7 Fun Activities to Develop Speech & Language Skills in Toddlers

Can doing toddler speech delay activities with your child help with their language skills?

You bet it can!

If you need some help coming up with activities, we’ve got you covered!

Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite easy and fun activities that help build language skills!

Let’s check them out!

Toddler speech delay activities don't have to be all work and no play! Check out 7 activities to help develop language skills that your toddler will actually enjoy!

Doing activities with your child to help with their toddler speech delay is also a great way to bond!  You don’t always have to sit down and do specific speech therapy activities to work on their language development.

We all know ‘work’ can get tedious and children can get distracted easily or have a very short attention span.

So besides sitting down and doing the exercises given to you by your speech therapist, what sort of activities can you do with your child to help them with their speech?

I have listed a few toddler speech delay activities below to get you started!

First, though, let’s talk a little about speech delays in general.

 5 Things You Need to Know About Toddler Speech Delays

Before we get into the toddler speech delay activities, let’s learn a bit more about what it means to have delayed speech. First, let’s go over a few things that a toddler speech delay isn’t.

1. A speech delay doesn’t mean your child can’t hear properly

While hearing issues can (and often do) cause speech delays, a speech delay does not always mean that hearing loss is present.  Your child’s pediatrician will help you find out if one is causing the other by administering age-appropriate hearing tests.

I can tell you from experience, some toddlers have a higher tolerance to noise, so don’t assume your child can’t hear just because he doesn’t react to loud sounds near him.

2. It also doesn’t mean he’s autistic

While a child on the autism spectrum may have a speech and language delay, the presence of a delay itself is not enough to a diagnosis. Again, your pediatrician is the best person to talk to about your concerns.

Read these resources about speech delay and autism to help you demystify things: Is It A Speech Delay or Autism?  and Autism is More than Just a Speech Delay.

3. A speech delay is NOT an intelligence delay!

SUPER, super important to keep in mind: just because your child can’t communicate with you at the expected levels for his age DOES NOT mean he isn’t smart.

My child was behind on his ability to speak, yet his receptive language skills at age three (what he understood) were those of a 7-year-old.

4. It’s not really a language delay

We often use speech and language delay interchangeably, but they aren’t really the same thing. While they often come together, it is possible for your child to have a speech delay but be developing language skills at a “normal” rate and vice-versa.

Speech is what comes out of your child’s mouth. It’s the ability to string a series of sounds into intelligible words and have others understand them. Language is the ability to understand what words mean. Make sense?

5. It’s not uncommon

Did you know that speech and language disorders affect 5-10 percent of all preschool children? It’s important to understand that your child isn’t alone, and neither are you!

Now that we understand a bit more about what speech delays are and aren’t, let’s check out a few of my favorite easy toddler speech delay activities!

Toddler Speech Delay Activities

1. R-E-A-D!

This is one of the best toddler speech delay activities!  When you read to your child, they are listening to you and how you form words, and they do not even know they are doing it.

Children are tiny little sponges, eager to learn and always doing so.  Reading to your child will help with developing their vocabulary. Read aloud books are great.

Here is a list to help you get started:  5 Awesome Read-Aloud Books For Preschoolers

2. Sing:

Nursery rhymes are great for speech and language development.  Did you know that singing and regular speech actually come from different parts of the brain?

In fact, stroke victims who lose their ability to speak can often communicate by singing instead. The same theory holds true for your child. My child could sing “You are My Sunshine” long before he could tell me what he wanted for lunch.

Check out this video for some of the most popular nursery rhymes to sing with your kids.

3. Feed them language

I don’t mean give them alphabet cereal.  When your child speaks, add words of description for him.  For example, if your child says ‘train’, you respond with ‘fast train’.  This is how all children learn new words.

4. Play

Play with your child!  When you do, let your child lead.  It allows for a safe environment where they do not need to ‘talk’ to the adult all the time.  You will help them to build their self-confidence.  Using his imagination is important!

5. Remove the batteries

The idea is that the child is the one to make the sounds, create the sounds, even if they are wrong.  Batteries in toys hinder this process.

Your best bet is to go back to basics.  Legos, wooden block, Lincoln Logs, train sets, dollhouses, babies, play dough…you get the idea.  You want your child to get creative.

Read this article Fun Home Speech Therapy Activities to Get Your Toddler Talking

6. Go outside

Nothing can get a child’s imagination going like being outside in nature. As you explore, point out all of the things that you see and name them for your child.

Use complete sentences to say things like “Look at that blue sky! Isn’t it pretty?” or “Oh, look! I see a bird flying!”

Ask him what he sees, too. Point to a tree and say, “What is that called? Silly mommy can’t remember!” or even simpler things like “Should we go up or down the hill?”

7. Skip the ‘educational’ toys

While educational toys definitely have their place, for now you want child-led toys that don’t do all of the talking and teaching. You want your child to be doing the learning themselves.

