Therapist-Approved Gift Guide for Early Learners

If you have a little one in your family, you are likely wondering what to get them for the holidays or for their birthday. I am a firm believer that not all toys are created equal! Below are toys that are OT, PT, and SLP-approved. 

We use many of these toys each and every day when working with our little ones! All of these toys are sure to elicit language from your child and target early fine and gross motor skills. 



Magna-tiles are the perfect toy for building and creating, and they are great for practicing speech and language skills. Use these tiles to target spatial concepts such as on, top, bottom, next to, etc. Finally, practice giving and receiving directions by instructing your child to move or shift the tiles. 


Playdough is an extremely versatile yet simple toy that helps encourage speech and fine-motor development. Playing with play dough provides wonderful tactile opportunities for children to say a variety of words related to the actions they are performing. Children LOVE pulling, poking, and squishing the colorful play dough in their hands and it allows parents to teach them different motions and words. Activities like this promote growth in communication skills and serve as a great alternative to screen time! *If your little one is still mouthing items, it is not wise to let them have play dough OR SUPERVISE THEM!


Pretend Food

Pretend food is an all-star when it comes to toddler toys. There are so many ways you can use toy food! You can label food items, describe food items (sweet, salty, sour, etc), separate into fruits and veggies, have stuffed animals or baby dolls ‘eat’ the food, practice pretend play, the list can go on and on! I love this set from Learning Resources because it includes many of the food items toddlers eat on a daily basis, like juice, cereal, and mac and cheese!




Puzzles are a go-to to keep little hands busy! I especially love puzzles from Melissa and Doug! They have several options that include various insets. Both of these puzzles have doors and locks that open, perfect to target fine-motor skills. I love that the farm puzzle has magnets that can come out of the puzzle. You can also work on naming the animals in the barn.


Farm Set

My farm set is a toy I reach for consistently for my speech sessions! All of my toddlers love the farm, and don’t even realize all of the speech targets we are working on! You can label the animals and objects on the farm, target following directions (Ex- Put the horse on the hay.), and spatial concepts. I also love working on beginning CV and VC sounds with animal sounds (Ex - Baa, Maa, Moo). 



Fischer Price Piggy Bank & Learning Resources Spike the Porcupine

I love both of these toys to work on fine motor skills, spatial concepts (in, out, on, off), and colors! I use each of these toys weekly. Both these toys are also great for requesting (want, more). 

Baby Doll Set

I love this sweet baby doll set! Baby dolls are perfect to work on pretend play. You can model ‘eat’, ‘drink’, ‘hold’, ‘sleep’, and so many more. Baby dolls are also great to work on recognition of body parts (ex- Show me baby’s eyes)!

Ring Stacking Set

Ring stackers are a classic toy for a reason! Work on the spatial concepts of ‘down’ and ‘up’, as well as recognition of colors and size (small, medium, large, big, bigger, biggest). The large ring stacker is also great for the gross-motor movements of sitting-to-stand. I also love that these rings have ridges on the sides for more tactile input. 


Author: MaKayla Stubblefield, M.S., CF-SLP

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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