Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Early Childhood

My Favorites

Enchanted Cupcake Party: This game is always a hit. Following recipes to build small cupcakes, this game works on both receptive and expressive language, as well as imaginative play and storytelling

Spot it Jr: You flip cards to find an animal “match”, there’s a match for every single card! This game can be played multiple ways, and works on visual scanning and naming animals. You can expand on the game by describing the animal or naming animals that belong in the same category.

Tell Tale: This game has kids and adults making up stories with picture cards. The story sequence will change every time. It is a great way to work on imagination, storytelling, vocabulary and describing. Also, retelling the story after it is told, using the pictures as reminders, is a great way to work on retell/early comprehension skills.

Janod Circus: I have recently discovered Janod brand toys and they are wonderful. Nice quality, wooden toys that promote imaginative free play.

Yogibo: This over-sixed bean bag can be so much fun! I love to use it with my kids to run an jump on, climb up an over, army crawl to the other side, get “squished” in, sit toddlers in to sing some songs and to be used by bigger kiddos as a comfy seat!

Open Ended and Pretend Play

Kids Play Sink: Kids LOVE to have running water as they pretend to wash some dishes. To support language, this is a fun activity to talk through the steps of washing dishes, talking about the sequence in which it happens.

Squigz: These little suction cup toys are fun for all ages! The little ones I work with like to simply stick them down, and listen for the “pop!” as they pull them up. My older kids will build all kinds of creations, bringing their imagination to work as we play.

Tot Tube: Currently a favorite in my house with my 18 month old! This is put together as a way to send items down the tunnel tube, with a clear section in the middle to watch as the cars/balls roll by. I also use the clear middle to “hold” and item in the tube, and together say “read, set, go!” or “let it out!” to work on language and engagement during play. I also love that it fits nice a neatly in a box for easy storage.

Play Silks: Play silks are fantastic for open ended and imaginative play. They can be used as costumes, as capes, as blankets for wrapping up a baby, peek-a-boo or hide and seek games, as well as for building forts! The opportunities are endless and span across many ages.

Wooden Balance Board: Another open-ended toy, this balance board promotes the child “doing”, rather than the toy. Kids can climb, rock and slide on the board. It can be used as a car/ball ramp, as a tunnel, and for building on top or underneath it. A great product to watch your child’s imagination bring playtime to life.

Wooden Climber: Often referred to as a Pikler triangle, this climbing structure is a great way to work on hand eye coordination and gross motor skills, especially if your child needs some movement inside the house! In our house, we also use the triangle as a “tunnel” to crawl through, as a “fort” with a blanket thrown over the top and as a slide with a wooden attachment that came with it. I personally enjoy the quality of the Lily & River wooden climber.

Toys and Games

Seek a Boo: This toddler game involves using basic, clearly depicted real images of common items in a simple matching game. I often place the cards around the room, so a child is able to move and collect the picture while we play. Great for following directions and naming basic vocabulary.

Pop-up Pirate: A classic favorite, kids love to put a sword in the barrel and wait for one of them to make the pirate POP out!

Raccoon Rumpus: This is a simple game where players roll dice, and have to choose a “costume” for their raccoon based on the color and clothing item they roll. I expand on language skills by having the child either describe the costume they chose (i.e. colors, shapes, parts) or to tell a story about the character that wears that clothing.

Koala Capers: Similar to raccoon rumpus, this game has a play roll dice, and then choose a “costume” based on the pattern and clothing item they roll. I expand on language skills by having the child either describe the costume they chose, or to tell a story about the character that wears that clothing.


Poke-a-Dot Books: I LOVE these books for reading with toddlers. They include familiar songs and basic concepts and have fun plastic dots that you “pop” on each page. It helps keep their engagement, works on finger isolation/pointing and is easy for an adult to model the simple word “pop…pop…” for toddlers to imitate! Some of my favorite ones can be found here:

Poke-A-Dot Book, Old MacDonald

Poke-A-Dot Book, Ten Little Monkeys

Poke-A-Dot Book, Goodnight Animals

Poke-A-Dot Book, What’s Your Favorite Color?

Poke-A-Dot Book, Ten Little Monkeys

Baby Animals Black and White: Black and White books are perfect for infants, as the high contrast makes it easier for them to focus and attend

Polar Bear Polar Bear: A classic story that is engaging as it provides repetition, simple images and sounds as you have fun reading to your infant or toddler.

Tap the Magic Tree: This interactive book has the listener following simple directions (i.e. tap three times), to find that their action added or took away something from the tree on the next page. It is one of my new favorites!

Herve Tullet books: These books also combine simple, interactive directions with colorful and engaging pictures and story lines. If you haven’t read one of these with your child yet, it is a must!

Press Here

Let’s Play

Mix It Up

Say Zoop

Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type: This is a silly, engaging story about animals on the farm writing letters to their farmer. It is a great way to introduce the topic of writing letters, which can be practiced as an extension activity to the book. Also, continued extension can include pretend play of delivering and collecting mail!

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