Educational toys for Toddlers 

This is a post that I often like to re-post, especially in reference to the Melissa and Doug products.  Be sure to go to to see more of their great educational toys for toddlers.  I love Melissa and Doug products….I have many of their puzzles and games…..and especially their pizza puzzle…it is a great educational toy for kids.  All of the little ones seem to love cutting the pizza pie…putting the pepperoni and mushrooms on the pizza…..and pretending to serve the pizza to me and family members.  Fair to say that I have not seen a toy made by Melissa and Doug that is NOT an educational toy.  Okay…so read below about a speech therapy session using one of Melissa and Doug’s great products.

I thought I would start posting what a typical  speech therapy session for me looks like….so that you can help your little one at home.  So for today’s post I have focused on improving a child’s understanding of language and use of language.  By this I mean….the session below is an example of what I would be doing with a little one that is having difficulty in her understanding of words and also in her use of words to make her needs known.  I hope that you find this post helpful….and I will continue to add posts that describe a typical therapy session.

Melissa and Doug’s products are definitely a favorite of mine….above is a puzzle that I frequently use during my sessions.



With the puzzle board in front of the child….and all of the pieces removed and not in the child’s sight…..I would hold up two puzzle pieces.  So maybe the pig would be in my right hand and the cow in my left hand.  Showing the little one both pieces…I would say:

“Do you want pig?”(bringing the pig closer to her as I say the word pig)

“Do you want cow?” (bringing the cow closer to her as I say the word cow).

Now a few things may happen….she may not have words just yet to say cow or pig…so she may just look at the cow…indicating that she wants the cow….or she may point to the cow…if she is able to understand….that by pointing (a non-verbal way to communicate) she is able to obtain a what she wants.  So whether she points to the cow…or just looks at the cow….I would then say:

“Cow…want cow.”….and hand her the cow as I am saying the words ”Cow…want cow.”.

I would continue this play activity….showing her two choices…and asking her the same question… the goal is for your little one to eventually understand the words: Do you want cow. Do you want pig?…and the goal really is for her to eventually understand the phrase: Do you want?….the more you tie the visual (puzzle piece of the cow) with your words: Do you want cow?…..the more you are helping her to understand the language that is tied with the visual. 

Parents will often tell me….she knows what a cow is….or she knows what a ball is…..or she knows what a cup is…..BUT…does she understand the language that is attached to the word BALL….when the entire sentence is: Do you want the BALL?….children that present with processing concerns, receptive language concerns or understanding concerns…often have a difficult time in understanding these simple directions.

So what often happens to children when they don’t understand the language?  In my experience…when they do not understand langauge…and you are asking her questions…or placing a verbal demand upon her…or giving her a consequence or expectation such as: You can not have the cookie until you eat your dinner.  First eat your dinner…sit in your chair…and then you can have the cookie.   OH BOY….that was way too much language for a little one that does not understand language.  My experience has been this….at this point your little one…MAY have a melt-down…a tantrum….fall to the floor and start crying and screaming…WHY… is NOT because she is a “bad girl”…and I never like to use language that says “she is a bad girl”…her behavior may not be acceptable…but she is not bad.  In this case though…her behavior is not acceptable…because she is NOT understanding language….poor thing. 

So what do we do???? It is my job to help you help your little one to understand language.  I often use the words: “First and Next“…..and when I say the word FIRST….I put up my index finger…indicating that she has to do something first..whether it is clean up her toy…eat her breakfast…..and after I point my one finger up….I put to what I want her to do…..and say: “clean up”….as I am pointing to the toys I want her to clean up…..and then I say: “Next“……as I point two fingers….and then say…”Next get cookie”….as I point to the desired choice..what she wants….pointing to the cookie.  Eventually your little one will understand FIRST and NEXT…she will begin to understand language…consequences…expectations…..and become less FRUSTRATED….become more compliant….flexible…and adapt to the demands of language.


