5 Tricks to Get Kids Talking During Play Time

Enrichment Therapies

August 16, 2023

Child playing with toys

By: Meghan Randig, M.A., CCC-SLP

Kids love to play — sometimes their play is super creative and silly and sometimes their play is quiet and focused. There is room for both, but if you’re noticing your child’s play is quiet more often, try these tricks to boost their expression! 

Unexpected Actions

A change in the play routine will almost always inspire your child to respond by protest or confusion. A missing part to the game? A “broken” piece? Animals in the wrong house? The toothbrush in dolls’ hair? Setting up the scene with an unexpected problem or using pieces the wrong way will encourage a vocal reaction from your child. This can be so silly and fun!

Suspenseful Waiting

Children take longer to process language when they are just starting to learn it. Challenge yourself to give more wait time during play, especially after you give a direction or make a comment about what you see. You can slowly count to five in your head while looking expectantly at your child and maintaining joint attention. You may be surprised by what your child does in those brief moments of silence.

Funny Noises 

Before we hear full words from our children, we hear lots of noises. Animal noises, environmental noises, and car and truck noises are a way to hear communication and language during play. The rising and falling intonation in our voices can convey so much meaning and is easily imitated without the pressure of “talking”. Try reaction sounds like “ewwww!”, “whoa!”, “Ahhhhh” and “ouch” that have lots of vowels. 


Establish a sequence for taking turns using a toy or game. If sharing with your little one is too difficult at first, you can model what sharing looks like using stuffed animals or other objects. Use language like, “First you get to drink and now you get to drink” or “You get a turn to push the car, now she gets a turn”. Turn-taking helps to establish sharing, patience, and self-regulation. 

Decrease Yes/No Questions

Take a minute to think about the type of questions you ask your child during play. When we ask a yes or no question, we are setting the stage for a simple and quick language turn. Instead, try making three or four comments about play before opting for a question. Questions can be too demanding on a child if they do not have the language or vocabulary to fully share their thoughts. 

Bonus Tip 

Consider the type of toys you are presenting to your child. Think about how you would play with them and if they are fostering more independent quiet play or imaginative play. Alternating the types of toys you have available on a regular basis will keep them new and exciting if you swap them from the closet every so often. 

All of these strategies will help your child boost their speech and language skills — the best part? It’s FUN to play! When play is done right, kids don’t feel like they are working hard at all. It’s the most natural way to build their skills. Over time, these strategies will make lasting changes in their development. 

Watch Your Child Thrive with Speech Support from ETLC

If you think your little one could benefit from some one-on-one support, contact Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center to schedule a consultation. Located in the Iowa City and Des Moines area, our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Give us a call today!


740 Community Drive, Suite A

North Liberty, IA 52317



5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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Originally written by Suzanne Schuchert, M.S., CCC-SLP 2021. Updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness by Ashley Conrad, M.A., CCC-SLP in 2023....



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