You love playing with toys with your child but sometimes you wonder if you have time (and energy) to really play! You may feel under pressure to get all those house hold chores done, get that shopping done, cook dinner, pick up the other children, “teach those sight words” – plus everything else that needs to be done! Making time to play is really important for SO many reasons and here are some ideas to make it not only fun but the ideas will also help you really see the benefits of the time you can get to play!

No matter what your age (children through to adults)– you learn and retain more information if you enjoy the learning experience.

At SpeechNet Speech Pathology & Learning Centre we are strong believers that children need to and can learn through play and interaction with others – rather than only trying to find specific “learning times” or just using electronic Apps and programmes to “teach”.

In this blog series Dr McMahon, Speech Pathologist, PhD will present TOP TOYS for boosting speech, language and learning skills. She will use her FOCUS© on learning framework:

F: FOCUS                             –Let’s FOCUS on one specific toy

O: OBSERVE                        – what does your child spontaneously do & say with this toy –what does

that tell us?

C: COMMUNICATION    – What social communication activities can you do with the toy to boost social confidence, to help with making & keeping friends & strengthen

conversational skills.

U: UNDERSTANDING      – Understanding comes before talking and underpins all learning

S: SPEECH                            – Speech sounds, boosting first words and spoken words, building sentence length & complex expression of ideas

As a BONUS in the Top Toy DOWNLOADS Dr McMahon will also provide a range of Blank Level of Questions – these are specific questions you can ask with each toy for children presenting at different ages and stages – From Level 1 questions that children in the 18 month – 2 year age range can typically “answer”; though to questions you can ask 6+ year old children.  Asking questions at a child’s level is SUCH a good way to encourage all communication skills!

PLUS ideas to encourage IQ skills are provided in the Top Toy DOWNLOADs. Ways to adapt the toy play so to boost memory, numbers, concepts & problem solving skills are also provided– all these ideas are embedded in play to maximise enjoyment & learning skills that can be used in all developmental areas for year to come.

IN ADDITION there are ideas on how you can teach reading & spelling skills while playing with a toy!!! Dr McMahon will provide in the TOP TOY DOWNLOADS specific games you can incorporate to encourage phonological awareness skills while playing. Phonological awareness skills have been shown to be THE skills needed for ease of reading and spelling development. Phonological awareness skills emerge during the pre-school years and are used throughout schooling as children learn to read and spell unfamiliar words. You don’t have to just do flash cards to t help your child to meet their literacy potential.

See our SpeechNet Store for these TOP TOY PDF DOWNLOADS and look at our SpeechNet Blog for recommendations of specific toys and books that have Dr McMahon’s has developed. The Downloads you be printed or saved. Links to toys and books are provided for purchasing if you don’t already have the items for your convenience.

SO Let’s FOCUS on the Phlat Ball!phlat ball

The Phlat ball has to be one of Dr McMahon’s all-time favourite toys for encouraging speech, language and learning. Her 3 top reasons that the Phlat ball is a Top Toy are:

  1. It is great for all ages – The excitement of it popping is loved by late talkers to adults!
  2. The toy itself can act as the learning cue (e.g., “say pop”; “count how long it takes to pop, understand the mechanism behind suction!), or
  3. The toy can just be a fun reinforcement (e.g., Place sight word cards on top – read the ones you can catch).

What is a Phlat ball? Is it a disc or is it ball? Throw a disc but catch a ball! The Phlat Ball transforms from a flat disc to a ball that can be placed on the ground to wait for it to pop; or play catch back and forth with the disc and no-one will know whose turn it will turn into a ball!!  The random time delay adds to the fun and excitement of the game play.

Key Ideas for Late Talkers: Early first words can easily be encouraged with this toy that adds the element of surprise. See the TOP TOY DOWNLOAD provides specific vocabulary that Dr McMahon uses with this toy for in her Speech Therapy sessions. Early speech sounds like /p/ can be encouraged and imitated with words like “pop”  or “up”.  Young children often find it difficult to wait and attend long enough to listen and take in new words. As the children tend to be keen to stay and watch for the ball to “pop” you can repeat “pop..pop…POP” while you are waiting – Your speech model is then closely linked to what they are seeing and waiting for, so they are more likely to remember and even try to say the word as your words are matching their “FOCUS”. The Phlat Ball DOWNLOAD has specific sections for children under 30 months or late talkers.

Key Ideas for Early Talkers and Older Children: You can count to see how long the ball takes to pop each time. For the older children you can write the numbers down and compare each trail – Does it pop at around the same count number or does it change a lot? You can try to see how many words you can say that rhyme with “pop” or “go” before the ball pops (e.g., hop, top, mop, stop).

See the Phlat Ball DOWNLOAD for heaps more ideas to boost memory, concepts and other literacy skills. There are Blank Level of Questions for the different age groups which are based on key developmental learning stages.

The Phlat Ball is a fun toy that is great to boost speech, language & learning

The Phlat Ball is a fun toy that is great to boost speech, language & learning

Sandra McMahon