25 Toys to Get Your Toddler Talking

25 Toys to Get Your Toddler Talking - shegotguts.png
 At Adeline's first birthday she was only babbling "mama"

At Adeline's first birthday she was only babbling "mama"

One of the things people ask me about most often is, How did you get Adeline to talk? or What toys do you like to get your toddler to talk?   At 14 months old, Addie was not talking, she was only babbling "mama".  We decided to enroll her in speech therapy privately through our insurance and also through our Maryland state early intervention program which is called Infants & Toddlers. At the time, many people told us to wait, and Infants and Toddlers really did not want to add kids for speech until they were two. 

 At 14 months old, we began speech therapy 6x per month

At 14 months old, we began speech therapy 6x per month

With a lot of persistence I got her those services.  Before we started therapy we had assessments and even though I knew she was behind her testing results were a pretty big shock to me. At 14 months old, she scored in the 4-6 month old range.  Adeline received speech therapy 6x per month for nearly a year and I worked with her daily.  As a special educator who primarily worked with little ones with language delays or with autism I had a lot of tricks in my bag, but still needed to expertise of a speech language therapist.  With therapy, coupled with a lot of effort and practice, good nutrition, follow through, creating a language based environment, sign language, some great toys, and a motivated Addie Belle we made some incredible gains.   This year on her second birthday we redid her testing and at 24 months she scored in the 24-36 month old range! She made almost 20-30 months worth of progress in less than 12 months time.  It was pretty exciting and kind of unheard of.  Infants and toddlers dismissed her from therapy, and we still see her private speech/language therapist monthly mainly for feeding and to work on any little issues that come up.   I decided to come up with a list of my favorite toys to get your toddler talking.  I linked the toys to amazon to make it easy to shop. 

At 14 months old, Addie’s language skills were in the 4-6 month old range. I knew she was behind, but those scores were a wake up call.
toys to get your toddler talking - shegotguts.com

The best gift or thing you can give to your child to help with their language development is YOU.  Your TIME, DEDICATION, ATTENTION, FOLLOW THROUGH, CONSISTENCY, is going to be the thing that makes the most difference.  You can have all the toys in the world, but if you aren't playing/talking/reading/ and spending meaningful 1:1 undivided attention with your child, they are not going to make progress. 

A few other tips for increasing language during play with your toddler; 

Before you start scrolling through my list of toys that will get your toddler talking, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a toy.

Guidelines for choosing toys 

 Even Jpeg gets involved in reading with Addie Belle

Even Jpeg gets involved in reading with Addie Belle

  • Battery Free: there are exceptions to the rule, but you want your kids to say the words or make the sounds that the toy is making.  When playing with a car toy, you want your kiddo to honk the horn and say" beeeep!" If a great  toy comes with noises - just ditch the batteries

  • Open Ended Toys: you want toys that can be used in a variety of way,  have no beginning, middle, or end, that can be used over time, and they allow your kiddo to use their imagination. 
  • Traditional Toys: go back to basics and think about what you had when you were a kid; legos, blocks, cars and trucks, farm. etc. keep it simple and old school   
 Swinging gets her moving, outdoors, and is perfect to practice verbal routines such as "ready, set, GO!"

Swinging gets her moving, outdoors, and is perfect to practice verbal routines such as "ready, set, GO!"

  • Meaningful: choose toys that relate to a meaningful experience for your kiddo; role play like feeding, bathing, dressing
  • Developmentally Appropriate:  think about where your kiddo is developmentally when choosing a toy.  If they are two years old, but functioning at a 6-9 month old, choose a toy more appropriate for a 6-9 month old.  Meet them where they are! 
  • Encourage Social Interaction: choose toys that can encourage social interaction and take turns; play kitchen, etc. 

  • Don't Worry About Gender: do not stick to gender specific toys - girls need to play with construction toys and every boy needs a doll. 

  • Get them Moving/Go Outdoors: consider toys that get them moving (ride on toy) and think of toys that be used outside; playhouse, water table, etc. 

