Teddies, Dolls and Toy animals – Encouraging Early Language Part 1

Firstly, as a Speech and Language Therapist I am passionate about the importance of early intervention and working together with families. Working with children to develop early language and communication skills is probably one of the favourite parts of my job. The therapy that I carry out is play-based using everyday toys and it is important to me that therapy is fun for the child (and therapist!)

This is my first of a series of posts to show you how I use everyday toys to encourage language and work on specific language targets. Although there are some great toys and resources out there that are specific to speech and language therapy, for many families everyday toys work perfectly. Today I will focus on teddies, dolls and toy animals; essential toys in my therapy kit.

Animal toys

Understanding of language – Put the animal toys on the floor. You can ask your child to follow simple instructions for example “show me the cat?” “find me the tiger”. If they struggle you can identify and name the animal. Let your child hold the animal and name it a few times.

Using single words – You can ask your child to name the animals. If your child labels an animal with the noise the animal makes, e.g. “moo” to label the cow, you can tell them the name of the animal followed by the animal sounds that they already know e.g. “Cow… cow… the cow says moo”.

Animal noises – For younger children you can teach them the noises that animals make. Sing nursery rhymes such as Old MacDonald Had a Farm and Five Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day to keep younger children engaged and motivated.

Dolls and Teddies

Developing understanding of prepositions such as “in” “on” and “under” – Try hiding teddies around the room. Ask your child to find the teddies and then comment on where they are hiding, e.g. “teddy’s under the chair” “dolly’s on the table”.

Understanding and using action words/verbs – Pretend play is a fun way of focusing on your child’s understanding and use of verbs. Often commenting on your own and your child’s play is the most effective way to introduce new verbs. Aim to repeat the target words in the play. Below are a few ideas of target verbs to focus on.
Eating/Drinking – Mealtime
Sleeping/Waking – Bedtime
Washing/Splashing/Pouring – Bathtime
Brushing teeth/Getting dressed/Reading book – Bedtime routine
Walking/Jumping/Hopping/Skipping – Playtime

Food names – Set up a teddy bear’s picnic with real or pretend food. Keeping your language simple and repetitive can be a useful way of introducing new words to child. For example, “teddy’s eating a banana” “dolly’s eating an apple”.

I am a fully qualified Speech and Language Therapist with a First-class honours degree in Speech Pathology and Therapy. I am a registered member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice and the Health and Care Professions Council.
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