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best toys for speech delays and development

Best Toys for Speech Delays and Development

The Best Toys for Speech Delays

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I have seen so many children with speech delays and language delays. In my effort to educate parents, I provide them with the information on how to help their students with their speech development. The reality is: your child’s speech and language delay will not fix itself. The longer you wait, the bigger the developmental gap between your child and their peers become.

How does this help speech development?

I am so excited to share my learning materials I have been using to help my little students. As a trained Speech Therapist, I am able to identify speech and language problems in my Montessori toddler students. I absolutely love the Montessori approach and am able to integrate that with my Speech Therapy training. The Montessori approach similarly follow the individualized-child approach. This means that each child is observed at their own developmental level and work materials are planned specifically for areas that need further improvement in that specific child. In a typical Montessori toddler classroom, the shelves are organized into different categories: mathematics, practical life, sensorial and language (geography and science are more appropriate categories for older students). This being said, my favorite integration is where Speech Pathology meets Montessori on all these shelves.

The students in my classroom have progressed from having a speech and/or language delay to improvement in these areas. These learning materials work wonders to get the non-verbal and observant child to engage.

What is a Speech Delay?

  • A speech delay (or expressive language delay) is when your child has not reached specific speaking milestones at a given age. These delayed milestones mean that some students can be “late talkers” and would need to be assessed by a Speech Language Pathologist to determine the extent or severity of the delay.
  • In short: The speech delay refers to when the child does not talk, or talk as much, or as clearly as they should.
  • Can a speech delay fix itself?  Clinically: No.
  • I have heard quite a few clients mention that a Speech Therapist told them to wait to get therapy, because the child is so young and “might grow out of it”. This is not true. First off, standardized tests are made available for infants thru the geriatric population. Any disorder or delay cannot fix itself, or it would never have appeared in the first place. My personal favorite Assessment tool and book, is by Rosetti (2001) called Communication Intervention: Birth to Three. This assesses Interaction-Attachment, Pragmatics, Gestures, Play, Language Comprehension and Language Expression. The assessment forms are usually filled out by the parents and the therapist. If you are in need of Spanish forms, this complete kit contains them in Spanish as well!

rossetti infant toddler communication itneraction

Why does a speech delay occur?

  • A speech delay can be due to one or more of the following reasons:
  • A hearing loss (either congenital- born with it- or degenerative hearing loss e.g. through recurrent middle ear infections)
  • Inadequate language stimulation (e.g. if a child has the TV as their nanny, they get no valuable communication-interaction skills or stimulation. They will talk or interact with you as much as you interact with them.)
  • Physical limitations (e.g. a cleft and lip palate or a tongue tie)
  • Oral-motor delay (Mouth and/or tongue muscles are not functioning properly or have a physical limitation e.g. a tongue tie)
  • Underdeveloped cognitive abilities (Could be linked to other developmental delays as a characteristic of syndromes. This used to break my heart whenever I read a child’s hospital file. Many children were affected through Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or medication causing mental problems when they were exposed to AIDS.)
  • Global Developmental Delay means that a child is significantly delayed in cognitive and physical development due to chromosomal (in their DNA) abnormalities.
  • Lack of communication opportunities (e.g. a fast-paced and loud households have limited time for communication.)
  • Slow development (These are the late bloomers and late talkers! It is proven that boys are usually slower at speech development than girls)

Best Toys to Overcome Speech Delays


If I count the 50-odd preschoolers and 48 toddlers that I have been working with, this is an absolute MUST for every child. This is suitable for any age child (and adult of course!). The reviews are amazing on this product. This is the most durable set that you could probably use for your child and keep for your grandkids as well.

What exactly does this product help with?

It helps to develop speech, language (vocabulary growth), pragmatics ( the social skills of language e.g. eye contact, interaction, turn-taking), play skills, auditory skills (listening skills), sequencing, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, independence, and in addition, gives them the confidence to want to communicate. Tell me you can resist “Hmm…Yummy!” when a child offers you a bite of their ‘pizza’! You can find some really cute and durable wooden pretend play food, wooden cutting food and utensils to go with this kitchen. This really sparks vocabulary growth and development, and provides you with the perfect opportunity to interact with your child on a play-based level, while modeling the correct pronunciation of the word.

