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10 Toddler Toys To Promote Speech Development (Mostly Under $20)

The holidays are right around the corner! If you are anything like me, you have all intents and purposes of getting all the Christmas presents bought and wrapped by the Friday after Thanksgiving, but end up doing it all online the week before Christmas. I feel ya girl. 

This year, I have two goals, well really THREE goals in mind in regards to Christmas:
1) Budget appropriately to allow for Christmas NOT breaking the bank.
2) Getting Christmas put up and presents wrapped the weekend after Thanksgiving while avoiding and not supporting Black Friday (which I find to be one of the most annoying celebrated holidays in American culture).
3) Not buy my kids and niece annoying, pointless toys that serve no real purpose after the initial excitement than to collect dust in the closet.

While it is true that every parent's dream is a zoo membership or 10 visits to Gymboree as a gift for their children, kids like to open presents. I don't need to tell you that, for one can only assume you were a little cherub at one point, counting Christmas presents under the tree and shaking them to guess what they were.

Additionally, every year around the holidays, I get questions from my parents, who I do speech therapy with their kids, asking about what gifts they can get to continue with their children's speech and overall development.

I decided to put together an online list of my top favorite toys for toddlers that also support speech and play development. As a part of my step-by-step mini-series of how to play with these toys to maximize speech concepts, you will see that some of the suggestions listed below will also go with a corresponding blog post. This blog post does contain some affiliate links that if clicked on and a purchase is made, I will receive a small commission for advertising. Be confident that I would not be suggesting these toys unless they were absolutely awesome and worth every penny! 

1. Playskool Mr. Potato Head Super Spud - this one has almost 50 pieces to increase vocabulary and different sizes of potatoes as well. Great for teaching body parts, colors, articles of clothing, as well as working on those fine motor skills to get the items in the designated holes. A classic favorite.
2. Melissa and Doug Deluxe Latches Board - this is probably one of my favorite go-to therapy materials. Such a plethora of things to do with this "door puzzle" as I refer to it, including learning how to ask for help, colors, counting, animal names, animal sounds, and fine motor skills. This is also a toy that encourages individual play if you need to fold laundry, start on dinner, or bust open a bottle of wine, I mean....
3. Ikea Duktig Children's 9 Piece Fruit Basket Set and 14 Piece Vegetable Set - I learned about the wonderment of felt food from my sister, Lauren. Reasons why felt food is awesome: less of a choking hazard, easy to throw into the washing machine, and kids can "eat it" more realistically. Pretend play is an amazing way to build imagination and vocabulary. Even when not paired with a play kitchen, play food can serve as an awesome opportunity to take turns, build vocabulary, learn some action words, share, etc. Felt food makes the world go 'round. I love this set by Ikea. My daughter has it, worth every penny.
4. ALEX Toys - Early Learning, String & Beep, 1486B - Are you about to lose it over puzzles? Me too. Sometimes you just want to switch it up a little bit, ya know? I love wooden string toys. You can also get a fun farm animal one, but I love this String & Beep by ALEX toys. You can work on vehicle names, vehicle sounds, colors, "ready, set, go!", stop/go, and fine motor with the act of stringing items on. From experience, kids love to string and then drag them all over the floor. Boys and girls equally love this toy.
5. Fisher-Price Little People Zoo Talkers Animal Sounds Zoo - This one is a little bit more pricey, but I love this toy. And, full disclosure, I got mine for $10 used, missing 1/2 the animals for it, and without batteries, at a garage sale and all of my therapy kids STILL love it. They get super excited when they see me lugging this bad boy into their house. What's great about it: the slide. Oh my gosh, the slide. Everything goes down the slide over and over again. From a speech concept point-of-view, you can work on prepositions/location words, animal vocabulary, animal sounds, where? questions (this is a big one for 3-4 year olds), and following directions.
6. Circo Baby with Crib - I love the Circo brand babies from Target because there are a lot of little add ons you can get for them. The one that I have that I love is the Circo Baby with Crib that comes with a crib, pillow and a change of pajamas. I also went to the dollar store and got pretend bottles and a brush. I use a little towel as a "blanket." Again with the pretend play, what an awesome way for children to learn! The play babies are a great way to teach function of objects ("what do we use to brush our hair?"), names of clothing, actions (put the baby to sleep, baby wants to drink, etc.) and labeling body parts. You can also describe emotional states: "Uh oh! Baby is tired! Put the baby to bed! Night night!" or "Uh oh! Baby is HUNGRY. Can you give baby something to eat? Yum yum yum."
7. Fisher-Price Snap Lock Bead Shapes - Chances are, you might have these left over from when your toddler was a bit younger. If so, bust those bad boys back out, because this is the gift that keeps on giving. With an older child past infancy, you can work on a ton of stuff, including but not limited to: making things (necklace, hat, trains, steering wheel), making a big circle for them to sit in (this is the only way I get one kid to sit down for therapy ever, at least for right now), working on colors, and patterns (this is for the older kid). I love these little beads! I always scoff at the age recommendations that say "6 months and up" - what 6 month old do you know that has the fine motor to pop these things together? None!
8. KidKraft Cook Together Kitchen - WARNING: Big spender alert! Give this suggestion to a grandparent or something (I kid, not really). This one is close to $200, but there are a ton of different brands and models for every budget. So don't let the price tag scare you. I also regularly see these go up for sale on online garage sales, etc. as well. I am giving my review for this particular kitchen because it is the one that my sister got for my daughter for her first birthday. I am pretty sure I am currently more excited about this kitchen than she is, but Y'ALL, it is so fun. It has a little refrigerator, a dish washer, a place to do laundry.... there is a microwave and a stove top! This is great for pretend play of course, and I truly do think that this is a toy that grows with the child. My daughter totally plays with hers right now (at 15 months even though she doesn't know what she is doing), and I have seen children 5-6 years of age continuing to "play house" with them. Also not just for the little ladies, those little dudes can get in the kitchen and get to work too!
9. Step2 Naturally Playful Sand & Water Center - This water/sand table is the perfect sensory table. You can, as the name suggests, fill it up with water or sand (or beans, or rice, or whatever) to provide hours of sensory fun for your little tyke. Ours spent the summer in the backyard filled up with water, plastic cups and Little People. When I am fairly certain the beans won't end up in her mouth, I plan on using this as an indoor toy over the winter to provide sensory hide n seek with plastic figurines (zoo animals, cars, whatever). I also like this particular one because you can stick an umbrella through the middle to keep their little cherub bodies from getting sunburnt during their summer play.
10. LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set - This is one of the only toys I will recommend that will not only maybe cause you to lose your sanity, but also pretty "electronic." However, I love this fridge phonic alphabet set. If your little guy or gal follows you everywhere, you can give him/her another option besides going through all of the cabinets while you try to get dinner put together or put dishes away. It does go over the alphabet song (a million times) and it also goes over what "sound" each letter makes. The song can get a little obnoxious, but so can your kid pilfering through the poisonous cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink, so choose your battles. I also like that this can be taken off the fridge and played with "hand-held" style.

So there you have my top 10 toddler toys to help promote speech and overall development. There is much more where this came from, but seeing that it isn't even Halloween yet, I have plenty of time to get more suggestions to you! Be on the lookout for step-by-step how to on incorporating speech concepts into play with these items, like I did here  with my all-time favorite children's book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Slide and Find (World of Eric Carle (Priddy Books)).

Thanks for reading, guys! What is your favorite toddler toy?? Comment and share below!


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