task while you are busy with meal prep or cleaning.  Get out that “mystery box” from the stacking toy and put the magnets inside.  She can take each piece out and stick it to the fridge.   Then take each one off the fridge, put them back in the box and say “bye bye” to each animal. However, some refrigerators are not made for magnets.  In that case, cookie sheets are perfect!  Use a small cookie sheet in the car with your toddler or preschooler for magnet play on the go.

Go beyond animal sounds and use the magnets to set up scenes or trace each animal then use the outlines on a piece of paper as a puzzle.  Pretend to feed each animal with play food or put each animal to sleep “sssshhhh, night night” by turning them over.  Hide the animals around a darkened room and then use a flashlight to find them “cow, where are you?”  Drop the magnets into a dry sensory bin of uncooked pasta, rice, leaves, feathers, etc.  Then announce each one by name or sound as you dig them out and stick them to that cookie sheet.  To practice concepts like above, below, top, middle, and bottom, draw lines on a piece of paper and tape the paper to a magnetic surface.  Then organize the magnets by saying “put the cow above the tractor” or “the horse goes on the top line”.

Service Station Parking Garage

Your little car lover will get good use out of this garage!  The cars go “up” and “down” in the elevator, park “stop” in the numbered spots, slide “whee” or “go” fast down the ramp, fill up with gas “guhguhguh” and get clean in the car wash “scrub scrub” and “ssshhhh” for water spraying sounds.  Finally, the cars can go into the garage when broken “uh-oh” to get fixed or to sleep for the night “ssshh, night night car”.  Little ones may need some help moving the elevator or using the car wash so that’s a wonderful opportunity for you to teach them how to the use the word “help”.

Here are some more of my favorite Melissa & Doug toys:

Remember that when playing with your little one, you should use sounds and words which are at, or just above, your child’s expressive ability if you want them to try to imitate what you are saying.  If your child hasn’t yet said a true word then you can use single words or meaningful sounds rather than long sentences.  If your child is using some words then you can use two-three word phrases in play.  Reduce the questions you ask and just give them the words they might want to say.  Follow your child’s lead in play and who knows where their imagination will lead you!

Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest play ideas for speech and language skills, as well as information about my play classes and parent workshops.

Halloween play

“Boo!”  It’s time for Halloween which means it’s the best time to capitalize on one of the easier words for little ones to learn – BOO!  If they haven’t mastered “boo” in the classic game of Peekaboo then it’s time to revisit the word for Halloween fun!

If you’ve read many of my posts, you’ll know that arts and crafts are not my area of expertise but there are tons of crafty moms who will fill your Google search and Pinterest pages!  I tend to stick with painting pumpkins, sticker scenes, window clings and tissue ghosts.  Painting pumpkins is fun and messy and a perfect time to practice words like “up, down, water, tap, dot” and all the colors.  We add stickers on the second day (once paint dries).  Sticker scenes are great for language such as naming which person/object goes in which area of the house and what goes under, next to, beside, in front of, etc.

trick or treat

Trick or treating can be a great way to practice speech and language skills! You say a word and you get a treat… pretty big incentive!

Before you head out, have your little one practice holding a bag or bucket and say some version of “trick or treat” to mom, dad, neighbors, grandparents, puppets, dolls… and let them receive something, anything so that they get the idea. Then when the big event comes they will better prepared and able to maybe say something to all of the complete strangers they are about to meet!

“Trick or treat” is a pretty complicated phrase to say accurately – even for preschoolers. Here are some of the common versions of this Halloween phrase:

“chi uh chee”
“ti uh tee”
“twik oh tweet”
“di oh dee”

If this is just too much for your little one, try just practicing “please” and “thank you”. If they aren’t yet talking or are hesitant to talk to strangers give them a card to show or to point to that says “trick or treat”.  I know I didn’t talk to anyone I didn’t know until I was at least 10 years old…or something like that.  Trick or treating was fairly intimidating to me as a child.

One of the best Halloween songs is “Five Little Pumpkins”.  It has gestures, meaningful sounds, words, phrases, and you can make visuals pretty easily with five orange, round objects (balls or pieces of felt or paper).

Clicking on the following pictures will take you to Amazon.  These are affiliate links.  Thank you.


Happy Halloween!!!

Be sure to “like” and follow my my Facebook page for all the latest play ideas and information regarding my play classes and parent workshops!

Also, once Halloween is over… you might start thinking about Christmas shopping!!!  Be sure to check out Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Talking… at the Playground!

