Activities To Build Language At Home This Summer

Summer is here and it is time to dust off the toys and work on those play skills! Does the thought of that scare you? Are you wondering where the heck to even start? You are not alone. Many parents really aren’t sure what toys to use in play or what to saying when playing with various toys with their pre-verbal or young child. So here are some of my favorite activities (that I play in therapy with kiddos on a regular basis). Each activity suggests toys as well as words and phrases you might use. But these are just that, a suggestion, so be sure to change up the play as you see fit for you and your kiddo. If you are still feeling confused be sure to check out our additional tips at the end of this post.


Cars, Trucks & Trains

This is an all-time favorite amongst the boys and the girls that I work with daily.

So what do you need?

  • A few cars/trucks/trains
  • A road map, garage, train tracks or blocks to create a ramp.
  • If your vehicle has space for a person or animal inside, grab a little toy person or animal for putting inside!

Words/Phrases to work on:

  • Go!
  • Ready, Set, Go!
  • Vroom!
  • Go car
  • Car up/down
  • Car go up/down
  • Open door
  • Close door
  • Put on (train on track)
  • Put on top
  • Put in
  • Man in car


It’s Snack Time!

If you follow our book club than you might know that I often present snacks that you can make or enjoy with your kiddo. It is so much fun to “cook” in the kitchen and there is so much language that surrounds cooking. If you haven’t had your little one help you cook or bake in the kitchen, give this a go, starting with a simple snack!

What do you need?

  • A recipe & the ingredients
  • Any required kitchen utensils to create your recipe
  • An excited kiddo to help you with each step! 

Words/Phrases to work on:

  • More
  • Open it
  • Put in
  • Stir it/mix it
  • Stir more/mix more
  • Put it in
  • Dump it in
  • Bake cake
  • Cut cake
  • Eat cake/snack


Shooting Hoops

Another favorite that the kids love!

What do you need?

  • A couple balls (big or small)
  • Basket or container to throw ball(s) into

Words/Phrases to work on:

  • Ball
  • Ball in
  • Throw ball
  • Throw ball in
  • Get ball
  • Give ball
  • Put ball in
  • Pick up ball
  • Ball on table
  • Ball under table
  • Ball on floor
  • Ball fell out


Time To Build

What do you need?

  • Blocks
  • Or anything you can stack into a tower

Words/phrases to work on:

  • block
  • big block
  • block on
  • block on top
  • more block
  • block in
  • block fall down
  • put on
  • put in
  • put on top
  • take out
  • build up
  • build more


Playdoh Hide & Seek

This is a really fun game! We hide animals in the playdoh and your child has to dig them out.

What do you need?

  • Playdoh
  • Plastic animals or similar manipulatives

Words/phrases to work on:

  • Help
  • Put in
  • Put on
  • Take out
  • Where is it?
  • Here it is!
  • I found it!
  • Hide more
  • Need help/help me


Tips to engage your child:

  • If asked if they want to play and they don’t respond, take out the toy and start playing and they will generally want to come check it out and start playing with you, too!
  • You can go with the flow. If the recommended words and phrases aren’t working out, follow your child’s lead and just say the words that come naturally to you (keeping it to 1-3 words per phrase).
  • Use lots of repetition. Using repetition gives your child a chance and extra attempts at imitating what you are saying. If they try (even if it doesn’t sound much like the word you say) praise them! Celebrate! You might say, “I LOVE HOW YOU JUST SAID MORE” following their attempt at saying ‘more’.
  • For ideas of what books to use in play, reference our books that we recommend based on the repetition they have in them! Check it out here.


I hope this sparks lots of ideas to help you get started in successful play full of lots of language with your little one! Here’s to you and your communicating kiddo!


With Love,

Hallie Bulkin


Note: First appeared on July 6, 2015 on