Supporting Language Development Through Play

Mar 1, 2024by Steve learningbugs
Little Orchard Children
Speech & Language Therapy
Because Every Child Deserves a Voice

Oh the power of play! Play is central to childhood development, everything from social to physical development is enriched through play. Language development is no different. Play supports language in so many way, as it’s when children play that they learn to interact and express themselves. Play offers a low stress environment. This allows children to interact with others while practicing their language skills and building on their ever expanding vocabulary.

Looking for toys to support language development? I’ve tried to break things down into age brackets so you can see what play to expect when and what toys will support each stage of language development. I spend a lot of time focusing on play and my main advice is to keep things simple.

Age 0-6 months

What to expect

At this age babies are mainly interested in you. They like looking at your face and listening to your voice. They might start to make noises like cooing to themselves and later will make noises to get your attention. They may also smile when you smile.

What you can do to support language development

You and your voice are the most interesting things to your baby right now, so hold you baby close to your face so they can clearly see you. Talk with your baby about what you are doing, they are always listening. Sing nursery rhymes with them and play simple games like peek-a-boo. Start to share picture books – it’s never too early!

Toys for this age stage;

  • Sensory toys like scarves, feathers, foil blankets.
  • Play mats
  • Baby books

Toys that support language development

Toddlekind Play Mat

Toddlekind Playmat

A playmat is the perfect place to have some sensory fun. A safe, clean, comfortable place to pop baby whilst they learn to take in the world around them. Help them to fix and follow on objects whilst you make eye contact, coo and talk to your baby. Your guaranteed a few smiles and maybe even a giggle too!

 Fabelab Rattle

This Octopus soft rattle from Fabelab  would be a great sensory addition to any playtime and is small enough to be taken out and about, so great for providing comfort and familiarity outside the home. The soft texture and high contrast colours used make it the perfect companion right from Birth onward.

Kids Concept Baby Gym

Age 6-12 months

What to expect

Play at this age is all about exploring and experimenting. Everything goes in the mouth! Your child is learning about the object, what they can do with it and observing what others can do with it. They are firing up those neural connections and creating a framework for language development.

At this age babies are likely to be experimenting more and more with sounds. They might be babbling lots ‘ba ba ba’ and around 12 months some may even use their first words! Babies are likely to begin to recognise the names of familiar people and objects.

What you can do

Continue to talk to your baby everyday. Talk to your baby about what they are interested in. Keep your language simple and repetitive. Provide safe, everyday objects for them to explore like a mixing bowl or a saucepan and a wooden spoon. Play hiding games; while the child is looking, hide their toy under a blanket or in a box and encourage them to find it.

Toys for this age stage;

  • Cause / effect toys like  pop-up-toys
  • Pull along toys
  • Stacking cups
  • Cars & trucks
  • Balls
  • Musical instruments e.g. rattles
  • Bubbles
  • Child safe mirror

Grapat Cups

A simple idea for play but one with endless possibilities. Firstly, the cups can be used with infants as discovery and sensory games. Later in time the bowls become containers to help children develop logical-mathematical thinking by classifying, organising, grouping and matching.  Use the cups to talk about things being inside of another object, taken out of, underneath, on top of and of course they can be useful when playing games with colours such as matching and sorting.

Pop! A solid spring loaded wooden cloud, featuring five colourful rainbow pop-up rods (in three heights). the perfect toy for introducing vocabulary in play. You can count, sing, cheer and chant!

Age 12 years

What to expect

This is a really exciting age. Babies play becomes more meaningful and they begin to realise that play items can represent items in the real words. This is when pretend play starts. Initially they might drink from a toy cup themselves. As their play skills develop they will then start giving dolly or teddy a drink or something to eat. When this type of play starts, this is usually when babies begin to use their first words. They may not be easy to understand, but that is fine.

What you can do

Continue to talk to your child using a similar level of language that they are using. Keep your language simple and repetitive. Try involving teddy or dolly in everyday activities. For example, bring teddy to the table at snack time. Give teddy a plate and cutlery and show your child how to feed him

Toys for this age stage;

  • Toy telephone
  • Dolls, teddies, puppets
  • Pretend food
  • Farm set
  • Basic train set
  • Tea set
  • Building blocks

Le Toy Van Noah’s Ark Shape Sorter

This beautiful wooden ark would be a great 1st Birthday present that would not only provide so much enjoyment for play but also be really useful for encouraging children to make sounds related to the animals and even learn how to say the name for each animal being sorted. The colourful design will help to introduce and develop colour recognition whilst stimulating imagination for small world and imaginary play.

Ollie Ella Dinkum Doll

Having a doll to play with is often a child’s first experience of showing care and empathy toward something (other than family and friends of course) and can be fantastic for using in all sorts of role and imaginary play scenarios.

Dinkum Dolls are posable, with arms, legs and a head that moves – they can also sit and even stand when wearing their shoes!

The Dinkum Dolls are made from the softest, snuggliest cotton outer, making them perfect for not only playing with, but cuddling and going to sleep alongside. They feature the sweetest embroidered details, from their eyes and mouth, to the little rainbow over their heart.

Age 2-3 years

What to expect

This is the age when pretend play really starts to take off. You may see your child start to sequence their play. They might feed baby, change baby and then put baby to bed. They will also start to play meaningfully with miniature toys. As your child starts to sequence their play, you may also notice that they start to sequence their language and put more word together.

What you can do

Continue to talk to your child. As their language develops their speech may not be clear all of the time. This is ok. Make sure that you model back clearly using simple language so that they get the opportunity to hear the correct version.  When they talk using short sentences, model back what they say and add an extra piece of information.


  • Any of the items mentioned above
  • Play kitchen
  • Kitchen accessory toys
  • Dolls house
  • Small characters
  • Little animals or dinosaurs
  • Doctor’s set
  • Puzzles
  • Wooden blocks

Le Toy Van Doctors’ Set

Pretend play is often an area where even shy children become more vocal and animated, being able to act out and role play in a safe environment encourages talking and communication.

Even if children are non-verbal or not talking yet there is still much communication taking place through body language such as nodding and smiling and if children are talking then expressing wishes and outcomes about the play to one another is a great way to develop conversational skill.

This is all in addition to taking on the role of or speaking as the part/person/animal in the role of the play which will require a whole different set of skills as children will be practising and reenacting experiences they may have heard as well as making up their own.

Age 3-5 years

What to expect

During this age range their play is more about developing their social skills as well as understanding roles and emotions. They will still play with many of the toys listed above, but in more creative and advanced ways. At this age your child should be able to use their language to tell you what they want, ask and answer questions, and comment.


  • Any of the items mentioned above
  • Dressing up clothes
  • Open ended toys
  • Board games
  • Lego

Little Sensory Things Autumn Treasure Bundle

With Autumn almost around the corner and older children becoming more engaged with open ended, imaginary and sensory play; natural and loose parts really come into their own.
All the natural resources can be used in play-set ups, as items to discover in a basket or tray or as decoration. They provide stimulating discussion points on colour, texture, shape and size as well as being useful for play.

Take Home Message

If you want to support your little one on their language journey, my take home message for you is to prioritise play and have fun!

Come and join us over on Instagram and Facebook for lots more speech and language tips, activities and support. If you have any concerns about your child’s play or speech and language development, you can book a consultation call to discuss your concerns in depth and create a plan that you can start at home straight away. We also have some exciting online parent workshops coming soon, as well as some speech sound support activity packs! Like and follow us so you don’t miss out!

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