Phone 814.677.1390 Fax 814.677.1393



Let's Talk Toys

Next Step Therapy - Monday, March 24, 2014




When I was a girl (yeah, I know, back in the olden days), my sister and I shared a bedroom with bunk beds.  Those bunk beds, with the hanging of a few blankets, became a cave, a prison, a hotel, and a hospital recovery room.  We were decidedly lower middle class, which meant that we had everything we needed plus a few extras, but we weren’t surrounded by seven thousand dollars’ worth of toys. 

We had a plastic kitchen with tiny sink, cupboards, and stove “burners.”  We had plastic dishes, pans, utensils and plastic/cardboard food.  We had tinkertoys, and dolls, and stuffed animals.  We had a doctors’ kit, and we had a chest filled with my parents cast off clothes for “dress up.”  We had a few board games, and a Lite Bright. We had a toy phone, and a craft box.

Vicky and I were expected to play in our room for at least some time in the evenings and weekends.  We were often accompanied by my cousin Kim, and the neighbor boys, Chris and Jon.  We had to negotiate the game of the day – all of which were imaginary/pretend play.  We played hospital with our babies and doctor kit.  Sometimes we had twenty patients.  We played house.  We played bakery, with our kitchen and dishes.  Our tinkertoys became “candy” and “cookies.” We sometimes played school, or office. 

The point that I am trying to make is that back in the day, children played games and played with each other in ways that required talking (planning, organizing, picking roles, and dialoguing back and forth during the play).  We also had the ability (necessity) of pretending that one object was another (tinkertoy used at medicine/shot/cookie). 

Research shows very clearly that the ability to “pretend play,” either alone, or with others, is an integral developmental step, which is directly related to language ability (which later turns into reading ability).  Pretend play involves all of the senses, decision making, cause and effect relationships, and a host of other desirable skills – most notably social skills.

Today’s toys, for the most part, are just not the same.  Many have buttons to push and make noise, but have virtually no developmental/educational value whatsoever.  When I made home visits, I was always disturbed to find a child who scored two years delayed behind his peers, surrounded by worthless, noisemaking toys.

When picking toys for your child, first, understand that your child’s biological age may be very different from their developmental age.  There is no point in buying toys marked for 7-10 years,  for a seven year old who tests cognitively at four years old.  Buy the toys that are DEVELOPMENTALLY appropriate for your child.  They have to develop those skills first, before they are ready for the more advanced toys.  If your child is given toys by relatives for Christmas or Birthdays that they aren’t ready for, just put them away for the time being.  You can always pull them out later.

Second, look for toys that require that your child learn a skill.  Whether it is matching, eye/hand coordination, finger manipulation, or talking, make sure that the toy you are looking at will enhance their ability.

This is my list of my all-time favorite toys to take into homes for the birth to three crowd:

  1. Mr. Potato Head (did you know that the original came with only the pieces and not the base?  You put the pieces into a real potato!)  Mr. Potato Head works on body parts, facial expressions, making choices, and manipulating those pieces into the small holes they fit in.  During therapy, I would frequently seal my lips shut and talk through them:  “Oh no, I don’t have a mouth!  Help me!  I can’t talk right!”  There is a wealth of vocabulary to work on here (push/pull, in/out, falling down, needing help), and once Mr. Potato Head has been mastered and no longer looks like a Picasso painting, it turns out that Mr. Potato Head can be joined by the Mrs. and the kids!  Now you can talk about families and the differences between boys/girls, big/small.


  1. Doctors’ kit  - A plastic doctors’ kit complete with stethoscope, thermometer, shot, Band-Aid, and blood pressure cuff allows a child and an adult to go back and forth pretending to be both the patient and the doctor.  It’s a great opportunity for dialoguing (“Hi!  I’m Doctor Tracy.  Where does it hurt?”) and it is also wonderful practice to get a child ready for a real doctors visit. 


  1. Puzzles - I and every other therapist I know, LOVE puzzles.  They come in developmental stages (first individual chunky pieces, then large individual pieces with little pegs, then big pieces that interlock, eventually turning into small pieces that all interlock).  Wooden puzzles are typically designed in categories, (animals, food, transportation) which works on cognitive/organization skills.  They require matching skills, eye/hand coordination, and work on vocabulary.  They are also initially frustrating for most children, so it creates an opportunity to work on “try again,” and “turn it.”  Some of these “puzzles” have “doors” over the pieces that have to be opened….the vocabulary to be worked on is endless!


  1. Wooden fruit/vegetable/pizza/cupcake sets – These typically come with “tools” such as pretend knives/pizza cutter/spatula.  Again, great eye/hand work, and tons of vocabulary.  “What are we going to make?”  “Oh I love Pizza!”  “What toppings will you put on it?”  “Be careful you don’t burn yourself, because that’s hot!”  (All pretend, of course).