No toys necessary for helping your little one learn to talk at the playground.  Slides, swings, climbing things, other people, mulch… so much to explore!  It’s also a great place to offer choices.  “Slide or swing?”  “More swinging or all done?”  IMG_20171022_151702If your little one is running around too fast to ask him where he wants to go then just follow him and don’t worry about making a choice first.  Ha!  When my own son (who couldn’t stop running) was little, the baby/toddler swing was the perfect place for imitating sounds and words, making silly faces at him, and teaching him the sign for “more”.

Slides are great (when not too hot) for “up, up, up” and “ready, set…(go)” and “wheeeee!”  The slides might be fast “whoosh”, slow “aaaaaah”, curvy “round and round and round”, or in a tunnel “ooooooo – echo echo”.  Sometimes the slides are bumpy “bump bump bump”.

Climbing things can be opportunities to teach asking for “help” or saying “pull”, “push” or “one more”.  Action and movement words may be the key with playground activities: run, jump, spin, step, go, stop, higher, lower, fast, slow, up, down, in, out, wheeee, uh-oh, kaboom!  You’ll also find plenty of opportunities for peek-a-boo.IMG_20171022_151719

Whatever skill your little one is learning make sure you throw in “tada” or “you did it” or “hooray”!  Cheers of accomplishment are important – and much appreciated by your little one for noticing her achievements.

Playing hide-n-seek or tag/chase are also great ways to use playgrounds for language learning “I see you” and “gonna get you”.

With preschoolers, making up an obstacle course “first, then, last” or having a scavenger hunt are fun playground activities.

One fun feature at several of our local playgrounds is a matching game (photo).  Once little ones figure out how to spin the pieces around and notice that the parts make a whole, add in some words or sounds “turn, turn…stop”.  To keep it simple just play with “yes” and “no” when you find the matches.  Change your voice, repeat the word several times, or sing the word to make it playful and keep your little one engaged.

In this particular matching game, IMG_20171022_125348 there are six animals to complete.  Make sure you name what your little one is searching for: “monkey’s belly” and “bunny’s feet” and “bird’s head”.  Take turns: “my turn” and “your turn”.  Remember that the more help YOU need to complete the match and the more INCORRECT matches you find, the more opportunities your little one has to correct you!  Then model a silly “oh mom…” (with a heavy sigh).  Don’t forget those cheers of accomplishment!

In this video (below), you’ll hear how she talks herself through finding the right body parts and then proudly announces her accomplishment!  With younger children, think of using single words or short phrases to accomplish the same task.

Transcript: “I did the monkey and now, elephant.  We already have the head, now just the belly, and his feet.  I got the whole elephant!”

Simpler version to use with little ones who aren’t yet using sentences:  “All done monkey.  Now elephant.  Head.  Hmmmm… belly…aaaaannnd feeeeet!  Tada!”

Playgrounds can also be a place for little ones who are struggling to talk to just play and have minimal pressure to try words.  They can just enjoy laughing, making meaningful (happy, silly, excited) sounds, and interacting with their parents who may be falling off of the balance beam or getting stuck on the slide.

For more outdoor play ideas check out:

After the rain…PUDDLES!


The Passionate Pointer

Want indoor ideas?  I’ve got those too!

Playing with…BOOKS!

Playing with… PLAYDOUGH!

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest information on my play and language learning classes, parent workshops, and play ideas!




Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins

A box.  Such an intriguing object.  What could possibly be in there?  Knock on it.  Shake it.  Listen.  The anticipation is building… It could be ANYthing!

Using a “mystery box” in play can make old toys new again and increase your child’s engagement in an activity – all while building language skills for matching, describing and predicting.  Question words and words/sounds of surprise and accomplishment will also be important for mystery box play.

What goes in a mystery box?  Parts and pieces that, when found, will help achieve a task.

