Language Development Games for Kids

Most children talk back to parents

Each child develops language at his or her own rate. Check out these language games for jumpstarting language acquisition.

Speech development unfolds in a predictable sequence for most children, beginning with cries, grunts, and babbles in the first few months and progressing to those anticipated first words around a baby’s first birthday. Parents tend to intuitively foster language development through everyday moments of talking, singing, and reading to their children. In this article, Bright Horizons’ educational experts offer a few more intentional activities and games for speech and language development for your infant, toddler, or preschooler. Do these educational activities and learning games with your child to help jumpstart language acquisition.

Language Development in Early Childhood: Speech and Language Games for Kids
Nursery Rhymes and Finger Plays. Nursery rhymes and lullabies have been a part of parenting culture for hundreds of years. Young children delight in the rhythm of language and find comfort and interest in simple songs and poems, such as “Itsy, Bitsy Spider,” or “The Wheels on the Bus.” Sing nursery rhymes in the car, at bedtime or bath time, or during quiet moments. These activities build vocabulary and introduce children to the patterns of language.

Say. Once young children begin to speak, they often want to label everything in their world. Your toddler might point to an animal or object and look to you for an answer. You can help teach words for things by labeling objects in the environment as your child expresses interest, e.g., cat, plane, flower, bird. Read simple board books with pictures and photographs of everyday objects.

Word Expansion. Young children tend to use one or two word sentences, e.g., “Me cup.” Or “Kitty.” You can build language development and improve your child’s vocabulary by responding to early attempts at talking with a smile, encouraging nod, and expanded response. For example, “That is your cup. Do you want a drink?” or “Yes, there’s the kitty. You can pet her gently.”

Language Games for Preschoolers

Rhyming Games. Around the age of four, young children begin to become aware of phonemic awareness concepts, such as rhyming. They giggle over wordplays, alliteration, and silly rhymes. This awareness paves the way for later reading tasks. In the meantime, you can capitalize on this tendency by playing rhyming word games for kids. For example, say, “Let’s see how many words we can think of that rhyme with the word “bat.” Or, see how many words you can think of that begin with the sound /b/. Songs like “Down by the Bay” by Raffi are irresistible to young children and offer a fun, entertaining way to build language.

Rubber Band Words. To play with “rubber band words,” say a simple word such as “gate” clearly. Now slowly say the word again, “stretching” it out so you say each sound distinctly. At the same time, move your hands apart like a rubber band stretching. Then snap your hands back together and say the word quickly. Or you can try clapping words to identify syllables. For example, say “rainbow.” Then say it again, clap once for each syllable, and ask your child if she can remember how many syllables were in the word. This simple word game builds vocabulary and sound recognition, and is a good choice for those times when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or waiting at the doctor’s office.

Reading Magic. And finally, don’t forget the power of reading. Perhaps more than any other activity, reading together has the power to build vocabulary and spark language development for children of all ages. Even thumbing through books independently can build language skills for a non-reading child. Make reading a regular tradition in your home and make it easily accessible by keeping books for all ages and magazines in various places, such as the car, the living room, and your child’s bedroom.

Speech and language development is individualized; some children are precocious talkers and develop a large vocabulary quickly. Others may gain oral (expressive) language more slowly. In general, though, most children understand more than they’re able to say (receptive). With these language games and activities, you can help your child’s language develop.

While each child develops language at his or her own rate, by the age of 15 months, most children have around ten words that they can speak or communicate using sign language. Please talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child’s speech. Delayed speech might indicate a need for speech therapy or other interventions.

More on Toddler and Preschool Behaviors:

  • Learn strategies for supporting your child through typical toddler behaviors and this critical stage of their development.
  • Most children experiment with back talk at one point or another. Get tips for guiding your child when this happens.
  • As your children begin talking, they can say some pretty hilarious things. Read on for our favorite quotes from kids.

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

August 1, 2020

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