Let's Play: the speech and language way

Speech and language therapy ideas for playing at home



Playing with…egg hunts!

Easter is coming which means egg hunts are on the way!  Taking your little one to a large, community-based egg hunt may be a bit overwhelming but PLAYING with egg hunts at home can be a great way to practice communication while finding all kinds of hidden treasures.  Then you get to put the treasure in a basket, talk about what you found, dump it all out… and start all over!  Lots of opportunities to practice talking.

If you’re hiding eggs for a little one who still puts everything in his mouth, you may want to hide egg shakers rather than plastic (breakable) eggs.  Egg shakers make great musical instruments as well!  Hide them in plain sight.  Practice searching for eggs by calling out “EEeeegg, where are you?”  Don’t direct your child, but use short phrases to describe where they are already looking.  “on the table? Noooo.  under the chair? Noooo.  on the ceiling? No way.  next to your book?  YYYESSSSS!”

Be sure to make the moment of victory (finding the egg) significant by cheering “hooray!  tada!  did it!  found it!”… or whatever makes sense to you and is easy for your little one to imitate.

Once your treasure is collected take time to explore what has been found.  Take out the “red” eggs or “blue” eggs, “shake shake shake” them, “tap tap tap” them, toss them back “in” the basket together then ask if your little one wants to do it again.

Have older kids or siblings?

  • Make it a race… Ready, Set… “GO”.  How about an egg on a spoon race?  Use your own eggs and spoons or buy a game set.  Either way, it’s a perfect game to help even your high speed racers try moving a bit more slowly and carefully!   When the egg drops “uh-oh” or “crash” or “kaboom!”
  • Start in a different room and give your preschooler a two-part direction “look on the table and under the book” to practice comprehension.
  • Want to practice concepts other than colors?  Write letters on paper, cut them out, hide them inside plastic eggs.  Do the same thing with numbers or shapes.  See if older kids can find the letters in their name or find matching uppercase and lowercase letters.

An empty egg carton is a great sorting toy! lp-easter Put snacks in each space to help with fine motor skills as well as sorting and labeling each snack item as you go.  Practice turn-taking “my turn, your turn” and mistake-making “uh-oh”, “maybe not”, “you fixed it!”  Use the egg carton as a paint holder, taste testing container for small bites of foods, garage for small cars, Lego organizer, or matching game as you take those plastic eggs with pictures inside then organize them into the egg carton – instant memory game!

Using the fake grass of Easter baskets can be a great filler for a Sensory Bin.  Hide the eggs in a plastic bin of fake grass and have an egg hunt that way.

Need to buy an Easter gift?  Here are some ideas:

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.


Try some of these strategies when playing with little ones:

Magical Moments – using the right word at the right time

Two little words – inviting your toddler to name objects without asking them to do it

Where are the WORDS? – when words are too hard, focus on SOUNDS

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Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

When little ones are learning to talk, words are rarely accurate.  This often leads to questions like: “Is that a word?”  “Did he just say…?”  “Did anyone else hear that?”  “Does that count as a word?”  “Is this normal?”

Toddlers are working hard to figure out how to make all those sounds in the right order at the right time.  It isn’t easy.  Most toddler words are generally simplified versions of true words (i.e. “wawa” for water).  Sometimes many of the toddler’s words are only understood by those who spend the most time with them.

Just take a look at this short sample of common toddler words (all of which are typical in development) and you’ll see how a toddler can be hard to understand:

  • “u”/up
  • “tah”/car
  • “bawoo”/balloon OR blue
  • “daw”/dog
  • “doh”/go
  • “mahmoh”/mower (lawn mower)
  • “dut”/duck
  • “dah”/star
  • “mitee”/Mickey
  • “pay”/plane (airplane)
  • “dop”/stop

With so many distorted, substituted, and omitted sounds, it’s no wonder some people have a hard time understanding toddlers.  So how do you know when your toddler’s speech is just typically hard to understand or when it might be time to ask a Speech-Language Pathologist?  It generally comes down to how often he is understood by familiar people (moms, dads, caregivers).  If a toddler’s mother (or most familiar caregiver) understands her 2-year-old less than 50% of the time then that could be a recipe for frustration…for all involved.

