Have fun with these 15 awesome toddler speech delay exercises that are designed by a Speech and Language Pathologist and will help your toddler to talk before you know it!
Exercises are a fantastic way to teach language and to get your toddler talking! These exercises are fun and motivating for your child, and they provide a focus for you to teach your child new skills.
If you find these 15 exercises helpful, why not check out my big book of 50 easy exercises to get your toddler talking?
Repetition is important in learning these new skills, so don’t worry about doing your child’s favorite exercises over and over if that’s what they want. Feel free to pick and choose the ones that work best for you, your child and your family.
These exercises are designed so that you can easily adjust the level to the level of your child.
If your toddler is not yet talking, these speech delay exercises will help your toddler to talk, especially when you use language strategies as well. If your toddler is already talking, these exercises will grow and develop their language skills.
Above all, these exercises are designed to be fun! That’s how children learn best!
STRATEGIES IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Children learn language from listening to language. They absorb the language spoken by their parents, siblings and the other people around them.
Children need to hear language over and over again for months and years before they will start to use it for themselves.
As a parent, you are the single most important person in your child’s language development. The strategies you use in everyday life to build your child’s language will have the biggest impact on their speech and language development.
Using language strategies will make a big difference and can be used as part of everyday life in all of your interactions with your child.
Want a little more?
Grab your free copy of the Speech and Language Strategies Essential Cheat Sheets. Print off and use to help alongside the toddler speech delay exercises to boost your child’s speech and language. Enjoy!
15 TODDLER SPEECH DELAY EXERCISES
The exercises are based around the following key areas:
- Exercises to build listening skills
- Exercises to encourage first words
- Exercises to build vocabulary
- Exercises to build understanding
- Exercises with flashcards
- Exercises to build grammar
- Exercises for early reading skills
EXERCISES TO BUILD LISTENING SKILLS
This first section of speech delay exercises to help your toddler talk are designed to build listening skills. Attention and listening is a foundational skill for language. We watch babies develop this as they start to focus on their parents’ faces, respond to sounds, and start to respond to their own name.
In a few years they will be able to listen attentively to stories, listen to their friends, and because they are able to listen, they will know how to respond. Language isn’t possible without a strong foundation of attention and listening.
1. Find the Sound
Find the Sound is a fun way to build listening skills. Get a toy or piece of equipment that makes a noise. Wind up or musical toys can work well for this, or even general household items such as an egg timer or metronome. Ask your child to close their eyes, and hide the item somewhere in the room- e.g. under a cushion, behind the door.
This helps children to learn to listen. To make it more challenging, try turning the sound down so it’s even quieter. This is a game for younger children and is great for building attention and listening which are foundational skills for language.
You can even use this with babies- put the object somewhere around the room and see if they turn their head to find the sound. If they don’t, you can make it obvious and point at it saying, “Wow! Can you hear the music? It’s there!”
2. Stop and Go
Stop and Go is a fun active game for kids. The basic principle is that when you say ‘go’, they can run around. They have to listen out for the word ‘stop’ which means they have to stop and freeze in place immediately.
To make this game even more beneficial, why not give them different variations when you say ‘go.’ You might say, ‘ok this time when I say ‘go’ I want you to walk like you’re tigers/ ballerinas/ hop on one foot/ walk backwards,’ or anything else you can think of.
When you say ‘stop’ you could walk around to check that they are being perfectly still. If you are playing with a group of kids, you could eliminate anyone who moves or wobbles.
EXERCISES TO ENCOURAGE FIRST WORDS
These speech delay exercises for toddlers are focused specifically on first words. They are designed to engage your child, and motivate them to say their first words.
Your child’s first word is a moment all parents are super excited about! As understanding of language grows, your child’s use of language will start to develop.
When you are encouraging first words, pick ones that are motivating. Also pick words where there is the opportunity to use it in lots of ways throughout the day. Aim to repeat it lots and lots in different contexts all through the day.
3. Catch the Gap
Catch the Gap is a clever game to help your child to say their very first words. Understanding comes before talking, so teach your child lots of nursery rhymes. Don’t be afraid to be very repetitive.
