Cars and trucks and trains… oh my! It may not be surprising to hear that transportation is a favorite play theme for most toddlers. Many parents report: “He LOVES trains so much that he would play with them for hours if I left him alone.” Those same parents also typically request tips for expanding their child’s play beyond building train tracks and pushing cars back and forth. This blog gives tips and talks about how vehicle play can be used to help build your child’s communication skills. Though it may seem simple and even repetitive, vehicle play can actually be used to target a variety of communication skills as is motivating and versatile.
Toys with wheels are valuable for expanding your child’s vocabulary. When your child is interested in your play idea, you can finally enter his world. You have his attention, so what’s next? When playing with your child, talk about what you see and hear. What are you doing? What is he doing? You can label nouns (car, train, wheels, tunnel), incorporate a variety of verbs (push, pull, fall, drive), and especially target positional words (in, out, under, next to). Keep your language simple, but don’t be afraid to expose him to a variety of words. He may repeat the words you say or even start using them independently, or he may just need to watch and listen at first. Either way, you are providing him with new words and linking them to his interests.
Play with cars, trucks, and trains is also useful for children working on imitating basic speech sounds. This may be particularly useful for toddlers diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech, but this strategy could also be great for children who are learning their first words. During play, your role is to produce the noises that vehicles can make. You can have fun and get creative with this, but here are some examples to get you started:
- Fire truck, ambulance, or police car: “eeee oooo eeee ooo” (siren sound)
- Car horn: “beep beep” or “bee bee”
- Train: “choo choo” or “oo oo”
- Race car: “zoom zoom”
- Truck: “mm mm mm” (sound trucks make when backing up)
- Bicycle: “tee tee” (sound of bicycle bell)