Prep: None / Activity Time: 3-5 Minutes

Your child is now imitating the language she hears and creating her own language. As you react positively to her attempts, you are reinforcing the importance of her communications as well as encouraging her to continue trying. Extending or rephrasing your child’s attempt at speaking will add to the language rich environment you have started creating for her. The next time she brings something to you, take advantage of the opportunity to extend conversation and even engage in some dramatic play. The following activity illustrates play with a horse but you may choose any toy your child is enthusiastic about.

  • toys (for example, a toy horse)
  • additional supplies:
    • books
    • paper and crayons
    • dress-up clothes

Step 1: Start an encounter by verbally acknowledging a toy your child is holding. Ask a question or make a statement about the toy remembering to use descriptive language. For example:

“I see something brown in your hands. Tell me what you have.”

Child’s response, “Horsey”

Step 2: Engage your child in conversation, extending or rephrasing your child’s response. For example:

“Yes, Marlee, I see your brown horse. Her name is Paisley; look at her long beautiful tail. How does her tail feel?”

Step 3: Suggest or encourage a dramatic play situation with the toy and your child. For example:

“What sound does your horsey make? Can you show me how Paisley can gallop across the table? ”

Step 4: Ask questions that will allow your child to express feelings, expand her imagination and take the play in her direction. For example: 

“How do you think Paisley feels up there on the table? Where do you think she wants to run to next? Would you like to ride a horse like Paisley? Where would you go?”


Provide more modeling.

Step 1: Show your child one of her toys. Say the name of the toy and encourage your child to repeat.

“Look Marlee, this is your horse, Paisley. Can you say horse? ”  

Step 2: Look at the details of the toy and talk about what you see. Ask your child to touch the part and repeat the words you say.

“Where are Paisley’s legs? What can she do with her legs?”

Step 3: Move the toy and describe what you are doing. Hand the toy to your child and see if she will imitate.

“See, I can hold Paisley like this and pretend she can run. Can you make her run? Where is she going to run?”

Extend the dramatic play.

Step 1: Gather additional items or props to extend the dramatic play. For example, you might build a barn or corral for the horse out of boxes or blocks.

Step 2: Provide paper and crayons and help your child draw a scene for the horse. Ask her to draw what it might eat and where it might live.

Step 3: Provide dress-up clothes for your child and/or the horse. Let your child pretend to be a horse or to ride a horse.