The Catch the Gap exercise is when you say the Nursery Rhyme that your toddler is now familiar with, but then stop just before saying the last word in a line.
Look at your toddler and show on your face that you’re encouraging them to finish the line.
For example, you could say: Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the waterspout/ Down came the rain and washed the spider…. (out)
If your child doesn’t say the last word, pause for just a few seconds, and then say it for them and continue with the rhyme. Don’t be put off- persist with this strategy.
Rhymes are engaging and fun and toddlers become very familiar with them easily so it’s a lovely easy way for them to say their first words.
4. Phrase Completion
Phrase Completion is another easy, low-pressure way to help your child say their first words.
It’s a little like Catch the Gap but without the rhymes.
Simply say a phrase (pick one that your child is familiar with) and stop before saying the last word.
For example, you might say:
- Go to (bed)
- Let’s brush your (teeth/ hair)
- Open the (door)
Use phrases that you find yourself saying everyday to your toddler. Use phrase completion in context (e.g. while holding the item) and make it very obvious with your voice.
Make your voice rise at the end so it’s clear that another word is coming and give lots of eye contact and smile to show your toddler you want them to finish your sentence.
EXERCISES TO BUILD VOCABULARY
A strong vocabulary is needed for great conversations, to engage with friends, and for learning across all subjects in school. Remember that vocabulary is not just made up from naming words.
To expand your child’s vocabulary, choose lots of different types of words- action words, describing words, location words and emotion words. Your child will need all of them to be able to engage in conversations.
Building vocabulary is a big focus of toddler speech delay exercises.
5. What’s My Man Missing? (Body Parts)
This is a great game that’s fantastic for teaching body parts. Draw two men side by side. On one drawing, leave out a body part such as an arm or the head. Ask your child, ‘what’s my man missing?’
They might know the word, or if they don’t they can point at the first man to show. When they do this, feed in the language of the body part. Repeat it two or three times so they really hear it and will start to remember it.
Don’t be afraid to make your missing body parts more and more obscure once your child is confident with basic body parts. You could leave out the elbow, the knee, an eyebrow- get creative!
Initially, your child will give the general area such as ‘leg.’ You can say, ‘that’s right. He’s missing part of his leg. That part is called the knee. He’s missing his knee! Can you show me your knee?’
6. Shopping Game
This shopping game will build your child’s vocabulary and also help them to understand categories.
Get lots of pictures of shopping items. The best way to do this is to get a shopping leaflet from a supermarket and cut out lots of the pictures.
Tell your child you’re going to ‘put away the shopping.’
You could draw out a fridge, a cupboard, a freezer and a fruit bowl- whatever is appropriate for your house. Then sort out the shopping together. Describe the items as you go. For example, ‘oh look- ice cream! That’s really cold! Where should we put it?’
Be careful not to turn this game into a test for your child, but to model as much language as you can. Feed in, don’t squeeze out!
7. Photo Diary
Making a photo book works especially well to teach location words such as: under, beside, in, on, behind.
You can also use it to teach action words such as: jump, skip, run, hop, stand, stretch, roll.
Have fun with your child when you’re making the photobook- get them to go ‘under’ the chair- show them what this means. Then, take a picture to demonstrate each word.
You can print the pictures off with the words underneath.
- Molly is under the chair
- Molly is behind the chair
- Molly is stretching
Staple or ring-bind them together so they are in one book. Then read through the book with your child, reading out the words and emphasizing the new words.
The book will be very motivating for your child. After all, it contains pictures of them! They are likely to go back to the book again and again. Remember that as you look at the pictures together, keep feeding the words in.
You can use this idea to teach lots of other new words, too. This is a great way to teach colors.
EXERCISES TO BUILD UNDERSTANDING
With a strong foundation of attention and play, your child will be developing their understanding of language. Children need to be able to understand words well before they will start to use them for themselves.
It’s like learning a foreign language as an adult- you can’t open your mouth and communicate until you understand the words you can use.
