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Using Toys to Foster Language Development

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

3 Toys You Should Consider for Christmas This Year

As a speech-language pathologist, parents often ask me what toys I would recommend to help foster their child’s speech and language skills. With the holidays fast approaching, I created a list of my top 3 “old-fashioned”, language-fostering toys. Consider adding a few of these to your list when buying for your child this year!

1. Potato Head

Mr. Potato Head is one toy I always carry in my bag to use with clients who have language delays or disorders. There are SO many possible options for playing with Mr. Potato Head and you can target many different language skills. Below are a few ideas:

  • Identifying and Naming common body parts

  • Functions of objects (e.g.: What do we use our eyes for?)

  • Following directions (e.g.: First, put in his nose, then put in his ears)

  • Solving problems: (e.g.: Oh no! Mr. Potato Head doesn’t have any feet….how can he move?)

2. Cars!

Cars, trucks, airplanes… you name it, I probably have it in my traveling speech bag. Cars (or trains, etc.) provide an excellent opportunity to foster language development. Below are some ideas you can use at home during play:

  • Verbs- While playing, there are many opportunities to use a variety of action words (go, stop, drive, park). Many clients that I see use a wide variety of nouns, but not a lot of verbs. During play, we can target action words and teach synonyms for verbs that we may commonly use (e.g., using “start” instead of “go”).

  • Adjectives- Toy cars also provide ample opportunities to use adjectives. Some commonly used examples include: fast, slow, and different colors.

  • Social Skills- You can use toy cards to work on turn taking and sharing, which are both important social skills. Take turns racing your car around a track, or use only one car and practice saying “my turn”, or “May I have the car now?”.


All children love playing with blocks. Speech-language pathologists also love blocks, because we can target so many skills while playing and having fun. Below are a few ideas to help foster your child’s language development while using blocks:

  • Prepositions: Place different objects under the blocks, on top of the blocks, or between the blocks to work on spatial concepts.

  • Problem solving skills: How can we build a tall tower without it falling?

  • Cause and effect relationships: For clients with delayed language skills or very young clients, teaching the cause and effect relationship is one of the first steps in therapy. It is a precursor to using language and understanding its implications.

  • Concepts- tall, short, wide, narrow are all wonderful concepts to target while playing with blocks.

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