Choosing Toys for Children with Hearing Loss

This time of year, many parents ask me about how to choose the best toys for their child with hearing loss.  Here are a few tips:

  • In general, less is more, and low-tech is better than high-tech for encouraging cognitive development and creative play.  (Read about why the current trend toward apps and technology is harmful to children HERE.)


  • You can never go wrong with books — choose books with strong, durable pages for young children, books with lots of Learning to Listen Sounds (see the list HERE).  For older children, choose books that appeal to their interests


  • Choose toys that can be played many different ways.  For example, a set of pretend food and kitchen tools can be made into a restaurant, a birthday party, a family dinner, a grocery store, or more.  On the other hand, themed toys based on popular characters often limit children to reenacting only scenes they’ve seen on videos or TV.  Character- and/or media-themed toys limit children’s innate creativity.  Learn more about the commercialization of toys and play HERE.


  • Choose toys that encourage development in a variety of domains: speech/language, cognition, fine motor, gross motor, and pretend play.


  • Choose toys that encourage social skills and cooperative play (dollhouses, games, sports), rather than solitary or parallel play (videogames).


  • When possible, limit toxins that damage your child and the environment by choosing natural toys.  See a list of suggestions HERE.


  • While children with cochlear implants and/or hearing aids have noise limiting features built into their devices to limit damage from excessive noise, noisy toys pose significant risks for noise-induced hearing loss for children with typical hearing.  Read the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s statement on noisy toys (with a link to a list of the greatest offenders) HERE.


  • You DO NOT need to buy every toy used in your child’s therapy sessions or classroom.  It breaks my heart when well-intentioned parents spend money that they do not have because they think there’s something “magic” about the toys used in therapy that will help their child learn to listen and talk.  Your time and attention are worth so much more than a toy.  Give your child experiences, not stuff.


Here are my “go-to” toys — the ones I always keep in my office, because they are great for children of almost any age and encourage communication and cognitive skills.  (I do not have financial ties to any of the manufacturers of toys listed below.  Products are listed as examples, not endorsements)

  • Learning to Listen Sound figurines: miniature animals and transportation (Careful — not too small for little mouths!)


  • Lots and lots of books


  • A dress-up box full of old clothes (these do NOT have to be specific “costumes.”  Really, just cleaning out your closet will do.)


  • Ball


  • Play-doh, rolling pins, and cookie cutters


  • Art supplies — tape, glue, scissors, paper, crayons, markers, stickers, stamps, etc.


  • Dollhouse with people and furniture


  • Barn (to use with Learning to Listen Sound animals)


  • A sensory bucket full of sand, rice, or beans for digging, scooping, and hiding Learning to Listen Sound figurines


  • Puppets


  • Blocks


  • Pretend food and kitchen accessories


  • Games — my favorites are dominos (there are many games you can play, and, on a budget, these can do double duty as blocks), Barnyard Bingo (great for Learning to Listen Sounds, matching colors, turn taking), a deck of cards (for Go Fish, Memory, etc.), Apples to Apples (a great language game for older children, the “junior” version is more PG, while the regular version is fun for adults)


  • Magnet toys — there are many on the market, and I love them because they are great for building, as well as scientific exploration.  It’s a great conversation starter when a child puts two positive ends together and realizes they will not stick.  Even very young children learn cause and effect from this, and it’s fascinating to watch their brains try to figure it out.


  • Puzzles

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