Let’s talk about toys and which ones are best to help get your little one talking. We want to start by emphasizing that the single most important factor when discussing this is to use a toy that is motivating to your child. Motivation is key and with motivation comes desire to communicate!
With that said there is another factor that we feel is very important at Speech Sisters… the simplicity of the toy. When it comes to toys that help to build language, less is more. One research study showed that parents tend to say more words and use more descriptive language while playing with visually simplistic toys (e.g. Lego Duplos, dolls or nesting blocks) versus visually complex toys (e.g. toys that make noise or have flashing lights). ⠀
This doesn’t mean you should go throw away all your fun, bright flashy talking toys. But when you sit down to play with your toddler, grab those simple non-battery operated toys. While playing with these simple toys there will be more opportunities to talk to your child thus building your child’s language skills.⠀
Some of our favorite toys that lend themselves to fun, interactive play and language building are: a ball, a baby doll and bottle, stacking/nesting toys, pullback cars, puzzles and bubbles. Now not all of these toys will be motivating to your child, but when you find the one that is, you go with it!
When it comes to play, our focus is to start with very simple, yet functional words. For example, words like, more, help, up/down, in/out, on/off, open/close and of course labeling the noun (toy) that we are using. It’s also super important to model verbs (action words) when playing with these toys! Here are examples of how we would use each of these toys to help bring out language:
Balls are usually a fan favorite! For this activity we would start by labeling the object “BALL.” Say this word over and over and over again! Other words to emphasize when playing with balls would be “up” “throw” “roll” “kick” and “my turn.”
Baby dolls are such a great toy to stimulate language development. So again, label the toy over and over “BABY” and then model more functional words related to your play schema. There are lots of verbs to model when playing with baby dolls like “hug” “kiss” “cry” and “sleep”. You can also add doll accessories to your play like a bottle and some pretend food and work on words like “eat” and “drink”.
Stacking and nesting toys are so simple but so good for using functional language. We love just repeating the word “up” over and over until the tower falls down and then we repeat the word “down”. Simple yet so effective!
“1-2-3……GO!!” This is our go-to when playing with cars. Cars are also great for teaching exclamatory words like “CRASH” and “BOOM”. Oh and of course….. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat!
When playing with puzzles, you are the keeper of the pieces and that is a very powerful position! Puzzles are a great activity to help your little one understand and start using the word “MORE”. When we are using puzzles in therapy, we are always the keeper of the pieces and all of the puzzle pieces are in a large ziplock baggie or clear container. Each time a client wants a new puzzle piece, they need to either sign or say “MORE” or “OPEN”. After they communicate one of these words, immediately reward them with a puzzle piece. For kids who like puzzles, this is motivating enough to get them to request!
Another kid favorite and usually super motivating. Functional words that we typically target when playing with bubbles include, “BUBBLE”, “BLOW”, “POP”, “MORE”, “HELP” and “OPEN”. There will be opportunities to use all of these words and just keep on repeating!
This is just a snapshot of some of the toys we like to use to elicit language but there are many, many more. As you can see, the recurring theme here is to choose a few simple yet functional words depending on your play activity and repeat those words over and over and over again. When you REPEAT, they REMEMBER! Also don’t forget the importance of motivation…Choose toys that your child enjoys playing with because these toys will help to encourage your child to communicate! And when you are playing, have fun and don’t be afraid to be silly and animated… Your little one will love it and be more inclined to start talking!
One last thing, there are lots of other ways to build your child’s language skills that don’t involve toys. Sometimes the magic really happens when YOU act as your child’s toy! Toyless-parent-child interactions are FUN & SIMPLE and sometimes even make it easier to teach your little one new words or concepts! We talk all about this in our online courses! So if you are looking to learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out Talk On Track (newborn-14 months) and Time To Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months)!