As an SLP myself, here’s what I tend to look for when deciding whether a toddler’s speech is on track (even if it’s difficult to understand at times):

1. Is there a consonant sound where a consonant sound should be?

It doesn’t necessarily need to be the right consonant sound.  For example, “top” for stop would be fine because there is a consonant sound at the beginning and at the end.  Saying “ah” for stop would mean that consonant sounds are being left out of the beginning and the end making this almost impossible to understand if the child weren’t also holding up their hand at the end of some movement.

HOW TO HELP:  If your little one leaves sounds out and says things like “u” for up, you can start emphasizing the missing sound when you repeat it back.  Use a visual cue (clap, tap, point, raise a finger, etc) when you say “p”.  Your toddler doesn’t necessarily need to try it again in that moment, they may just need to hear it again and again and again until they are ready.

2. Are there a variety of vowel sounds attempted in words?

For example, a child may say “dah” for dog, “da” for dad, and “doo” for two.  Using a few different vowels greatly improves how well a word can be understood.  If dog, dad, and two all sounded like “duh” then it would be really hard to figure out the meaning.

HOW TO HELP:  SING! Sing words slowly. Singing naturally elongates vowel sounds allowing toddlers to listen to them longer.  Call out to missing objects or people when you can’t find them or when you’re playing peek-a-boo “mooommyyyy, where are you?”

3. Are there a variety of consonant sounds?

Having at least a handful (or two) of consonant sounds when attempting words is important, just as with vowel sounds.  Typically the earliest consonant sounds toddlers will use in words are: b, d, m, n, h, y, t, p, and w.  That doesn’t mean these sounds will be accurate all the time and it doesn’t mean a toddler can’t say additional sounds.  I get really excited when a toddler can say a “k” or “g” or even a messy “s” sound in word attempts!

HOW TO HELP:  In general, make sure you always repeat words back to your little one accurately.  You can slightly emphasize the sound that he should change.  If your toddler is stuck with only 2-3 consonant sounds you might want to play with consonant sounds rather than trying them in words.

4. Do the word attempts mostly have the right number of syllables? 

I’m not expecting a toddler to use 3-4 syllables in a word but familiar two-syllable words should have two syllables (maybe not the first few times they try it but shortly afterwards).  For example, when trying to say bubble, does the toddler use two syllables “buhbuh” or just one “buh”?  “Dinosaur” is a long word.  Many toddlers will shorten it to “dino” or “disaur”.  That’s fine.

HOW TO HELP:  Clapping, tapping syllables is a fun way to emphasize two parts.  Singing can be helpful too.  Another idea would be to give an action to each part of the word.  Making words active might be more interesting to active toddlers!  Try dinosaur by putting your arms up high for “di” on your hips for “no” and on the ground for “saur”.

5. Do the words become more accurate over time?

The first time a toddler says “da” for daddy, everyone cheers!  In the next weeks or months to follow we would expect that word to change to “dada” and then eventually “daddy”.  As long as words are changing and becoming more accurate, that’s what’s most important.  They all start off a little messy!

If you’re wondering at what age all of these things happen, I’m generally referring to the 18-30 month age range in speech development.  However, the range of normal is so huge that I hesitate to attach a specific month with a specific sound (others may disagree).  The progression of sound development and the variety of sounds are the most important factors during this age range.  Again, most words are simplified at first.  A doggy is often a “doddy”, the color blue is often “boo”, and a spoon is frequently a “boon”.  These are all typical.

One of my favorite messy toddler words from my own son was “wibedy”.  It had the right number of syllables, a variety of consonant and vowel sounds, and it eventually changed over time (much to my dismay) into “library”.

As a final note, I wrote this as a guide for parents.  It is not meant to be a complete examination of speech development and is by no means a substitute for an evaluation by a Speech-Language Pathologist.

Other articles I’ve written that you may be interested in:

Two little words to encourage communication

Magical Moments

Wondering isn’t the same as worrying

Looking for PLAY ideas?

Toys that do nothing

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

After the rain…PUDDLES!

Be sure to “like” and follow me on Facebook for all of my play and language learning tips!


Playing with… Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming!  Marking this occasion with a little one while also practicing speech and language sounds is an easy combination for LOTS of kisses “mmmmwah” and hugs “awwwe”.

