From the time they are born, children love to interact with us. In fact, one of the first signs of social communication is when your baby smiles at you! Through play, they start to figure out the world around them.
Remember, YOU are their favorite toy!
The best way to play with a 6 month old is by getting down on their level. Make animal noises, do silly faces in a mirror, read to them (if they tolerate it) and sing to them. It may seem like they aren’t doing much at that time, but these basic activities and skills will build on language later on in their little lives. It’s also making their brain think and function! Soon, they will know that a cow makes the “moo” sound or that when you stick your tongue out, it’s funny!
Toddlers are learning how objects are used together. This is why they enjoy filling-and-dumping water, sand, and blocks. Toddlers are also making connections between objects. You may notice that your tot will enjoy putting people on the bus. It’s because they are realizing that the two go together. Toddlers are learning about sizes as they stack rings. They’re noticing similarities when they line up two toy cars that look the same. Kids at any age, truly are sponges. They absorb more than you think!
So what are some toys to use to enhance speech and language, motor skills and play skills? Below is a list of objects that you can use at any age. You might even have a few of these things in your home already!
TOYS TO EXPLORE:
- Pop-beads or chunky interlocking plastic blocks
- Plastic spoon and cup
- Blocks and bucket
- Nesting cups/rings or shape-sorters
- Busy box with button to push, switch, and dial to turn
- Chunky wooden puzzles
- Toy telephone
- Child-safe mirror
- Dolls, stuffed animals, and puppets
You should offer toys like these to your toddler and just watch to see what she does. Let her try to figure out how they work and discover what she can do with them. It’s always amazing to watch how kids react to new objects! Don’t just show him/her how things work, let them try and piece it together. After a little while, you can swoop in and help!
Once they understand the basic concept of how to use items, then show your toddler how to use these toys in new ways. For example, you might put the spoon in the cup and stir. Then hand it to him and see what he does. Or pretend to give his stuffed bear a sip. This way, they will learn the different functions of objects!
First Friends and Early Social Skills
Beginning at about 12 months, most young toddlers enjoy playing near peers. They may play games like “Ring Around the Rosie” or “chase” with another child, or join a peer in filling a bucket with sand on the playground. These moments may not last long, but they give toddlers a sense of what it means to be a friend and have a friend.
TOYS TO EXPLORE:
- Musical instruments
- Sand/water play
- Art activities, such as painting or chalk
- Toy cars or trains, with one available for each child
Along with friendships, might come disagreements. I’m a big fan of letting kids work through disagreements. Obviously, stand by and see what happens, but if we intervene too soon, it doesn’t teach children how to problem solve and think critically.
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They’re Moving Now
Toddlers are learning to walk, run, climb, use stairs, and throw a ball. This means they need lots of active playtime to build strength, balance, and coordination. Because toddlers don’t understand rules yet, they benefit from free play when they can explore their own way. Feel free to help them when you think they aren’t truly understanding, but it’s always good to let kids figure out things on their own, first!
TOYS TO EXPLORE:
- Balls of different sizes to roll, throw, and chase
- Push toys
- Toys that can be pulled while walking (a toy dog on a string; a wagon)
- Tunnel (purchased or homemade from a moving box)
- Child-size stool to climb onto and jump off of (with supervision)
Helping Your Toddler Play and Learn
Toddlers have a lot of energy and need to get that out! You can create a toddler obstacle course where your child has a chance to crawl (through a moving box), climb (over a cushion), bounce (on a pile of blankets), and roll toward you for a kiss. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Use objects that you have in your own home. Have your toddler create the course for an added level of creativity.
Another option is to throw a soft playground ball and see if your child will run or crawl to get it. Or just roll the ball back-and-forth to one another—a game that builds social skills like turn-taking. Once your child gets older, you can throw the ball further to work on gross motor skills!
No matter what you do, kids just want to be with you. As long as you are interacting with them, they will love whatever you are doing!
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