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Sunday, November 22, 2015

8 Great Toys and Games for Enhancing Language Skills

The Speech-Language Pathologists are having a linky party! Come read them all and get lots of great ideas for gift giving this season.

Whether your gifts come with Santa or with the lighting of the Menorah, giving kids toys and games that encourage the development of language and learning skills in a fun way is great.  Often, they don’t even know they’re learning.

My own kids always knew there would be a healthy dose of learning games once they got old enough to recognize me for the educator I can’t help being.
And in therapy sessions, the kids I worked with - who hated anything that looked like work or learning tasks - loved when I snuck in games that - sh sh sh - worked on their language skills.

So, if you’re shopping for your own kids this holiday season here are 8 nights’ - or days’ - worth of language fun:
(note - this post does contain affiliate links, but I received no compensation for mentioning these products)

(P.S. - don't forget to check out the other great ideas in this Speech-Language Pathologists' Linky!)

  1. Mystery Garden, by Ravensberger.  I had a whole closet full of Ravensberger games because they’ve always done such a great job of making learning fun.  Mystery Garden is a great one for language skills.  A special object is chosen by one player and, as students move around the board to get to the castle, they ask questions in order to figure out what the item is. It takes some strategizing and good language processing to determine the best question to ask to get the most information. It also takes some memory skills to remember what clues have been given so far. Players are required to make guesses that give them clues - and remember and analyze what they’ve been told in each successive turn - to the mystery item.  The number of turns is limited, so asking questions that provide broad, categorical or descriptive clues becomes more important that asking for small, detailed information.  It’s a great game for developing concise language skills, as well as memory skills.  If you are playing this game with AAC users, it’s a great way to help them find vocabulary within categorical pages, use descriptive concepts, and ask questions.
  2. P is for Popcorn is another Ravensburger game.  This time, players need to name items in specified categories beginning with specified sounds/letters.  Work on vocabulary and phonological skills at the same time.  Again, AAC users who have robust AAC systems should have all the categories they need to play this one.
  3. Scrabble Junior is an easier game than the original Scrabble.  On one side, the game board requires only matching letters; making it a good choice for preschoolers or Kindergarteners.  On the other side, making words begins in a simple way as the children progress in their emergent spelling.
  4. Apples to Apples is a game my daughter still loves as an adult.  Students select the card in their hand they think best matches what is described by the “Judge.”  Some of the comparisons are hilarious!  This is a great game for slightly older kids (although there is a Junior version, too) developing analogy or comparing/contrasting skills.
  5. Cards Against Humanity is definitely for older kids and parents who don’t have delicate sensibilities.  It is listen on Amazon as an adults only game, however I have known many teens who have played it, enjoyed it, and have been ‘forced’ to defend their choices using good argumentative language. I mention it here because it is often difficult to find games for older kids that are not dismissed as “babyish.”  It works much the same way as Apples to Apples, but the responses to the questions can be rude or just plain awful.  The point is, however, that the “judge” must defend his or her choice, using well-honed language skills.
  6. Let’s get back to younger children - please. Toys for the preschool set has always been a breeze.  Play sets abound and all are great for developing language skills.  First, let’s start with a Fisher-Price Garage set.  Great for working on basic concepts who are just getting to these words.  Move the cars up and down, in and out, make them go fast and slow.  There is also the opportunity to focus on action words - verbs - including drive, crash, go, stop, move.  For AAC users learning core vocabulary this is a great way to make learning core words contextualized in a fun play activity.
  7. Got a girl who’s not crazy about playing with cars?  How about a doll house?  Here, too, is the opportunity to develop spatial and descriptive concepts and home vocabulary.  Put people in specified rooms, in specified relation to each other or furniture, performing specified activities or movements.  Talk about what you’re doing, cue them to try to do similar things.  Have fun!
  8. Last but not least - good old fashioned blocks.  Both of my kids (one girl, one boy) loved playing with blocks.  And I used them a lot when working with little ones.  I’ve built everything from apartments to zoos with blocks.  Add some plastic animals or people and you can create anything.  Again, talking about what you’re doing as you move blocks, or give directions (make suggestions) provides good language input.  Asking about what your child is doing provides the opportunity for them to formulate language, too.
So, have fun this holiday season and shop well.  And most of all, Keep on Talking!


  1. I was looking for that doll house when I did my post. My daughter has that exact doll house and LOVES it. Nice list! AI will need to look up some of those games.

    1. I still have a whole box of those games, even tho I don't do therapy any more. I might have to clean out soon.

  2. Thanks for mentioning a few choices for older kids--I never thought to use Cards Against Humanity, but it could be a lot of fun (a well-edited version that is)!

    1. It's really hard to find things for older kids. I hesitated when listing this, but thought it was a good choice - edited!

  3. Replies
    1. You're welcome. I think we're all getting some good ideas!