Prep: 5 Minutes / Activity Time: 5 Minutes

One way to build oral language skills in toddlers is to get them involved in activities that require them to apply their growing knowledge of words to real-world tasks. The next time you're working in the yard or planting a plant, give your child a chance to help out while asking questions, introducing new words and inviting him to solve problems.

  • garden tools (e.g., shovel, hoe, rake, small diggers, hand-held rakes, leaf bags)
  • stuff to dig, plant or rake (e.g., dirt, mulch, leaves, seeds etc.)

Step 1: Gather an assortment of garden tools for your child to explore. Keep safety in mind as you sort through your tools and choose the ones that will not cause harm.

Step 2: Identify a task that you need help with, such as raking, digging or planting.

Step 3: Invite your child to help you find the tool that's just right for the job. You might say:

I need to rake these leaves. What kind of tool would help me?

Step 4: Ask your child to explain why the tool might help. Agree with whatever he says and then expand on his answer by providing more explanation. An example might sound like this:

You: Why would a rake help me rake these leaves?

Your child might say: It moves the leaves.

Your response might be: You’re right! A rake helps me move the leaves. It has pointy tines that scrape the grass and move the leaves.


Provide more modeling in your conversation. Tell your child the name of the tool and why it is useful and let him try it out. For example you might say:

I need to dig a hole to plant these seeds. I am going to use a small spade. A small spade will help me dig a small hole. Would you like to use this spade to dig a hole?

Begin to use a garden tool that is not right for the job you want to do. Encourage your child to help you solve your problem by saying something like this:

I want to dig a hole but this rake is not helping me. What should I do?

Invite him to show you the tool that would be better for that job and ask him to tell you why.