Cafe Imaginative Play

Term 2 has started and we have a new Cafe theme for our waiting room.



We have a ‘coffee machine’ for kids to make cappuccinos and espressos!  There are also free cupcakes.

Kids love preparing the ‘takeaway’ coffees or cups of tea.  Developing pretend play skills is often an integral part of any speech therapy programme so we like to give families ideas for themes at home.  Use your own plastic cups, empty tea/coffee packets, trays and real/pretend cakes and you are set.

Lots of vocabulary to learn – cups, spoon, muffin, stir, hot, all gone, more, yum, mum’s coffee ….


Our talented therapist Anne, has sewn these tea bags.


We have collected some recyclables to make it more fun.


and downloaded a menu.


Why not re-enact a cafe at home, after a visit on the weekend?  Take home those play props and perhaps use an apron for the barista dressup!

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Daily Routines and Language Development

Daily routines provide a good opportunity to help your toddler learn new words.  Mealtimes and bath-times give you a chance to reinforce some new words without even thinking about it!  Choose some Prompt Words that you will use every time – this helps your toddler learn through repetition.

Some days you will have more success than others!  Depending on your toddler’s level of fatigue, behaviour, time constraints etc – these all have an impact on the ability to learn new words.  But as often as you can, try to use these natural routines to help your toddler learn and use these common words.

1.  Bath-time

bath time wordsLet your toddler know it is bath-time and help him get undressed.

Prompt Words – off,  shirt off,  nappy.

During the bath, you can use the words ‘wet’ and ‘wash’ many times to show your toddler what these mean.  Go through the body parts too – ‘wash your feet’   ‘dry your tummy’. Praise him if he copies you!


2.  Mealtime

Meals are a great time to talk about different foods and to help your toddler request things.  Help your toddler to repeat some new words ‘toast’  ‘hot’  ‘yummy’.  Name things as you put them on the table.

Sometimes, give your toddler a choice of foods –  egg or carrot?  This helps your child to ask for things in a meaningful way, rather than just copying your words.

Prompt Words –  banana, all gone,  more,  drink,  hot.


3.  Reading Books


Story-time is a routine which will result in long term benefits for your child.  Not only is it a lovely activity you can both enjoy, it is a rich language activity with lots of vocabulary extension.  It also begins your child’s journey into literacy.  Reading books introduces your child to letters and written words and the concepts of beginning and end.

Don’t just leave your story-time to bedtime when your child is tired.  Remember to read books during the day too!  Let your child choose a book and show you what he finds interesting to talk about.

Prompt Words – book, again, finished, my turn.


4.  Nappy Changes

Nappy changes and toilet training are another excellent opportunity for repeating the same words during the day.  Choose a few words you are going to prompt your child and use these many times.  Sometimes, pause before you use the word, to see if your child wants to say it first!  Praise him for any attempts!

Prompt Words – nappy, poo, wipes, pants on.


5.  Cars, Trikes, Prams

During the course of the day, most toddlers will go in a pram or on a scooter /car/ trike.  This is an activity in which often a little bit of help is needed in order to get in/on the pram.  This is a great way to Pause and see if your child can tell you what he wants (eg ‘up’ to be put in the pram  or ‘in’ to be popped in the car).

Prompt Words – in, up,  push car,  out of pram,  take off.

DIY Toys

Playing with toddlers has the advantage that they aren’t very picky about how nicely or accurately you have cut or drawn a picture!  You don’t need to be crafty to make toys at home.

Below is a list of ‘toys’ you can make from things around the home .  Prompt Words are also included.  These DIY toys are cheap and easy to make.  Don’t forget to involve your toddler in the making of it too, as that can also be a great time to learn new words.

1. Car Wash

diy carwashYou will need an old spray bottle, tub of bubbles, sponge and cars.

All toddlers love squirting with spray bottles!  Get out a tub of soapy water and start a car wash using a sponge and the spray.

Prompt Words – wet, wash cars,  spray it,  squirt, clean now!


2.  Farm House

 Make your own farm activity for websiteYou will need a cardboard box, paint, sticky tape.

You can make a barn for all the animals with a small cardboard box.  Just sticky tape the roof together and cut some doors on the side.  You can paint it too if you like! Your toddler can have great fun driving the tractor in and out of the barn and putting the animals in.