Giving Valentine treats and cards is something that fits perfectly with the idea of a MAILBOX and toddlers love putting things in interesting places – ha! Pretending to send cards or distribute items to family members, family pets, stuffed animals, or imaginary friends is a fun way to play Valentine’s Day.  Saying the words “Happy Valentine’s Day” while making deliveries may be a stretch for little ones, but try “here you go” or “for you”.  Better yet, you start the phrase and then let them finish “it’s for… (YOU)”.  Keep the same phrase or sentence for all of the deliveries – that way your little one gets lots of practice with the same word/phrases.  If you have a toy mailbox (or any box with a slot for “mail”) then you can send your toys, doodles/artwork, flashcards, cut out pictures from old books/magazines to those we love on this special day.

Phrases to repeat and practice (pick one and say it the same way again and again and again):

  • “This is for…(Grandma, Daddy, etc.)”
  • “Send it to…(name)”
  • “bye bye (name of item, picture)”
  • “Here you go”
  • “Put it in”
  • (name of item, picture) for (person) “apple for Daddy”

Setting up LOTS of mailboxes around the house or play area can get your little one moving.  Put a mailbox in different rooms of the house or at least near different stuffed animals and then give directions for your little one to follow: “Give the car to teddy”.  Better yet, offer a choice so that your little one can practice their own words: “Should we give teddy the car or the bus?”

For an easy art activity, IMG_20180126_110845 use white paper plates as mailboxes.  Cut a slot in each, set it on top of a container of some kind and let your little one decorate each mailbox with heart stickers, crayons, markers, paint… etc.  Then they can continue to deliver Valentine cards over and over again!

Make up your own Valentine’s Day song!  Take the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and change the words:

  • When it’s Valentine’s Day, I give you a kiss “mwah, mwah” 
  • When it’s Valentine’s Day, I give you a kiss “mwah, mwah” 
  • When it’s Valentine’s Day, When it’s Valentine’s Day
  • When it’s Valentine’s Day, I give you a kiss “mwah, mwah” 

Change the song to add “When it’s Valentine’s Day, I give you a hug “squeeze, squeeze” or -“When it’s Valentine’s day, I love you – HOORAY”

Books are always good ideas for any day – but don’t worry so much about reading all of the words (Playing with…BOOKS!) Just give a kiss to all of the animals or people you see on the pages.

Valentine’s Day book and toy ideas from Amazon…

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)


Other posts you may be interested in:

Two little words to encourage communication

Toys that do nothing

Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins

Remember to “like” and follow me on Facebook to make sure you get all of my play and language learning ideas as well as information about baby and toddler play classes!

Two little words to encourage communication

You want your toddler to say a word.  What do you do?

You get out their favorite book and open it up to the brightly colored picture of the ball.  You know he knows this word.  It won’t fail, right?

Parent:  “What’s this?”

Toddler:  blank stare

Parent:  “Say ball”

Toddler:  looks at the picture of the car

Parent (goes to get a ball then shows it to toddler):  “Do you want the ball?  Say ball”

Toddler:  leaves the room

Sound familiar?  The two most common ways we try to get children to say words may be asking “what’s this” and commanding “say…”.  However, these don’t always seem to work and they rarely work with new words.

Being asked to perform on demand often backfires, especially with little ones who are still learning new skills or those who just don’t want the spotlight.  Direct questions and commands place a lot of pressure on your toddler to talk or at least try to talk.

Taking the pressure off may be one of the most effective strategies we can use to open the doors of communication.  We can do that many ways, but one of my favorites is to start with two little words:

“I wonder”

Rather than ask your toddler “what’s this”, try wondering aloud while YOU look at the picture of the ball: “I wonder what this is.”  Sounds simple and maybe you’re thinking that won’t work.  Try it.  Take it a step further and wonder aloud if it could be “a car? no.  a bird? no.”  Keep wondering “hmmmm”.  Maybe even wonder aloud if it could be one of two things (this way you are reminding your toddler of the word without telling them) “I wonder if it’s a car or a ball…hmmm”.  You may be surprised when your toddler tries to help you by saying “ball!”

By stating “I wonder” you have opened the door to communication without demanding it.  Your toddler does not have to do anything, but if they choose to then it will have so much more of an impact and they may even remember that word more quickly the next time.  By putting the pressure on yourself to remember the word, you have taken all the pressure off of your toddler.  He will thank you… and then maybe feel sorry for you because you are so forgetful and even help you remember!

