Originally released between 1950 to 1970, a selection of Fisher Price Classics are back to bring more joy to the children of today. I remember playing with Fisher Price toys as a child and it’s a brand I instinctively trusted when I had my first baby, Mr Z, as it was so familiar to me. Bringing back the classic toys is a great idea. I love to see my kids playing with things I enjoyed as a child and I’m sure many parents feel the same.
The Chatter Telephone is something that the boys have played with before at toddler groups and we are quite familiar with. It’s such a classic toy that I’m sure most children would have come across them at some stage. This toy is great to help them develop their imaginative play. One of the first types of simple role play my children achieved was always pretending to talk on the phone! It’s something that be used in the most basic way by a 12 month old baby and then grow with them throughout toddlerhood.
It offers lots of opportunities to practise speech and language, and social skills as the children learn how to mimic a phone conversation with speaking and with leaving gaps for the other person to respond.
The Fisher Price Classics Chatter Telephone also has wheels which immediately appealed to Mr R and Mr T – they love anything on wheels! The Telephone has a pull string at the front so as well as talking on the phone, children can pull it behind them and take it for a little walk! They have had the phone out in our back garden walking it around the paving, and the eyes blink up and down as it walks just like the original chatter telephone.
It also gives opportunities to talk about colours and numbers as these are featured on the telephone dial, so for a preschool age child you could develop the play by giving them colour or number patterns to dial.
The Milk Truck is a toy which wasn’t familiar to us. I was born in the 80s so perhaps I missed out on this one during my childhood, but when I saw this as part of the Fisher Price Classics range I knew straight away this would be a real hit with Mr T and Mr R. It’s such a cool toy!
The Fisher Price Classics Milk Truck is a large plastic wagon with six different coloured milk bottles inside, contained in their own carrier. It’s a pretty simple concept but offers potential for
Imaginative play with pretending to drink and hand out the milk to others
Sorting and matching the milk bottles to the colours inside the truck
Gross motor play as this also has a pull string to walk with the truck
Small world play with the milk truck vehicle
Learning about numbers as these are labelled inside the truck
Children back in the 50s-70s may have had less toys than nowadays but these classic toys really were great toys and so much benefit can be taken from just the one toy! It’s no wonder they have stood the test of time so well.
It really grabbed Mr R’s attention straight away and held his attention for a long time. He has been loving to play with this with me or on his own. He likes to give out the milk, pretend to drink them, line them all up and then put them back in for the milk truck driver to go and deliver. Mr R does have delays in his speech and understanding so when I find a toy that works so well in keeping his joint attention with me that makes me really happy, because that interest gives me a great opportunity to work on language with him. For some reason taking things in and out of vehicles is so motivating to my kids! Mr T’s speech therapist often uses something similar with him when he is working on his speech sounds. These type of toys are so versatile in the ways that you can use them.
The Fisher Price Classics toys are pretty solidly made, just like the original Fisher Price toys would have been so I can see them lasting really well. The milk bottles are nice and chunky for Mr R to hold.
Here you can see the inside of the Milk Truck with colours and numbers, so there’s lots of potential there for making up different matching games to help support colour and number recognition.
Some other toys in the Fisher Price Classics range include:
Mr R is in his first speech therapy group at the moment. Having been through this programme already with Mr T, I know from experience that the activities given really do help over time – despite not seeming at first glance to be anything to do with speech! So I thought I would blog each homework activity in case the ideas can be useful for anyone else to try with their little ones.
Our first weeks activity was a blowing bubbles activity. You take a tray (as you can see, I just used a wide flat-ish bowl, it’s quite flexible) and add some bubble liquid or washing up liquid. I added a bit of water to the washing up liquid in mine, but it is more than 50% washing up liquid which is why it’s red due to my Pomegranate flavour Fairy Liquid. I quite liked the coloured effect to keep it more interesting
Using a straw, blow down to create bubbles in the liquid. Even though it’s something quite simple, it did grab Mr R’s attention and the aim is to help develop that shared attention. Once your child is engaged and interested in watching the activity, you then have that chance to start introducing some key words – for eg: Bubble, Pop, Wow.. or anything else which is suitable. The key is to keep your language simple and not overload with overly complex sentences!
After a little while Mr R wanted to put his train in there so that was the end of the focussed activity really as he then goes off on his own agenda but he concentrated well upto then! You can let your little one blow down the straw too to have a turn, but Mr R did try this and end up sucking instead – so it depends whether or not they can manage it.
When I first started slt with Mr T I have to admit I did wonder how much impact will these kind of activities have on speech – but it all helps with attention, listening and shared attention building the basics which you can build on, without that they can’t learn to speak!
I have two children with difficulties or delays in their speech and language, so I know from experience how worrying it can be especially with waiting lists so long to be seen by speech and language therapists. You just want to get started so you can help your child, but sometimes end up waiting weeks or months! If you are in a similar position, here are some tips for helping your child’s speech and language, and some recommended resources which may prove useful while you are waiting.