Prompt words – door, drive car, horse in,  close doors.

3.  Washing Machine

You will need a cardboard box, old soap box, pegs and clothes.

Cut a round hole in a box (for the door to open) and then draw on some control buttons.  Your toddler can use an empty soap box to ‘pour’ in the soap and then put all the clothes in the box.  You can use your toddler’s clothes or doll clothes.  Then peg the clothes on a string or your clothes rack.

Prompt words – sock, shirt, wash the skirt, take out

4. Cars & Roads

You will need chalk, cars, boxes, leaves, pebbles.

Draw some ‘roads’ on your pavement outside and set up a town!  You can add trees (leaves/twigs), garages (plastic box), stop signs and anything else you find outside.  You and your toddler can drive the cars around on the road, stopping and starting or crashing into each other!  You can use large push vehicles or smaller matchbox cars depending on your child’s age.

Prompt words – stop, go, push car,  it’s crashed!

5.  Oven

DIY StoveYou will need a cardboard box, paper plates, pot, spoon and recycled food containers.

Set up a kitchen stove/oven by glueing some paper plates to the top of a cardboard box.  Then you can give your toddler some kitchen utensils to do some cooking.   A small pot and wooden spoon can get it started.  It’s always nice to add some recycled food containers (egg cartons, cereal boxes, milk cartons) which your child can use in his cooking.

Prompt words – hot, stir it, I’m cooking, yummy pasta.

6.  Boat for the Bath

bathgamesYou will need a plastic yoghurt/dip container, kebab stick and paper.

Home made boats for the bath are great fun. All you need to do is put some paper on a kebab stick and then stick this to a plastic container.  Put some little people in the boat and float them in the bath.

Prompt Words – boat, push it, boat sinking, all wet.

7. Junk Mail

junkmailYou will need junk mail, glue and paper.

Does your toddler like helping you collect the junk mail from the letter box?  Look through it with him and when he points out something interesting, you can cut it out and glue it on a piece of paper.  Sometimes you can make up a little homemade book stapled together with lots of different clothes or foods.

Prompt Words – cut, look, stick on, more pictures.

7 Ideas for Active Toddlers and Language Development

Many toddlers are super-active!  Some are even more active, with only brief periods in the day sitting down to activities.  This can make it a challenge for helping them to listen and learn new words.  Here are some ideas for active play (i.e. not sitting down!) to enhance language development.

But don’t give up!  Keep trying some sit down activities for a little bit of the day – books, toys and pretending are still important.  Your goal is to extend the time a little more every day.

1.  Balls

This is a great outside activity. You can kick the ball, throw it into a bucket or grab it in a ‘chasey’ game.  Get in there and have fun. Don’t sit on the sidelines and watch whilst your toddler runs around.  Make it a game where you are both involved.  Call out some words whilst you play and praise any attempts at copying you!

You can also do an inside version of this with a bag of small plastic balls.

Prompt Words –  kick, throw, chase, got it, run.

2.  Digging in the sandpit

Lots of active toddlers love digging, pushing their trucks and pouring water in the sand. You can make sandcastles, roads for the diggers/trucks and decorate with pebbles and leaves.

Prompt Words – dig, push, brrrrm, pour, water, wet, road.


3.  On the swings

At the park or at home, pushing the swing is a great communicative opportunity for your toddler.  Think about your toddler’s vocabulary and choose a sound or word that he must say each time he wants the swing to be pushed.  Always start with something that he can do, then you can expand it to a new word.

Prompt Sounds – oo,  uh.

Prompt Words – more, push, again, swing swing.


4.  Water activity

Water activities can be done in the bath, at a water table, with a hose or in a pool.  These are great for toddlers who like to get messy or wet!   You can play with bath toys, squirting and pouring.  You can use water wheels and cups with holes in a water table or pool.  Even the hose and sprinkler are great fun for running around getting wet.

Prompt Words – wet, more, again, water, get wet, squirt.

5.  Horsey Ride

Does your toddler like to play horsey ride on your back?  These types of active games are really interactive and involve both of you.  Help your child to indicate to you she wants to get ‘up’ on your back.  Perhaps she needs to ‘neigh’ to make you start the ride or ‘stop’ to get off.

Prompt Words – up, neigh, horsey, go, stop, off.

