Last week we introduced the idea of “put in” and “take out” soundless toys for some of our concrete thinkers. Personally, I am a fan of non-battery toys. And, I strongly believe that all toys should have on and off switches. (Raise your hand if you agree!) But…There is always a but! When I think about behavioral principles in very layman terms; you do something and you get something. That’s why many kids like cause and effect toys. The child pushes a button and the toy makes a sound. These toys are great for our new little learners exploring their worlds and learning that their behavior has an impact. Don’t you just love to clap and cheer when a kiddo learns a new skill or follows through with a request or a command? But, do you have the kiddo that covers his ears? Have the kiddo that breaks down with loud and sudden noises? Or do you have the child that does not find interest in toys? No need for cheering when the reinforcer is embedded within the toy!
I love shopping for toys to utilize in therapy! I don’t go to the store and think “great here is an abc toy lets buy that. It’s educational.” I usually circle one of my favorite stores with a solid hour of time blocked off my schedule. This allows ample time to peruse and ponder items to purchase. Usually I mentally remember several items that I am drawn to. Then, you want to know what happens? I think about each toy and ask myself, “Who is this toy for? Me or the Kids? Nod if you understand this! (Lets face it, there are so many fun and inviting items to purchase these days). How will I use this toy? What will be its purpose? I typically leave with 1-2 preferreds very excited to use them in the next week’s therapy sessions. Parents, before you buy that next toy consider asking yourself these questions. Lets find some toys that we can incorporate more language with! I hope you find your next shopping experience fun! I am also a fan of going to the grocery store and looking for that next new food some of my picky eaters might try. (topic for another blog post which will be fun too!)
Have you ever seen the Parents shape sorter with built in sound? The reinforcer is within the toy! Genius! The child often becomes motivated to find the correct placement for the shape because the toy makes that fun sound. “Waaaa”. You know the sound! I cannot tell you how many kiddos have imitated that sound or imitated me making that sound which comes from the toy. I did a little digging and recently discovered that the team from Parents is now mybtoys. “We used to make toys licensed by Parents Magazine. Now we’re on our own! Same design team and great value.” You can find a similiar version to this shape sorter on their site but I did find a link that lists this specific shape sorter as “out of stock” which sounds promising! I think Parents should bring back their five piece shape sorter but I would really consider using primary colors. (even if that goes against their logo color schema) Just a preference. As I typically say at the store when looking for fun new toys…No One Asked Me! (Here is a link to a similar shape sorter).
I am also a fan of noisy puzzles. You know…Those puzzles that make the sound when you place the puzzle piece correctly. The puzzle that goes off in the garage! The puzzle you look in the review mirror to see if the cop is pulling you over! Once again the reinforcer is embedded within the toy. This is a great activity to work on receptive vocabulary. For example, hold up an airplane and a car and state, “Show me the car”. Dependent upon the learner I may use my favorite prompt discussed in last week’s post. Or if the child has a higher skill set or is quicker to learn I may hide the puzzle pieces on the furniture and under objects. Then I direct the child to “Find the bus” which incorporates movement and input within the session. The same holds true with the shape sorter; hold up two shapes and use a consistent command such as “Show me the chicken” or “Show me the triangle.” If kids are motivated by this or similar toy they will learn to identify the shape/animal/color that is presented. Just remember, for our learners struggling to learn new words, be consistent with your commands, provide pauses, and learn how to use some simple prompts (to be faded). If there is an Occupational or Physical Therapist on your team, use them for ideas. I like to have my kids hop or crawl to items placed around the room. Your Occupational Therapist may be working on crossing midline which can easily be built into speech tasks.
Receptive language is the foundation your child needs to learn to use words meaningfully. I tell parents I don’t use big words that I don’t know the meaning of. If your child does not understand that the word “ball” is associated with the object “ball” then that kiddo is not going to say ball meaningfully to request or to comment. What I hope parents and therapists starting out will think about is: “What does this toy do for my child?” I often start seeing kiddos that are not talking but their only toys are cause and effect, noise-making toys. Look to add other toys that have early language learning opportunities.
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