So somehow 3 months flew by and I fell way behind. For those who are new to following this and simply because it has been so long, I’m creating a series of posts on popular baby/toddler toys and how you can use them to facilitate Speech and Language Development. My original post can be seen here

As with the last toys, an intro:

Receptive Language (what we understand) – this is the ability to listen and understand what is communicated by another person. In the Early Intervention age range (birth to 3) some examples would include: following simple directions, the ability to identify objects from a group, the ability to point to objects in pictures etc. In infants an example can be as simple as turning to the source of sound or responding to his/her name.

Expressive Language (the use of language) – this is the ability to communicate wants and needs. Usually we mean verbally but depending on the circumstances it can mean sign language or the use of a communication device. Some examples of this include: the ability to request objects using words, the ability to name objects (real objects or in pictures). In infants this includes grunting, cooing and babbling – all which sounds meaningless at first but are important stepping stones to using words in more functional ways.

Social Skills/Pragmatic Language – these are the more subtle aspects of language and in young children some examples include eye contact, joint attention (the ability to look at a toy, then to you, then back to the toy etc) and turn taking.

Of course these lists are nowhere near all inclusive and are simply meant to help clarify the definitions.

Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Activity Puzzle

We received this toy for the twins’ first birthday.

Age Range: 12 months – 3 years

What it does: The puzzle contains 6 pieces. Each piece and the board itself is made of a durable plastic and contain some kind of interactive/sensory component. The 6 pieces are as follows: a cat with a “collar” that squeaks, a heart with a mirror, a frog with a clear stomach and beads, a bird with fabric wings, a dog with a rattle and a house with a door that opens and closes. Under each piece is a picture of the object which gives a nice visual for matching.

Likes: For kiddos who are still exploring the world with their mouths, this puzzle is fabulous. We have a few peg board puzzles that are just turning into soggy messes, and this allows for practice with puzzles without the annoyance of wet wood and peeling paper. I also like that each piece has an interactive/sensory component and that other than the heart, each piece is something I would consider among the list of “first words”.

Dislikes:  I hate when people type up a review of any kind without dislikes, but this one is tough. I guess I’d say I kinda wish they had expanded the interactive part a bit. For example, both the frog and the dog rattle and I think it would have been nicer if one did something different – perhaps if the dogs belly had been furry – and this is really simply a picky thing.

puzzle with a couple pieces partially removed so you can see the pictures underneath
puzzle with a couple pieces partially removed so you can see the pictures underneath

12-18 months

Receptive Language

  • Object identification: ask your baby where the dog or cat is and see if he/she will reach for that piece.
  • Appropriate play: does your baby explore each piece to see what it does? Does she shake the frog and open the door to the house? Does he attempt to take the pieces out and put them back?
  • Simple one step directions: start to open the door of the house and see if your baby will follow suit. Point to the “collar” on the cat and see if he will push it. Open your hand and point to it while asking her to “give me the ___”
  • While baby plays say “stop” and “wait” and see if baby responds (not necessarily listens, but at least responds)
  • Begin identification of body parts using the animals. “See the doggies nose?”

Expressive Language

  • Encourage imitation: you can label any object/color to encourage this. She doesn’t have to say the whole word correctly – “da” for dog or “ba” for bird is ok at this age. Open and close the door while modeling the words “open” and “close”. Model the animal sounds or say “hi” into the mirror.
  • Encourage independent word use: point to an object and ask “what is this?” Pick up the mirror and say hi and see if he will say hi back.

Social Skills

  • Pick up the mirror and say hi and see if he will say hi back. Hold out your hand and point to it while asking “give me the ____”.
  • Talk to her about the pieces. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. Responses don’t have to be real words and don’t have to make sense – you are just looking for the social aspect or the start of back and forth conversation

18-24 months

Receptive Language

  • Picture identification: ask baby to point to any of the objects/pieces and/or hand them to you
  • Simple verbs: you may have to be a little more creative here but you can still do it. Ask him to make the dog walk, jump or run. Ask her to open or close to the door or make the bird fly etc.
  • Simple direction following with and without help – you can try without first, and if he doesn’t seem to understand you can provide help (see 12-18 months).
  • Continue with identification of body parts – ask her to point to the cats ears or the frogs eyes.

Expressive Language

  • Put two words together. You can pair things like “_____ in” or “doggie woof” (any combination of animal name and sound). Encourage requesting with two words – “cat please” “want bird” “house mommy” are all fine examples.
  • Encourage independent word use: point to the house and ask “what is this?” Or put the board in front of him and you hold the pieces. See if he will ask for one.
  • Begin practicing verb use (and 2 word combinations). “doggie run”, “froggie jump” etc.

Social Skills

  • While your baby is playing, comment on what he/she is doing or play along to encourage some joint attention, or the ability to look between you and the toy with eye contact.
  • Begin to encourage turn taking. Place the pieces between you and put a piece in, then say “your turn!” and let her take a turn.
  • Talk to her about the pieces. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. It doesn’t have to be sentences. Even if you say “Look at this cute doggie” and he looks at you and responds “dog”, you are still practicing  social skills.

24 to 36 months

Receptive Language

  • Following directions without help. (see above)
  • Simple verbs like the ones described in 18-24 months. You can use these with your direction following
  • Begin color identification.
  • Pronouns me, my, you, your. While both of you are holding a piece, ask him/her to point to my/your piece, or take my/your piece and place it in the board. (Be sure you use “my/your” and not “mommy’s” for example).You can also use body parts here. “See the doggies nose? Now show me your nose”
  • Begin spatial concepts such as in/out. Ask her to take the cat out or put the dog in the puzzle. When you are finished have him “clean up” and put the whole puzzle on the table or in the bucket (wherever your designated spot is).
  • You can use some simple adjectives such as smooth, rough and soft. Talk about how the board or the cats whiskers feel rough and the heart feels smooth. Talk about the birds soft wings.

Expressive Language

  • Encourage further expansion of sentences from 1-2 words to 2-3 or more words. Some examples include “cat go in”, “want birth please”. You can use these when requesting as well: “want house please” “more puzzle please” “want frog in” etc.
  • Yes/no questions. Ask “do you want the cat?” “Should I take the house out?”
  • Continue with verb use – “doggie run”, “froggie jump” etc.

Social Skills

  • While your baby is playing, pick up the dog, make it run away and bark or make the bird fly away to encourage some joint attention, or the ability to look between you and the toy with eye contact.
  • Continue to practice turn taking.
  • Talk to her about the pieces. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. It doesn’t have to be sentences. Even if you say “Look at this cute doggie” and he looks at you and responds “dog”, you are still practicing  social skills. At this age though we like to see responses of at least 2-3 words.

Keep in mind that many of the ideas for older toddlers can be introduced earlier. For example, it never hurts to introduce spatial concepts (in/out), adjectives (rough, smooth) or verbs earlier. You aren’t likely to come across a 12 month old who will say or even point to something smooth, but he is always learning and more exposure is never a bad thing.

As always, requests are welcomed (and encouraged!) if you have a toy your child loves and you’d like some ideas on how to make it more functional for speech development. And please remember this is not meant to be an all encompassing list, just something you can use to help.

You can purchase this toy on Amazon. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Activity Puzzle*

In case you missed the first two posts of this series:

Talk to Me Baby: The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza

Talk to me Baby: Puppy and Friends Learning Table

*This post contains an affiliate link. I’m not looking to make big bucks here but I buy so much on Amazon because the prices are usually lower and if you use my code I get a few pennies 🙂

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