When you are hoping your toddler will say a word you think they already know, start with “I wonder.”

For more play ideas for early communication you may be interested in:

Indoor play with an active toddler

Magical Moments

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!



Playing at the NEW gym for kids – “We Rock the Spectrum”

Imagine zooming down a zip line onto a soft crash pad while admiring your skills or making silly faces in the wall of mirrors next to you!  This is one of the unique experiences awaiting you at We Rock the Spectrum which just opened in December 2017.

Lighting here is not overwhelmingly bright and you won’t hear any loud music as this is a sensory gym with equipment that is more individualized.  No huge climbing structures for the masses that you might find at other kids’ gyms or play areas.

This isn’t just a gym. IMG_20180106_173401  For those who want a break from physical play, there are other options.  Get creative in the arts and crafts area with a chalk wall and play dough table.  Let your imagination go in the toddler play area with some of the BEST toys for pretending and open-ended play (see my post Toys that do nothing).  They even have a wide selection of Melissa & Doug toys to purchase – yes, you do have to walk right through all of the amazing toys in order to enter and exit the gym.  Be prepared.


There is even a “calming room” which is a small darkened room with a tent, bean bag chair, noise cancelling headphones and textured pillows for those who may just need a break from all of the excitement. IMG_20180106_173454

With no seating for adults, interaction is a must – which is my favorite part!  With increased interaction among adults and children you have the opportunity to practice lots of speech and language skills while playing!  You may overhear Tarzan calls from the zip line, squeals of delight and requests for “more” pushes from the variety of swings, calls for “help” and then cheers of success when the climbers reach the top of the rock wall or climbing net to activate the colored buttons, and finally – parents discussing how they might be able to put some of this equipment into their own basements!

If your child is struggling to communicate through words you can use pictures here.  At the front desk they have “make your own picture board/schedule” materials with pictures of equipment to velcro to clipboards.  LOVE this!

My favorite ready-made picture schedule they had was right next to the bowl of suckers for kids to take when they leave – AFTER 1) putting on your coat and 2) putting on your shoes.  Only when those two steps are completed successfully do you get a sucker – GENIUS (especially for my lollipop-loving children who spotted that jar immediately upon entering).

As a pediatric speech therapist, this gym would be amazing for a therapy setting.  As a parent, this gym was super fun for my own two kids and they keep asking when we can go back!

Be sure to like and follow me on Facebook for all of my play and language learning tips!

Indoor play with an active toddler

When the weather keeps you indoors with an active toddler the days can seem long.  Not everyone has a fully loaded basement or playroom with a trampoline, basketball hoop, climbing structure, slide, etc.  Even with all of that great play equipment, how do you find ways to help your little one with talking during all of that excitement?  Most active play is an obvious set up for introducing “ready, set…GO” – allowing your little one to fill-in the “go” part.  But…then what?  He’s jumping and climbing and going crazy and you may be a distant memory.

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.)

Finding play activities that encourage speech and language skills can be a challenge – if your preferred list of activities requires him to sit.  I say this because when most people ask friends and family, and maybe even their pediatrician, for advice on teaching a little one to talk the responses are usually:

  1. just keep talking to him
  2. read to him

I’ve already written Playing with…BOOKS to encourage active book time rather than sitting and attempting to read to a toddler who doesn’t appear to be paying any attention at all.  As with books, Playing with…Flash Cards does not need to require sitting either.

Sensory experiences or “artsy craftsy” stuff can make sitting (or at least remaining in one place) a little more interesting and purposeful. IMG_20170901_091818 Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins can make old toys new again.  Playing with… PLAYDOUGH may lead to some mess and small dried pieces of dough stuck to your floor, but most toddlers will find it fun!  Playing with…art (crayons, markers, stickers, window clings, pudding, shaving cream, magnetic boards, water) is a great way to focus on talking while exploring with your hands.