6.  Steps

Going up and down the steps at home or in the playground or at the slide are another great opportunity to repeat the same word many times.  Toddlers like to go up and down again and again! Make this a learning opportunity.

Prompt Words – up, more, again, high, step.

7.  Scooters, Push along Bikes and Cars

You can use your toddler’s bike or push along car as another means to communicate.  He might need help to get ‘on’ or ‘off’.  He might like you to ‘push’ him along the footpath.  Perhaps he would like to tell you to have a ‘ride’ too or to ‘stop’.

Homemade boats, cars etc are great fun too.  Use a laundry basket or large cardboard box for your toddler to climb into and then push him around in it.  Get him to signal to you ‘stop’ and ‘go’.

Prompt Words – on, off, go, stop, push, drive.


15 Ideas for Pretend Play

Imaginative play is a building block for language.  Children need to have lots of practice at pretend play so that they can understand what is going on around them.  Of course, it is also a wonderful way to learn new words!  Through pretend play, toddlers and preschoolers learn to problem solve, to role play and to use objects in the way they were designed (eg stirring with a spoon).  It is also a way of children acting out their emotional development.  There have been many studies which also show the link to literacy and learning to read.

Are you looking for more ideas for pretend play?  We’ve listed 15 easy ideas to refresh your imagination!  Along with each idea are some Prompt Words To Use.  With toddlers, remember to repeat the words many times!  If your toddler copies your words, praise him/her!

1.  Post office



There are many post boxes available to buy.  If you are crafty, you can make one from an old shoe box.  Then gather some envelopes and ‘stamps’ and set up your post office!

Prompt Words –     in,   stamp on,    more letters,    put it in.

(Remember to use short sentences with babies and toddlers).

Don’t forget a picture book to reinforce all your play and talking!  Postman Peter or Postman Bear.

2.  Pretend Birthday Party

birthday cakeYou can buy a pretend birthday cake – many have the velcro cut and stick pieces for extra fun.  You can also make a cake from playdoh and put some real candles in it.  Also complete the kit with some party hats, party plates and tea set items.  Most of these are available at your local store.  Invite some teddy friends and it’s birthday time!

Prompt Words –  cut,    blow out,     eat the cake,     happy birthday.

Books about birthday parties –  Spot’s Birthday Party , Happy Birthday Peppa,  Happy Birthday!

3.  Teddy Bear’s Picnic

pretendpicnic2Picnics are easy to set up at home with a blanket on the floor, and some tea set items.  We also like to wash and recycle boxes and bottles for easy recognition of items. (Milk cartons, jam jars, butter containers, yoghurts).  Set up the items for you picnic and again invite some furry friends.

Prompt Words – sit,     eat,     pour drinks,     more toast.

Books about picnics – Lighthouse Keepers PicnicHaving a Picnic.

4.  Pizza Shop

pizza shop


Cut and play pizzas are great fun – 8 pieces which stick together, vegetables to stick on top and a pizza cutter.  The velcro lets you add different toppings for different customers.  Then cut it up and serve it.  You can also make a playdoh pizza with different coloured playdoh toppings.

Prompt Words;   cut       hot       more cheese      eat the pizza

Books about Pizzas – Grandpa and Me.

 5.  Doctor Kit or Vet Clinic

myo vetA pretend doctor kit is a must in your toy cupboard.  We also like to add real bandaids and bandages. You can make a vet clinic quite easily with stuffed animals or farm animals.  The animals will need to be examined and then treated.

Prompt Words;   ow!       sick dog,       put on bandaid

Books about Vets – Olivia Becomes a Vet,  Doctor Maisy,  Mog and the V.E.T.


6.  Bath Time for Teddy

bath teddyBath-time is an excellent pretend play activity to role play as this is a daily experience.  You can use a little wash bowl or plastic tub, a towel, bubbles and some bath toys.  Then bath teddy or dolly with pretend/real water.  Afterwards, dry your teddy and brush his teeth!

Prompt Words to use;  wash ears,      dry hair,         brush your teeth

Books about Bathtime – Maisy Takes a Bath,   In the Bath,   BathTime Peekaboo,  Baby’s Very First BathBook

 7.  Washing Clothes / Laundry

001Use a cardboard box or a cupboard as your pretend washing machine.  Then help your toddler put in some old clothes and use a empty soap bottle to add the ‘washing powder’.  Afterwards you can peg out the ‘washing’ onto a clothes line or string. Toddlers love pegs and this is often the most enjoyable part!

