Great toys encourage creative play, building skills in many areas—but let’s talk language. Certain features in a toy promote language learning and pretend play. What toys stimulate a story in a child’s mind, start him weaving a tale, engaging in dialogue and solving problems?
One of my favorite play sets to illustrate the features that set apart an exceptional toy for language learning is Playmobil’s new Wildlife Care Station.
When choosing toys to generate language, look for:
- Plenty of people, animals or characters to animate and start the conversation going. Between two and three years of age, children will take on the voice of a character, engaging in conversation with the safari leader or even a rhino. With an assortment of animals, including a family of cheetahs, and rangers, children have a gang to communicate with and build their conversational skills.
- Moving parts—doors that open and close, revealing compartments for hiding, capturing or keeping safe. The Care Station has windows, a door, crate, fence, Murphy bed and even a laptop computer that open and close, providing movement to vary a child’s play and story. Pull the bed down and the ranger’s office becomes a bedroom, or push it up to the wall, and he’s back in business in his office stocked with the computer, desk, and moveable shelves to hold supplies.
- Flexible props for changing the storyline with each play date. Fences connect to build a large pen for injured animals or become a small holding station for the babies. A lantern can be hung on the station to light up the night or carried in the ranger’s hand for evening watch. Rub the bruised zebra’s leg and the redness disappears or apply a cast or re-usable Band-Aid for a speedy recovery. Now he is ready to be released to the wild.
- Props in different categories to encourage expanding the story. A flashlight, binoculars, camera, maps and walkie-talkies support ranger duties, while casts, bandages, scissors, bottles and medicine assist the medical theme. Containers for food, water and bathing advance the commentary about animal care.
Step up the language learning as you become more discerning in choosing toys to encourage your little storytellers.