Announces Top 10 PAL Award Winners for 2022/Holiday Gift Guide: Top Toys, Games, Books and Media That Spark Fun and Encourage Language

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Respected speech-language expert Erika Cardamone announces her Top 10 PAL (Play Advances Language) product lists by category representing the only industry recognition promoting language development through great play. Parents and educators alike value Erika’s decades of experience and benefit daily from her work with children, consulting practice, media appearances and articles.

Erika Cardamone shares toys and games that entertain and educate on FOX6

Great play is not just about fun, or language development, it’s about going deep in both.

Regular interaction with children guides Play On Words CEO and speech-language pathologist, Erika Cardamone, to unique set of the best toys, games, books and media that have the chemistry to develop language while delivering great play. Today, Play On Words is announcing its annual “Top 10 PAL Picks for 2022/Holiday Gift Guide” by age and product category. Our Top 10's take the guesswork out of giving great holiday gifts. Parents and grandparents use our lists to shop for smart toys with lasting play value.

Winners are assessed and reviewed by Erika with input from parents, kids and educators. Observing kid's play in action, combined with her critical eye for language potential, Erika awards products and writes insightful reviews offering practical tips on how to maximize the educational value in each winner catalogued on

Language catalyzing PAL winning toys and games are powerful additions to a child's tool box, since children learn through play, and language is integral to learning! Our 2022 Top 10's include a number of great winners that inspire imagination and story-telling with engaging props from the jungle with PLAYMOBIL’s “Wiltopia Research Station,” creating a camping adventure with MindWare’s “Canoe Set,” to retelling scenes at Diagon Alley with Harry Potter by Spin Master. Promoting children’s critical thinking is a strong theme throughout this year's winners, often combined with STEM skills as children design and build magnetic marble runs with “Squaregles,” conduct daily experiments with Crayola’s “Tie-Dye Color Chemistry Lab,” and learn about animals through mock dissections from “Dissect-It” by Top Secret Toys. The toy industry continues to value new toys, games and books to promote literacy. Kids listen to stories from their favorite characters with “Toniebox” to encourage narrative development and listening comprehension, learn sound-letter correspondence with LeapFrog’s “AlphaPup,” and build confidence spelling with SimplyFun’s “Chalk-a-Word.”

Erika’s expertise has been tapped by FOX6 News in Milwaukee, PHL17, WSYR, Honest Company Blog, and ASHAsphere (official blog of the American Speech Language Hearing Association).

For Erika, great play is not just about fun, or language development, it’s about going deep in both. Her expertise has been built on science and thousands of hours of client experience. Each set of Top 10’s represents a breadth of themes and genres, but they all have one thing in common - they are trusted lists of fun products that boost learning through play. Here are 2022's Top 10 PAL Picks - See her reviews at


  • 100 Things That Go by LeapFrog
  • Animal Rhymes Music Book by VTech
  • Baby’s First Book of 44 Sounds by SmartNoggin
  • Gymotion Circus Playland by Yookidoo
  • I See Me Lion Mirror by VTech
  • Kick and Score Play Gym by VTech
  • Little Castle Pound and Roll Toy by Bababoo and friends
  • Turn & Learn Ferris Wheel by VTech
  • Ultra Baby Spring Float by Swimways
  • Wilma Whale Stacking Toy by Bababoo and friends


  • EleFountain Water Show by Yookidoo
  • Ironing Time Learning Set by LeapFrog
  • Junior Marble Run by MindWare
  • My Pal Scout Smarty Paws by LeapFrog
  • Oh So Fun! Canoe Set by MindWare
  • Poppy the Count and Stack Flower Pot by Learning Resources
  • Scoot Around Bike by Hape
  • Smart Chart Medical Kit by VTech
  • Wooden AlphaPup by LeapFrog
  • WOWmazing Winter Kit by South Beach Bubbles


  • Ball Blaster Water Cannon by Yookidoo
  • Cocomelon Magna-Tiles Structures Set by CreateOn
  • Design & Drill Bolt Buddies by Educational Insights
  • Mobile Chicken Coop by Schleich
  • Peppa Pig Toniebox Starter Set by Toniebox
  • Scribble Scrubbie Pets, Arctic Igloo and Safari Treehouse by Crayola
  • Super CityScape Transport Bucket by Hape
  • Teach and Talk Cash Register by MindWare
  • Wildlife Ranger Adventure Station by Schleich
  • Wiltopia Research Station with Compass by PLAYMOBIL


  • Explorer Puzzles: Dino, Underwater and Space by Learn with OjO
  • Funny Bunny by Ravensburger
  • Ghost in the Attic by MindWare’s Peaceable Kingdom
  • Glow-in-the-Dark Dig It Up! by MindWare
  • Glow-in-the-Dark Monster Puzzle by The Learning Journey International
  • MathLink Cubes Numberblocks 11-20 Activity Set by hand2mind
  • My First Big Floor Puzzle: Fire Truck, Recycle Truck, Train, and Digger by The Learning Journey International
  • Pattern Party: Cocomelon by Funko Games
  • Puzzle & Play: Construction and Fantasy by MindWare’s Peaceable Kingdom
  • Recycling & Conservation Pattern Block Set by hand2mind


  • Art-chitect by MindWare
  • Build-a-Bubble by South Beach Bubbles
  • Contraption Reactions by MindWare
  • Dissect-It by Top Secret Toys
  • PixoBitz Studio by Spin Master
  • Squaregles Starter Set
  • Techno Tiles by The Learning Journey International
  • Tie-Dye Color Chemistry Lab by Crayola
  • Wizarding World of Magical Minis Diagon Alley Playset by Spin Master
  • ZipLinx Triple Tower Blast by Blip Toys


  • Chalk-a-Word by SimplyFun
  • Geologic by ThinkFun
  • Glow in the Dark Floor Puzzles: by Hape
  • Minecraft Biomes by Ravensburger
  • Happiest Day by Funko Games
  • SavannaScapes by SimplyFun
  • T.A.P.E.S. by Hog Wild Games
  • Trivia: Science, Animal and Geography by MindWare
  • Word Heist by Gamewright
  • VENN by USAopoly

Each holiday season, millions are spent on kids’ toys, games and books. These PAL winners above are not only great fun but also encourage rich language development. Think “tastes like ice cream, fortifies like spinach,” optimizing your toy purchases to build language while maintaining all the fun. Now’s the time to be intentional about your child’s toy chest, game drawer, bookshelf and tablet!

ABOUT PLAY ON WORDS was founded by well-respected speech-language pathologist, Cardamone. Her 16 years championing language rich play, esteemed PAL Award, popular blog, and insightful tips to parents set her apart as the leading advocate for the language component in toys.

Thousands of hours working directly with children has shown her that a unique set of the best toys, games and books have the capability to develop language while delivering great play. Studies show:

  •     Kids with highest IQs at three, had the most words at one and two
  •     Language learning is cumulative – early words => early sentences => language & reading
  •     Most kids maintain their verbal advantage through childhood
  •     Creative pretend play that sparks story-telling can advance future literacy

The PAL Award identifies unique toys, games and books that through their design, quality and character, encourage play that advances language. PAL winners in the hands of kids, spark fun and creative play with lots of talk. Such toys, recognized on the basis of her child development expertise, are complemented by practical coaching in her blog, showing parents and caregivers how to get the most from toys, games and books to build language and underlying cognitive skills.

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Erika Cardamone