What set the highest-scoring toys apart was that they prompted problem solving, social interaction, and creative expression in both boys and girls. Interestingly, toys that have traditionally been viewed as male oriented—construction toys and toy vehicles, for example—elicited the highest quality play among girls. So, try to set aside previous conceptions about what inspires male and female play and objectively observe toy effects to be sure boys and girls equally benefit from play materials.
— The Impact of Specific Toys on Play from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
               Do not focus on gender when choosing toys 

              Do not focus on gender when choosing toys 

Some "Speechy" terms i use 

Many of these terms are used throughout my recommendations of certain toys so I felt it was important to define them. 

toys to get your toddler talking

Expectant Pause: Provide opportunities for your child to use language, without asking them directly to repeat what you say, or to label objects.  (E.g. in a book, you might be reading a story to your child where the last word in each sentence rhymes.  Once your child is familiar with a book, read the first part of the sentence leaving off the last word, pause and look at your child.  Wait for several seconds.  If the child responds, praise and keep going. If not, provide the child with an acceptable response (model) and then continue with the story.)

Model: Rather than testing your child’s knowledge, see your job as giving your child lots of models.  For example when looking at a book, you can describe the pictures to your child. The length and complexity of your models will depend on the child’s age.  For example, if a child is 2 years of age, you might model using 2 – 3 word sentences. Try not to give a model and then expect your child to repeat and  take the pressure off your child to ‘perform’.  

toys to get your toddler talking - shegotguts.com

Expressive Language: the use of words, sentences, gestures, sign, and writing to convey meaning and messages to others. 

Receptive Language: means the ability to understand information. It involves understanding the words, sentences and meaning of what others say or what is read. 

Joint Attention: shared attention is the shared focus of two individuals on an object. It is achieved when one individual alerts another to an object by means of eye-gazing, pointing or other verbal or non-verbal indications.

Word Approximation:  the best consonant-vowel combinations a child is able to produce and most closely resemble the word they are attempting to verbalize. For example, instead of "milk", Addie says "muck". These word approximations serve as functional communication 

Verbal Routines: a tool that Speech Language Pathologists use to encourage speech in the late talker. Verbal routines are made up of words that are repeated at a predictable time during an activity One common verbal routine is saying “ready, set, go.” during activities

Symbolic Play: ability of children to use objects, actions or ideas to represent other objects, actions, or ideas as play. A child may push a block around the floor as a car or put it to his ear as a cell phone

 

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Baby Dolls

Every child should have a baby doll and that includes boys and for the purpose developing language I would not recommend a doll that talks, eats, needs batteries, etc.  I love a doll for so many skills; language, cognitive, fine motor, and self-help skills.  Dolls can be used to teach body parts, receptively or expressively.  It also shows them their nose does not just apply to their own nose.  Use the doll to teach basic concepts such as prepositions; baby in the bed, baby under the blanket. Use the doll to teach verbs or feelings; eat, drink, sleep, sit, stand, hungry, sleepy, thirsty, and more. You can ask your child  questions to work on his understanding of these words while he plays. “Where is baby?”

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play kitchen

Children love playing with food and the kitchen provides so many language opportunities and this is a toy that will last a long time.  There are so many vocabulary words you can teach them, play food is way more motivating than flashcards, and I like ntroduce descriptive vocabulary as I talk about all the ingredients. Kids love to pretend to cook and its very motivating. They get a chance to observe, demonstrate, and use action words such as stir, mix, cut, and roll. You can also play with another child to practice social interactions.  Here are  some links to play food and pots/pans that we love! 

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balloon pump

These balloon pumps can be used with water or air.  There are endless activities you can do with this pump.  You can blow up the balloon with air and say, "ready, set,  (expectant pause)," while you wait for your kiddo to say "GO!" and then you can let the balloon go and it will fly all over the room. 

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play store

Dramatic play opens the door for so many language opportunities and kids will love playing store for years.  It is good to teach social skills, turn taking, pretend play, etc. but you can also use the cash register to work on requesting the coins/money and such vocabulary such as; please/more/thankyou/in/open/out/ help/click/stuck/uh-oh/where? I’ll also block the opening, and work on “move” or “move please,” if they want to put the money in the hole. The kids love it. You can also use a shopping cart or play food/basket to expand on your play. 

