When my husband and I began seeing specialists concerning Cooper's developmental delays, we learned that one of the best ways to help him with his development was through play time.

It makes perfect sense that kids learn best when they are playing--as a child growing up on a farm in rural Mississippi, I learned more about animals, farming, and gardening by playing outside than I ever learned from any school book.

When it comes to buying toys to help our children with their special needs, we often put way too much thought into it and make it a harder experience than it needs to be, mainly because we get into our heads that the toys we select must be "special" for their needs.

The truth is, it doesn't always take a specially designed toy to help our children develop skills, it can be something as simple and old school as building blocks or Lego sets that finally teach children with fine motor delays how to work those tiny fingers.

Here's a few tips I've picked up along the way for selecting toys for my son with developmental delays:

Stick with Tradition

Lego sets, building blocks, animal sets (you know, plastic dinosaurs, marine animals, farm animals, whatever suits your child's interest), simple train sets(I prefer the wooden ones, without all the bells and whistles), play dough, doll houses, baby dolls, tool sets, and even play kitchens are some of the simplest and most fun toys ever made yet the amount of learning your child can get from playing with them is endless.

My son struggles with his speech but has a very keen interest in sharks and dinosaurs, including a desire to know the name of each and every species, so his speech therapist and I soon learned to use that interest to help him.

We have books upon books that are all about the different species of dinosaurs and sharks, and together we practice the correct pronunciation of each name.

Since most of the dinosaurs have some pretty big, complicated names, it's really helped Coop come along way in pronouncing "L" and "Y" sounds, his two biggest struggles in his speech delays.

Don't Worry About Being Gender-Friendly
 

As a little girl, I was a tomboy who thought she had to do everything her big cousin, Russ, did.

That included playing with not-so-girly toys likes cars and comic books.

Remember, we want to teach our children with their toys and play time, and a girl can only learn so much from brushing the hair of a baby doll.

Likewise, boys only learn so much from playing with matchbox cars and Lego sets.

Stop Focusing on the Educational Aisle

Toy companies like Toys R Us try hard to encourage parents to buy every single item available on their educational aisles.

Don't buy into the hype, your child can learn her ABC's and 123's, as well as the sounds they make, from everyday items around the house and their favorite toys.

There's no need to buy some toy that sings the ABC song because the toy store clerk said you should.

Instead, use your child's favorite toys and even foods to teach them things like the alphabet and counting (A is for Apple, B is for Baby, C is for Car).

When kids associate something they are taught with their favorite things, the point we're trying to make to them actually sticks in their brain.

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