Prep: 3 Minutes / Activity Time: 10 Minutes

Vocabulary and grammar are two features of oral language development that set the stage for reading comprehension. Your toddler learns new words – and how they combine to make sentences – through natural interactions with you. The simple conversations you have with your toddler during everyday activities can strengthen the foundation for his oral language development.

  • farm animal shapes (toddler-safe cracker snacks or farm animal shapes cut from colorful paper)
  • plastic egg carton


Step 1:  Gather an empty egg carton or a few empty plastic containers.

Step 2:  Set out a few toddler-safe animal cracker snacks. If you prefer, you can cut some farm animal pictures generated by your computer from colorful paper. Be sure to have about 3 - 4 samples of each shape so that they may be used for sorting.


Step 1:  Place an open egg carton container in front of your toddler. Spread the crackers or paper farm animal shapes near the egg carton. Begin by sorting one of each shape into a section of the egg carton. Talk to your toddler about each shape by commenting on its name, shape, color, and function. For example, you might say: 

Here’s the farmer’s barn. It’s red, just like the one in your book! Let’s put it here. Do you see another barn? I see a purple barn. Can you find it? Great! There’s a purple barn!

Step 2:  Encourage your toddler to repeat the name, color, or animal sound. For example, you could say: 

Here’s a yellow hen! Let’s find another hen in the carton. Say ‘hen’. That’s right! Hen! The hen says, “Cluck, cluck.”  What does the hen say?

Step 3:  As you sort each shape together, continue to model language by using words, phrases and sentences to name and describe the shapes. Even though he may only be saying 1 or 2 words at a time right now, your toddler learns new words and how they go together by listening to you. Encourage his participation in the interaction by responding to your toddler’s attempts to communicate. For example, if he says: moo cow, you might respond by saying:

That’s right! You found the cow! Moo! We saw a cow when we were on our way to see Grammy! Cows can live on the farm. Let’s put her with another cow. Can you find a red cow?

Step 4:  Assist your toddler with sorting all of the shapes while you have a naturally enriched conversation!