Toys to Stimulate Language Use in Toddlers

Toys to Stimulate Language Use in Toddlers

As speech-language pathologists, we sometimes get the question, “what toys are good for speech?” This is often asked when a child’s birthday or holiday is nearing and the parents are interesting in getting some gift ideas. First of all, it should be noted that parents do NOT need to go out and buy the latest and greatest toy to increase language in toddlers. Common, safe household items, routines, and parent engagement are very effective in encouraging language development. Cardboard boxes, cups and water, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, couch cushions, brooms and mirrors are just a few examples of many items already at home that can be used in engaging language rich play. Time to brush teeth, go outside, or change a diaper? These routines provide many opportunities for labeling, requesting, and expanding.

That said, there are several tried and true toys that I love, have used for many years, and have found to be very effective in increasing language in toddlers. Here are just a few toy examples and how they can be used.

Mr. Potato Head


This classic toy encourages language targets such as verbal labeling, language expansion, turn-taking, labeling through pointing and direction following. Mr. Potato Head can be used in pretend play as well.

Barn with Animals


A toy barn or house with animals or people can provide opportunities for expanding pretend play skills, labeling objects and actions, following directions, language expansion and environmental sound production.

Baby Doll


Baby dolls are wonderful for increasing pretend play, verbal labeling, labeling through pointing, direction following and developing empathy. Simply add a spoon and blanket to encourage a variety of play schemes.

Wooden Puzzles


Wooden puzzles with chunky pieces or knobs are perfect for small hands to grasp. They can help young children work on increasing attention for activities that have a beginning and end, and using the accompanying language (“all done”). Puzzles also provide opportunities to work on verbal labeling, requesting, pointing to objects or parts of objects when named, production of environmental or animal sounds, and answering simple questions.

Touch/Feel Board Books


Touch and feel board books are a great way to introduce book reading and handling to young children or children who have decreased attention for books. Touching different textures on each page offers an alternative way to interact with a book when a child has difficulty sitting to look at the pictures or listening to the story. Simple verbal labeling, imitation of actions (“touch”) and direction following can be targeted when using these books.

We love working with toddlers and their families! Would your child benefit from seeing a professional Speech-Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist? Contact us today to schedule an evaluation or complimentary screening!

By: Alex Gantner, M.A., CCC-SLP

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