I have been given a couple of speech and languages resources to try out and review recently so I thought I would make a little guide of some of the resources or help that is out there, also including others that I have been using for a while with my little ones and hopefully it will prove useful for anyone who is not sure where to look for help!
Many of the resources will be helpful for typically developing children too, who don’t have any difficulties with their speech and language but you just want to encourage them and help them along. At the end of the post I share some general strategies which can help.
This is a site with videos from Speech and Language therapist Fiona Barry. There are a mixture of premium and free videos and you can also download the free app. The free videos are shorter and give a general overview and the premium ones are longer and more in depth, with specific ideas to help encourage language at home with your child. I watched the talented talk video aimed at age 3-5 years and although I would say it is targeted more at typically developing children, many the techniques suggested are similar to those used by my sons speech and language therapists and you would just adjust them to the level of your child. Some of the ideas you may be doing already with your child, without realising that these things are already helping to develop his speech and language, and some of the ideas may be something new you could try. An example of one of the suggested short activities includes:
Listening activities – When reading a book, give your child a special word to listen out for, and ring a bell or clap their hands when they hear it. This helps to develop their attention and listening skills.
Small Talk by Nicola Lathey
This is a new book by Speech and Language therapist Nicola Lathey, which I was sent by Mum Panel to try out. The book starts right at the beginning and covers ways of supporting your child’s speech and language develop from birth, and even in the womb! This is a great book to support and encourage parents to make it easy to give your child the best start.
As with the video packages above, I would say it is more focused towards typically developing children and is a more general book to support speech and language development, rather than being something targeted towards any specific difficulties but it is a very good book and it really does cover an awful lot. I found the case studies quite interesting and there are lots of little small talk game ideas which you can use.
These are DVD and flashcard resources devised by Speech and Language therapists. They also have some useful tips on their website which may be worth a look. I have had these for quite a while now. They were recommended to me by some mums on Mumsnet – which btw is a fantastic resource if you do have any concerns about your child, the behaviour and development, parenting or special needs sections of the forum are a wealth of information and support.
You can watch some clips of the Sookie and Finn dvds on the website to see whether it will be suitable for your child. I found them pretty good. If you want something for your child to watch which would be more beneficial than regular TV, then Sookie and Finn could fill that role. When I first watched these, I could tell without a doubt the whole way through that yes it is developed by Speech and Language therapists, but family and friends who have seen them couldn’t really notice anything. “Isn’t it just like normal toddler’s TV?” one asked me – That is because the differences are quite subtle! Which means that your child won’t notice that you are making them watch speech therapy DVDs and they will just consider it something to enjoy.
We have the “Our Day” DVD and flash cards and just looking at the site now I’ve noticed there are also a couple of DVDs about going to school. We also have the flashcards which can be used for a variety of activities to help speech or understanding (my 3 year old really likes the flashcards!). It’s really nice that the flashcards and DVD go together so you can connect what your child has seen, with the activities you follow up with with the flashcards.
Sookie and Finn Our Day DVD is available on Amazon UK / US
You can also buy the matching flashcard sets on Amazon UK / US
I would recommend picture flashcards as a really helpful resource in general, as well as picture books – NOT to quiz or drill the child with the flashcards if they are not ready, willing or able, but just to use with simple games to help support their language.
Picture and Vocabulary books
Any of the books which have lots of pictures and words have been really useful for my children and make a nice change from story books. With a not so developed attention span, I have found these better for my younger two on some occasions as the child can go at their own pace and does not have to sit still and listen for so long, but is still able to listen and attend at their own level and pick up some language.
These can be bought from most book shops but some I would recommend are:
In general, Dorling Kindersley and Priddy Books are some of the best for these kind of books as they have loads but I even have one which I got from the 99p store which was published specially for them and my children have used it loads!
Story books do obviously have their place too and simple books with repetition or rhyme can be great for those who are still developing their first language skills, like the That’s not my…. series from Usbourne eg That’s Not My Dinosaur (Touchy-Feely Board Books)
I actually don’t have these books! But I have heard them recommended so much that I think it would be wrong to leave them out, if you want a more in depth book these have been really highly recommended. “It takes two to talk” for language delays and “More than words” specifically focusing on Autism.
Simple board games can be really good to help develop children’s attention, listening and turn taking skills which are all the basic skills they need to help language progress, and Orchard Toys have loads to choose from. Simple matching games or puzzles can also be used.