You do not want them focused on a toy with bright lights and noise.  It can actually have a negative effect on a child with a speech delay.

Think back to the good ole days when you were a child and there were minimal toys that lit up and made noise. 

Don’t miss our free resources guide What Free Resources Are There for Coping with a Toddler Speech Delay?

Helping your child to develop words and language does not have to be work.  In fact, it shouldn’t be work, for either one of you.  There are so many times during the day that can be teachable and educational moments, just grab them!

What sort of activities have you done with your child who has a toddler speech delay?  Help others out and share your stories with us below!

 

 

31 thoughts on “7 Fun Activities to Develop Speech & Language Skills in Toddlers”

  1. We practiced sign language, danced to kid songs on cd’s that had repetitive rhymes and alphabet sounds. We frequented free story times at the library and talked through the grocery store. We participated in mommy and me classes where we learned new skills like swimming, gymnastics and dance. We’d go to the park and talk about our times feeding ducks, being chased by squirrels, pretending to play instruments, sledding down the hill, and playing games,singing and dancing to music played for free at the park, and we’d play the billy goat gruff story and other stories like that while we played at the playground. We did lots of really silly songs I’d make up as we went along part of my Mary Poppins complex and my love for the governess in the Sound of music. We took walks and bike rides. The walks included stopping at each corner waiting for the slower mum and then doing exercises and counting. The bike rides included stops for water or coffe and milk. We frequented pet stores and talked about the animals describing their characteristics. What a wonderful life.

  2. As we are getting dressed, I name the things I am doing. Example put your left leg in your pants…etc. I also tell him about the things I see on the road as we are driving..see the truck,,,etc. He now says truck when we go to get in the truck to go to daycare.

  3. This is a really good list. My son has a speech delay, which we finally went to get help for when he was 2-1/2. If your child isn’t meeting a milestone PLEASE go to see your pediatrician for a referral to a specialist or an evaluation by a therapist. We finally stopped listening to our parents telling us how “all the boys in our family didn’t talk til they were three” – and went with our gut feeling. By the time our son was evaluated by an SLP (who also had a PhD and specialized in several related areas), he was about a year behind his peers. Some of the methods she used are listed here, and play (led by the child, where he/she starts doing something and you follow along so that they engage with you – key to communication – rather than you directing everything) was very important. Reading is good, but better is singing and dancing and playing – where they are looking at you, making eye contact and engaging, rather than looking at a video, pictures in a book, etc. Also, making sure to have your child ask for something and building on their single or double words is a BIG help. My son used to pull us over to the things he wanted, or handed us a bottle for milk. We got him to start off with “milk” or “outside”, then went to “want milk” or “go outside” then to a full sentence – all in less than a year: “I want milk please” and “I want to go outside”. He only said “Hi” and “Wan go outside” last March. He now uses hundreds of words and dozens of sentences. He’s still unable to join other children his age at our local PreK, but he’s getting therapy twice per work, with us doing “homework” with him at home constantly. We work our butts off, and he gets lots of play with Mom and Dad – but it’s all in HIS best interests, to level the “playing field” as much as possible so he has every opportunity in the world. DON’T GUESS!!! Do the best thing you can for your child – get an evaluation and get help if you feel there’s even the possibility of a delay or issue.

    1. Thanks for sharing your tips. My 21 month old has a speech delay, and we’re in speech therapy 2 hours a week now. He also pulls us by the hand to what he needs. It gives me hope knowing your son has come so far in his speech!

  4. This sounds like good advice but I’m just curious if there is any research or data to back up these suggestions?

  5. These are some wonderful activities for toddlers with speech delays! I cannot agree more that reading to them is so important, whether they have speech delays or not.

  6. I love the list, it’s very helpful. Your tip about letting the child lead is a really good one too, sometimes that one can be easy to forget, esp. if you’re teaching.

  7. My son had a speech problem and still doing his speech therapy in school. I remember those years when a speech therapist visited us and they play on the floor. It really helps him a lot to talk and express. Now he won’t stop talking and talk back lol.

  8. My kiddos seem to have the opposite problem…talking all the time and early! lol I completely agree, reading, singing, and engaging kiddos at a young age does have an impact!

  9. Reading and outside time is a huge one for us. We also have building toys for outdoor fun. My daughters favorite is pipe builders where they put pipes together, and you can watch the water go through them.

  10. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about this. My three year old was an early talker and my ten month old already has four words and a ton of sounds mastered.

  11. As with many things in life, suggestions can seem great but not fit all circumstances. If your child seems to be experiencing speech delays the first step before all others is to consult with a doctor to help determine why.

  12. I read to mine a TON and I really do think that it made a big difference. I also taught preschool for 4 years (2 year olds) and was amazed at how differently all children develop!

  13. Reading I think is one of the nest ways to hear the words and learn to say them correctly. I did have to have speech therapy for my son, but reading to him helped too!

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