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books

 

I could probably do an entire blog post on why reading with your toddler is so important.  So I will try to keep this brief for your sake but reading is proven to work!  Kids need to hear words over and over again, and many books repeat the same words in a variety of sentences throughout the book, which helps children understand the words and offer opportunities for children to hear the same words over and over again with repeated readings. Kids learn language better when they are motivated, and books have illustrations with bold colors and offer imaginary topics (such as pirates, princesses, or dragons). It is also really easy for a kiddo to show their interest in books without words, by pointing, gesturing, drawing their attention to something or even choosing a particular book. Words are also more easily learning when meaning is made clear.  It is not enough to just talk to them or read to them, they need to learn the meanings as well and books make that easy just by pointing to an item. Here are my lists of my favorite board booksfall books, and holiday books

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doll house

I think I can do an entire article on so many of these toys, which makes me think I may be picking some good ones! (Tooting my own horn here!) For social skills, this toy is perfect because kids can reenact activities they see everyday; cooking in the kitchen, taking a bath,  watch tv, etc.  Receptively, you can ask your kiddo to "show me the bed" or even hold up two items and say, "point to the chair".  Ask their skills grow, you can expand it by saying, "show me something you sleep on,"  or have the child follow directions by saying, "put baby in the bathtub and wash his hair," etc.  Expressively, you can have the child name the items, imitate the name,  imitate the sign, or point to a picture symbol to request it.  The possibilities are endless! 

get your toddler talking -shegotguts.com

instruments

Music was an essential component to my classroom when I was an early childhood special educator.  I used music to teach new concepts, to follow directions, to get attention, for sensory breaks, gaining attention, the list goes on and on.  You can use music to connect words to song, have kids fill in the blank, sing along, etc.  I liked using musical instruments to teach the following concepts; fast, slow, together, stop, go, loud, quiet, and even concepts such as hello/goodbye.  Playing music in a group encourages kids to use language, and they can use the instruments without using their words.  Music can also used to teach listening comprehension using songs that require an action. A few other instruments we love are here and here

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blocks

I love container play using blocks, putting in and taking out (kids developmentally 6-9 months old love that activity) You can put small blocks in a wipes container to work on object permanence and kids can try and figure out how to get it out.  Blocks can be use to build towers and saying things like "up up up"  (verbal routine) and "ready, set go" before you knock the tower over. Blocks can be used to expand play with cars or trains. Avoid blocks with letters and numbers until child has at least 50-75 words that they use spontaneously. Blocks can also be used for symbolic play; create a train using 3 blocks and pushing it around and make the train crash (insert crashing sound). A few other blocks I love are just simple wooden blocks or the interlocking duplo blocks

toys to get your toddler talking - shegotguts.com

bubbles

I love using bubbles to increase language. The effect bubbles can have on a child is amazing!  By blowing bubbles, you can quickly gain and hold a child’s attention or calm or engage a fussy child.  Bubbles are inexpensive, portable and can be used in any setting.  Bubbles are a great way to teach "your turn/my turn" and turn taking is the foundation of conversation.  You can also promote eye and contact and joint attention by blowing bubbles and then watch and wait for anticipation.  When your kiddo makes eye contact, start blowing again.  You can create an communication opportunity by tempting them by blowing bubbles, screw lid on, and hand it back to them.  Bubbles are hard to open so when they hand it back to you they're making a request.  I think I may be able to do an entire article on bubbles but they can also be used to build vocabularymore, again, want, pop, blow, dip, all done, up, down, in, out, on, off, me, round and round

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play house

I love an outdoor playhouse to work on social skills, turn taking, and pretend play in a more natural environment.  There are a variety of types of play that can be worked on a playhouse; solitary play ( kids play on their own but not noticing other kids), onlooker play (kids are watching but not yet joining, parellel play (children play side by side without any interaction), associative play (kids ask questions to each other but there are no real rules) and social play, (children are sharing ideas and toys, follow rules and guidelines). Kids can reenact what they see in every day activities by pretending to cook, clean, eat, etc.  

