Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019

Parents, Professionals, and Community Members, you did not disappoint!  Thank you for participating in our very first "Collaborative Blog Post!"  The following is a compilation of toys/activities that were submitted as "favorite gifts" based on personal experiences and anecdotes.  This is by no means an exhaustive list (!)...just a starting point for those looking for holiday gifts that potentially also target different developmental/therapeutic skills (see the chart below as a reference/key).  None of the people who submitted the following recommendations had a financial disclosure/affiliation with the products...they just want to share their suggestions!

To make shopping even easier, we have included pictures and links to Amazon.  As a disclaimer, we may receive some small compensation if an item is clicked/purchased through this post; however, it will not impact the total price.  We encourage you to participate in future collaborative blog posts to help create an easy and practical forum for sharing ideas with our community!  We wish you all a very happy holiday season!

"I bought this table and storage drawers five or six years ago. It has been in our family room and we use it as our coffee table of sorts. The kids do everything on it from building legos, trains, coloring, games, blocks, Magnatiles,  puzzles, etc.  We eat on it, they dance on it.  It is super sturdy and easy to clean up. No stains. We have the one without the holes. The drawers below and large enough to fit everything in but small enough that toys are easy to find.  The kids are able to clean up and they can also be self-sufficient and get toys out by themselves." Lyn Aleshire, Parent(JA, FM, GM, SE, PP, BC)

"We bought this for our daughter’s 3rd birthday.  She loves dressing up and pretend play. We loved that it didn’t have real makeup (no messes, no unsafe ingredients), any characters on it, and didn’t require batteries. It has surpassed our expectations and has been her toy of choice for the past 4 months which is a true test of a toy! We pretend play and are able to practice a variety of speech goals all while having fun. I’ve recommended this to other moms and one already had it and said it was a total winner for her daughter as well. Added bonus our elementary aged son also likes playing with it and mom gets a little “pampering” as well!" Lauren, Parent (C, FM, SE, PP)

"Insta snow is always a hit!  Just add water to the dry powder and watch as snow magically appears!  Make your own sensory bin at home by throwing in a few small polar animals for pretend play." Maria Papanastassiou, Librarian (PP, SP)

"This is a 6-foot parachute so it is small enough to be used inside.  You can play a lot of the typical parachute games, use it as a tent to play under, give and follow directions, go up/down, fast/slow, etc.  There are a lot of language concepts that you can target while being fun and engaging and also giving some sensory input. I also use this with my clients with CVI (Cortical Visual Impairment) and/or physical impairments.  The parachute fits over wheelchairs nicely and for clients with CVI, I let them choose what color they want to land on them/see." Heidi Rabe, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, C, FM, GM, SE, BC) https://www.facebook.com/Authenticexpressionllc

"This colorful little drum has a great sound and is impossible to refuse!  So many skills can be addressed through music making!  The Remo brand is worth the extra money.  Copycats don’t hold up well or sound as good." Loren Goodman, Music Therapist (JA, CE, C, GM, SE, VS, BC) www.ProspectMusicTherapy.net

"Puppets are essential in my speech and language therapy sessions.  Puppets with mouths that open and close provide added opportunity to feed.  Children can work on joint attention, vocalizations, sounds, following directions (feed the dog the apple), expressive language including words, phrases, sentences, Pretend play as well as social/emotional language.  Puppets make learning communication so much fun." Casey Beedon, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, CE, SE, PP, BC)

"I use this toy all the time to target multiple concepts.  My clients love to watch the pig's belly get bigger and bigger. They love to feed him and tell him to eat.  It's been fun for all ages!" Katie Gurklis, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, CE, C, FM, BC) www.cslclinic.com

"The benefits of reading are increased when you add music to a story.  Singing the words allows the brain to process the language in multiple ways, increasing opportunities for learning.  And, it’s fun!  Barefoot Books’ Singalong Books have plenty of repetition that makes learning the songs easy.  They also have beautiful pictures and come with a CD of the music and printed music.  My clients always enjoy them, and so do I!" Loren Goodman, Music Therapist (JA, C, FM, BC) www.ProspectMusicTherapy.net

"This is one of my favorite toys to use in therapy.  Kids are intrigued as to what is behind each door, and yet, they aren't quite able to play with this independently.  When assistance is needed, opportunities for communication arise (i.e. requesting which door to open, asking for help with the keys, sharing excitement when the door opens, labeling the different animals/items hiding in the doors--you could put anything inside!).  It also encourages color matching, fine motor skills, and pretend play.  For once, the door is opened, there are many different ideas for play expansion with the veterinarian tools/supplies." Beth Deiter, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, CE, C, FM, PP, BC) www.bethdeiterslp.com