  • Puzzle pieces IMG_20170831_130523
    • Let the child say “bye bye” as you name all the pieces to hide in the box then we can try to guess what will be next with an enthusiastic “no” or “yes” once the puzzle piece is revealed.  For more puzzle play, go to Playing with… PUZZLES!
  • Potatohead body parts and accessories
    • Find the missing body parts by trying to feel which part might be in your hand before you reveal what you’ve found!
  • Balls from a game or ball tower pound-a-ball
  • Magnets to stick on a refrigerator
    • Sometimes just having another spot to put the objects you find is enough to create a purpose to the activity.  Give your little one plenty of opportunities to ask for “more”.
  • Half of the cards from a memory/matching game
    • Playing memory/matching games is fun for preschoolers, but sometimes too hard for toddlers.  Just leave 8-10 cards face up on the floor and put the matches in the mystery box.  Take turns just as you would in any game.
  • Cars, Dinosaurs, Figurines, Farm animals, etc.
    • Once found they can take their place in the parking lot or jungle or house or barn or whatever makes sense.  Use a repetitive phrase for your little one to chant or sing or fill-in the blank (think “ready, set, go” chant but use “the CAR goes IN the SPOT” or “the COW goes IN the BARN”)
  • Flash cards lp-flashcards
    • The mystery box just became a mailbox!  Pull out a card (piece of mail) and see what Grandma (or other friend or family member) sent to your toddler.  Remember to thank that person for your mail “Thank YOU”.  For more ideas with flash cards go to, Playing with…flash cards

A mystery box can be as simple as a diaper box (tape it up then cut out a hole for their hand to reach in) or a wipes box (might want to widen the slit at the top).  However, there are also some super cute toys that serve this purpose and might make a better gift than a used wipes container!

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

Just because the toys pictured above come with specific toys, don’t limit your play to those items!  Use whatever fits inside and would be motivating or interesting to your little one.

Sensory bins can also be mystery boxes.  Google will give you LOTS of ideas for sensory bins, but the basic idea is for kids to use their senses to explore and learn (touch it, smell it, see it, hear it, taste it).  Sensory bins can be super messy, but they don’t have to be.  When I want to use a sensory bin as a mystery box, I usually need to hide toys that might not be easy to clean (wooden puzzle pieces or flash cards).  In that case, use dry materials such as rice, uncooked pasta, or beans.  Grass, leaves, and other outdoor treasures are great for dry sensory bins too!  Depending on the size of your sensory bin and the toys you hide inside, you might want to add tools to help scoop and dig out the toys.

Here are links to items you may want to hide in your mystery box or sensory bin:



Want more play ideas?  Check out Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!


Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all my posts and for information about play classes and parent workshops to help little ones learn to talk!

Magical Moments

A pointed finger.  Such a powerful and meaningful form of communication.  In this photo, he has just created an amazing opportunity for an adult to say something…anything…about whatever has caught his interest.  What will have the most impact?  How should we respond?  This is a magical moment.

Learning to talk is a process.  Some children pick it up fairly quickly and seemingly without much effort.  Many others have at least some frustration about learning to communicate and the question of time is a concern of parents.  How much time should be spent working on speech and language skills?  How much time should parents spend playing with their little ones?  How long is this going to take?  I often respond with this:

It’s not the minutes, it’s the moments.

As a speech therapist in a clinical setting I typically spent 30 minutes weekly with a child.  With the little ones, especially, 30 minutes of therapy rarely meant 30 minutes of a child demonstrating their best communication skills.  In that time there would be moments of greatness.  Those were the moments I would capitalize on their efforts.  Sometimes I would get lots of these moments in a session; other days we’d be happy with one.  I get that children often have different agendas.  This is why the magical moments are so important and why we have to be ready to respond whenever these moments happen.

In the photo above, a common response might be:

  • What do you see?
  • What’s that?
  • What color is that?
  • What do you want?
  • Who’s up there?

If that’s our response, we may have just missed our opportunity.  The toddler needs a word and we just asked a question.

The toddler who is learning to talk needs lots and lots of repetition.  They need to hear words many, many times.  Questions don’t give them the words they want to say.  Questions ask them to recall words they may not remember in that moment or require them to say words they have never said before.  Questions may feel like we are testing them.  No one likes pop quizzes.

Instead, follow their eye gaze.  Name their interest.  Give them simple words, sounds, or phrases to describe their interest or request.  Use their words.  In the picture above we could’ve said “hi” to the person at the top of the slide or named the person for him.  He was pointing to the next person but he didn’t know his name.  Rather than say “wait your turn” or “move away and let him come down” or “who’s that”… just say “hi, Luke”.  Your toddler will thank you, possibly by attempting to repeat you.

To take advantage of these magical moments think about reasons for communication.  Your toddler might want to:

  • request something (use object name or “more” or “help”)
  • protest something (“no”, “stop”, “don’t”)
  • ask something (“where”)
  • show emotion (“tada!” “yea!” “hooray!” “uh-oh!” “oh no!”
  • give a command (“go”, “mine”)

If you use the right word at the right time, there is a much better chance that your toddler will repeat it or at least attempt to say it.  You’ll know you guessed correctly because they might smile at you or point at it again or even tell you “yes”.

