The Best Language Development Toys for Toddlers
Seeing your child hit developmental milestones is important. These can include smiling, babbling, crawling, taking their first steps, saying their first words, and beginning to string together short sentences made up of a few words. When your toddler does not seem to be reaching the developmental milestones centred around talking, it can be very concerning. You don’t want them to fall behind from such an early age, but you also may know what is still considered ‘normal’ in the spectrum of development for different children.
Our article will help you learn more about speech and language development in toddlers, what typical language development looks like, and ways you can help your toddler if their speech doesn’t seem to be developing as it should. We’ll specifically focus on some talking toys for toddlers and toys for speech therapy that you can use to help your toddler develop their speech in a developmentally appropriate manner—through play.
Should I Worry If My Toddler Isn’t Talking Yet?
If your toddler hasn’t started talking or isn’t saying more than a few words, you may be starting to worry. Every child develops at his or her own pace, so it is important not to use another child’s development as the baseline for your concerns about your child. That being said, there are some milestones your child should be hitting by certain ages. If they aren’t hitting these milestones, it may be a sign they have a speech delay.
This article from Healthline lays out some basic speech milestones children should hit by certain ages. By 18 months, most toddlers should start using simple, familiar words. These will likely include words they hear regularly, such as mama, dada, baby, or milk. By age 2, children should be able to use 25 words or more. They should start combining words in to two or more-word phrases by the time they are 2.5. By age 3, typically developing children will be using 200 words or more, asking for things by name, and getting easier and easier to understand.
If you’ve noticed that your child is not meeting these goals, it may be time to talk to your paediatrician. You can also review our suggestions for talking toys for toddlers and children to help kids talk to begin encouraging speech development at home.
What Can Cause Speech Delays in Toddlers?
If you think your toddler’s speech is delayed, there are different factors that may be causing the delay.
- Hearing problems: If children are experiencing a hearing issue and are not able to clearly hear the words or sounds that you are saying to them, it can have a huge impact on their speech. An audiologist can check a child’s hearing to confirm that this is not the reason for their speech delays.
- Oral impairments: Oral impairments can include issues with a toddler’s tongue or the roof or their mouth (palate) that can impact their ability to form different sounds.
- Shorter frenulum: The frenulum is the fold under our tongues. If the fold is too short, it can impact how much the tongue is able to move and limit the sounds it is able to produce.
- Troubles with coordination to produce sounds clearly: Sometimes the part of the brain that helps a child produce speech has an issue that can impact the child’s ability to achieve the necessary levels of coordination between their tongue, lips, and jaw to produce sounds.
KidsHealth outlines these different factors that can be responsible for speech delays in children. The article also includes information on how to get help from a speech-language pathologist to assess your child and determine the specific cause for their language delay. Using the information provided by the speech-language pathologist in addition to some speech therapy toys for toddlers can have a dramatic impact of your toddler’s language skills.
What Is A Late Talker?
A ‘late talker’ is a child who is otherwise developing normally, but is not reaching developmental milestones related to the production of speech. Children who are considered ‘late talkers’ are more likely to be male, may have been born prematurely, or may have a history of speech delays in the family.
While many people say that being a ‘late talker’ is not a huge concern, working with your child to encourage speech can be beneficial. Developing speech through play and language toys can be very engaging for toddlers, and won’t make them feel frustrated that they aren’t meeting your expectations. Language development toys for toddlers are ones that encourage them to interact with the toy, engage in role-playing, or perform other actions related to speech.
Do Toddlers with Speech Delays Catch Up?
Yes, toddlers with speech delays can, and often do, catch up with their peers. Studies indicate that at least 70% of toddlers who are considered a ‘late talker’ will have average language skills by the time they are ready to begin school. While they will have generally caught up with their speech, there are still a few areas you will want to keep an eye on and provide support for if your child had delayed speech as a toddler.
The areas you should continue to monitor and support through your child’s schooling include their vocabulary, grammar, writing, reading and listening comprehension, organization, social skills, and impulse-control skills.
If your child is showing signs of being a ‘late talker,’ early intervention is key in reducing the impact their speech delays will have on their future learning and development. Talk to your paediatrician, seek out intervention services, and continue working with your child to encourage speech and language skills at home. Talking to your child, reading with them frequently, and using language toys for toddlers are a few examples of little things you can do at home that can make a big difference in their speech.
What Kinds of Toys Encourage Language?
There is no set formula for what to look for in toys to help with speech delays. Many different types of talking toys for toddlers can be used to help your child develop their skills and increase their vocabulary. However, when selecting toys to encourage speech, there are a few general guidelines you should keep in mind.
