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Speech and Communication

Toys which help language skills

Some toys are especially good at helping little ones develop language skills. Children’s communication charity I CAN explains what works, and why.

Encourage pretend play

Children start to pretend from around 12 months. They learn from watching what we do and what they’ve seen – so you might see them pretending to cook, or make-believe they’re driving. Their play will get more involved and complicated, until they’re creating whole imaginary worlds. These stages are key for children to develop early language skills.

Good for pretending: a child-size workshop or work bench, garage, kitchen, hospital, vet’s surgery or farm.

Build imaginary worlds

Have you noticed your child pretending to feed a toy, put it to bed or tell it stories? Gradually these toys become the focus of their imagination: children love to make up adventures with them – and it’s great for developing creative and language skills.

Good for imagining: a teddy, a doll, or a character from a cartoon or TV show.

Get messy

Messy play helps with sensory exploration, and can be used to develop language skills. Messy play toys help children develop their awareness of different sensations, and can be used to talk about actions – pour, squash, squeeze, pull or rub – as well as describing different colours and textures.

Good for touching: water play toys, sand play toys, chalk boards, finger paints and play dough.

Make a noise!

Babies love rattles and shakers – anything that gets their attention and holds it! There are also shakers with lights they can watch or glittery sparkles to hold their attention.

Good for listening to: clappers, tambourines, rattles and shakers.

Make your own musical instruments

Read books more than once

Don’t be afraid to tell a story more than once: repetition helps children to understand and remember the words they hear. Children also love to join in with the bits that they remember – books that have repetitive words or phrases are also great for this.

Don’t assume good toys are the most expensive or sophisticated. Your child will love playing with you – and simple games like peekaboo or eye spy are free!

How to make talking fun by reading together

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