Here’s an example of a magical moment:

Toddler attempts to open the door to the backyard and whines or otherwise makes noise while looking at you.  Parent tries a few questions/ words before finally hitting on the right word.  When you say what the toddler wants to say, that’s the magic:

  • Parent: “do you want help?”
  • Toddler grunts
  • Parent:  “open the door?”
  • More grunting, louder now
  • Parent: “open?  say open”
  • On the verge of a major meltdown
  • Parent:  “outside?”
  • Toddler calms, smiles, and jumps up and down, says “ow hi”

Toddler desperately trying to close a door that is difficult to push but then achieves his goal!

  • Parent: “push!”
  • Toddler grunts and pushes
  • Parent: “puuuuuussssshhhhh”
  • Toddler grunts some more then gets the door closed
  • Parent: “TADA!”
  • Toddler turns, puts hands in the air “tada!”

Sometimes we just have to give them the right words.

Look for some of these potentially magical moments in your day:

  • Toddler playing with older sibling and reaches for a toy that sister is holding
  • Toddler attempting to open a closed container with his favorite snack inside
  • Toddler pointing to a toy that is out of his reach
  • Toddler giggles after watching you do something funny
  • Toddler makes excited sounds after watching a car go by


For more ideas about encouraging speech at home check out:

Where are the WORDS?

For play ideas using toys to encourage talking at home check out:

Playing with…BOOKS!

Playing with…pop toobs

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest information regarding my play classes, parent workshops, and in-home play sessions.  Send me a message with any questions.




Talking with Toys: ball and marble towers

Welcome to my new feature: Talking with Toys!  Not only am I exploring a specific toy or type of toy and it’s use for helping little ones learn speech and language skills, but I will also be highlighting one of THE BEST toy stores right here in my hometown of Westerville, Ohio – Naturally Curious Kids!


First, let’s explore BALL TOWERS (for little ones) and then MARBLE TOWERS (for older little ones).

A ball tower that needs to be assembled is a great opportunity to wonder aloud how each piece should go.  Model simple questions like “here?” “this way?” “next one?” “on top?” and then give yourself answers aloud like “no,” “yes,” “turn it” and “tada!”  Using simple language allows your child to hear your thought process!  After you’ve assembled it correctly a few times you can then ask those questions aloud while you intentionally put pieces in the wrong place and let your child tell you “no,” “yes,” “turn it,” and “tada!”

Storing the balls in a pencil bag that zips creates yet another opportunity for your child to try asking for “help” or “open” or use a “zzzzzzzip” sound.

To extend the assembly process even longer try placing the pieces around the room and then find them “yellow…where ARE you?”  Not yet ready for colors?  Just ask for “more”.

Once the ball tower is ready for its big moment, announce “READY, SET…”  Allow that pause for your toddler to have an opportunity to complete “GO”.  Watch the ball go “down, down, down” and “around, round, round”.

Like to sing?  Take the tune of Wheels on the Bus:

“The ball in the tower goes down, down, down,IMG_20171004_145804122

down, down, down

down, down, down

The ball in the tower goes down, down, down

All day long!”

Want to do it again?  Ask whose turn it is to drop the ball.  If you have more than one child who wants to play then assign duties for turn taking.  One person is the “dropper” – drops the ball.  One person is the “catcher” – catches it at the bottom.  Someone else is the “announcer” – announces “ready, set, go”.

The marble tower is basically the ball tower for older kids (especially ones who won’t put a marble in their mouth).  With an older child allow them to assemble it and even get some pieces turned the wrong way.  That’s a great opportunity to problem solve and use language to figure out which piece needs to turn around.IMG_20171004_145836061  Instead of using 1-2 word phrases you may be talking about which color is needed next, how many pieces you might need, which ones are bigger, and how tall to make the tower.  If forming longer sentences is a challenge for your preschooler then continue to use short phrases and only add one more word or concept to their idea.  You can still keep the marbles in a bag or box that your preschooler may need help to open and you can still play a hide-n-seek type of game for assembling the tower.  Turn taking may be even more important with your preschooler.  If waiting for his turn is a challenge, give him a job to do when it isn’t his turn to drop the marble (just like in the ball tower description above).

For more ball tower-related ideas check out Playing with…pound-a-ball (for ball towers that don’t require assembly).

Ball tower-type toys are great for language and problem solving!  They also (usually) don’t require batteries which is a huge plus for learning speech and language skills.