Generally, children also understand more language than they can say, and the more they understand, the more they will soon say!
The next toddler speech delay exercises are focused on their understanding of language which is a foundation for their talking.
8. Barrier Game
A Barrier Game is a fun way to give your child practice in both giving and receiving instructions. The basic idea is to have matching pictures or objects in front of each of you with a barrier in between so you can’t see each other’s things.
It might be that you each have an uncolored picture of a house in front of you, or you could each have a few toys: a teddy, a spoon and a bed. The barrier might be a hardback book standing up, or even a piece of cardboard.
Take turns to give each other instructions. For example, you might say, ‘color the door of the house red.’ Or, if you have toys you could say, ‘put teddy under the bed.’
Then, when you are ready, take away the barrier and see if your pictures or toys match.
Depending on your child’s age and stage of development, you might need to make your instructions very simple, and check after each one. You might even need to give cues (such as showing ‘under’ with your hand). As you practice, you can start to reduce these.
If your child is older, try giving a series of instructions before checking to see if it matches. Also give them a chance to give you the instructions to follow.
9. Object Hunt
An indoor hunt for kids doesn’t have to be a full-scale Scavenger Hunt which takes a big amount of preparation. A simpler idea is to make a list for your kids of things to find and then let them head off to hunt the objects.
These could be texture related (something smooth/rough), color (something that’s dark blue/ something that has two colors on it), sound related (something that’s begins with the ‘sss’ sound) and even function related (something that you use to stick things). It can be anything that you choose.
You could reward your child for finding everything on the list.
EXERCISES WITH FLASHCARDS
Flashcards are a fantastic tool to use in toddler speech delay exercises. They allow you to choose the words you want to teach, and to play lots of different and fun games. They are great for teaching games with turn-taking and simple ‘rules’, such as ‘Go Fish’ or ‘Snap.’
When you are choosing words for your flashcards, choose a variety of words. Try to choose words that are interesting and meaningful for your child.
However, flashcards are just one piece of the puzzle in learning new words. Children learn best through real life experiences. It might be helpful to jot down the words used in your flashcards, and then use them in a variety of contexts throughout the week. This will broaden their understanding of a word. When children understand a word really well, then they will start to use it!
10. Bottle Cap Game
The Bottle Cap Game is another variation on the flashcard games. To play this game, have about three flashcards picked out with words that you want to teach. Remember that it doesn’t have to be just naming words but it can be any words- action words, or description words work well.
Have three bottle caps and stick the cards to the tops (smaller works better). Alternatively, you could stick the cards to jam jar lids. Find something to hide under the bottle caps or lids- this might be a coin or even paperclip (be careful with small objects if you have a younger child as they are a choking risk!)
Ask your child to close their eyes, put the object under one of the caps, and then let them guess where it is. Teach them to say the word on the flashcard before lifting up to check.
For example, if you are teaching action words and have flashcards of sitting, eating and running, they might say ‘eating’ and then look under to see if they’re right, or they might say, ‘is it under eating?’ if their language is at a higher level.
Your child will need help to do this as they will just be excited to guess and won’t name the card unless you teach them the ‘rules.’ They can then have a turn at hiding the object and you can model, ‘hmm is it under eating?’
11. Fishing Game
To play the fishing game, simply attach a paper clip to each flashcard you are using. If you want to be fancy, you can make fish pictures to stick to the backs of the cards. Then make your ‘fishing rod’- use any length of material and tie a string to it that has a magnet on the end.
Strew the cards around on the floor and then go fishing to catch the cards with your rod. Remember that when they ‘catch a fish’ they need to name the picture on the card.
This is a motivating game that kids absolutely love. You can also turn it into a turn-taking game and teach your child these early social skills. Model the words: ‘my turn’ and ‘your turn.’
EXERCISES TO BUILD GRAMMAR
These speech delay exercises will help your toddler use the correct grammar when they talk.
Grammar is the way in which we use words to say exactly what we mean. If we don’t use the correct word ending, tenses, and pronouns, we will change the meaning of what we say. For example, ‘I walked’ vs ‘I am walking’.