  1. Big, chunky figures – dinosaurs, animals – you pick.  My little clients and I could spend a solid 20 minutes having two dinosaurs get to know each other, have an adventure climbing Mount Tracy or Mount Couch, and then pretend to go to McDonalds to order lunch.


As you can see from this list, none of these things is electric or battery operated.  Each one of these things will just sit there, unless the child MAKES it do something.

You should also note that in each description, an ADULT sits on the floor with the child, and helps him explore, talk about and manipulate the toys.  Naturally, you can’t do this all day long, but when the toy is first introduced, showing the child HOW to play with it and giving examples of how to talk with it/about it is a must.

Garage sale season is right around the corner – using these guidelines, see what you can get on the cheap.  Wash with soap and water before giving to your child, and let’s make some pretend magic this spring!  And, as always, make sure that there are no smaller pieces that can choke your children.

Charline commented on 11-Jun-2014 08:55 PM
You have remarked very interesting points ! ps decent internet site .
"Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness." by Confucius.

my web-siteminecraft for free
grow taller 4 idiots commented on 27-Jun-2014 01:12 AM
You should be a part of a contest for one of the highest
quality sites on the net. I'm going to highly recommend this site!
Get girls in Leeds commented on 02-Jul-2014 04:54 AM
Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I've really enjoyed
surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing
to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!
moving to hawaii commented on 14-Jul-2014 09:53 AM
I like it whenever people come together and share views.
Great website, stick with it!
precious metals ira custodian commented on 24-Jul-2014 07:16 PM
What's up every one, here every one is sharing such know-how,
therefore it's good to read this weblog, and I
used to go to see this blog all the time.
Animals commented on 28-Aug-2014 01:46 PM
Its not my first time to pay a quick visit this site,
i am visiting this site dailly and obtain good
data from here daily.
hair clippers with vacuum commented on 22-Oct-2014 08:06 AM
Informati╬Że article, exactly what I needed.
forensic investigator jobs toronto commented on 22-Oct-2014 09:21 AM
I constantly emailed this weblog post page
to all my associates, as if like to read it after that my contacts will too.
rencontre trans sans inscription commented on 29-Oct-2014 01:36 AM
I think this is among the most vital info for me.
And i'm glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few general things,
The web site style is perfect, the articles is really nice : D.
Good job, cheers
discounted littman stethoscopes commented on 01-Nov-2014 09:05 AM
I'm not positive the place you are getting your
info, but great topic. I must spend some time studying much more or understanding more.

Thank you for magnificent information I used to be in search of this info for my mission.
Kim kardashian hollywood cheats commented on 02-Nov-2014 12:09 AM
Can I simply say what a relief to uncover a person that truly
knows what they are talking about over the internet. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and
make it important. More people have to look at
this and understand this side of your story.
I was surprised that you aren't more popular
since you surely possess the gift. commented on 02-Nov-2014 03:22 PM
Hello! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so
I came to check it out. I'm definitely loving the information. I'm book-marking and will
be tweeting this to my followers! Exceptional blog and fantastic style
and design.
Una commented on 02-Nov-2014 06:26 PM
Tremendous things here. I am very satisfied to look
your article. Thank you so much and I'm taking a look ahead to contact you.
Will you kindly drop me a mail?
Debbie commented on 22-Dec-2014 06:52 AM
Many thanks for sharing this amazing web-site.

My web-site: Church Jobs (
visit homepage commented on 29-Dec-2014 09:01 AM
Magnificent web site. Lots of useful info here. I'm sending it to a few friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you for your sweat!
experienced commented on 17-Feb-2015 03:24 AM
You have noted very interesting points ! ps decent internet site . "The appearance of right oft leads us wrong." by Horace.
recommended reading commented on 01-Mar-2015 09:37 AM
I really like your writing style, wonderful information, regards for putting up : D.
Puppies commented on 01-Mar-2015 10:18 PM
Excellent goods from you, man. I've understand
your stuff previous to and you are just extremely magnificent.
I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you're stating and the way in which you say it.
You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it wise.
I cant wait to read much more from you. This is actually a terrific site.
2015 whatsapp spy hack tool free download whatsapp sniffer commented on 08-Mar-2015 12:27 PM
Hi there to all, it's in fact a fastidious
for me to pay a visit this site, it contains precious Information.
Luxury Home Realtors commented on 15-Feb-2016 08:01 AM
Very interesting information on this website. My coworker and I were just talking about this. Thank you

Post a Comment
Captcha Image
Trackback Link
Post has no trackbacks.


We accept most major medical insurance plans including:

  • Highmark
  • UPMC
  • Tricare
  • United Healthcare
  • Health America
  • Medical Assistance Plans: Amerihealth Caritas, UPMC for You, and Coventry Cares
  • Medicare