Building Everyday Language With a Toddler

Building language is something that you can do at anytime, and all the time. Language comes in two parts, receptive and expressive. Receptive language is what a child understands. Expressive language is what a child is saying with their own words. A child sometimes needs to hear something thousands of times before they use it spontaneously. So don’t worry if you’re doing some of these things everyday. Repetition is the key to learning at this age.

These are some ideas to try with your toddler that only require your imagination and common household items.

– Laundry basketball
o Everyone has to do laundry. Play a game of laundry basket ball with your toddler. See if they can throw in the clothing into a basket or container from different places in the room.
o You can count the number of baskets you make
o See if they can pick the clothing that you’re describing to put/throw in the basket.
o See if they can pick out just their things, mom’s or dad’s things to put in the basket.
o See if they can pick out all the things of the same color, type and put/throw it into the basket.
o For a challenge, have your child tell you what to pick up and throw into the basket.
o This can also be used to teach your child to gamify clean up. Have them make baskets with the toys into their bin or box.

– Blanket swing – not all children like this and you’ll have to assess if this is the right game for you. If your child is getting scared or appears distressed, this may not be the game for them.
o Put your toddler in the middle of a blanket, take the 4 corners and swing them lightly off the ground.
o Count to 10 then throw them on the couch. Have them request more, or count with you
o Sing a song for the duration and throw / place them on the couch
o Have them request for “more” or the song they want to sing in the swing
o Sing ABC song then throw / place them on the couch

– Blanket
o Blankets are great for peekaboo
o Pretend to put toys to bed
o Hide toys – for babies, you’re teaching object permanence. Fro older kids, you can hide a variety of toys and see if they can feel for the one you’re naming under the blanket.
o See if your child can remember what’s under the blanket. Start with one toy, then hide two, then three and so on.

– Tea / picnic
o Use the plastic cups or bowls that your child eats on and have a tea party with toys. You can use dolls or cars as participants where you’re feeding your dolls or cars, you can use toys with multiple pieces like blocks or legos as the food. You can also cut out pictures of food from the newspaper if you don’t have blocks.
o Count the number of items
o Taking turns with toy participants
o Pretend play – this block is a cookie, this block is an apple, etc.
o Pretend to eat, pour, mix, stir, cook, grill, etc.

– Soccer or house hockey – make sure you don’t use a ball that’s too hard because you don’t want to break anything or hurt anyone.
o Take an empty box, set it on it’s side, and see if your child can kick a light ball or balloon into the “goal.”
o Use a broom or the inner tube of a paper towel roll to hit a ball/balloon into the box goal.
o See if they can push a car or truck into a box from afar.

– Tupperware
o Pretend to drum, play piano
o Incorporate into picnic/tea party play
o Practice putting things in and dumping out for 1 year olds
o Mix, stir, toys with a spoon/utensil
o Stack and nest Tupperware (teaching size through play)

– Painters tape:
o Put tape down on hardwood in different designs
• Vertical lines for steps, boxes for jumps, horizontal lines for hops
o Make all different combinations and see if your toddler can follow directions. Jump into the boxes, walk along the lines, either parallel legs or heel-toe all depending on where your child’s gross motor skill level is, hop on the floor ladder. This targets more than just language. It’s gross motor, balance, visual – spatial, and language skills.

What other activities do you do with your child? Stay tuned for ideas during meal time, bath time, and creative ways to help a child transition from one place or thing to another.

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