Yes, Master Chef!

pretend play kitchen for speech development


There are probably thousands of learning materials that have been developed so far. I can vouch for these cards, as my students LOVE to match them. This activity will help to develop speech skills, as you can name the cards together. Always model the correct word to your child. Never say: “No that’s not right, say it like this.” Simply repeat the correct pronunciation a few times. This activity will also develop your child’s semantic association skills (what goes together, e.g. a burger and fries).

In many ways, this is something that is definitely worth the buy. The set comes with 50 matching flash cards. I simply use 5 sets at time and swop them out once the child has mastered matching them. The pictures are all real-life, so it is not the usual abstract 2D colored drawings- another reason why I love using them! The cards are made from a hard and laminated cardboard, but I laminated mine just in case (a lot of disinfecting is necessary in our class!).


This is also a favorite in my classroom! The TOOBs come in plastic tube-like sets. This makes it so easy to organize and stack in a container. Each set has about 11 miniature figures. There are SO many themes with these TOOBs! Some of the themes I have purchased and use in the class include: Wildlife, Nature, Farm Life, Arctic, Community Helpers, Jungle, PetsRoad Transportation, Sky Transportation, Water Transportation, Space, Under the Sea, Coral Reef, Desert, Insects, and Tools.

The first time I bought my TOOB dinkies, I bought roughly about $200’s worth of TOOBS (15 tubes in total), because they are super cheap! The children absolutely LOVE these and I use them year-round! In addition, they are made from a really hard BPA-free plastic and hand-painted which makes them very durable and looks real-life. I can’t teach speech and language skills without using my TOOBs!

These miniature figures can be used in many educational ways:
  • Matching the dinky to a picture of the dinky (this is great for their language development!)
  • Matching dinkies to the shadow of that dinky (I did this with my Tools TOOB dinkies)
  • Sorting the dinkies to places (e.g. habitat, air/water/land; sky/road/water)
  • Creating practical life activities (e.g. washing the dog)
  • Sensorial activities (e.g. Adding dinkies to a tub filled with water and other objects; or filling a tub with beans/corn/peas/coffee beans/pasta; or making footprints in playdough).
  • Crafts (I used some of the animals to make paint-footprints on paper and made little cards for their parents).


Finally, what is teaching speech and language skills without a few good books?! I have added the favorites from our classroom (that they usually tug over…).

The Gingerbread Man

  • The Gingerbread Man and adding a twist to the traditional storytelling- these Wooden Figures are SUPER cute! Run, run, run and get yours today! They LOVE this. This book can also be used as a language activity and sequencing the cards. This is wonderful for speech and language development and can be used for a variety of ages! Story retelling (when you read the story to your child and they have to tell you the story) and story telling (using specific vocabulary from the story) is a crucial skill to develop for later literacy and academic success.
Wooden Figures for the Gingerbread Man Storybook
Wooden Figures for the Gingerbread Man Storybook

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar is always a classic and the kind of story that my students want to hear OVER and OVER! I definitely recommend the board book (it is very sturdy and lasts forever when you have tearing fingers at home). This book has wonderful and appropriate vocabulary teaching and you can incorporate counting the food items the caterpillar eats as well. There is a set with felt board figures, which is wonderful to use when your child is a toddler or preschooler. Children like objects more than they like looking at pictures. To grab their attention with this book and help their speech develop, you can get this Hungry Caterpillar Felt Board Figures here.

The Hungry Frog

  • And lastly, a book that is on the shelf for months on end in the classroom, is The Hungry Frog. What I love about this book, is that at the back there are two holes you slide your fingers through to move the squiggly eyes through every page of the book. They also love this book because of the sound effects you can make while reading it. An absolute winner for all children!

the hungry frog speech development

Common Questions/FAQ About Speech Problems

Delayed Speech or Language Development?

  • A speech delay means the child has a hard time pronouncing the words correctly, talking at all, or is not able to say the sound in the word appropriately. A language delay means a child might be able to say the sound correctly, but cannot put two words together or identify what the object is (e.g. can’t point to a picture of a car, or can’t identify that it is a “Red truck”). Having a speech delay, does not necessary mean your child has a language delay as well, vice versa. But, in some cases, it is possible for children to have both a speech and language delay.