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ride on toy

I love a ride on toy because it gets kids moving and perfect for following directions, basic concepts, and even part/whole relationships.  Give the child directions on where to drive the car…down the hallway, around the corner, between the chairs…etc. It gives you are great chance to work on  prepositions like in, out, on, off, through, next to as you drive the car all over.  You can work on part/whole relationships by identifying parts of the car; doors, windows, bumpers, lights, roof, etc. I also love this one, and that

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mirror

I worked primarily with kids on the spectrum and we used mirrors all the time.  Not saying you should only use mirrors if your kid has autism, but it is a great tool for kids with language delays or new language learners.  Kids will love to learn about facial expressionist, articulation, (watch you or themselves pronounce certain words), learn about emotions, and increase body awareness. Looking in the mirror together to get eye contact instead of having the child look directly at their face can also be a great way to start developing joint attention.
 

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piggy bank

This is a great cause and effect toy and is so affordable! All kids love this toy and so many concepts can be taught; in/out, open/closed, colors, animals, animal sounds, counting. requesting more/alldone, and turning the music on/off/. This toys provide the opportunity for hand-eye coordination, sensory exploration and repetitive sequences. 

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play-doh

Play-doh can be used for so many things from the very beginning.  Addie was so motivated by using it that I could get her to ask for help to open it, giving her a little at a time and she would have to request "more", you can put the play-doh in and out, and even pretend play.  We pretend making snakes and then incorporate vocabulary such as "roll" the snake and then "smash it".  The vocabulary you can work on is;roll, cut, squeeze, push, smash, open, close, take out, etc.  You can also work on the following concepts; prepositions- in, out, on, off, under, on top, etc., size words- big, little, biggest, smallest, or even uantity- one, two, some, more, and shapes/colors. I love using play-doh as a reinforcer, after working really hard or as a way to keep their hands busy so they can focus more easily. 

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medical kit

Adeline has been to the doctor quite a bit and has spent months and months in the hospital so it was no surprise that she started to play doctor.  Playing doctor or nurse allows you to teach them quite a bit of vocabulary; stetheschope, needle, blood pressure cuff, band aid, etc.  With Addie, I teach her prepositions and tell her to put the stethoscope ON my chest, etc.  We also use this to talk about feelings, feeling sick, belly hurting, sad, scared, brave, etc.  You can ask questions, "how does the kitty feel?", "where do you need a bandaide?".  We also love this Vet Clinic as well. 

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cause/effect toys

Cause and effect concepts are the foundation for cognition, which is the foundation for language  Kids need to meet certain cognitive milestone before they are ready to talk and one of those is learning cause and effect skills.  This game initially you make think is too old for your toddler, since you have to roll a dice to choose the correct color hamburger before you feed the pig.  Skip all that for now and make it more simple.  Use this turn to work on turn taking by just taking turns feeding the big, requesting more, and eventually the belly will pop open! A few other toys I love are here, here, and here

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stacking cups

These simple toys are deceptively amazing, and can be used for a variety of things; fine motor skill, visual and spatial skills, balance, trunk control, & gross motor, crossing mid-line, creative play, and for the purpose of this article language concepts.  Stacking cups are great to teach size, big and small, or big, bigger, biggest.  You can use these by turn taking and take turns stackiing them, use them to teach colors, counting, etc. 

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water table

You can really have any sort of water or sensory table with your kiddo from simple to really complex. Since it's cold, it can even be done in the bath and right now I have sensory items in Addie's water table since it's too cold.   Water is really motivating, and there are tons of concepts you can teach while using it. It is great to work on imitation, your kiddo can imitate what you are saying and doing.  Right now I am talking with Addie about empty/full, and verbs such as pour, spill, stir, dump, fill, splash, etc.  I will start sentences for her and let her fill in the blank such as, "I put water in the _____".  You can also name any of the items that go into the table, and even talk about concepts such as wet/dry, sink/float,  There is no right or wrong way to play in the water! Let your child play the way he wants to play. It’s more motivating for him if you follow what he is doing rather than trying to get him to play your way.  You can also use the same table for sensory items. 
 

