Written By: Amanda Beckert, SLPA, & Karol Owens, SLP

It’s a wonderful time of the year for gift giving! 

As beautiful as twinkling lights are, family get-togethers are, and pictures of snow-covered mountains are, there is no denying that the holidays can also be a stressful season; there are too many things to do, people to see, things to buy yet not enough time to do it. Add to it the ever-pressing question “what do I get as gifts?” and it’s enough to make even the most seasoned of therapists sigh in frustration. 

Many of the toys on children’s wish lists are also not only fun and engaging but also great to target their therapy goals, but searching for Best Toys of 2022 or Top Toys of the Year will give you a myriad of search results that may not all be the best fit for your child’s specific needs. 

That’s why we have compiled a quick guideline to help you choose not just the Best Toy, but the perfect toy for YOUR child. 

For children with sensory deficits, consider toys with lots of lights, such as play pianos, light up wands, and bouncy balls. Sensory bins featuring kinetic sand or play-doh are also great time-tested options. Want an additional tip? Consider combining some of these options with items you may already own for a brand new experience! For example, adding stickers to play pianos can help add further sensory input that your child may need. 

For children with language delays, research has shown that traditional toys provide the best opportunities for parents and other caregivers to promote language use when compared to high tech toys. Mr. Potato Head, farms with animals, blocks, kitchen sets, doll houses, and books are all great gifts that can help with abilities such as labeling, eliciting early speech language sounds, working spatial concepts and directions, and many more things. Want an additional tip? Consider limiting your child’s access to the toys, this will help practice and encourage skills such as requesting and commenting. 

children playing with play food
Play food and Kitchen Sets work great for Emerging Language learners!

For children with balance or coordination deficits, stepping stones are a great way to practice balance. Play tunnels, Water jet hovering t-ball set, and sports ball sets are also motivating toys that can get your kids moving while also working on gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and social play. Want an additional tip? Get two or more of these toys and make a fun obstacle course! This increases the challenge and the fun for both kids and adults alike. 

Looking for toys based on age rather than a specific therapeutic need?  We can also help with that! 

For infants and toddlers, an option that both therapists and children alike LOVE is collapsible tunnels. These can help with consonant-vowel sounds through simple games such as peek-a-boo and address sensory and movement goals by moving and grooving through them. Other items such as EZPZ Mini Mats and food stamps can also be great gifts that can help make feeding time more fun and help with session carry-over. 

For preschool-aged children, toys that promote pretend, interactive play are great options. Baby dolls, play food, and many of the Melissa & Doug play sets can encourage expressive language and functional play skills. Lite-Brite is a classic, fun game that assists with fine motor skills and all sorts of imaginative play that can assist with expressive language like requesting and commenting. Shark attack, Let’s Go Fishing, Pop-Up Pirate, and Pop the Pig are great for peer play and turn taking. 

For school-age children, board games such as Chutes and Ladders, Headbandz, Guess Who?, Uno, The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, Jenga, and Throw Throw Burrito are great for working on social emotional skills, following directions, symbol recognition and so much more! Mad Libs is also a great option for working on writing and language skills. If your child is one who prefers to play outside instead of inside, consider games like AeroDisk Max for hand-eye coordination and motor planning. 

child playing with game
“Stacktopus” Game played with HeadBandz

Want more ideas? Ask your therapist (or even join in with your therapist one session!) and see what toys and activities they use!

Check out other entries in our blog for more comprehensive lists:

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