Toy Talk: Stimulating Language through Play

by Sharon Weisz
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The 4 S’s:

  • Say less – Use short, simple utterances (ex. single words, phrases, and short sentences)
  • Stress – Emphasize key words by saying these words more loudly or with an exaggerated tone (ex. “I see a CAR, did you see the CAR? It was a big Car!”)
  • Go Slow – speak slowly and clearly
  • Show – Show your child what you are talking about by using gestures (ex. pointing), sign language, pictures, and actual objects.

A few more tips…

  • REPEAT-REPEAT-REPEAT – Aim to repeat the key word 5 times while playing a particular game. (ex. “Get the BALL, Where’s the BALL? There’s the BALL. The BALL is under the sofa. You got the BALL!”)
  • Follow the Child’s Lead – See what your child is playing with and join in. You can also be a commentator and simply talk about what your child is doing or what is happening. “The ball is going up – up – up – up!”

A few simple games and their key words to target:

Stacking blocks/Lego

  • Up/On/Off  – As you put a block on top or take one off.
  • Down – After stacking a bunch of blocks, knock down the tower and say “dooooown”  or “uh oh”.
  • More – Hold the bag and have the child request ‘more’ as you give out the blocks one-by-one
  • Big/Small – If there are different sizes, hold out a big block and a small block and have the child make a choice. Ask “Big or small?”
  • Colours – If there are different colours, hold out two and ask “red or blue?”


  • Pretend play – Have the child drive a toy car while making the sound effect ‘vvvv’. You may also fill the car up with gas, stop at a red light, and park the car in a parking lot.
  • Car parts – Label the parts of the car, ex. wheels, windows, doors.
  • Colours – If there are different colours, hold out two and ask “red or blue?”
  • Vocabulary – label the types of vehicles, ex. ambulance, fire truck, airplane, helicopter. Hold up two vehicles and ask “Which vehicle? Fire truck or airplane?” This also teaches the category name, ‘vehicle’ or ‘transportation’.
  • Up/Down – Make the cars go up and down a ramp.
  • Fast/Slow – Make one car drive fast and say ‘fast’ while the other drives slowly and say ‘slow’.
  • First/Second/Last – Have races with the cars. Say who got to the end ‘first/second/last’.

Animals/Toy Farm

    • Label the animals
    • Make animal sounds – It is easier to say the sound an animal makes than the name of the animal, ex. baaa is easier to say than sheep. If your child can say the animal sounds, but not the names, that is perfectly fine for now!


  • Pretend play – Feed the animals, put the animals to sleep, make the animals jump over the fence. While doing all of these actions, add words, ex. Pig is hungry. Pig is eating. Yummy yummy. good night cow, cow is sleeping. Jump jump jump, cow jumping.
  • Sing “Old MacDonald had a Farm” – Stop and let the child fill in the blanks, ex. “On that farm he had a cow, with a moo moo here and a ___…”



  • Pretend play – Dress the dolls, feed the dolls, change diapers, put them to sleep, and take them for a walk in a stroller.
  • Imaginative play – Play ‘House’ where one person is the mommy and one person is the daddy. Take a walk to the store, get ready for school etc.
  • Vocabulary – Label the doll’s clothing (ex. shirt, dress, shoes), add colours and patterns (ex. polka dots, stripes). If there is a doll house, label the different rooms and furniture.
  • Follow directions – You can give your child instructions, ex. “Put her on the bed” or “Take her to the potty”.
  • Preposition words – While dressing baby, say “shirt ON, pants ON, shoes OFF”


During any activity, teach your child the important social skill of taking turns. Children can learn to say “My turn” and “Your turn”. Even if they are not yet speaking, teach them to tap their chest to indicate “My turn”.

For more ideas on how to incorporate language into your favourite toys and activities, please do not hesitate to contact Sharon Weisz at

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