First, look for more open-ended toys. These are toys that encourage creative play and aren’t designed to be used in just one way. When your child is encouraged to use their imagination and come up with different ways to play with a toy, it can help him or her produce new words. Many of the toys you played with as a child, that were less reliant on technology, are also a good place to start. Children can be very creative when building with blocks, driving cars or trucks around, or playing with a baby doll.
Another thing to look for when selecting toys to help toddlers talk is toys that your child can relate to and make a connection with. Look for toys or games that will encourage your child to role-play and engage in familiar activities with their toys. For example, your toddler is likely very familiar with the routine of getting dressed or sitting down at the table to eat a meal, so buying a baby doll with a few accessories can encourage him or her to re-enact these activities and use some of the words you use when performing these activities.
Some of the best language learning toys are ones that help children learn social skills, such as taking turns. Look for talking toys for toddlers that your child and another child (or you) can play with together that will help them work on these important social skills and develop their social-language vocabulary.
In many cases, but not all, looking for battery-free toys is a good idea. Battery-powered toys do too much of the work for your child, letting them sit back and not use try to use their language skills. For example, if they have a toy car that makes motor sounds, they don’t need to produce these sounds themselves as they make the car drive. If a doll they have talks to them as they play, they also aren’t necessarily going to start producing more words on their own.
Toys that Encourage Speech
Some speech development toys help children improve their skills by learning sounds for different words. These talking toys for toddlers can help toddlers learn the ways different words sound by hearing them, either through the toy talking or through parental interaction.
When looking for toys to encourage speech development, you want to find products that will be engaging and exciting for children. Choosing topics that they are more interested in can help them be more willing to try to produce the sounds themselves.
Here are a few different toys for speech development you can use to help your toddler focus on the sounds different words make.
Puzzles: Many matching puzzles can be a good resource for teaching children the sounds different words make. You may want to look for puzzles where your child needs to put together two different pieces of an image/subject to complete the puzzle or ones where they need to match the beginning sound to the image.
When working on a matching puzzle with your child, use a lot of modelling and language of your own. For example, if you match two pieces of a cow together, say something like, “Look, I made a cow. A cow says moo. Cows are black and white.” Your toddler is more likely to begin producing their own words when they hear you saying words.
Recordable toys: Recordable toys allow you (or another adult) to record a message to be played for a child and can be great tools to help toddlers talk. You may choose to record a familiar phrase or change the recording periodically to focus on different words or phrases you are working on with your toddler.
Toys for Speech Development
Open-ended toys are a popular type of speech toys for toddlers. These talking toys for toddlers can be used in numerous ways and can encourage your toddler to experiment with new and different words.
When looking for toys for speech development, choose exciting options that will keep your toddler engaged. Consider toys that your toddler could use to recreate familiar activities and events where they can incorporate some of the language they hear you using throughout the day.
Some great options to consider when selecting toys to encourage speech development in your toddler include:
Baby dolls: Whether your child is a girl or a boy, a baby doll can be a very beneficial speech therapy toy. As children play with their baby doll, they will likely begin to use more of the words you use with them. For example, when pretending to feed the doll, they could start to use words like spoon, bowl, open, milk, bottle, and so on.
Animal sets and stuffed animals: Most children love animals and are very interested in them. Animal sets and stuffed animals are among some of the best speech toys for toddlers. Toddlers can make the different sounds the animals make as they play, repeat the animal names, and engage in creative play with these sets.
Cars and trains: Toy cars and trains also offer up the possibility for lots of fun and speech development in your toddler. Toddlers will enjoy pushing the car around and making sounds to go with the movement, even if they aren’t forming words yet. You can encourage more language development by playing with them and talking about how you are pushing the car/train (forwards, backwards, fast, slow, up a hill, etc.) and asking them how they want the car or train to move.
Doctor kits: All children have been to the doctor and observed how they use their various tools and instruments to check on the patient’s health. Many children are intrigued by this and would enjoy performing their own ‘check ups’ for members of the family or their dolls and stuffed animals. A doctor kit is one of the toys that can help a 2-year-old start talking more. As they perform their ‘check-ups,’ you can encourage them to share what they are doing. Doctor kits can also help children learn the names of the different parts of the body as they perform these check-ups.
Character sets: Character sets that incorporate familiar characters from treasured stories can also be used to help your toddler develop their speech. Choosing first aid kits, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, bath toys, and more that feature beloved characters and animals can not only make it easier for you to get your toddler to let you brush their hair or give them a bath, but it can make them more engaged in the process. You can use the different components of the set to retell a familiar story or act out pieces of it as you get your child ready. Some great options you can use to encourage speech include this Newborn First Aid Kit, this Mother Goose Baby Wooden Hairbrush Set, and this Mother Goose Baby Grooming Kit.
