As a speech and language therapist finding fun and engaging games that keep kids interested whilst also supporting their speech and language development is a really important part of my work. I have been using Orchard Toys games in clinics for well over ten years now, to support children in reaching their communication goals. Needless to say I’ve built up quite a collection in that time, but in this post I’m going to discuss some of my favourite games from the Orchard Toys family and highlight some of the ways they can be used to support children’s speech and language skills.
Speech & Language Development
When we think about children’s speech and language development, we can break it down into 3 key parts:
- Receptive Language (understanding)
- Expressive Language (words they use to get their message across)
- Speech (pronunciation of sounds)
Taking a few minutes in the day to sit down 1:1 with your child and play a simple game like one from the Orchard Toys range helps your child to develop a number of skills.
What skills do Orchard Toys Games support?
- Attention, Listening & Concentration Skills
- Problem Solving Skills
- Sequencing & Story Telling Skills
- Vocabulary Skills, including:
- Describing words
- Action words
- Position words (in/on/under/beside/behind/between)
- Pronouns (he/she/him/her/they/them)
- Names of things
- Ability to follow directions
My top picks for Younger children (age 2+)
Orchard Toys games like Post Box Game, Two by Two and Smelly Wellies are great games to introduce table top games to younger children. These simple games are a great way of introducing the idea of turn taking in a game, listening for simple directions, and building up concentration over time as they become more familiar with how the game works. Younger children can sometimes find it hard to focus on games for longer periods of time, and so games that require a child to do something hands on like posting can be a great distraction and keep them motivated and engaged for a little longer. Don’t become disheartened if your child doesn’t want to play the game ‘the right way’. Follow their lead and enjoy chatting about the pictures and talking about what you are doing together with the game.
From a speech and language perspective these conversations about things that spark your child’s interest are equally important for language learning. Over time children will build up their concentration skills and be able to focus for longer and more challenging games. Little and often is key when trying practising new skills or games, and the main goal is for a child to have a fun and enjoyable interaction with you.
My top picks for preschool aged children (age 3+)
As children get a little older I love introducing simple games like Shopping List, Where Do I Live? and Super Hero Lotto. These games are predictable and easy to follow but allow lots of opportunities to introduce new and exciting vocabulary that your child may not get an opportunity to hear in everyday conversations. Whilst playing these games, children get lots of opportunities to hear new vocabulary like food and animals, take turns, learn about rules, social skills and practice their visual scanning skills when searching for and matching pictures. If you find your child loses interest quickly, you can play with less pieces or leave the pictures turned face up to make things a little easier for them. Playing with the pictures turned up so your child can see the pictures also allows them to practice their listening skills and following directions. For example during ‘Where Do I Live’ giving clues like ‘I’m looking for a green animal with a curly tail’ or ‘I’m looking for a big animal with floppy ears’ and seeing if they can find it!
Orchard toys games are bursting with fun and engaging pictures to chat about with children. As well as naming things you see as you play, you can try and include a few action words along the way. For example, when playing Crazy Chefs you could talk about ‘chopping up carrots’ or ‘pouring milk’. Similarly, you can add some describing words too, e.g. ‘juicy strawberries’ or ‘stinky socks’. Tummy Ache is another fun game with lots of opportunities for describing and chatting about the different foods that make up a meal with the odd worm and spider thrown in! Children learn best when they are engaged and having fun, and so Orchard toys games make for fantastic conversation starters. Regardless of how many times you play a game, there is always something new to learn and ways to expand their vocabulary.
Heads and Tails games like Farmyard Heads and Tails and Jungle Heads and Tails are both excellent choices for children who may be leaving off the final sounds in words (final consonant deletion). These games are really great for phonological awareness and supporting kids in listening out for sounds at the beginning and ends of words.