What about those who need even more movement?  Here are some of my favorites:

1. Make an obstacle course – Use the words “in, on, around, under, over, through, out, off, fast, slow, jump, step, march, hop, pull, push” to describe what needs to happen at each obstacle.  Use whatever you already have: couch cushions, chairs, pillows, blankets, and empty boxes to turn your living room into a new play area with a starting line and a finish line.  If your child isn’t yet using words, try sounds like “oooo” for a darkened tunnel, “ba ba ba” when they march over the bumpy pillows, “whee” when it’s time to move fast, “tada” or “hooray” or just loud cheers and claps upon completion of their first lap!  Other great obstacle items to include would be painter’s tape on a non-carpeted floor.  Use it to give direction or as a balance beam. Make boxes or squares with it and then jump into the squares like stepping stones.  Use it to tape down colored squares of construction paper to practice naming colors too!  If you have bubble wrap, place it on the floor for your little one to walk on “pop pop pop”.  Colored foam mat squares or discs can also help keep your little one on course.

2.  Hide and Seek – This does not need to be elaborate.  My daughter hides in the same toy box EVERY. TIME.  I count to 10 and then wander all over the house wondering aloud where she could possibly be.  This game is perfect for modeling, or demonstrating, to your child how to ask simple repetitive questions:  “Are you in here? NO.  Are you in the closet? NO. Are you under the bed? NO. Are you under this blanket? NO.  Are you in the toy box?  YES!”  Remember to answer your own questions too.  Play this game with stuffed animals – especially if there are no other siblings available.  For little ones who aren’t yet mobile, you can still play Peek-A-Boo!  The Power of Peekaboo

lp-boxes3.  Empty box – In my opinion, a large empty box may be the world’s best toy!  If you shop online then you also get these wonderful “toys” shipped to your house for FREE when you purchase toys, diapers and household needs – ha!  Check out these posts I’ve already written: Playing with…containers and Playing with…diaper boxes.

4.  Flashlight – Turn the lights off, or just dim them, and get out a flashlight!  Make shadow puppets if you are so talented or just shine the light around the room and let your child see their toys and familiar surroundings in a whole new way!  Name what you find and wonder aloud what you might find next.  Tape pictures or flash cards on the wall and place seek-n-find games.  Put the light on the floor and have your toddler try to “stomp” on it or give it a “high five” before the light moves away.

5.  Dance party – Shake, bounce, sway, do the robot…whatever it takes to get some silliness going!  When your toddler imitates your actions, they may be more willing to imitate your sounds as well.  Clap and say “clap”, wiggle “fast” and “slow”, wave your arms up “high” and then wave them down “low”.  For more ideas about using music to help with speech go to Playing with…MUSIC and SINGING!

6.  Road tape IMG_20180104_124603638– Anyone have a car or train lover?  Sure you can buy all the toy garages and train tracks, but for even more movement on an indoor day (or just to change things up a bit) try tape on the floor that looks like a road or train tracks!  Heck, make it part of your obstacle course (see #1).  For play and language ideas with vehicles check out Indoor CAR WASH and Playing with… CARS.

7. AND 8. The last two activities go together and are possibly my favorite active indoor play ideas for speech and language practice:  Scavenger Hunts and Special Deliveries.
Each of these can be expanded or modified (in distance and difficulty) for preschool and school-age children but even toddlers get the basic ideas of 1) matching 2) finding pieces to make a whole and 3) organizing or giving or delivering objects – however you want to describe it.  The key with these activities for speech and language practice is to play WITH your child:  offer choices during play, wonder aloud about where objects could be or where they should go and use words and sounds at their level.  Let’s take a closer look…

Scavenger Hunts You don’t have to create a fancy color print out of various pictures or objects to go find in your house.  Just use any “Memory” game cards as they already come with matches!  Hide half of the cards in one room and then set out their matching card in the starting room.  Name each object your toddler needs to find/match and, as always, wonder aloud where it could be and then where it was found.  For extra points, put the cards in the “starting room” in a box so they get to choose the next picture to go find.  Don’t have a matching game?  How about a puzzle?  Use it the same way.  Hide the pieces in one room (or one side of the same room) and place the board at your starting location.  Shape sorters also work well.  For those who want something that is already made, try “Seek a Boo”.  It’s also a nice scavenger hunt/matching game gift idea for those with little ones.
Special Deliveries – With scavenger hunts we collected items, now we’re going to distribute them!  Use a shopping cart or a box or bag to carry the “mail”.  Use objects that match in color or category.  Set up a blue object in one room, red in another, green in another then give your toddler or preschooler the items to deliver (match).  Deliver foods to stuffed animals that you’ve set up in different rooms, deliver cars to designated parking spots or put baby dolls to bed on various blankets.  With preschoolers, write first letters on cups or paper plates and have them deliver objects with those same first sounds to the corresponding letter.

