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  • Writer's pictureNiki Klein

Using What You Already Have at Home

Updated: Sep 8, 2019

Did you know that you can expand your child’s speech and language development with things you already have at home? Last month’s newsletter highlighted that some of your child’s favorite toys aren’t even toys at all. Many of you asked how exactly you can support your child’s language development with some common home objects. This month’s post is all about how you can use what you already have at home.

The best thing about common home objects is that they encourage open-ended play. Unlike a puzzle where the pieces always come together in the same way, there are endless ways that common objects can be utilized and combined. When allowing your child to play with common objects there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is important to consider the age of your child.  Infants love to explore materials with all of their senses- touching, mouthing, banging, etc… Therefore it’s important to make sure that none of the items that you give to your child are a potential choking hazard. It’s also important to resist the urge to instruct or direct your child’s activities. Instead, be an observer and follow your little one’s lead. During this kind of play you can teach new vocabulary, model linguistic concepts (e.g., prepositions, temporal), and expand on your little one’s sentences to teach new syntax and grammar skills. It’s also critical to give your child time and repeated opportunities to explore the same materials. Your little one’s vocabulary will increase as they learn words to describe his/her play objects and their characteristics such as color, shape, size, texture, and weight.

Here are some of my favorite common objects that you can use to teach various speech and language skills at different developmental stages:


Socks can be used to:vWork on different body parts.  Put them on your hands, feet, nose, head, etc…Identify matches and colors.  Have your little one match different colored socks. Teach possessives. This is Mommy’s sock, this is Daddy’s sock.Engage in pretend play.  Make a sock puppet!

Scarves can be used to: Teach your little one that his/her voice has purpose.  Play a game of peak-a-boo hiding under the scarf until you hear your little one start to squeal.Imitate simple actions. Wave your scarves up, down, side to side, and all around.Teach various linguistic concepts.  Hide toys UNDER the scarf or string the scarf THROUGH various objects with holes (e.g., bracelets, laundry basket, etc…).Engage in pretend play.  Put stuffed animals to sleep or dress up.


Measuring cups can be used to: Teach various verbs: stack, scoop, pour, mix, bang, etc. Engage in pretend play.  Have a tea party with your child’s favorite toys.

Salad spinner can be used to: Teach cause and effect. When your little one pushes the button it spins around and around.  Add a twist by putting various toys inside.Teach various linguistic concepts.  Hide toys IN and make it spin FAST.Make spin art using various colors

Recycling Bin:

Water bottles can be used to: Make your own shaker – fill with beans, popcorn kernels, or pasta and shake.  For your youngest language learner your shaker can be used to teach detecting/localizing sounds and attaching sounds to objects.  As your child gets older you can use the same shaker as an instrument as you sing your favorite song.Teach various linguistic concepts. Put things IN, take things OUT, and determine if your bottle is EMPTY or FULL.

Toilet paper/paper towel rolls can be used to: Facilitate imitation of sounds and words. Use your roll as a microphone and make silly sounds insides. Support learning new vocabulary.  Play a game of “I spy” using the roll as a telescope.Teach various linguistic concepts.  Stack them UP like bowling pins and knock them DOWN or roll balls/cars THROUGH.Cardboard boxTeach various linguistic concepts. Put things IN, OUT, NEXT TO, BEHIND, IN FRONT OF, etc. of the box.Engage in pretend play. Pretend it’s a car, a spaceship, a house, etc.

These are just a few items and a couple examples of how they can be utilized.  Once you and your little one start to engage in this kind of play you will quickly learn that the opportunities for speech and language development are endless!

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