Speech Delay in Toddlers: Games and Activities To Boost Language Development

If you’ve made your way to this article, it’s likely that you’re concerned about your toddler’s lack of verbal communication, so let me begin by saying that worrying about this is completely normal and natural, and is something that many parents experience. It’s important to understand that speech delay in toddlers doesn’t automatically mean they have some form of learning disability or hearing impairment; in fact, they may just be a late bloomer. Children develop at different rates, and even though it’s easy to assume the worse if your toddler appears to be some way behind their peers, it’s best to stay positive and be proactive. There are a wide array of games and activities you can play at home to help your child progress through their verbal communication journey – even if its one small step at a time! 

Toddler Speech Delay: Five Things You Must Know

Before we delve into the fun and exciting part of this article, i.e. the games and activities, it’s essential to discuss speech delay in a little more depth. 


Because the more you know, the more it will help your toddler. It’s as simple as that! Unfortunately, there is a degree of misinformation about speech and language delay in toddlers, so let’s begin by taking a look at what delayed speech isn’t.

#1 – Speech Delay Doesn’t Automatically Mean Your Child Has a Hearing Impairment 

While it is true that hearing issues can (and frequently do) cause speech delay, speech delay can exist without hearing loss being present. Some toddlers merely have a high tolerance for noise, so don’t assume your little one has hearing problems just because they don’t react to loud sounds near them. If you’re concerned about your child’s hearing, consult your child’s paediatrician, who will arrange an age-appropriate hearing test so ascertain whether or not hearing impairment is an issue. 

#2 – Speech Delay Doesn’t Automatically Mean Your Child is Autistic

It’s a common misconception that speech delay automatically means your child has some form of learning disability, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. While it is true that a child on the autism spectrum may experience speech delay, this is not enough to give a 100% concrete diagnosis of Austin. Again, if you have any concerns, speak to your child’s paediatrician. 

#3 – Speech Delay Isn’t an Intelligence Delay

It’s common to see people correlate speech delay with intelligence delay…but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Just because your toddler is unable to communicate with you at the typical level for his age, this DOESN’T mean they’re not smart or intelligent. Many children whose speaking ability lags behind that of their peers have receptive language skills beyond that of children their own age. 

#4 – Speech and Language Delay Aren’t The Same Thing

The terms ‘speech delay’ and ‘language delay’ are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they aren’t actually the same thing. While they do frequently occur in tandem, it is certainly possible for your toddler to have speech delay but simultaneously be developing language skills at a “normal” speed (and vice versa). 

Speech is words that come out of your child’s mouth, i.e. the ability to use a series of sounds to form intelligible words and coherent sentences so that others understand them. Language is the ability to understand the meaning of words. 

#5 – It’s Not As Uncommon As You’d Think

According to research, language and speech disorders affect anywhere between five and ten percent of pre-school children. It’s crucial to understand that your toddler isn’t alone – and nor are you!

Speech Delay Activities for Toddlers

Now that we’ve learnt a little more what speech delays are and aren’t, let’s take a look at a handful of fun activities and games to help with toddler speech delay.

#1 – Read!

Reading is by far and away one of the best activities for toddler speech delay! When you read to your little one, they listen to you intently, and they’ll learn how to form words completely subconsciously, which is often the best way because it doesn’t feel like a learning exercise. Remember, children are little sponges who are always eager to learn and will do so without even realising it. Furthermore, reading to your toddler will help to expand their vocabulary; therefore, if your child is experiencing speech delay, read aloud to them as often as you can.

#2 – Singing

If there’s one type of song that’s synonymous with toddlers and young children, it’s nursery rhymes. Sure, they’re fun, but they’re also a fanatics choice for boosting both language and speech development. Did you know that singing and normal, everyday speech emanate from different parts of the brain? In some instances, stroke victims who have lost the power of speech can actually learn to communicate by singing – which is exactly the same for children who are experiencing speech delay, i.e. some children can sing long before they can talk. 

#3 – Language Expansion

To help improve your toddler’s speech delay, it’s essential to feed them language constantly (we don’t mean feed them spaghetti letters or cereal on a daily basis!) Add descriptive words to things they say. For example, if you walk past a brown dog and your child says, “dog”, respond with “brown dog”. This is one of the most effective ways for children to learn new words, so be sure to do it all the time!

#4 – Play!

 Play with your child every day! When you do, encourage your toddler to take the lead. This creates a safe environment where your little one doesn’t need to talk, and can instead indulge in playtime with you. This will only help to boost their self-esteem and self-confidence, but will also provide you with high-quality bonding time with your child. Encourage the use of their imagination as much as possible! 

#5 – Outside Adventures 

While books, play, and to a certain extend movies, will help your child to use their imagination, nothing can compare to being outside in nature. As you explore the outside world around you, point to and name everything around you, telling your child what they are and any other information you know. Don’t just say single words, though, use full sentences to describe and explain what you see. For example, “There’s a blackbird flying in the sky!”. But don’t just stop there. Encourage your child to speak too. Point to things and ask your toddler what they are or even ask them which way they want to go next. 

#6 – ‘Education’ Toys are a No-no

While it is undoubtedly true that educational toys do have their place in your child’s learning and development, it’s crucial not to allow such toys, i.e. toys that talk and teach, to take over and lead the learning process. Instead, it’s crucial that your toddler does the learning themselves. Toys with bright lights and noise can actually have an adverse impact on children with speech delay; therefore, it’s wise to go back to basics with their toys and avoid ones that light up and make noises. 

Speech Delay in Toddlers: A Summary

While it is completely natural to feel alarmed about your toddler’s speech delay, it is important to understand what speech delay is (and isn’t) and what you can do to help your child learn, develop, and ultimately learn to speak. Although the information presented above certainly isn’t exhaustive, it should provide you with a solid foundation of knowledge and activities to help address speech delay in your child. Remember, children develop at different rates, so don’t be worried! There are so many things you can do to help your child, and, even if external assistance is needed, there are numerous professionals out there who can help you and your child.