Jen’s 2017 Holiday Buying Guide – A Speech Pathologist Perspective

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I usually do a parent education workshop about this time of year on the Power of Play and the types of toys I recommend for children. Unfortunately,  as I get older the years seem to get shorter and I have not had the time to put the presentation together this year. Instead here is my holiday buying guide for 2017, blogger-style!

When searching for holiday gifts this year I caution you on two things:

  • Overbuying one specific theme or type of toy. Many times when children have favorites (e.g., princesses or trains) parents tend to buy more of the same. Instead I encourage you to change it up and introduce new toys with their favorites. This will help expand play and give a variety of options.
  • Buying “learning toys” – if they say “learning toy” (including iPads), have flashing lights, make beeps, boops and buzzes, you may want to minimize these types of gifts. Many times children have much more meaningful play when they themselves make the beeps, boops and buzzes! Creativity at its best! Try a technology diet!

  1. SPIN AGAIN from FAT BRAIN Toys – Ages 1-4, but you will see older kids flocking to this spinning sensation. With the Spin Again spinner we target fine motor, turn taking, colors, language, and come up with challenges to see what little animals or toys will stay on the spinner while they spin. Fat Brain Toys hit it on the head with this dizzy toy!IMG_9326 2
  2. SNEAKY SNACKY SQUIRREL GAME– Ages 2-6, start game play early on! Sneaky Squirrel is a great beginner game, it doesn’t require reading and you can simplify game rules when needed. We use this game frequently and it is at the top of the list of requested games here in our clinic. We target turn taking, waiting, fine motor (pinching with the squirrel and spinning the arrow), colors, attention to task, sharing, sportsmanship and so much more!  Sneaky Squirrel
  3. GOOD OLD FASHIONED BLOCKS– Ages 1 and up, take a step back to simple parents! Blocks are one of my favorites and allow children to create from scratch.  Throw in some animals and cars and you can create until the cows come home. Playing blocks with your child brings the simple back into play and stimulates true creativity. Build away!IMG_9332
  4. ZINGO– Ages 2-6. The ultimate BINGO game for kids! Kids love ZINGO, there is something about the hiding and sliding component! We use ZINGO to work on turn taking, speech sound development, matching, staring, fine motor, asking and answering questions as well as picture identification and naming. Zingo Bingo
  5. SPEEDY SNOW– Ages 2-Adult, Yes SNOW people!  You can pick-up this bucket from Lakeshore Learning for hours of snow making fun. We recently did this activity at one of our Sensory Saturdays and it was a favorite. When making the snow, try adding different color to your water to make vibrant snow and watch as the snow comes to life in front you. Kids cannot get enough! img_9381.jpeg
  6. BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS – Don’t forget to add books to your list this holiday. Usbourne has a great selection or just head over to your local bookstore and browse the children’s section. For younger children choose interactive books with flaps, see through pages, textures and pop buttons. Interactive books helps young children stay engaged.  I’ll blog on may favorite books soon!
  7. Remo Drum – ALL AGES! One of our top requests at the clinic! This drum is very versatile, you can even turn it upside-down and use it as a car! Children love putting objects on top o the drum to watch them bounce. This drum has a beautiful sound and very young children can tap with their hands. When your ears have had enough, put it away and transition to a book!IMG_9345
  8. MAGNATILES – Ages 1 and up, oh the ideas are endless with these magnet wonders. YES they are expensive, but the investment will be worth it! One of my favorite go-to toys for therapy and at home to keep little hands busy and creative. IMG_9333 2
  9. ANIMAL TOOBS- Ages 2 and up.  These little animals are always at my fingertips. The TOOBS are themed with so many animals to choose from! There are many creative ways to incorporate these little creatures into play. Some of my favorites: put them to sleep with a Kleenex as a blanket, throw them in a sensory table, bring them to mealtime as eating buddies, bring to bath time, use them in little houses you’ve built with the Magnatiles, work on naming and animal families. The ideas are endless.  IMG_9338 2
  10. A Sensory Table – Grab yourself a bin from Target or Walmart and follow me @thesensorytable for tons of ideas for fillers.  YOU WILL THANK ME for the independent play you will see from your child…. you may not thank me for the mess, but the benefit of learning and exploration outweighs the time it takes to clean-up. Break out of the “no mess mode” and encourage messy play, it is how children learn. Check out my post on sensory play!sensorytable
  11. BJOREM SPEECH SOUND CUES– (Okay, I may be a little bias) Ages 18 months and up depending on developmental milestones. I created this cue set to help with acquisition of speech and literacy. The set is an evidence-based picture cueing program designed to help young children acquire sounds by giving each sound a meaning that is developmentally appropriate. The set contains 22 consonant cards and 12 vowel cue cards that are intuitive and make sense.

    We have so many fun creative ways to use the cards to help with early speech acquisition, motor planning of speech sounds, speech sound therapy, phonological awareness and early literacy!  The cues can be used with all children learning sounds and sound to letter correspondence.  This cue set is great for travel and on the go. The box is small enough to fit in your purse or bag!


  12. CATCH the FOX Game– Ages 3 and up (small parts). Mention underwear to a young child and you are bound to get a giggle. Take turns filling the Fox’s pants with chickens when suddenly he looses his pants revealing his underwear and chickens rolling everywhere! This game is a great family game night addition especially if you want some laughs! Don’t be too concerned with playing the rules with young children, it is just as much fun turn taking and chasing chickens with no winner. IMG_9335
  13. SQUIGZ- Ages 1 – 6 years , this suction popping creative building toy will keep little hands busy. We love to place them on a window or door or throw them across the room to see if we can get them to stick (well that may be my 15 year old). The fun colors can be used for matching and sorting and Squigz are great for fine motor work! IMG_9329
  14. COGGY by Fat Brain Toys –  Ages 6 and up. This folding, clicking mental challenge of gears is a great puzzle to encourage visual spatial and critical thinking…. AND it doubles as a fidget! Coggy is great for keeping hands busy in the car or on trips. Try substituting the iPad or technology for this brain teaser. If you child is up for a challenge, give this puzzle a try! IMG_9331 2
  15. POP the PIG –  Ages 2-6 (small parts), this button popping pig is another favorite and highly requested at the clinic. This game is excellent for counting, early number recognition, color recognition, turn taking, and sportsmanship. You’ll get some good giggles from this hungry pig! IMG_9336


           Happy SHOPPING!!!

          Jen Bjorem, M.A., CCC-SLP


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