    Treating speech delays:

    • Starts with a specific assessment and thereafter therapy is provided. These are some of the tools that moms can use to help their child on placing their tongue in the correct place.
    • Use Oral-Motor Exercises, to help strengthen and exercise those muscles in the mouth and tongue, needed for speech and chewing.
    • Play therapy is a great way to elicit speech. Similarly, speech therapists use the same elicitation method when providing early childhood intervention (ECI) therapy (ECI includes therapy for under 3-year-old that have a speech and or language delay).
    • Use pronunciation techniques (called articulation therapy) if there is no secondary problems present, like a hearing loss or weak muscles in the tongue/mouth.
    •  Correct tongue ties (the frenulum below the tongue is too short to extend and lift the tongue for certain sounds like a “t”), can with surgery and followed by Speech Therapy.

Is it autism or a speech delay?

  • I have seen many children that are labeled incorrectly. It is important to remember that not all children are the same. I have some students in my class that are non-verbal, some that are shy, some that are just more observant than what they are verbal. And that’s okay. That is who they are: it is part of their personality.
  • If autism is the cause of the speech delay, there are always other symptoms that accompany this. When none of these or similar symptoms is present, then autism is not the cause of the speech delay.
  • Other symptoms besides a speech delay, include:
    • impairments in social interaction and communication
    • avoidance of eye contact
    • lack of sympathy towards others  for example when he/she hurt a friend and shows no remorse
    • cannot read emotions
    • cannot understand turn-taking
    • easily overwhelmed or overstimulated by something like a loud sound, touch or objects

How do I encourage speech development?

  • The Speech Development Chart will give you a good idea of what sounds your child should be able to say already, according to their age.
  • Putting a child in front of electronics (TV, tablet or cellphone) will not fix the problem. In some cases, e-Therapy works wonders for specific children. The BEST TOYS listed above is your golden standard to encourage your child to develop their speech.
  • Talk more!
  • Read, read, read! Tell stories. Let your child ask questions. Ask your child questions from the book.
  • Ask open-ended questions starting with: “Why…”, “Who…”, “What…”, “When” and “Where”. If I ask a child: “Do you like…ice cream?”, they will respond with yes/no. BUT, if I ask: “What kind of flavor ice cream do you like?” Their response will be a lot different.
  • Let them try to communicate. Do not give that to which your child is pointing. Let them try and say the word. If they are non-verbal, I love to use signs or pictures to communicate with them. Some children start talking more in this way as well (sign language stimulates the same area in the brain as speech stimulates). If they are hanging helplessly on the fridge door’s handle, don’t open it for them! Ask them if they want “more” with your hands showing the sign.

How to help a Speech Delayed Child

  • Music. Music works wonders for stimulating a child’s speech and language development. I have seen so many children develop and progress, because of the impact music time has on their development. Sing songs together! Many songs have gestures that makes it super fun for your child to sign along.
  • Elaborate on your child’s expression (what they said in response). If your child says “car”, you can elaborate on that: “yes, a red car!”, or “I love cars”. If your child doesn’t pronounce the sound/ word correctly, that’s okay. Don’t correct them explicitly, rather repeat what they said with the correct pronunciation.
  • Talk slowly and do not finish your child’s sentences for him/her.

Strategies you can use at home

  • Open-ended questions are incredible at helping to develop a speech-delayed child. In addition, choosing specific toys that allow the child to make requests (e.g. “more”, “please”, “give”) will be helpful. Therefore, their response will be more than just “yes/no” to your questions, hence providing you with the opportunity to elaborate on their responses. The above mentioned TOYS are really wonderful to use with every type of child. The KITCHEN is my personal favorite!
  • Likewise, follow the child’s lead, as that will show you what they are most interested in. Doing what you want to do, will only help you. Help them by doing and participating in what your child wants to do! Each child has sensitive periods of development. Use your child’s interests as a learning opportunity to teach colors, counting, requests like more and please, following instructions and letting them build their focus.

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Speech Delays

Speech delays are not the same as language delays. Having a speech delay, means that your child is a late talker and have difficulty expressing himself/herself. These tips and toys to help encourage speech development works wonders for each and every child I work with.

Please leave a comment and share your success stories. I would love to hear from you!

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