Where to find these toys and other amazing toys for encouraging language, pretend, problem-solving, fine motor, and social skills?  Naturally Curious Kids.

This gem of a toy store is located in uptown Westerville, Ohio.  It has two floors packed with high quality, well-made toys from brands like: IMG_6136

  • Melissa & Doug
  • Green Toys
  • Playmobil
  • Fat Brain Toys
  • Hape
  • HABA
  • Kidoozie
  • Tegu
  • Usborne Books
  • and many, many more!

Whether you are looking for some new toys for your own kids or if you need a gift for an upcoming birthday or holiday, you really can’t go wrong with anything from Naturally Curious Kids.

Because I love this store so much, I was excited when the owners agreed to give my readers a DISCOUNT!  (Disclosure:  I’m going to give you a specific coupon code to use in order to get a discount.  If you use it, I may receive a small percentage of that sale as a thank you from the retailer for promoting their store.  I would also say thank you to YOU for supporting this blog.)

If you shop online at Naturally Curious Kids use coupon code: ToyTalk and you’ll receive 15% off of your TOTAL order!

If you shop in the store at 13 E. College Ave., Westerville, OH then you can get an even bigger discount of 20% off of your TOTAL order… after you comment on this post from my Facebook page and then show your comment to one of the owners (Linda or Jerilyn – wonderful ladies) at the register!

*These discounts are only applicable to regularly priced items and cannot be combined with any other discounts.  Both are good through NOVEMBER 5, 2017.

If you find a toy that looks interesting, but you aren’t quite sure how to use it to help with speech and language play – just ask me.  Always happy to help.

Happy shopping!!!

Wondering isn’t the same as worrying

“My 16-month old doesn’t really talk.  Is that normal?”

“I don’t understand what my almost two-year-old is saying.  What should I do?”

These two questions (or very similar questions) are asked frequently by many parents.  Typical responses from well-meaning friends and family (and maybe even the pediatrician) might go something like this:

  1.  He’s a boy.  They talk later.  Don’t worry.
  2.  My child didn’t talk until he was 3 years old.  Don’t worry.
  3.  Just keep talking to her all the time.  Don’t worry.
  4. All kids develop differently.  It’s normal.  Don’t worry.

It’s wonderful to be supportive of people who are worried, but does the original question have to be asked only when someone is worried about their child?  Maybe the parent just wants some strategies to use at home to help with speech and language skills.  They may simply be looking for information and by giving them the “don’t worry” response we haven’t really helped at all.  My fear is that telling people to not worry means they don’t need to do anything and nothing they do at home would change anything anyway.

I applaud those parents who aren’t necessarily worried about their child but just want solid information about how to help communication develop at home.  Their toddlers might be frustrated about communication even if there is no speech delay at all or at least not enough of a delay to qualify for an Early Intervention program.  These parents still want to help their children and we should give them the tools.  Thank you to the parents who ask “what can I do at home to help my child learn, to help my child talk, to help my child develop?”  Being a parent who wonders is not necessarily a parent who worries.

Yes, we should talk to our babies and toddlers –  A LOT.  However, you’ll have much more of an impact when you talk WITH your baby and not just AT her.  The way in which we interact, play and communicate with our little ones has a significant impact in how they learn to talk.

Some parents may have been told to wait another six months or wait until a specific age before they seek out help (which usually means calling an Early Intervention program or a speech therapist directly or getting a referral from the pediatrician).  So what do you do while you’re waiting?  Nothing?

Oh, right, just keep talking to your toddler and don’t worry.

This waiting period is the best time to start doing SOMETHING.  There are so many great resources online (and books and videos) about how to communicate and interact with your little one – even before speech develops.  Early communication skills like imitating, gesturing, and understanding language are essential to the foundation of speech.  This is where the best at home play and practice can really make an impact.  Wondering how to best help your child during this stage is fantastic!  THIS is why I started my blog and THIS is why I have a passion for helping parents who just want some support and ideas.  I don’t want parents to have to wait until they are truly worried or wait until that first word doesn’t develop before they learn how to be the best speech and language teacher for their own child.

Where to start?  At the beginning.  Words are not the beginning.

Here are some posts I’ve already written about communication before speech:

The Power of Peekaboo 

Communicating before words

Playing with…NO toys

Where are the WORDS?

The Passionate Pointer


Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest information regarding my parent workshops, baby and toddler play classes, and in-home play sessions.  Looking for play ideas at home?  That’s what this blog is all about!  You’ll find them in the folder “play ideas”.



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