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.