Here are some more examples of toys that work well for scavenger hunts and special deliveries:


Learning to communicate doesn’t need to be done at a table or while seated.  It just needs a purpose.  Most toddlers prefer to move so we may as well join them!

Once you can get back outdoors you may be interested in:

Playing in the… SNOW!

Talking… at the Playground!

After the rain…PUDDLES!

Be sure to like and follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss any of my play and language learning tips!

Celebrating New Year’s Eve with little ones

Play ideas for little ones on New Year’s Eve??? Ha!  Maybe during the afternoon…

I’m thinking most of the people who read my blog have young children and therefore you don’t actually have much control over when you wake up or when you go to sleep at your house. Midnight celebrations into the wee hours may be a thing of the past.

However, if you’re looking to mark this occasion with your little one try some of these play and language learning ideas:

  1.  Have a countdown (or even a count UP)… then make something exciting happen (like dropping a ball)!
    “1…2…3…4…5…” (pause to heighten the anticipation and allow your child to fill-in) “GO!”
  2. Use party blowers (good for mouth muscles) and rattles/shakers to make lots of noise – “woohoo” “yeah” “ooooo”!  Noise making is always a good “ready, set… GO” activity and a great opportunity to imitate actions – shake up high, shake down low, shake it fast, shake it slow.
  3. Play some music and have a dance party! Remember…if you do it, say it – “shake, jump, wiggle, clap”.  Playing with…MUSIC and SINGING!
  4. Have a parade and “march” while banging on a drum or sounding other noisemakers!  Parades!
  5. Look back through the photos from this past year and practice naming the people who were a special part of your little one’s life “hi mommy,” “hi daddy,” and also practice their own name!  Blow kisses, name favorite toys and foods, wonder aloud who that person in the picture could be “hmmm” and give your little one an opportunity to help you remember.  Pretending not to know the names of things is one of my favorite strategies for speech and language development.  If you have more than one child and accidentally use the wrong name, your older child will be quick to let you know – kids LOVE to correct their parents!

When the New Year’s celebration is over, make a resolution to get more sleep in 2018.  Oh, maybe that’s just mine.

Happy 2018 everyone!

Be sure to like and follow me on Facebook!

Other posts that may be helpful for play and language learning ideas during these cold months:

Playing in the… SNOW!

Playing with…MUSIC and SINGING!


Playing in the… SNOW!

Bundle up!  It’s time to play in the snow!  As with any new experience, some little ones will love it right away and proceed to cover themselves with the fluffy white stuff while others may need a slower, gentler introduction.

Start by watching from the window.  Look at the snowflakes and “oooh aaah” while you allow your little one to take it all in.  Talk about how snow is “cold, brrrr” and it can be “wet” and “pretty, aaaahh”.  Take the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down and sing:

“All the snow is falling down, falling down, falling down.  All the snow is falling down.  It’s white on the ground.”

Bringing the snow INSIDE can be a warmer (and easier) way to experience snow.  Go outside and fill a bucket or load some snow on a cookie tray.  Bring it inside for your little one to touch/explore and drive pretend snowplows through!  “Pusssh, wheeee, beep beep, all clear!”  Try to shape the snow into a ball “roll, roll, roll” or “pat, pat, pat” into a pancake.  Put a little food coloring in for fun and “WOW!”

Getting ready to play in the snow is a whole new experience as well.  LOTS of opportunity to practice getting dressed and talking about clothing and body parts.  Take the tune of If Your Happy and You Know It and sing:

“Put your boots on your feet on your feet.  Put your boots on your feet on your feet (clap, clap).  Put your boots on your feet.  Put your boots on your feet.  Put your boots on your feet on your feet (clap, clap).” – or use tongue clicks instead of clapping as your hands will be busy getting your little one ready!  Repeat song for 1) arms in your coat 2) legs in your pants 3) hat on your head 4) hands in your mittens… then start all over once your toddler starts to take it all off!

