Toys to Motivate Interaction and First Words: The Battat Shape Sorter

Battat Toy Company makes a noisy shape sorter that I LOVE. In my opinion, it is just as motivating to toddlers as bubbles and wind-up toys.

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There are only three pegs to drop into three different holes - shaped like a circle, a square, and a triangle.  When you drop the peg into the respective hole, it slides down the tube and makes an unusual sound – and that folks is the special sauce! Many toddlers I work with love dropping the peg into the hole, watching it go down, and hearing the sound!

Here’s how I use it during my speech therapy sessions:

To target joint attention and to encourage (but not force) eye contact or eye gaze:

I place the shape sorter near my face as I drop the peg into the hole. While doing this, I make a very amusing but pleasant looking expression so that my face is warm and inviting. Children who struggle to use their eyes to learn and watch others are missing out on many wonderful opportunities. By making our faces enjoyable to look and gaze at, we encourage children to notice, watch, and observe what we are doing. Humans learn so much by observing and imitating others. To learn more, please read Before First Words: How Does My Toddler Respond to and Interact With Me?

To target sounds:

This is simple - I make funny sounds! I make an “errr” sound as I pretend to push the peg into the wrong hole. I also pretend to imitate the sound coming from the toy as the shape slides down the tube. For some more fun sounds to target, please see Before First Words: Using Fun Sounds to Encourage Toddler Communication.

To target gestures:

I shrug my shoulders, make a confused looking face and pretend I don’t know where the peg goes. Simultaneously say the words or phrases while you gesture or make the sign. This way you are giving the child multiple forms of support - they hear the word(s) and they can potentially imitate the word(s).

To target first words:

Use the techniques self-talk and parallel-talk and specifically say commonly spoken first words while playing with the toy. For instance, in, out, up, down, here, there, put in, dump out, take out, I go, You go, my turn, your turn, please, and even uh-oh, and oops. For more examples, please see my common first words sheet.

Here is a super short video (only 70 seconds long!) demonstrating how I use this toy:

How I Use the Battat Shape Sorter During My Speech Therapy Sessions

If you are a speech language pathologist, how do you use this toy to encourage interaction, joint attention, or early language? I would LOVE to hear from you!

For more toys and play routines please see:

How to Use Play Dough to Get Your Toddler to Talk 

Touch and Explore Sensory Bin – A Sample Play Routine from My Toddler Talks

6 Tips for Selecting Toys to Improve Toddlers’ Cognition, Language, and Play

My books My Toddler Talks and My Toddler’s First Words also contain helpful information to target early language giving step-by-step directions and more fun play routines.

Kimberly Scanlon