Learning Through Play: Toys that Develop Speech and Language Skills

It is time to play!

Play allows children to learn about themselves and the world around them in a naturalistic manner. It develops problem-solving skills, strengthens motor movements, nourishes emotional regulation and development, as well as facilitates sharing, imitation, and imagination.  Toys, activities, and games provide motivating opportunities to create growth, apply familiar information, and teach new skills. Check out the video below from one of our SLPs about toys that promote speech and language development.


Click here to watch the video


What Toys Do I Choose?

In the age of rising technology, it can be tempting to provide the latest gadget for entertainment and play. While technology provides its own unique set of benefits, more traditional toys often provide greater opportunity for joint attention, language development, and speech sound productions. The following toys are useful for addressing speech and language skills: 


Toy Skill Development

Baby Doll

-Early play skills (i.e. rocking, feeding, sleeping, hugging)

-Modeling early speech sounds (i.e. baby, more, hi, bye)

-Daily activities (i.e. eat, sleep, drink, change clothes, bath)


-Joint attention

-Anticipating (i.e. ready..set..go)


-Prepositions (i.e. put in, pop out, up, down)

-Early speech sounds (i.e. pop, up, more, my)

Balls or Blocks -Cause and Effect (i.e. stop, go)

-Action words (i.e. roll, fall, stack)

-Prepositions (i.e. on, off, under)

-Turn taking

Potato Head  -Identify/label body parts

-Following directions

-Speech sounds and Vocabulary

PlayDoh -Sensory play


-Label objects or actions (i.e. shapes, colors, rolling, cutting)

Animals -Identifying and labeling

-Action words (i.e. hop, swim, run)

-Early speech sounds (i.e. moo, quack, bah bah)


How to Play 

Play does not have to be planned, scripted, or follow a strict agenda. Following your child’s lead is beneficial and allows you to expand their skills while honoring their interests and motivations.  The following strategies are helpful tips to make play time more enriching: 

  • Model and narrate play skills: join in on the fun and talk about what you are doing. Do not worry about your child repeating everything you say or imitating your moves. Providing them with exposure to language, sounds, and skills is enriching. 
  • Expand on what your child says: if your child says ‘on’ while stacking blocks you can respond with “yes, put it on top”
  • Environment modifications: 
  • Consider storing and rotating toys that are available to your child in order to maintain interest
  • Store toys where children have to request them or ask for help
  • Create a play space separate from television or technology areas 


Additional Resources 

Kid Spot-50 Favorite Play Based Learning Activities 



Go Noodle – Active videos, educational songs, & dancing  (free to make an account)



Scholastic-5 ways toys help your child (free resources)




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