Hey! I only went a month this time!

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 Laugh and Learn Love to Play Puppy

With some toy lettuce courtesy of Miles
With some toy lettuce courtesy of Miles

I believe this was a hand me down, but I’ve used it for Speech Therapy before.

Age Range: 6 months – 3 years.

What it does: Controlled by an on/off button on the foot, the puppy has two modes:

1. Sing : When you press a body part it either sings a song or a popular rhyme (Patty Cake)

2. Learning Time : When you press a body part it labels either just the part itself or the part with the color.

At any time you can press the paw with the music note and it will sing a song. If you leave it without interacting with it for a few seconds, it will say something (peek a boo, I love you etc)

Likes:  I find it hard to target body parts in a fun way in therapy, so this works really well. The songs are mostly well known popular ones, and sometimes it asks for a hug, which I find pretty cute.

Dislikes:  The buttons are REALLY sensitive. Sometimes I’d make it dance along to a song and accidentally change the setting, or turn it off. There is a switch in the back you can use to prevent it from accidentally turning on when you bump into it, though. A couple of the songs get on my nerves.

Press my buttons
Press my buttons

6-12 months

Receptive Language

  • It never hurts to start exposing lots of language to kids early. Identify the body parts, encourage appropriate play (help her press the buttons), tell him its a dog etc
  • Play for awhile and then hide the puppy and see if she demonstrates object permanence (an understanding that the object still exists even when its out of sight)
  • Clap when a song is done and help your child clap
  • Turn the puppy on/off and help your child wave and say hi/bye
  • Press a button or activate the toy somehow. Wait and see if your baby “anticipates” that you will press the button again.While your baby is playing, call his or her name and see if he/she stops playing to look at you

Expressive Language

  • Sing along with the songs and encourage him to babble along.
  • Babies this age usually aren’t saying words yet but you can use the toy to encourage some babbling. They should start to have some simple cause and effect and the ability to imitate some so you can use that to your advantage.  Any of the early developing sounds work, which include /b/, /d/, /m/, /n/, /p/. Sing along with the songs and encourage him to babble along.
  • You can start to introduce baby sign. It isn’t likely they will use it yet but as stated above, exposure is never going to hurt. You can take your baby’s hands and give hand over hand cues to sign for “more” or “dog” or “song”
  • Again, you can use this for lots of language exposure – be very verbal during play and describe the body parts, colors, verbs etc.

12-18 months

Receptive Language

  • Appropriate play: does your baby press the buttons to activate the toy? Will he/she try to dance or sing along (even if just bouncing or babbling)
  • Simple one step directions: If she is familiar with body parts already you can ask her to “push the hand”. You can also try “give the dog a hug/kiss”. Put the dog up but in reach and ask her to go  get it. Put some shoes within reach and ask her to give the doggie the shoes.
  • While baby plays say “stop” and “wait” and see if baby responds (not necessarily listens, but at least responds)
  • Begin identification of body parts.

Expressive Language

  • Encourage imitation: You can try to imitate the body parts, colors, or the word more, song, play, hug…the possibilities are (almost) endless.
  • Encourage independent word use – point to the eye and ask “what is this?”. You may not get much at this age but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask.

Social Skills

  • Have the dog wave at your child/say hi and see if she waves or says hi back.
  • Talk to her about the body parts or colors. Pretend the dog is having a conversation with him. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if he 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

  • Body part identification: ask him to push the foot. The cool thing is the toy will interact when a button is pressed so it is somewhat of a built in reward. If your child chooses the wrong one, simple say “that’s an eye” and then show him the foot.
  • If you have some play clothes get the dog dressed and ask your child to point to the shirt or shoes.
  • Simple verbs: Turn on a song and ask your child to dance with it. You can set up a tea party and ask her to feed it, give it a drink, put it to sleep, clap, sing 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). You can use clothes for this too – “give doggie the socks”.
  • Introduce colors.

Expressive Language

  • Put two words together. You can pair things like “ dog on “(turn the dog on), “song please”, “green hand”
  • Encourage independent word use: see above.
  • Begin practicing verb use (and 2 word combinations). See above.
  • Label body parts.
  • Encourage him to sing along to the songs or rhymes.

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. Press a button and then say “your turn!”
  • Talk to her about the dog. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. It doesn’t have to be sentences. Even if you say “doggie says woof” and he looks at you and responds “woof doggie”, 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.
  • Color identification.
  • Pronouns me, my, you, your. Touch the doggies nose and say “doggies nose” – where is YOUR/MY nose?
  • Begin spatial concepts such as in/out/on/off. Ask him to put the doggie ON/OFF the bed or IN/OUT of the box. If you have some play clothes you can throw them into the mix and ask him to “put doggies shirt on” or “take doggies socks off”.
  • You can use some simple adjectives such as soft, loud (using the volume control), squishy, hard, etc.

Expressive Language

  • Encourage further expansion of sentences from 1-2 words to 2-3 or more words. Some examples include “turn doggie on”, “want song please”. You can use these when requesting as well: “mommy dog please” “more song please” “want dog in” etc. Or try to throw some colors in: “want blue ear”.
  • Yes/no questions. Ask “is this a foot?”
  • Continue with verb use – “clap hands” “press button” etc.
  • Encourage verb use. Make the dog clap/dance/sing and ask “what is she doing”

Social Skills

  • While your baby is playing, throw some balls out and exclaim “uh oh!” 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 body parts/colors/dog. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. It doesn’t have to be sentences. You could try some simple “wh” questions as well such as “what does a doggie say?”

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. You can also engage a preschooler by asking him to help his sibling by asking questions (where is the eye?)

You can purchase this toy on Amazon. Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Love to Play Puppy (this is about the best price I’ve found).*

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.

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

Talk to Me Baby: The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza

Talk to me Baby: Puppy and Friends Learning Table

Talk to Me Baby: Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Activity Puzzle.

Talk to Me Baby: The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Ball Pit

*This post does contain an affiliate link. Typically though, Amazon has the best prices and I do a lot of shopping on there anyway. If you buy one through my link I’ll earn a few cents. Nothing big.