top of page

Holiday Toddler Gift Guide 2023 from a Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

It's that time of year again! With the holidays quickly approaching it's time to start your Christmas shopping. I'm sharing some of my favorite toys that your child is sure to love!

Choosing Toys For Your Child Matters!

Did you know that the toys you choose for your child plays a significant role in their language development? Children learn through play which is why choosing quality toys is so important! As a pediatric speech-language pathologist, I look for toys that encourage communication, expand pretend play skills, and facilitate functional vocabulary. When possible, I avoid toys that are battery operated, focus heavily on pre-academic skills (letters, colors, numbers, etc.), and have limited play functions. This is because these toys often do all of the work and lead to more passive play. This list includes toys best for young children ages 1-3 years old.


Here are some of my favorite toys for 2023!

Melissa & Doug Cleaning Set - Children love to imitate what they see their parents doing! With this set your child can help along side you as you both participate in everyday activities! Model action words like "mop," "sweep," "dust" and teach your child important daily living skills!

Melissa & Doug Cake Set - Use this set to help reenact a birthday party! Help your child to put the pieces of cake together and put the candles on the cake. Sing Happy Birthday, make a wish, blow out the candles, cut the cake, and serve up the pieces! This is a great toy for working on sequencing in play. Invite your child's favorite characters, stuffed animals, or baby dolls to job the birthday party!

Melissa & Dough Slice and Bake Wooden Christmas Cookie Food Play Set - This is a great set for the holidays! Just like with the cake play set, your child can learn the sequence of baking cookies. This play set provides multiple opportunities to practice functional vocabulary words like "on" and "off." I also have my eye on this Melissa & Doug Cupcake Set!

Melissa & Doug Animal Rescue Shape-Sorting Truck - This is not JUST a Shape-Sorter! I love this one because it also encourages pretend play! Put the animals "in" the truck, model the different animal sounds, and pair fun actions with the animals too! This toy pairs well with the book "Dear Zoo!" Check out Melissa & Doug Shape-Sorting Barn!

Melissa & Doug 20 Wooden Animal Magnets - These animal magnets are great for working on imitating animal sounds, labeling animals, and sorting animals into categories! These magnets will be sure to be a favorite as your child grows and gains new language skills!

Learning Resources Pretend Play Food - This pretend play food set is great for endless imaginative play with foods that are familiar to toddlers! Build food vocabulary, model mealtime routines, and narrate as you cook up a yummy meal. Talk with your child about different kinds of foods using describing words and about foods you like or don't like! Add in dish sets and other cooking tools to model actions for preparing foods.

Baby Dolls - Baby dolls are a must have for young children! Play sets like this encourage your child to act out familiar care taking routines and provide so many opportunities for language learning! Work on imitating familiar actions such as feeding a baby a bottle, putting a hat on baby's head, combing baby's hair, changing baby, etc. This is also great for children who are preparing to be a big brother or sister!

Battat Classic Barn Playset - Barns and farm animals are one of my go-to toys for speech therapy sessions and at home during play with my daughter! I love farm animals because the sounds we associate with them are often easiest for our young toddlers to imitate! "Moo," "Bah," "Oink," "Neigh" are all simple first words with the earliest developing consonant sounds. Barns are also great for practicing functional

vocabulary words and following simple directions, such as "Feed the cow," "Put the pig in the barn," "Push the tractor," etc. I recommend also purchasing the "add on" toys for more ways to play!

Learning Resources Doctor Set - I love this doctor set for imaginative play and helping kids get familiar with real life doctor visits! Show your child how to use each tool and encourage them to imitate the action on you or a favorite stuffed animal or baby doll. This set pairs great with one of my favorite books, "All Better!"

Melissa & Doug Wooden Block Set - Simple, wooden blocks like these are a classic toy and are perfect for your young child's growing imagination! Model functional words like "up" and create simple verbal routines like, "up, up, up...BOOM!" as your block tower falls to the ground. You can add animals or favorite character to the play and build a castle, house, or barn!

Things That Go - Cars, trucks, and trains are all great toys for promoting language skills! I almost always use the verbal routine, "Ready, Set....GO!" when playing with these types of toys. Things that go provide multiple opportunities to model different vehicle sounds, encourage back and forth play, and build vocabulary. Melissa & Doug and Green Toys are my favorites for all "things that go"! Build your own ramps and roads using blocks or try adding in a play mat to increase the possibilities for pretend play!

Fisher-Price Little People Play House - I love Fisher-Price Little People Play Houses for my toddlers! As a general rule, I typically don't recommend toys that require batteries, but this play house is the exception! Although, most of the time I don't even put the batteries in and kids love it just the same! Play houses provide opportunities to act out familiar routines such as, going potty, eating a meal, going to sleep, getting ready in the morning or at night, etc. and are SO GOOD for working on meaningful action words like "eat," "sleep," "jump," "swim," "clean," "cook," "walk," "run," etc.


That's A Wrap!

I hope you find this Gift Guide helpful this holiday season!

When shopping for your toddler remember to ask yourself these questions, Does this toy allow my child to use their imagination? Is the toy doing all of the talking? What vocabulary can my child learn from this toy? Good luck!


bottom of page