10 activities to help develop your child's speech.

Jan 12, 2015

The best way to help a child's speech and language development is through play. Here are 10 simple activities that you can do at home, including the key vocabulary to focus on, to help develop your child's speech and oral language.

The key to these activities is about engaging with the child and using simple, useful language that matches the actions of play. This puts the language into context with what they are experiencing and gives them opportunities to hear, use and practice the language in a way that makes sense to them. Often the simple phrases are repeated over and over again in the same activity which is what you want. The words that you can focus on are listed for each activity under "Language" but you can still use them in correct sentence structure whilst focusing on the key words. For example, "Ball. You have a ball" and "Give ballGive me the ball please." For more specific information about how to develop your child's speech through play and to hear our personal journey with oral language concerns, see here.

Ball Play

  • little ball
  • bowl
  • basket
  • spoon

Language (to match the actions)
  • throw ball
  • get ball
  • give ball please (simple instructions for them to follow)
  • ball in basket
  • ball out of basket
  • ball on floor
  • ball on spoon
  • ball fell off spoon
  • pick up ball


  • Glue stick with lid
  • large sheet of paper
  • scraps for gluing (paper/felt/feathers etc)

Language (to match the actions)
  • lid off glue
  • glue on paper
  • stick on paper
  • lid on glue
  • glue on hand
  • sticky hand/ your hand is sticky
  • sticky paper
  • red/blue/green etc paper (saying colour names as they are used)
  • put lid on
  • "Child's name" give lid please (try simple instructions for them to follow)

Trucks and Ramps

  • little truck
  • ramp (use hard cover books for ramps)
  • small toy animal that will fit in truck/trailer (eg. dog, cow)

  • Go!
  • brooooom!
  • Ready, set, go
  • Go truck!
  • truck on ramp
  • truck go down ramp
  • truck at top
  • truck at bottom
  • "dog" in truck
  • "dog" out of truck
  • "dog" on ramp
  • "dog" on floor
  • put dog in truck (simple instructions for them to follow)

Making a Snack

Instead of preparing a snack for your child, provide materials for them to make their own snack and then use the language that naturally goes with the processes.

  • Little containers
  • fruit (eg. banana, strawberries)
  • plastic knife
  • savoury cracker
  • spread (eg. cream cheese, peanut butter)
  • sultanas
  • plate

  • yummy
  • eat food
  • hungry
  • snack time
  • cut up banana
  • peanut butter on cracker
  • put in container
  • more?
  • you like?
  • 3 sultanas. 1, 2, 3.
  • strawberry on plate
  • strawberry off plate
  • in mouth

Pom-pom Play

  • pom-poms
  • basket
  • box
  • plate
  • spoon/tongs

  • pom-poms on floor
  • pick up pom-poms (can use simple instructions for them to follow)
  • pom-poms in basket
  • pom-poms in box
  • pom-poms on plate
  • pom-poms off plate
  • pom-pom on spoon
  • "red" pom-pom 
  • 3 pom-poms. 1, 2, 3
  • more
  • all gone
  • tip pom-poms


  • toy phone

  • hello
  • yes 
  • thanks
  • ok
  • press buttons
  • ring-ring
  • who's there?
  • bye
  • Mama, Daddy, Nanna, etc.

Let's build

  • variety of different blocks (shapes, sizes, colours etc)

  • build up
  • block on top
  • put on
  • fall down
  • big tower
  • tall tower
  • very tall
  • put block on (following simple instructions)
  • big block
  • little block
  • "red" block
  • more

Animal Tracks

Walking plastic animals over clay/playdough to leave footprint impressions. Focus the language on the movements and animal sounds.

  • clay/playdough
  • plastic animals

Language (match the actions being used)
  • roll clay
  • squishy clay
  • kangaroo jump/ jump jump jump
  • marks in clay
  • footprints in clay
  • more?
  • snake slither/ sssssss
  • frog jump/ jump jump/ ribbit ribbit
  • lion roar/ roaaaaar
  • animals walk
  • walk on clay

I'm a Chef

Pretend cooking play using playdough and various kitchen implements. You can roll some sausage shapes etc. to help encourage other actions that allow you for other language use.

  • playdough
  • plastic pot w/ lid
  • plastic frying pan
  • plastic knife
  • plastic plates

  • cut "playdough" (or, "sausage/carrot" etc.)
  • roll playdough
  • in pot
  • out of pot
  • in pan
  • out of pan
  • lid on pot
  • lid off 
  • on plate
  • more?
  • no more
  • all gone
  • yummy
  • what are you making?

Sandpit Play

Sensory play is great for young children and for developing language. Children are able to match what they are seeing/hearing/smelling/touching or tasting with the words that go with the sensory experience. This makes the experience very tangible for them.

  • sand
  • plastic bottle with lid
  • spoon

  • lid on bottle
  • lid off bottle
  • sand in bottle
  • scoop sand
  • pour sand
  • give spoon
  • tip sand
  • empty bottle
  • sand all gone
  • sand on spoon

Handy Tips:

- Generally, just asking my child if they would like to play with me is enough to entice them to participate in some one-on-one time, however if they are hesitant (code for, my toddler wants to do what he wants to, not what I want him to) I will get out the materials and start playing with them myself. The more fun I'm having on my own, the more they usually want to join in.

- If your child really isn't in the mood for your planned play, I wouldn't force it. Instead, try to find a way to engage with what they are interested in playing and try and use and encourage them to practice the language that naturally comes with that activity.

- Read my tips on the best way to approach these one-on-one play times with your child.

- It is very important to allow your child time to respond to any questions you ask and for them to attempt to use or mimic the language. Encourage and praise their attempts at oral language.

- You will most likely find, during the course of your one-on-one play, that other language (other than what's listed above) naturally occurs due to the direction that your play takes. This is of course perfectly fine. Just try and keep the language short, clear, relevant and useful during this time. Repetition is important.

- There are lots of great kids books that encourage speaking and making sounds. A favourite of ours is, "Mr Brown can Moo. Can you?" by Dr Seuss.

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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