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You always want your toddler to thrive and be ahead of everything. Sometimes, s/he might be developing a bit more slowly that you’ve expected. Sometimes you can’t do anything about it but sometimes you can. Like with the speech development.

There are ways to improve the learning process of your kids language. My daughter was 17 months old when I’ve started to worry that she might not be saying enough words for her age. I decided to speak to her more often during playtime and looked for adequate toys that would help me improve her vocabulary.

I’ve experimented a lot (spending way too much money) before I found the right speech development toys for toddlers.

So here it is: a list of 18 great toys to enrich the language of your kiddo. All the links are embedded within the names of the products.

Tips when choosing toys for speech development

  • (try to) opt for battery free toys- of course it’s not always possible but toys without batteries force toddlers to be more creative. Kids (or parents at first) should be the one making the noise themselves, not the toys. For example, if you’re buying a safari or a farm set, make sure the animals don’t have batteries inserted- this can discourage your son/daughter from repeating the sounds.
  • choose traditional over high-tech toys- the toy market is over flooded with toys that have flashing lights, are singing or even dancing! They’re not the best choice if you’re looking for an educational toy (which brings us to the point number 1), plus they’re usually over-stimulating for your child. Go for the most simple, traditional toys instead- remember the toys you played yourself when your were little? Legos, blocks, cars and dolls- back to basics is the answer here.
  • make your playtime meaningful- using toys that remind your toddler about the everyday (and important) activities such as eating, dressing or bathing will make playing much more meaningful to him/her.
  • don’t buy only gender specific toys- make sure you’re giving your child plenty of opportunities to develop different skills- from social (when playing with dolls or kitchen items) to creative and problem-solving (when playing with trucks, trains or blocks)
  • spend some time outdoors- changing the environment can only be beneficial for our children as it gives them more chances to learn new words. Think about getting toys that can be used outside (such as cars, chalk or tent).

My top 18 picks

1. Talking parrot

A great entertainment not only for your toddler but also for you! This toy includes batteries but it encourages two-way ‘communication’. If you speak slowly and clearly, this parrot toy will repeat everything you say to her. Since repeating is essential for learning, your little one will have lots of fun while remembering new words.

2. Farm set

This great simple toy will boost your toddlers’ concentration and attention span as well as increase his social skills and memory. Talk about names of the animals, what sounds do they make and encourage your kid to imitate them; describe what they’re doing (practice basic verbs such as eat, drink, sleep, etc.). You can also use some prepositions: ‘put the horse inside the barn, take the horse out’, etc.

Alternatively, you could get farm magnets and make it a fun teaching game as well.

3. Baby Doll

It’s an amazing toy for developing the language and teaching social skills. Having a doll will teach your little one many words such as body parts, clothing, verbs (eat, drink, cry, sleep) and feelings (hungry, thirsty, tired etc.). Talk about prepositions: baby in the stroller, under the blanket, on the bed. Dolls will also show your little one how to care for ‘somebody’- feed her, give her a dummy, hold it, take for a stroll and so on.

If you have a boy, don’t be afraid of getting him a doll- he should have a chance to open up his caring side as well!

4. Doll House

Another option to enhance your kiddo’s social skills while learning new words is getting a doll house. It’s a good way to teach them about every day activities (cooking, watching TV, taking a shower etc.) You can ask your toddler questions like ‘where’s the bed, show me the bathroom’. When s/he develops the basic vocabulary you can give simple instructions, such as ‘put the dog in the garden outside, put the boy on the sofa’ etc. (to practise nouns and prepositions together).

5. Tea Set

Another great toy to develop social skills. Take some plush toys, sit on the carpet with your kiddo and pretend you all having a tea party! This will teach your little one nouns such as: ‘tea, cup, jar’, adjectives:’ hot, happy, more’, pronouns: ‘for me, you, him’ and words like ‘please, thank you, you’re welcome’.