"The book has colorful and engaging graphics.  The rhyming of text adds a layer of literacy exposure. It can be used to talk about feelings and when we feel different ways.  I use this with a variety of aged kids and kids with a variety of developmental levels." Heidi Rabe, Speech-Language Pathologist  (JA, C, SE) https://www.facebook.com/Authenticexpressionllc

"All of my kids play with this kitchen - much older than I ever would have anticipated to much younger than I would have anticipated. It creates so many great conversations and different ways to play.  I like this particular one because there is some built-in storage for food and kitchen accessories, but it also isn't so huge that it takes up half of a room; it also isn't super expensive, in comparison to how costly play kitchens can be." Sara, Parent (CE, C, FM, SE, PP, VS)

"So many cool things to do with this toy and it’s great to work on those fine motor skills! Activity ideas: https://theinspiredtreehouse.com/cool-toys-for-kids-squigz/" Wendy Craven, Outreach and Development Coordinator (CE, C, FM, BC, PP) www.CABSautism.com

"I like that the pieces have 2 different colors, are large enough for kids with fine motor challenges to hold, and easy to spin for my clients with physical disabilities.  I use it as a turn taking activity and to reinforce size, color and fast/slow concepts.  For my clients who use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication), I often target the color words, "go, stop, fast, mine, you, turn/spin, up, down" (the pole can be upright or held horizontally).  I use this with kids up to 6-7." Heidi Rabe, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, CE, C, FM, VS, BC) https://www.facebook.com/Authenticexpressionllc

"Toddlers love this toy.  It can help promote early skills that come BEFORE words such as joint attention, turn taking, cause/effect, early exclamatory words such as wow and whee. It’s also very motivating for kids who are already talking and working of imitation of words, phrases, and sentences." Casey Beedon, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, CE, C, BC, SE)

"When my son received speech, we borrowed this book from our therapist a couple times. He loved lifting the flaps and talking about each page." Alexis Rabe, Parent (CE, C)

"I play this with my older clients where we each pick cards to answer instead of following the set rules.  For my clients who use AAC, they find the answers to the questions or content related to the question in their devices and then ask someone else for their answer.  It promotes social interactions and learning where vocabulary is located in a more fun way.  I also use some of the cards with kids as young as 6-7 where we say our answers instead of writing them and I carefully choose the possible topic options." Heidi Rabe, Speech-Language Pathologist (C, SE) https://www.facebook.com/Authenticexpressionllc

"This set is so fun for all of my young clients.  We can practice requesting, asking/answering questions, vocabulary, fine motor skills, pretend play, and following directions.  It is a frequently requested activity!" Maureen Podvrsan, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, C, FM, PP, BC) www.cslclinic.com

"Young children of all ages love playing with this set. It has similar items to a doctor playset, with the added bonus of two stuffed animals.  My clients love pretending to be veterinarians and I love all the speech, language, vocabulary, and empathy that they demonstrate while having fun!  This type of play has also been instrumental in helping my own daughter face medical situations by familiarizing her with some of the instruments and procedures." Jen Malone-Priest, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, C, FM, PP) www.cslclinic.com

"Kids of all ages love playing with magnet tiles.  With the addition of colorful illustrations on the tiles depicting the alphabet, numbers, and more, this special set of magnetic tiles offers play that can work on multiple developmental skills with one product." Maria Papanastassiou, Librarian (C, FM, VS, BC)

"I really love this series of Shine-a-Light books and so do all of my clients!  There are many titles to choose from depending on your child's interests.  You can find them on Amazon or through a local Usborne Books consultant. What makes them special and interactive are the hidden images that are revealed when you shine a light behind each page.  There are many opportunities for practicing speech sounds, vocabulary, predicting/guessing, describing, and asking/answering questions, which are all skills that we target every day.  These books make reading time extra engaging!" Karen Gonzalez, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, CE, C, FM, BC) www.cslclinic.com

"Model magic is a great alternative to play dough for kids with wheat allergies.  A mix between modeling clay and play dough, Model Magic is fun to manipulate and doesn't leave a mess." Maria Papanastassiou, Librarian (FM, SP, PP)

"For older kids, this game is one of the best.  I play it either as a question-asking deductive-reasoning game or as a way to practice providing descriptions.  I especially like to combine this game with the Expanding Expression Tool (EET) to encourage longer utterances, more specific vocabulary, and different concepts related to describing.  The social rules of not blurting out the answer can also be challenging for some.  The best is how silly we all look wearing different items on our heads...truly a great game!" Beth Deiter, Speech-Language Pathologist (JA, C, SE) www.bethdeiterslp.com