Toys & Tangibles to Teach Critical Elements

Whether you're working with your child to improve her listening skills during summer break for prepping to teach students in the fall, you need materials to work with.

You need something to capture and keep your child's attention to make learning fun and engaging. There are lots of toys and materials to pull out during play time and simple, open-ended toys that encourage creativity are awesome. When you're teaching a specific skills like critical elements, then you need the opposite of open-ended. You need materials that have deliberate differences so you can be very intentional and clear when giving directions.

If you already know what critical elements are and how to incorporate them into directions, then scroll down to "Toys, Materials, & Tangibles."

What are Critical Elements?

For a quick refresher, critical elements are the details of language. They’re the thing that distinguishes one thing from another.

Critical elements can be noun modifiers, prepositions, or nouns.

For example, if you have out three buttons that all look exactly the same except for their color, then the color would be the critical element. In this scenario, the color is the critical element because it’s what makes one of the items significantly different.

When you're teaching critical elements, your materials are super important. The materials you choose can determine whether it's a one-step direction with one critical element or a really difficult two step direction with seven critical elements.

Curious about the sequence of typical auditory development? Read "Learning to Listen"

Here are examples of one-step directions with the critical elements identified in italics. Tips for the materials available are also included!

One-Step Directions with One Critical Element

  • "Give me the blue toy."
    • Toys of varying colors. There should only be one blue toy.
  • "Touch the purple cat."
    • Multiple cats should be visible. All cats are identical except for the color.
  • "Where's the triangle?"
    • Multiple shapes should be out on your table.

One-Step Directions with Two Critical Elements

  • "Give me the blue square."
    • Materials should include varying shapes in multiple colors. Like with these toys or these!
  • "Give me the small, purple bear."
    • Multiple toy bears of varying sizes and colors.
  • ""Touch the yellow letter A."
  • "Put the yellow bead on the blue string."
    • Different colored strings and varying colors of beads.
  • "Put the blue bear under the box."

Toys, Materials, & Tangibles

Now that we've covered critical elements 101. Here is a list of your new go-to toys, materials, and tangibles!

One-Critical Element Materials

Two-Critical Elements Materials

Bonus: A fun toy for three-critical elements.............Magnatiles!

You've probably noticed that it's easier to find materials with one critical element! The more critical elements you have, the more difficult it can be to find toys.

But......Complex directions with multiple critical elements can easily be tackled with craft activities!

Different colored stickers, different shapes of construction paper, and quilting squares can be your new quick prep tangibles. Fabric descriptions can be really complex with critical elements...Can you find the blue square with white polka dots? Where's the white square with yellow and blue stripes? #somanydetails

Need more info about teaching complex directions? Read this post.

Thanks for reading and the best of luck as you pick out, prep, and teach critical elements!

Directions with critical elements can be intense but with engaging materials these discrete trials can become a fun game!

P.S. This post contains affiliate links 'cause momma's gotta bring home the bacon. At no cost to you, I may receive negligible referral compensation. If I do, thank you!

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