Children learn so much through play. Toys are a great way to get kids talking! New toys and games can spark new vocabulary, longer sentences and more complex ideas. Here are my favourite toys for building language in preschool aged kids.
1. Pretend play kitchen and food
Kids love to play shops! Without realising it, they are practicing greeting people, asking questions and learning new words. Join in and enjoy a ‘skinny latte’ or a bowl of soup! Kids love to see their parents play and be silly.
Collect some empty boxes and bottles to use in your shop. Use some plastic bowls and cups to set up a restaurant. You can get out some teddies and dolls to join in the fun.
2. Animals (and books): “What sound does a horse make?”
By age 3, most children know the sounds common animals make. They can now start using animals to tell stories. Match up some animal toys with a favorite book and act out the story together!
Put together a book basket, with some animals and your favourite books. For example, What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson is a great book to act out with animal toys. Collect up your farm animals and tell the story. Some Aussie favourites are Wombat Stew or Possum Magic by Mem Fox.
Blocks are fantastic to combine with other toys. Use blocks to create houses for animals or people. Talk about where you are putting things. For example, “the horse is under the bridge”. This helps your child learn new words and follow instructions. Sit together and talk about the house, the farm or the car that you can build with their blocks. Leave creations out for a couple of days so that kids can build on their play and talk about what they have added.
4. Doll play
Lastly, doll play is another great way to build language. Children learn to use words that relate back to themselves through dolls. For example, “I’m feeding the dolly” or “Dolly doesn’t want to eat this”.
Kids benefit from the opportunity to role-play with dolls or teddies. Lots of preschoolers have new baby brothers or sisters and will surprise you with how much they know about babies. Plastic dolls are great because you can give them a bath!
5. Toy libraries
Toy libraries are a great way to introduce variety into your child’s play and offer a broad range of toys that help improve language skills. A toy library membership is a cost-effective and space-saving solution that gives your child access to hundreds of toys. Find your local toy library here – www.toylibraries.org.au
For more information about child language development, go to Speech Pathology Australia
Gemma Holleran is a speech pathologist, mum and committee member at Carnegie Toy Library.