Better Speech 6 min read

Top 5 Toys for Speech Therapy at Home (and how to use them)

Give more than a toy – give the gift of communication. Make playtime a learning time for a toddlers with speech delay, late talkers or even those who have other medical diagnoses like autism or childhood apraxia of speech.

a boy holding a car in his hands

Speech therapists use toys in their sessions, and you can help your child develop their expressive language skills during playtime. Playtime reinforcement can also help develop these skills:

Receptive language skills, or their understanding of language

Social skills, or how they interact or engage with people around them

Play skills, which are directly related to their cognitive skills, or how they think and learn

Parents are the best therapists for their children at home.

Parents are the best at providing speech therapy at home since they will always see their kids more often than the therapist will. The parent is in the unique position of observing and listening to their child, and the one most attuned to their development.

But how should they do it? Read below to see what our speech therapists say are their top 5 toys for a child in speech therapy, and how you can keep up the practice at home.

soft toys and cubes

The toys on this list are often ones I might use first when starting to work with a child. These get a toddler responding quickly and engaging right away. And working on engagement through play is using a child’s everyday routine to work on language skills. There are no flashcards with toddlers in speech therapy. It’s got to be fun or that kiddo is just not going to engage.

So here are the top 5 toys our speech therapists recommend:

1. Mr. Potato HeadA classic with endless options. When first introduced, Hasbro provided accessories and you would stick them into an actual potato. Now, it is not as messy to play with, and is the most versatile toy to use when working on speech and language. See our video below, then read on for more!

2. Animal Pop Up – This is one of our all-time favorites, which you may already have at home. The best thing about this toy is that the animals jump out of the slots and surprise the kids every time. It’s a great attention getter for those kids that sometimes just don’t want to pay attention.

toys for speech therapy delay toddlers
YMDLY Toys Animal Park Version Pictured Here

With this toy you can:

  • Call the animal to come out: “Lion, lion, where are you?”
  • Target colors (buttons), or animal names
  • Encourage vocalizations by making animal sounds for kids who are not yet verbalizing
  • Teach the word “more” before allowing the child to press a button
  • Target verbs like “open, close”

3. Race Track or Car Ramp Toy – The best part about a race track or ramp toy like this is that any toddler, even those with motor delays, can usually put the cars on the track and watch them ride down to the bottom. They range in complexity (and price tag) but kids that love this toy will request it over and over. Try targeting different words before you give it to them, or before you let the car go.

With this toy, you can:

soft toys and cubes
TOP BRIGHT Wooden Car Ramp
  • Have the child imitate car sounds like “vroom!”
  • Target routine phrases like “Ready, set, go” or “one, two, three” before releasing the car
  • Model the words, car, wheel
  • Target the colors of the cars or the ramps, yellow, blue, green
  • If a child has trouble putting the car on the track, model “help”
  • To get another turn, target “more, car ramp, or please”

4. Kids Echo Microphone – No need for batteries! This is a simple (and cheap) toy that works so well. Some of our therapists use it very early on with kiddos in speech therapy who might not yet be vocalizing and imitating. This is also a great toy to also encourage turn-taking since your child will see you using it and will likely want a chance to explore what it can do.

toy microphone
Rhode Island Echo Microphone

With this toy, you can:

  • Vocalize sounds like ooo, aaah, papapa, shhh or any other sound
  • Target the words mine, more, my turn, please
  • Teach more complex ideas like “quiet” or “loud”
  • As children are able to recognize and hear their own voice, ask them to say or sing along the words they are working on in their therapy sessions

5. Baby Doll with Accessories like Feeding, Clothes or Bath – Some of our speech therapists say that the best pretend play toy on their shelf is any kind of baby doll, with some accessories or things from the house. Kids love acting out all the things mommy and daddy do with them. Feeding, choosing outfits and changing clothes, or even bath time. If you have a plastic doll (not the cloth version) you can give baby a bath.

With an accessory set like this one, or with plastic bowls and utensils from your kitchen, the baby can go to the table and you can pretend to feed baby. But even if you want to start more simply, the baby can go anywhere with you and your child, and engage in all of the activities your child does. The language practicing possibilities are endless.

toys doll toddler speech therapy
Melissa & Doug Mine to Love Doll Accessories

Remember, if your child is not interested in the doll after a couple of tries, they might not be ready for this type of pretend play. Put it away and try again another time. Or try with a stuffed animal first, the important thing is to be using language and words with the activity.

With this toy, you can:

  • Target sounds like “mmmm,” “waaa,” and “boohoo”
  • Work on nouns like baby, spoon, bath, brush, hat or any other objects you are using
  • Teach verbs like eat, go, sleep, jump
  • Teach descriptive words like big, little, dry, hungry
  • Target location words like, sit, “at” the table, “in” the bath, or the baby can climb “up” to bed, put the bib “on,” etc
Speech therapy for child and adult.

Honorable Mention: Wind Up Toys – Who doesn’t want to see a dinosaur car?!? These are hard to resist, just because wind-ups are so simple and so timeless.

Dinosaur Cars Wind-up Toys
Dinosaur Cars Wind-up Toys

When we do evaluations or first therapy sessions to see if a child is interested in engaging, we will often use toys like these. See if your child will make any attempt to request help in winding up the toy. Will they understand a simple direction to “give me the red one.” And, of course, as your child plays with them, and finds their favorite, get them to ask you to “make it go” again and again.

With this toy, you can:

  • Work on verbal routines like “ready, set, go!”
  • Target, more, please, help and my turn
  • Target colors like red, green, blue
  • Teach roll, start, and fast

Super tip: rotate the toys to keep them engaged

One of the last tips I have for parents is that rotating the toys they already have, or even borrowing toys from friends or using an online toy library like this one is great for keeping kids interested in what they already have at home.


At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works.

We have experts in your needs and assign the right therapist; not just the therapist that happens to be in your area. If you want to find out more about our services, contact us to schedule a free consultation.