Okay… let’s go back to our therapy session.  If your little one has the language to point to the cow…and also say cow….GREAT!!!  Let’s use the expansion strategy (found on the teach me to talk page)….to expand her sentence….so when she says COW….this is what I would say:


I want……(now point to the COW…and prompt her to fill in the blank (this is a carrier phrase…find more about this under the word finding page).  She should be able to fill in the blank…and say cow.

Now the goal is for her to eventually say the entire sentence: “I want cow”.  The more you repeat the above activity…using the carrier phrase…the easier it will be for her to make a request using the longer sentence.

Expand this to your daily routine with your child….if she is requesting: “juice”…..and you know this because she pulls you to the refrigerator…and points to the refrigerator……and you know FOR SURE…that she wants juice….take out the juice and an UNDESIRED CHOICE…such as milk….she does not like milk…and would never request it… let’s go back to the above strategy and use it in this scenario:


Hold the milk in one hand the juice in the other….ask her…

“Do you want juice?” (bring the juice closer to her)  Do you want milk?” (bring the milk closer to her)

Now in my experience…child with understanding concerns…often will say the word they last heard….because they KNOW they have to answer a question….they know they have to say something….but what was just said to them may sound like this: dkjdlksjdf  kdjalskjdflksj klkroue milk.  So she has NO idea what you said…but heard milk…so is going to say milk.  Your next step would be to give her the milk in a cup…..she will not want it…..go back again and ask:

Hold the milk in one hand the juice in the other….ask her…

“Do you want juice?” (bring the juice closer to her)  Do you want milk?” (bring the milk closer to her)

Eventually…your little one will understand the language that is attached to the visual….and she will answer the question…whether it is with a word…pointing…or looking at the desired choice.

Remember…if she points to the juice or looks at the juice….give her the juice and say: “Juice…want juice.”


Back to the therapy session:

Finish the play activity with the puzzle….now it is clean up time..let’s work on understanding again:

Show her two puzzle pieces…any two that you have now taken out of the completed puzzle….put the two pieces on the table…the cow and pig….work on the following directions…with her mom next to you to help.

So the set up is this:

Mom next to child…two puzzle pieces on table…Ziploc bag to put the pieces bag in…tell child: “Give pig to mom“…if she does not understand…..tie a visual with your language….point to the pig…then point to mom…and say: “Give pig to mom“.  If she still does not understand use the READY, SET, ACTION!  strategy….under the teach me to understand page…this means…you will help her to pick up the pig and give to mom (hand over hand)….as you say: “Give pig to mom“.  Then give her a verbal direction and say: “Put pig in bag.”  Continue until clean up is finished.  Change your directions…sometimes asking her to give a puzzle piece to mom…sometimes she is to put the piece in the bag.

I hope this post was helpful….I will continue to add “speech at home” posts…so you can learn how to help your little one….please post any questions.

Have fun with your little one or big one!

About Kim

My name is Kim Marino and I have been practicing as a licensed speech and language pathologist since 1993. I work on Long Island providing diagnostic evaluations and services to children from birth to age 21. My experience is vast and am proud to say that I work with children that may present with articulation and phonological concerns, oral motor feeding concerns, Down Syndrome feeding, cognitive rehabilitation, auditory processing delays, receptive language delays, cleft palate feeding and sound development and expressive language delays. Most importantly, I am the mother of four amazing children and am happily married to my childhood sweetheart. I feel blessed to have my four children and so lucky to share this journey in life with my husband. I always had it somewhere in my head that I wanted to develop a blog or a website of some sort so that I could provide families with an additional that parents could help their little ones become a better communicator. And as I was developing this blog....I realized that I also needed to share the stories about my life and my children....and the funny things along the way that help to keep me smiling. Whether you are a working mother or not...finding balance between home, children and life can be a challenge....I hope that my blog helps to bring a smile to your face..and also some tools to help you help your little or big one. I hope you enjoy! Kim
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