Choosing a few talking toys for toddlers that will talk to your child and model the use of language and different words/phrases can also be beneficial. However, you want to be careful to only choose a few electronic toys to ensure that your toddler still has plenty of time to be the one in charge of producing their own language for his or her toys.
Here are a few different talk toys you may want to consider:
Talking piggy bank: There are a few different talking piggy banks on the market. These can be engaging for children and can help them develop basic maths vocabulary. The piggy banks can help children learn to count to 10 since they will count as your child inserts the coins into the bank.
Sound effects puzzles: Sound effects puzzles are a good way to help your toddler learn and start to say the sounds different animals make. These puzzles will play the sound each animal makes when your toddler inserts it into the correct spot on the board.
Some toys for toddlers with speech delays are great for helping them develop their communication skills. When choosing toys to encourage communication, look for options that encourage cooperative play, role-playing, and taking turns. If you frequently host play dates or have other children over to play with your toddler, these would be good toys for them to use together. If you don’t typically have other children in your home, find some time to play with these toys alongside your toddler so they can still reap the benefits of having someone to play with and develop their communication and social skills.
Here are a few toys that can help with the development of communication skills in toddlers:
Play kitchens and play food sets: Toddlers love to mimic what they see their parents doing, and, chances are, they see you or someone else in your home cooking in the kitchen. With a play kitchen and play food set, toddlers can do so much and work on a variety of language skills. They can use words to describe the foods they are cooking and where they are cooking them, open a restaurant where they are serving you or others different foods, and so much more. All of these activities will encourage them to use new words to describe what they are doing.
Blocks: Building with blocks can be another very powerful activity to help toddlers develop their speech. They can talk about the different colour blocks they are using, the sizes of the blocks, and more. As they build, you can model using words like stacking, tower, up high, and knocked over. Building with blocks is definitely a good opportunity to encourage cooperative play between two toddlers.
Water tables: A water table is a good outdoor toy that can be used for language development. As children play with the water, you can ask them questions about what is happening and model the use of different words, like pour, dump, wet, cold, splash, and so on.
Language Toys for Toddlers
You can also find toys that are geared specifically towards helping a toddler develop his or her language skills. These toys will encourage toddlers to learn and use new words to describe what is happening or what they are doing.
Sign language cards and books: Learning sign language can actually help babies and toddlers improve their language and vocabulary skills. Such sign language toys for toddlers can also help them find ways to express themselves as their verbal language skills are still developing.
Sign language cards and books: You can find numerous books and flash cards that will help you learn and teach your toddler basic signs. Pick a few words that are familiar and important to your toddler (such as more, milk, eat, all done, bath, diaper, etc.) to start with and then expand on what you teach them.
Stacking cups: Stacking cups can be a powerful speech learning toy. They can be used to teach positional words, such as under, in, next to, and in between. Use a small block or animal toy along with the cups to have your toddler identify where the toy is in relationship to one of the cups.
Best Toys for Speech Therapy: Talking Toys for Toddlers
If you ask a speech therapist which talking toys for toddlers they recommend using, many of their recommendations will be similar to what we shared above. The most important thing is to get your child interacting with the toys and modelling language for them. That being said, there are a few other speech therapy toys and talking toys for toddlers you may want to consider based on the age of your child.
Speech Therapy Toys for Babies
While most babies won’t be producing words on their own yet, now is the time to lay the foundation for speech. Talking to your baby all the time is important. The more language they hear, they better. Narrate your day, tell them what you are doing, why you are doing it, sing to them, ask them questions (even though they won’t answer), and so on.
Below are a few toys you can pick up to help your baby develop their language skills:
Books: Reading to children from an early age is important for so many reasons. When babies hear you read a book, they start to learn language patterns and are exposed to so many different words that they may not hear otherwise. Choose a variety of books and visit the library frequently to expose your baby to more language and vocabulary.
Hand puppets: Hand puppets are a good option when you’re looking for talking toys for babies. You can use the hand puppets to talk to your baby as you would otherwise, but seeing the colorful animal with a moving mouth may make the experience more exciting and engaging for your baby. You can continue using the hand puppets as your child grows older, and even encourage them to start making the puppet talk on their own.
Speech Therapy Toys for One Year-Olds
Continuing to read and talk to your 1-year-old remains important. Below are some other speech learning toys you can begin to incorporate around this age:
Touch and feel picture cards: Touch and feel picture cards are a great way to help your toddler learn and experiment with words. These picture cards have different textures that you can describe as your child feels and compares the differences between the cards.