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farm

It really does not matter if you live in the city, this toy is perfect.  Talking about animals, the sounds they make, the stuff they do, is really fun for kids.  The barn does not need to have sounds, and you can teach animal vocabulary either receptively or expressively; pig, cow, horse, goat, etc.  Use any animals you have, it does not have to be what comes with set and I love adding some accessories such as a tractor and this set (it has trees, milking station, people, etc.)  You can also target some really functional verbs such as eat, sleep, play, etc.  A great cognitive skill is having kids putting two items together that make sense, such as the farmer in the tractor, or two words to make a phrase, which is a precursor skill to teaching language. I also teach some prepositions, "put the cow in" or "take the cow out." You can use the animals to make animal sounds or even teach them some facts about the animals such as milking the cow, getting the eggs from the chickens, etc.

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shape sorter

When I first starting using this toy with Addie, we used it to get her to request.  At first, she would request more shapes, and also requesting help to get the shapes out of the sorter.  We used preposition words such as in, out, and through.  To start, this toy really is not about learning shapes, although eventually it can used to teach shapes, colors, counting, and even empty and full. You can also use the shape sorter to take turns, and its a great toy for cognition. I love a good shape sorter and Adeline has about 4 or 5 of them.  I am going to link a few other favorites here, here, and here

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arts and crafts

I use arts and crafts with Adeline all the time, and its great to help with her attention since she needs to concentrate.   During crafts, kids will need more glue, a different marker, eyes, etc. so its a great activity to get them to work on requesting "more" or "help". It is a great toy to get them to follow simple directions, "put the eyes on the gingerbread man," or "dip the brush in the paint."  If you are working on a certain word, or sound you could plan the craft to target the sound.  It is great for learning new vocabulary, simple sequencing, and few other favorites are here and here

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play tools

Playing with tools a lot of opportunity for pretend play.  Adeline loves pretending to do things she sees John and I do, and when "Dada fixes" she would love to get involved.  Tool kits introduces your kiddo to a lot of vocabulary; drill, hammer, measuring tape, hammer, screw, etc.   It also is great for some verbs, bang the hammer, twist the screw, turn on the drill, and prepositions; put the nail on, lets hit the nail in, etc.  A tool set also gives you the chance to allow your child to be creative. 

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train Set or cars

When you work with kids on the spectrum, they all love Thomas the Train, and then I have my own kid and she is equally obsessed.  It is a great toy to work on requesting or to be used as reinforcement.   You can teach vocabulary by labeling the different parts of the train set that they will use later to request.  You can have your kiddo request each part of the track to build.  Once the track is built, you can accessorize with trees, people, signs, buildings, etc. and build on that vocabulary either by having your child request more, name the item specifically, or say, "I want tree."  You can make the train "stop" and "go".  With trains or cars, you can have the kids imitating car sounds, "beep!", "vroooooom", "choo choo", etc.  You can work on a ton of prepositions with in, on, up, down, etc., taking turns, the possibilities are endless.  A few other favorites you can find here, here, and here

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mr potato head

Mr. Potato head is great for so many activities and concepts.  We use it to teach body parts using expressive and receptive language.  It is amazing to put it on, take it off, put the hat on top, etc.  The potato heads can walk, run, talk, fall, etc. and use different verbs.  We have also begun to separate the parts and categorize them into clothes, body parts, etc.  It is great for collaborative play or turn taking, and I have begun introducing adjectivies, "Mr Potato has blue shoes." 

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tent

We use a tent for so many things to build language.  Adeline loves to relax in the tent and we do so calming activities in there.  Most recently, we were pretending to go camping, we made a pretend fire, pretending to sleep in the tern, etc.  A child go in the tent, out of the tent.  We play peek-a boo with the doors in the tent, and its a good place to go when Adeline is a little overstimulated/sensory wise. 

Melissa and Doug

I love doing this sort of thing for our readers and I love hearing from you!!! Let me know if you get any of these toys and how it goes, share your ideas, comment below with some toys you love for language, and most of all I hope you have fun! Working with your toddler 1:1 benefits you just as much as it benefits them.  Happy Shopping!!!!