Grammar is crucial for kids to develop and use correctly. However, it is a little like icing on the cake.
There are so many skills that need to be in place before grammar can develop. These include: attention and listening, play skills, understanding and use of language. The stronger these foundational skills are for your child, the more opportunities they will have to fine tune their grammar.
However, if these foundational skills are already strong and you want to give your child’s grammar development an extra boost, you can do some focused practice with exercises like these. These exercises are for the earliest stages of grammar- pronouns, plurals, and basic past tense.
12. He is/She is
Pronouns can be quite tricky for kids to develop. Initially, they might say, ‘boy walk’ instead of ‘the boy is walking.’ While a top tip is to model back the correct version naturally without correcting your child, this pronoun game is also a good way to give your child some extra practice.
Look through a sport, gardening or children’s magazine and cut out lots of pictures of males and females. Then sort them into two piles, the ‘he is…’ pile and the ‘she is’ pile. Teach your child to say, ‘he is swimming’, or ‘she is walking.’ Take a turn in the game yourself and model this grammar- let your child hear it lots of times.
Remember to also use it in real life whenever you get the chance- point out and comment about ‘he’ and ‘she’, emphasizing the words a little.
This also helps your child to practice the –ing verb endings.
This exercise alongside practice in everyday life will help your child to develop these grammatical structures in no time!
13. Before and After Cards
Use the internet to find before and after pictures or take your own photos! Make sure the photos demonstrate both the before and after with the grammar for each. You can make these into a photo-book with the target grammar in the words underneath.
Start with regular grammar rules before moving to irregular.
The before and after cards could include:
- Past Tense- (Teach the –ed ending first). Example: I am jumping- I jumped/ I am walking- I walked.
- Plurals– (Teach the –s ending first). Example: one cow- two cows/ one horse- two horses.
Some irregular grammatical structures could include:
- I am eating- I ate
- I am drawing- I drew
- I am driving- I drove
- One mouse- two mice
- One tooth- two teeth
- One person- two people
EXERCISES FOR EARLY READING SKILLS
As parents, we want to know how to teach our toddler to read. We want them to start off school on a strong foundation to have every advantage for academic success.
Literacy is more and more important in the modern world. Even in a job that doesn’t revolve around it, we still need to be able to fill in forms, read instructions, and generally have enough literacy to get online or to deal with banks and other organizations.
These exercises will help you to develop early reading skills for your child.
14. Sound Hunt
Go on a ‘Sound Hunt’ in the house or garden- how many things beginning with ‘mm’ can you find.
Remember that the sound of a letter and the name of the letter are very different things. You can raise your child’s awareness of this by finding opportunities to highlight it.
“oh, a spider- that starts with a sssss- sssspider. That sound is called S.”
Or “that starts with a letter M- that letter makes the sound- mmmm.”
However, be aware that finding something beginning with a sound is more difficult that listening to a word and determining if it begins with the sound.
15. Create a Collage
Create a collage of pictures with just one sound. Cut things out from magazines and papers that have the sound you want.
Have fun using the target sound during a craft. If your target sound is “S Blends”, you could build a crafty snowman. Target sounds could include: snow, snowball, scarf, scary, smile, sparkles, stick, stones, stars, slippery, and stomach.
50 Easy Exercises to Get Your Toddler Talking
If you enjoyed these speech delay exercises for toddlers, check out my big book of 50 easy exercises to get your toddler talking!
Available as a paperback or an eBook, you will have an huge choice of exercises to help your toddler talk in the way that’s best suited to them and your family.
You might also enjoy:
- 8 Essential Strategies to Boost Speech and Language for Busy Parents [+printable]
- 5 Easy Tips from a Speech Pathologist- How to Encourage Toddlers to Talk
- 5 Surprising Skills to Build Before You Teach Your Toddler the Alphabet
- The Ultimate Guide to Help Your Child Speak Clearly
- Words to Describe Someone: The Ultimate Guide