6. Play Kitchen and Play Food

Kids love to copy their adults in everything they do, especially when it involves food, pots and pans! Play kitchen gives endless possibilities to gain new vocabulary- names of food, kitchen items as well as action words such as stir, mix, cut etc. When you demonstrate how to ‘prepare the food’ and ‘cook’ it, your toddler will observe and imitate you (and enjoy opening and closing the drawers of the kitchen cupboards).

7. Play Doh

This well-known toy helps not only in increasing motor and sensory skills but also in imagination and speech development.
The vocabulary you can teach here is endless, for example : cut, smash, open, close, squeeze, roll, take out, etc. Another words to work on could be prepositions (in, out, on, under, off etc), words describing size (big, little, smaller, the biggest), quantity (one, two, some, more), and shapes/colours.

8. Puppets 

They are perfect for speeding up your toddlers’ speech development. It’s fun and really engaging. You can use the puppet to ask your child a question, for example, ‘did you have a good nap?’. Try to create a conversation (even if it’s just babbling for now- it’s still a form of talking). You can practice any words that you like, it’s all up to your imagination. Encourage your little one to use a puppet herself as well, s/he will love the pretend game!

9. Train tracks

They make a great fun for kids and their parents (especially for daddies…they’re just like big kids, aren’t they?). Building the tracks is good for cognitive thinking as well as for enhancing your little one’s vocabulary.

Before building the tracks, name all different parts included in the train set- trains, tracks, then trees, buildings, signs etc. and let your child put the pieces together. Then ask for each accessorize to be moved somewhere else, for example: ‘put the tree next to the train’ or ‘move the sign in front of the building’. Make the train ‘go’ and ‘stop’. This way, you’ll practice prepositions and verbs.

With this toy(or anything else that has wheels) you can also encourage imitating the car sounds (‘beep beep, vrooom, choo choo’).

10. Disney Potato Head

This funny little toy is perfect for practising vocabulary for body parts and clothes. You can strip Mr Potato off from all his body parts and clothes- take off his eyes, nose and hands, put them somewhere else, mix the clothes, take the hat off and put back on (so you teach prepositions as well).

11. Books

I think there’s no need for me to elaborate much on benefits of reading. Children need to hear a new word over and over again before they learn it, and that’s exactly what books provide. Apart from colourful images that help with the memory and imagination development, the sentences or words used within books are simple and often repeated.

When you add reading book(s) to your daily routine, you will soon see the improvement in your toddlers’ speech development. By pointing at the pictures and describing what you see, s/he will memorise and learn the meaning of the word; eventually s/he will start to use it spontaneously.

If your child doesn’t seem to be so keen on reading, choose lift-the-flap book- it will definitely catch your toddler’s attention.

Click here to read more about top books and bedtime stories

12. Medical kit

This pretend play doctor set is amazing, especially if your toddler is scared of doctors (my daughter has been since birth!). It will help your little one to see there’s nothing scary in all the ‘doctor equipment’ and gives you the opportunity to teach her some more advance vocabulary, such as needle, stethoscope, band aid, blood pressure and so on.

It’s perfect for talking about feelings- scared, brave, sad, feeling sick or hurting. You can take her favourite teddy and pretend he’s the patient- ask your toddler questions: ‘Is the teddy feeling sick? Does he need to see a doctor? Let’s listen to his heartbeat’.

13. Arts & crafts

Whether you choose crayons, chalk or a paint (the list seems endless), it will be super beneficial for your little one’s motor skills and speech development. You can draw (or create) anything- from shapes, animals to people, teaching your toddler new words along the way.

During crafts, children will need a different colour of a crayon, more glue or another piece of paper so it will force them to make requests such as “more” or “help”. It’s a good time to use simple commands, for instance: ‘draw a circle/square’, or ‘dip the brush in the paint’.

14. Tent

It’s such an amazing thing for kids to have! Their own space, safe haven, where they can keep their toys and spend some relaxing time. I love to play peek-a-boo with my daughter using the tents’ ‘curtains’.