Now, we’ve finally made it OUTSIDE! DSC02584Yippee!!  If your little one isn’t yet walking well enough for snow, just let them sit down and play.  It’s like a sandbox, but colder!  Get out some buckets and shovels or just let them cover your hands.  “Tap, push, stack, crush, crunch” and whatever other snow action seems like fun.  Show them how to make a snow angel and “flap, flap, flap” your wings.  Find a small hill and just log roll down “roll, roll, roll” (yes, I always say things in 3s). Stomp and make tracks to play follow the leader or just “stomp, stomp, stomp” and see whose footprints are bigger.


Whether you allow your little one to eat the snow or not, most will give it a taste!  It’s fun to feel the flakes on their tongue and it’s a good way to practice imitating parents’ funny faces!  If you want to encourage more of it – “yummmmmy” but if you would prefer not to encourage it – “yucky”.

There are also the tried and true snow activities: snowball making, snowman building, and SLEDDING!  With a baby, sledding may be more like pulling him through the snow over a flat surface rather than a speedy downhill plunge, but either way it’s still a fun ride – “wheee” and “ready, set, go!”

Here’s a fun fact about learning to talk and playing in the snow:  your little one might talk MORE once when you get back inside and recap your adventures – after their mouth unfreezes – ha!

Of course, you don’t need anything to go outside and experience the snow (aside from appropriate warm clothing), but here are some fun things to consider:

(Disclaimer:  These photos will take you to Amazon and are affiliate links.)


Once your back inside, find some other ways to play which encourage speech and language skills with these posts:

Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins

Playing with…BOOKS!

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Be sure to “like” my Facebook page so you get all my latest posts and information for speech and language development!

Purposeful Packaging

The excitement of a new toy often leads to hurried package opening with the paper or bag or box tossed aside.  Do you know how many communication opportunities may have just been missed?

Zipper bags (like those that are used for Mega Bloks) are a communication tool! (Which is why I keep all of my puzzles pieces in ziploc bags – Playing with… PUZZLES!)

For little ones who can’t quite pull the zipper on their own, you can show them how the zipper moves when you make the “zzzzzzz” sound but it stops when your sound stops too!  Then offer them a turn.  Here’s an opportunity for you to see if they need help.  Ask with a single word “help?” and even use the sign to go with it for bonus points.  Once the zipper moves again, here comes that “zzzz” sound!  Once the bag is finally open… “HOORAY!” or “TADA!” or  “You did it!”  Then zip it back up and do it again – ha!

Keep the bag open but when your little one reaches to take a block out, you can playfully pretend the newly opened bag is now a mouth and will nibble on their hand “yum yum yum”.   If that gets the giggles going then keep it up!  Tell the mouth “no, no, no” or “oooopen” or “stop”.   Heck, zip the “mouth” back up when he’s full and can’t eat anymore then start the game all over.  You may never even get the blocks out of the bag or you might get the blocks out just so that you can “feed” the bag.  Who cares?  You might’ve just had more communication and interaction by playing with the bag then you will once the child dumps all the blocks out and then leaves the room.

The packaging that a toy (or food or object) comes in can be part of the game so look for opportunities to make it purposeful beyond just storage.  My mother reused plastic food containers for just about everything and I’m fairly certain she has never actually purchased a true food storage container in her life.  We constantly washed out and re-purposed yogurt, cottage cheese, cool whip containers, etc.  My sister’s favorite pull toy was an empty thread spool on a long piece of string!

Some of my other favorite packaging comes with blankets and bedding – almost always a transparent zippered bag.

Anyone buy bulk pretzels or animal crackers that come in huge plastic tubs?  Perfect for communication (and toy storage and as a drum and as a water play tub)!  Playing with…containerscontainer

How about the plastic container that stores baby wipes?  I love to see what a little one can do with that slot at the top and what they can fit inside.

Even the banana peel is a communication opportunity.  Hand the peeled banana to your little one and see what happens.  Do they just try to eat it anyway or look at you for help?  Any foods that have wrappers work just as well.

Anyone have Magic Tracks at their house?  The box it comes in makes a perfect tunnel!magic track

magic track tunnel

NOTE:  Of course, please do not give plastic bags to small children as they are not toys.  Also please do not hand young children unopened food items if they are just as likely to eat the box or wrapper.

Below are pictures to Amazon (affiliate links) to items that come with PURPOSEFUL PACKAGING!  Also, it’ll be shipped to your home which means you’ll get a cardboard box at no extra cost – BONUS!

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