There are also charities around like I Can where you can go for some more help or advice if you are worried about your child’s communication
If you want to go down the private route, there are sites where you can find details and contact info of speech therapists in your area and what they specialise in – eg Help With Talking. Often there are waiting lists with the best therapists even with private, but most will be willing to discuss your child with you over the phone to see what kind of help they would need and whether that is something they could offer. As a lot of NHS therapy is group based in some areas, you might consider private for one to one. Not all therapists would suit every child and don’t feel that just because they are a qualified speech therapist that you can never disagree with their approach to your child. If you are not happy, then maybe it is not the right therapist. I did have to change therapists as one I originally got from Help With Talking did not work out for us, although I would recommend the website in general!
Personal recommendations from other Mums are often priceless though and the best indication you could go on. As one of my sons has a specific disorder (Verbal Dyspraxia) rather than a general language delay, I got a recommendation from another mum who’s child has the same condition. That way we got someone who is really brilliant for him! Forums and Facebook groups can be a great way to find out this kind of information.
I find signing so useful for my 3 year old, he uses Signalong but Makaton is another very similar language and these really can help to support language development. It eases the frustration by giving the child a method of communicating while words are still developing. For visual learners, signing seems to help them to remember and get the words out. My son joined two signs together long before he joined two words together. I would recommend going on a course if you can, then you can buy extra resources like books of signing vocabulary, and pick up extra signs even from the internet or Mr Tumble. The course gave me the confidence and foundation to get a great start in it, so that we could go further with it and that made a massive difference. Ask at your local children’s centre in case there is anything available, otherwise the courses can be quite expensive
One of the main strategies Nicola Lathey is recommending is “Say what you see” – which could be otherwise described as commenting, rather than just asking a lot of questions. This is also explained in the Talented Talk video from TalkingTipsForKids.
When talking to children it is not only quantity that counts but also quality. A lot of the time people without realising talk to babies or toddlers asking a lot of questions like “ooh whats that? what are you doing?” as well as quizzing them “what colour is that?” “how many dogs?” etc – But what speech and language therapists would recommend is that instead of doing this, it is better to focus more on commenting and describing – basically you just say what you see! This is such a simple concept, but it really does help and the great thing is that it can be done easily throughout the day while your child is playing. It takes no extra time or effort as you are playing and talking with them anyway but by using this technique, your child would get more out of it.
I use this myself, and at first if you are not used to talking like this it can seem a bit unnatural or forced, then you get used to it and it would be second nature. So rather than asking a young toddler “what are you doing with the car?” you can comment to them “You’re playing with the car. The car is in the garage!”
For me I find this so much more beneficial for my younger two children who are actually not very verbal at the moment (as one has quite severely delayed language due to a combination of Autism, Speech disorder and mild hearing loss, and the other is still quite young and not yet developed so much language) – If I think logically, why would I be asking them questions that I know they are not able to answer, whereas if I comment then they will be absorbing all of this information.
Obviously no one will say never ask questions to your child! There is a a rule of thumb which I have seen suggested: One question for every 4 comments – Like the digits on your hand, one thumb and 4 fingers which makes it easy to remember just as a rough guideline
Another technique which I have found had a really good impact for my children is simplifying the language, and this works really well alongside the commenting strategy. You always hear the advice “Talk to your child. The more you talk, the more they will learn.” This is true BUT if you talk non stop in complex sentences with advanced vocabulary and difficult sentence structure, for many children this can be really difficult and they may not take any of it in.
Because my 3 year old has Autism, we went on a local Earlybird course and this was one of the communication strategies mentioned. It’s really helpful for children with delayed language and understanding, or very young children who don’t have advanced understanding because of their age.
You can use one word sentences to reinforce what the child is seeing or doing, and then expand on this with two words or very simple sentences. For example if the child is playing with a car just simply commenting “car”, and if they hold it up to show you, you could say “big car” or “red car” rather than a long complex sentence about look at the car, how fast its going wow its so shiny and red and has 4 wheels and etc etc etc. With some children less is more then it allows them to consolidate what they have learned and heard.
Sometimes you get mums complaining about simplified language or babyish language, saying “why do people speak like this it will teach the children to speak wrongly” and that kind of thing, for example I’m sure we all have heard people moaning about the way the characters speak on Waybuloo or Tellytubbies. This is wrong and I wouldn’t agree with them at all. Simplified language does not make children grow up speaking like that forever, it simply gives them the chance to start understanding language more easily when they are at a basic level, and once that understanding is there then they have the foundations to move on.
There is so much more that can be said but hopefully some of the resources there will be useful. I would also like to say, I am not a fan of the “don’t worry they all learn eventually” attitude which leads parents to believe they should not seek help or assessment about speech and language concerns. Sometimes it’s true and a child will just suddenly have a language explosion and off they go! BUT not always. Well meaning people may try to reassure parents by saying “so and so never spoke til they were 5”, “boys are always slow at talking” or comments along these lines. If you have a genuine concern, it is always so much better to have your child seen! Speech therapy waiting lists can be very long and this is something to keep in mind when taking the “leave it and see” route.
For more ideas, and specific activities to try, follow our Speech & Language Pinterest board
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