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Toy Talk: Boosting Language Through Play

As a parent, you may already know about the importance of play to your child’s development. Play skills are related to many aspects of cognitive and language development (Bergen, 2002)If your child is receiving speech-language services, you may also know that mapping language onto your child’s play can positively impact your child’s receptive and expressive language. 

BUT, DID YOU KNOW that by using a few simple strategies while playing with your child, you can MAXIMIZE the language modeling you are already doing with your child? 

“Toy Talk” is an evidence-based practice strategy that allows you to do just that, through play with your child and his or her favorite toys and activities. 

Techniques for parents: 



Instead of “I am driving the car”, say: “The car is driving.”
Instead of “You rolled the ball,” say “The ball rolled away.” 


Use the NAME OF THE TOY rather a pronoun like “he,” “she,” or “it. 

Instead of “It’s barking,” say: “The dog is barking.”
Instead of “She’s hungry,” say: “The baby is hungry.” 


Use DESCRIPTIVE sentences rather than questions. 

Instead of “What is the cow doing?” say: “The cow is eating grass.”
Instead of “What happened to your tower?” say “The tower fell down.” 

Impact of Toy Talk: 

The impact of utilizing Toy Talk strategies includes support of grammatical development by highlighting the subject position in an utterance, thus making tense marking and subject-verb agreement more obvious to the child. Additionally, this more interesting, more varied language input can positively impact phonics and phonological awareness, reading readinessand academic success. 

Talk about toys and help your child’s language to grow! 


Karen Barako Arndt, Ph.D., CCC-SLP 


Bergen, D. (2002). The role of pretend play in children’s cognitive development. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 4, 13.
Hadley, P.A., & Rispoli, M. (2015). Toy talk strategies: An instructional resource.