Child’s play: top toys for language development

Posted by / Thursday 23 February 2017 / Parenting Tips Speech and Communication

Which toys are really the best for helping children develop their language and communication skills?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions about children’s early language. There's no one answer to this but our friends over at I Can have listed some toys and how they can help with children’s communication below.

Toys that encourage pretend play  

Children start to pretend at about 12 months and often do this by pretending to talk on a real or pretend phone. They learn from watching what we do and what they've seen; so they might pretend to cook and stir the sauce or pretend that they are driving cars along the road. Their play becomes more involved and complicated until they can create imaginary worlds. These stages are key for children to develop their early language skills.  Find out more about the stages of communication children go through.

Pretend play toys: a workshop or work bench, garage, toy kitchen, hospital, vet surgery or farm.


Toys to build imaginary worlds

Often children will pretend with the toy by feeding them, putting them to bed and telling stories with them. Gradually, they become the focus for their stories and they being to make up adventures with them which is great for developing both creative and language skills.  

Imaginary world toys: a teddy, a doll or a character from a cartoon or TV show.

Toys for messy play

Messy play helps with sensory exploration and can be used to develop language skills. Messy play toys all help children to develop their awareness of different sensations and can be used to talk about actions e.g. pour, squash, squeeze, pull, rub, as well as describing different colours and textures.

Messy play toys: water play toys, sand play toys, chalk boards, finger paints and playdough


Noisy toys

Babies love rattles and shakers - anything that gets their attention and holds it. There are also shakers where they can watch lights or glitter that hold their attention.

Noise toys: Clappers, tambourines, rattles, shakers.

Repetitive books

These help children listen to and enjoy stories. Don't be afraid to tell a story more than once, as repetition helps children to understand and remember the words that they hear. Children love to join in with the bits that they remember and so books that have a repetitive line throughout them are great. Find out more from I CAN's 'Using books to develop language' factsheet.


And the bonus toy - you!

Children love your time and playing with you. It's more fun playing with someone else, so you are central to helping them get the most out of toys and games. There are also lots of games you can play like peekaboo for young children that are absolutely free!

These are only a few suggestions but there are more ideas on this free factsheet we put together.

One final thing that is important, is the way that people around a child play with them. By watching how children play with toys and giving them noises and sounds we can give them a great start with language and communication.

If you’d like more ideas, or are worried about the way a child is learning to talk, why not have a free chat to one of I CAN’s speech and language therapists. The I CAN Help service can help with any questions you have about a child's language and communication.

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