Prompt Words;  wash,         soap in,         take them out

Books about Washing Clothes – Doing the Washing,   Washing Line,  Mrs McNosh Hangs up the Wash,  Peppa’s Washing Day.

8.  Fruit & Vegetable Shop

A cash register is a great toy to have at home. You can set up a ‘shop’ on a small table with all your plastic (or real) food on display for sale.  Help your toddler understand how to ‘buy’ or ‘sell’ things in the shop. Use some bottle tops or plastic money and a Eco Shopping bag to put your purchases in.

Prompt Words –     banana,  potato,   I want pear,  pear please,  Here you go,  How much?

(Remember to use short sentences with babies and toddlers).

Don’t forget a picture book to reinforce all your play and talking!  Maisy Goes Shopping,  Going Shopping.

9.  Kitchen Play

cookMost children love helping in the kitchen, so re-enacting it in their play is ideal for learning.  You can use real or toy pots, pans, wooden spoons, tongs and muffin tins. Ikea have a good range of toy kitchen items.Your toddler will love to ‘mix’ with his wooden spoon and then put out the cooked items on plates to be enjoyed.  You can also extend it with meals you might cook at home – pasta, stir fry, roast, eggs on toast.  The list is endless!

Prompt Words – stir it,  hot, ready,  eat it, more please.

Books –  Spot Bakes a Cake.


10.  Ice Cream Shop

making gelatiIce-cream play is great fun!  There are many available to buy.   Set up a table as your shop with all the flavours in different buckets.  Help your toddler to use the scoop to make the icecreams and then give them to the customers (teddy).

Prompt Words – yummy,  big one,  green icecream please.

Books – Wemberly’s Ice-Cream Star, Curious George goes to an Ice-CreamShop.

11. In the Garden

in the gardenThis is a great game to play in the garden or in a sand tub inside.  Put some plastic insects into the sand and dig them around.  You can use a magnifying glass and bug catcher too! Pick up the insects with some tongs and pop them into your bug catcher.  You can also plant some ‘flowers’ into your sand.  Either use artificial flowers or real cut flowers for planting.  Water them with the watering can.

Prompt Words – dig, spider, get the bug,  pick up the flowers,  I’m digging.

Books – Mog in the Garden,  Garden Friends,  Doing the Garden, Mad about Minibeasts

12.  On the farm

farm animalsChildren don’t tend to use small world play (miniatures) until around 3 years of age.  Before that age you can get larger farm animals (either soft/felt or large plastic or wooden animals).  Farm sets are one of our Top Toys as there are many animal noises and playsounds you can make with babies just starting out to talk.  You can check out our Busy Farmer Kit for more information.

Prompt Words – moo,  baaa, oink,  woof,  big cow,  cow eat grass,  pig in mud.

Books – Noisy Farm,  Busy Farm,  Maisy on the Farm, Buster’s Farm.

13.  In the Ocean

ocean kitOcean Play is another small world playscene that is lots of fun.  Get a large tub (or use the bath!) or some blue material and put some plastic sea animals into it.  Make sure you have a good range including a shark, octopus, starfish and crab.  If you have some shells you can put these in too. Talk about your ‘ocean’ and what they are doing.  Maybe a boat will come along and ‘catch’ the fish!

Prompt Words –   fish,  swim,  all wet,  catch the fish,  shark get it.

Books – Hooray For Fish!   Commotion in the Ocean, Octopus Socktopus,

14.  Diggers & Construction

transport vocabTrucks, sand, diggers, roads….. great fun for boys and girls.  You can use a felt road mat and some vehicles to set up a construction scene.  If you have a sandpit, even better!  Move the sand from one area to another with the vehicles and talk about what you are building.  Move the little people about and help them dig, drive, walk etc.

Prompt Words – drive,  brmmm, dig, big truck,  drive on road. 

Books – Digger Man,  Dig Dig Digging,  Machines at Work, Construction Sites.

15.  Handyman

handymanExtend your diggers and construction play to role play of a handyman or mechanic. There are some toy tool boxes you can buy and you can fix up all those cars which are ‘broken’.  Use a torch and some keys to make it even more exciting!

Prompt Words –  fix,  broken car,  needs new wheel,  chop it, all done!