For speech development, you can play different pretend games- you’re camping and trying to hide from a bear or you’re lying down and see the sky full of stars (our tent has lights in shape of stars so wasn’t really pretending!). If you have a garden it will be even more fun to play outside. Just let your imagination flow:)

15. Cash register

Perfect toy for every child who love to press buttons (well, which one doesn’t?). This toy opens up lots of learning language opportunities- you can use it for practicing some basic ‘polite’ words:’ please, thank you, you’re welcome’ (when requesting or exchanging money). Other words could be: money in, out, change, card, open, close, next etc.). With cash register you can play a pretend game of shopping and enhance your toddlers’ social skills.

16. Shape & colour sorting eggs

This fun toy will teach your little one about colours and shapes. They make a chirping sound once pressed and their shells open and close so that your toddler could master his motor skills.

My daughter really enjoys putting the eggs in and out of the box and matching the shell colours (making a huge mess around herself).

17. Building blocks

One of the toys that never gets old! Blocks can be used to build towers and learn prepositions (up, down, next to, inside). Since knocking the tower over seems to be the most fun part of this activity, you can teach them saying ‘ready, steady, go!’. Blocks can also be used alongside cars or trains to make the playing more interesting.

18. Fishing game

One of our favourite toys! It’s great for encouraging matching skills, motor and speech development. Plus, it teaches your kiddos how to develop patience and how to focus.

This toy is perfect for learning ocean animals (fish, dolphin, sea turtle, shark etc) and words such as ‘up, down, give it to me, thank you, put it down’.

To see a video where I present some of our favourite toys for speech development, click here. 

Remember…

You can buy all the toys above (and more) but if you don’t devote your time and give a full attention to your toddler, his/her vocabulary will not improve. It’s YOU who need to be talking to your child, playing and reading to him every day; toys are just helping you in the teaching process.

Although I listed 18 different toys, the truth is the less the better. Your little one can actually get pretty confused if you give him too many toys at the same time. S/he will end up getting bored with the toy too quickly, moving to another one which might limit opportunities to learn the language.

So, I advise you not to go crazy with the shopping- choose a couple of toys you think your toddler will like and next month you can try giving him something new. It’s also a good idea to hide the old toys for, let’s say, for 2-3 weeks, and when you give it back, your kiddo will be double excited:)

—> Click here if you’re looking for some more inspirations for indoor activities <—

That’s all from me for today. Hope you found this post useful.

Have fun playing with your kids!

Take care mamas:)

xoxo,

A.

6 Comments

  1. Daniel

    Keeping the simplicity when buying toys is really a good tip. The simpler the better because as you said, it will force them and us to use our creativity, what will push them forward in many different ways, not only speeching. Do you have any tips on raising bilingual children? That’s my current situation, I speak Portuguese at home with my daughter but we live in Germany. She goes once a week to the Kindergarden and there she has contact with other Germans.
    Awesome post btw!

    1. Hi Daniel, thanks for the comment.
      My daughter will also be bilingual, my boyfriend is Brazilian so he speaks to her in Portugese, I use Polish to communicate with her but we live in UK so when talking to each other we use English. I thought this will be confusing to our little one but in fact, kids at this age absorb new words and languages amazingly quickly! I’ve got a friend who’s a child neurologist and she told me not to worry about her speech development- she will naturally be able to distinguish the differences between 2 or 3 languages soon enough, even if that means she might start talking a little bit later than kids from a ‘single-language’ family.
      So my advice is- keep talking to your daughter in your native language and she will naturally learn German outside of the house. It will only make her smarter in the future!
      Take care and all the best for your family:)

  2. Great article. #1 and #9 sound awesome. The parrot for the obvious reason, but the train tracks definitely take me back to being a kid myself, lol. I never thought about using the parts of the set as a way to encourage speech and critical thinking. Nice post!

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