Toy microphone: Echo microphones are very exciting to children. They can hear the sounds and the words they made echoed back, which can encourage them to make new sounds and try out new words.
Speech Therapy Toys for Two Year-Olds
Speech therapy toys to help a 2-year-old talk will centre around encouraging them to use more words. Again, you will want to continue talking to and reading to your child when they are 2; this continues to remain essential throughout their development.
Below are a few language development toys you can use with a 2-year-old:
Speech therapy cards: Speech therapy cards can be used to help your toddler learn and use new vocabulary words. There are different types of cards you may find, but many focus on learning emotions, verbs, or prepositions. When using the cards with your toddler, try acting out or having them act out each word to help them gain a deeper understanding of what it means.
Colour sorting and counting set: Counting and sorting objects can also be beneficial talking toys for toddlers and speech therapy. Colour sorting and counting sets include all the pieces you’ll need to help your toddler work on these skills. You can work together to count items, group similar items together, or match like items together. As you are working on these skills, model different vocabulary words for your toddler and talk through what you are doing.
Games to Help Your Toddler Talk
Some games can also be used to help encourage your toddler to talk and develop their speech. We’ve shared a few ideas below to help get you started:
Peekaboo is a timeless game that can be played in many different ways. You/your toddler can either hide behind your hands, under a blanket, or around the corner. The person hiding then pops out (or moves their hands/blanket) and says “peekaboo!”
How peekaboo can help with speech development: Peekaboo can be played starting with very young babies. As babies and toddlers play peekaboo, they begin to learn a lot about speech patterns and language development. They can learn to pay attention, imitate actions, take turns, and make gestures. All of these are important skills they will need as they develop and are ready to have actual conversations.
Fingerplays are short rhymes that are acted out using the fingers and hands. Many times, a fingerplay is sung, other times, they are spoken. Examples of fingerplays toddlers enjoy include “Where is Thumbkin,” “Open, Shut Them,” “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “Five Little Monkeys.”
How fingerplays can help with speech development: When children perform (or even watch you perform) the motions for a fingerplay, they are making associations between the words and what they mean. For example, in “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” fingerplay, toddlers will begin to understand what up means as they (or you) move your fingers up when the spider “climbs up the water spout.” They may then begin to start saying the words to the fingerplay as they go through the motions or begin applying the vocabulary they’ve learned to other situations.
I Spy is another fun game that can help encourage speech development in toddlers. To play I Spy, you choose something in the room and use one attribute of the object to describe it. Your child then needs to guess what you are thinking of by naming possible objects it could be. For example, if you are thinking about the red blanket on your couch, you could say, “I spy something red.” Your toddler could then guess other red items in the room to see if they could figure out which item you were thinking about.
How I Spy can help with speech development: When you play I Spy with your children, they will begin using vocabulary words to name the different items in the room that could match the attribute you chose. If your child doesn’t have the vocabulary to name these items, you could have him or her bring them up to you, and then you could name the item and say whether or not it was the one you were thinking of. As children get more familiar with the game and increase their vocabulary some, you could also try switching roles in the game and letting your toddler be the one to ‘spy’ something in the room.
Tips to Develop Toddler Speech
If your toddler isn’t meeting milestones for speech development, incorporating the use of toys and games for speaking can have a tremendous impact on their ability to produce language. Here are a few more tips you can also use to help your child talk more:
- Talk to your child about everything that you are doing.
- Read books together each day.
- Listen to stories and songs in the car.
- Ask your child questions about what they are doing or playing with.
- Look at your child as they are talking (or babbling).
- Encourage your child when they try to talk, even if their words are not clear.
- Ask your child to point to different objects or body parts that you name.
- Limit screen time and give your child more time to play with their toys or read books.
- Use new words over and over again.
- Use descriptive words to talk about the way something looks, sounds, smells, tastes, or feels.
- Add on to the words your toddler uses to make a more complete sentence.
- Pretend to talk on the phone and then pass the phone to your child to continue the conversation with the imaginary person on the other end.
- Schedule play dates so your toddler can interact and communicate with other children their own age.
It can be concerning when your child’s speech isn’t where it needs to be. However, by incorporating speech talking toys for toddlers and games to help your toddler talk, you’ll be impressed by the gains they’re able to make in a short amount of time. If you’re interested in reading more about developmental delays in toddlers, this article from WebMD includes some useful information about language and speech delays as well as some things you can do with your toddler to overcome the delays.
Working with your children on their speech and language skills is important and can be very beneficial. However, if you suspect there is an issue, you should also consult with your paediatrician and meet with a speech-language pathologist or an early intervention group nearby. The sooner speech delays are caught and intervention begins, the smaller the impact they’ll have on your child as they grow older.