10 Great Toys for Language Development

It’s hard to choose from the thousands of toys out there for your little one. Oh, the lights, the buttons, the colors! But, according to Erika Cardamone — the licensed speech and language pathologist behind the insightful blog — these ten low-maintenance, no-battery-required toys provide the maximum amount of word learning and language development. She explained to me that repetition of simple words and short phrases during play will help your baby learn that words have meaning. Babies learn their world through exploration and play, so playtime isn’t just fun, it’s crucial for cognitive development too.

  • Play to Learn

    Play to Learn

    The simplest things can make the biggest difference.

  • #1: Bubbles

    #1: Bubbles

    “These are an easy attention getter for all babies over 6 months. Bubbles work great for maintaining eye contact and eye gaze. Pointing to a particular bubble can create ‘joint attention’ — a shared experience between you and your baby, which is the first step to communication.”

    – Erika,

  • #2: Mirror

    #2: Mirror

    “Mirrors provide simple fascination! Babies love to see themselves, so encourage your baby to reach for herself in the mirror and use words related to body parts (eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks). As your baby sees herself, it will establish the early stages of eye contact for communication.”

    – Erika,

  • #3: Blocks

    #3: Blocks

    “Early on, as your baby is learning to hold two objects simultaneously, help him learn early cause-and-effect by banging blocks together (‘If I do this with the blocks, then I make a sound!’). Model it first, and then use hand-over-hand help to show your baby how to bang too. Blocks are also great for building towers and learning spatial concepts (on, under, next to) and turn-taking. (‘Baby puts block on top, now Mommy’s turn’).”

    – Erika,

    Photo credit:

  • #4: Balls

    #4: Balls

    “A ball is another great toy that facilitates early social skills, like turn-taking and eye contact. It’s great for using verbs like throw, roll, pass, bounce, and opposites like up and down. Hide the ball behind your back or under a blanket and see if your baby can locate it when it’s out of sight. This theory of ‘object permanence’ is an early cognitive skill, usually developed around 9 months.”

    – Erika,

  • #5: Stacking Rings

    #5: Stacking Rings

    “These are similar to blocks, but with an extra component as your baby gets older and can conceptualize size differences. During play use comparative adjectives like big, bigger, biggest and small, smaller, smallest, as well as other spatial words such as on, in, under.”

    – Erika,

  • #6: Baby Doll

    #6: Baby Doll

    “As your baby begins to learn that objects have a function, toys that facilitate pretend play are great for language AND cognitive development. Combining toys in play with a baby are a great start. For example, feeding a baby a bottle, brushing a baby’s hair, washing the baby with a cloth, etc. You can also reinforce vocabulary for body parts and start using words related to emotion. (‘Baby is sad, she’s crying.’ ‘Baby is happy, she’s laughing.’ ‘Baby is tired, she’s yawning.’)”

    – Erika,

    Photo credit:

  • #7: Tea Party

    #7: Tea Party

    “Invite stuffed animals, Mr. Potato Head, or a baby doll to the tea party to create a social scene. Give simple directions to work on listening skills. (‘Give a cookie to bear.’ ‘Pour more tea for teddy.’) Use opposites like full/empty, hot/cold, more/less, and eat/drink to create a language-rich environment with plenty of opportunity for new word learning.”

    – Erika,

    Photo credit:

  • #8: Puzzles

    #8: Puzzles

    “A new method to establish good attention and concentration, puzzles are great for language development too. Give your child only two or three choices at a time during puzzle play, (‘Do you want the star or the heart?’), which will encourage word production. Help your child identify patterns through matching colors or shapes and use lots of adjectives (above, below, edge, flat, straight, corner, curve, side, top, bottom, upside-down, flip) to help them solve the puzzle.”

    – Erika,

  • #9: Cars & Trucks

    #9: Cars & Trucks

    Besides just racing and driving, I love using a few cars/trucks at a time to start talking about same/different attributes. You can compare and contrast colors, sizes, and shapes to create early reasoning skills. (‘The yellow car won the race because it’s shorter on top and it’s FASTER!’ ‘This truck can carry the most dirt because it has a BIGGER front loader.’)”

    – Erika,

  • #10: Shape Sorter

    #10: Shape Sorter

    “Last but not least, this is my all-time favorite developmental toy. The shape sorter is a combined toy of blocks and a puzzle. They open and close, there are always choices involved, and it’s a bit of a brain teaser for that little mind. Use the shapes as blocks for stacking and building, or give your baby a choice between two shapes for placement to promote those early problem solving skills.”

    – Erika,

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