Baby dolls are one of THE BEST toys for language development because you can use them to act out familiar and relatable activities and routines. If your little one isn’t into dolls, don’t worry! You can try these tips with their favorite stuffed animal or Spiderman figurine too – get creative, and follow your child's lead!
Modeling Language While Acting Out Daily Activities
Three of the most common daily activities that you do with your little one are full of opportunities to learn new words: meal time, changing diapers, and bed or nap time. Below, I’ll give you some tips on gestures and words you can model while acting out these routines with dolls. You can also model all of this language while going through the actual activities daily with your child!
- Feeding the doll
Pretending to feed the doll gives you a chance to introduce many food words with your toddler like “apple” and “carrots,” but it’s also a good time to model sounds. Encourage your child to join you in making fun play sounds like:
- “Aaaaahhhh” while you open your mouth wide
- Munch munch or nom nom while you pretend to eat
- “Mmmmmmm” and smiling when something is delicious
- “Yuck!” when you give the baby a non-food item to eat like a sock or a remote
Some useful gestures to model are things like:
- Rubbing your belly to show you are hungry or that something tastes good
- Signing the word “eat”
- Wiping the doll’s face to get food off
Another easy way to encourage your little one to talk is to give the doll a choice between foods and see if your child will answer for the baby. For example, you could say, “Do you think the baby wants bananas or peas?” It’s important to label the items specifically instead of saying, “this” or “that” and pointing to items, so your toddler can learn specific words.
- Putting the doll to sleep
Another favorite play routine with dolls is putting them to sleep. Kids LOVE this routine! Let me walk you through some sounds and gestures to model:
- Yawning - arms up and stretching, hands over mouth. Really exaggerate the sound to encourage your little one to join in and imitate you.
- Snoring - have fun with this one! Experiment with different sounds and speeds, or even pretend to snore as different animals.
- Crying - saying “wah wah” while rubbing your eyes like you are tired or sad.
- Pat pat - patting babies on the back to calm them down or burp them after feeding.
- Rock or bounce - pairing these simple words with the actions is a good way to increase the likelihood your child will imitate you.
- WAKE UP! - pop the baby up excitedly and say “wake up!” in an animated voice.
- Changing diapers
One thing to remember when modeling language and gestures with changing diapers is to keep it playful, light, and fun. We don’t want to associate negative feelings or shame with poop! You can:
- Say “PU” and wave your hand in front of your nose.
- Introduce words like “off” and “on” while you take the diaper off or put a new one on.
- Describe what you’re doing with simple words like “pull” or “open” the tabs of the diaper.
Want More Ideas and Bonus Activities?
There are so many ways to play with baby dolls that are both fun and helpful for increasing your child’s vocabulary. If you want more detailed ideas for the activities above, check out my new YouTube video "Help your toddler talk with dolls!" This is the fourth video in the TALKING WITH TOYS series. In the video, I include ideas and bonus activities that will help your child with school readiness and problem-solving skills.
I encourage you to play along with your toddler and their dolls at home. You can have a picnic, a doctor's appointment, or a baby doll slumber party! When you join in the fun, it keeps your toddler engaged and gives you so many opportunities to model words for them to mimic.
How to Make the Most of What You’re Already Doing
As a busy mom with little ones, I know how overwhelming it can feel to even think about adding one more thing to your list. It can feel even more daunting when it’s something as important as helping your child talk more. That’s why I put together this free workshop to help you leverage what you’re already doing in your daily routines. I will give you the exact steps you need to get your toddler saying their first 50 words and more! Sign up today! I can’t wait to meet you!
I’m rooting for you!