Updated: May 21, 2019
Toy of the Week: Play Food and Puppets
Buy Play Food on Amazon ($14.75)
Buy Puppet on Amazon ($9)
Using play food and puppets to help your child’s speech and language development:
Toddlers are beginning to explore the wonderful world of symbolic play. Feeding animals, especially puppets who open their mouths, is fascinating for toddlers and full of language-based opportunities. Some little ones can be fearful of puppets at first (but most learn to love them), so I calmly demonstrate and show that the animal puppets are just pretend.
Once the child is comfortable, give them a chance to feed the puppet while narrating what’s going on: “Open your mouth, Puppy!” “He ate the cookie, yumm!” “Give me more cookies please!” “He ate two!” “He’s eating an apple now.” Once they are hooked, shift some of the language demands to the child. Hold the puppet’s mouth closed until the child verbally requests or signs “open.” If they aren’t yet saying words or signing independently, this is a great opportunity to model and assist them. Once they sign, say, or attempt to request verbally, open the puppet’s mouth and let them give the puppet a piece of pretend food. It’s very rewarding and fun for the child.
In terms of speech sound development, you can also work on early speech sounds like “ahhh” or “oh” for “open your mouth”, “mmmm” for “yum”, and “eee” for “eat.” Receptive goals include building vocabulary and following 1 step directions like, “give puppy the banana” or “close puppy’s mouth.”