Our babies need interaction with people to learn language. So you are the most valuable gift regarding your baby's speech and language development. During that first year, we want to expose babies to multi-sensory experiences to encourage cognitive and pre-verbal skills as well as form strong bonds during play.
Here are my four favorite toys to support your baby's speech and language development. (Amazon affiliate links included):
Babies love to look at themselves, at their reflection. Use a mirror like the Sassy Floor Mirror to model joint attention which is a crucial pre-verbal skill. Try looking in the mirror, then to your child, and back to the mirror. This is joint-attention--attending back-and-forth to 2 different objects/things. This mirror is also great for tummy time.
2. Nesting Cups
Nesting cups or blocks like the Playgo My First Stacking Cups are great for developing cognitive skills, motor skills, AND speech and language. Hide fun toys, like a small ball or plastic animal, under one of the larger cups and play a "where is it?" game. This will build your child's understanding of object permanence--when something disappears, it is not truly gone forever.
3. Shape Sorter
Your baby does not need to learn their shapes, numbers or letters yet! So use a shape sorter like the Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube to build on fine motor skills and to learn the concept of prepositions or location words (i.e., in, on, under, out, next to). It will be a bonus if your child learns their shapes along the way.
Reading is essential for all children. Did you know that you can help your child build literacy skills early on that will directly correlate with later academic success? I like books with simple sentences, repetition, and that include rhythm and rhyme for our little ones. Use books to help your child identify or point to pictures. Kids need to be able to identify (i.e., receptive language) an item before we can expect to hear them speak (i.e., expressive language) that same word.
If you're looking for more guidance, head to my blog and read more on choosing toys for speech and language development.
Emily Cohen, MA, CCC-SLP
Emily is the founder of the Tandem Speech Therapy, a pediatric speech therapy practice serving Austin, TX. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Indiana University-Bloomington. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Eastern Michigan University. Emily spent three years working in special education classrooms and the last 8+ years working in a variety of pediatric therapy settings with children birth to 18 years. Emily provides play-based and family centered pediatric speech therapy for toddlers and preschoolers, as well as services for school-aged children.