10 expressive language activities

10 Activities to Develop Expressive Language

“I wish I could help my child talk more”. Well… You can! Expressive language can be elicited in a number of different ways. Most of the toys or activities you already have in your home can help your child begin to talk more and practice expressive language skills.

10 Expressive Language Activities:

  1. Books: Books are a great way to elicit expressive language in children. The important thing to remember10 Expressive Language Activities when reading books with your child is to ask OPEN ENDED questions. This takes some practice but the best way to help children talk more is to ask them a question where they generate their own answers. For example, “what is she doing?” “How is he feeling?” “What’s happening in this picture?”. These are open ended questions versus yes or no questions or questions with one word answers.
  2. Wordless books: Wordless books are great for younger children who are working on developing expressive language skills. With younger children, you can ask them direct questions like, “What is this?” or “What color is this?”. You can expand upon your child’s answers by saying things like, “You’re right; that’s a cat. He’s a black cat”. This will help model language and provide good input as well as working on output.
  3. Pretend play: Pretend play can target higher level expressive language skills. When pretending or building a scenario, your child is working on storytelling and sequencing activities. Always ask your child open ended questions when engaging in pretend play. This allows them to create the scenario and path as opposed to limiting their language with a single word answer. Some examples of questions are, “What should happen next?” or “Where should we go? Who should come with us?”.
  4. Cooking: Cooking is a great way to target expressive language through sequencing. Have your child narrate the steps of your recipe. This can be done by having her look over all the ingredients (either by reading words or by naming what she sees in front of her). Then, you can ask them to monitor and narrate what you have done, what you are doing, and what you still need to do.
  5. Playdough: Playdough can be used to build scenery, animals, food or any number of creations. Allow your child to express what she wants to create or what she wants you to build. Cookie cutters or other molds can help aid children if they are having trouble utilizing their imagination to build with playdough. This is a great opportunity to have your child request more or different playdough by using an, “I want….” Or an “I need…” phrase.
  6. Toy animals: Toy animals can be used similarly to pretend play. Again, be sure to ask open ended questions. This is also another opportunity to have your child utilize “I want…” or “I need…” phrases. Ask your child to narrate or express what the animals are/should be doing.
  7. Train sets/cars: Cars and trains can be used in a similar manner that toy animals would be used. Cars or trains sometimes come with tracks or ramps. If you don’t have ramps, you can improvise by using a table or another piece of furniture. You can utilize these tracks or ramps to have your child verbalize “go again” or “go up/down” or “ready…set…go”.
  8. Dress up: Dress up can be incorporated into pretend play or an entire activity in itself. You can have your child express what they want to wear or what they want you to wear. Ask them open ended or imaginative questions such as, “where should we go now that we’re all dressed up?” or “who are we?”.
  9. Play food: Your child can pretend they are cooking and/or serving you food. Have them ask you what you’d like to eat, or express to you what they are cooking, how they are cooking it, and who they are serving. You can also use a puppet with pretend food with the younger children. Have the children feed the puppet and tell it, “Eat banana” or “eat the apple puppet”. You can engage them by pretending to either enjoy or dislike the food in an exaggerated manner. Have them say whether they thought the puppet enjoyed the food or did not like it.
  10. Bubbles: Bubbles are a great tool to use with younger children. Blow bubbles and then pause. Ask your children to say, “More bubbles!” or “My turn.” if they are old enough to blow the bubbles themselves.

When targeting expressive language through activities or toys, always remember the following points:

  • Use open ended questions
  • Always have your child request an item before just handing it to them
  • Have your child request another turn
  • Have your child narrate what they are doing or what they want you to do

With these tips you can turn any toy or activity into an expressive language task!

Click here to read about milestones for expressive language development and red flags for an expressive language delay.

Strategies for Pre-Reading | The Benefits of Wordless Books


One of my favorite tools to use in speech therapy is a wordless book. They have endless (okay, maybe not completely endless, there is a story in those pictures) possibilities for creating, imagining, predicting, and story telling.

Here are the top 10 reasons why I LOVE wordless books for kids:

1.    It’s reading before reading. These books can empower a young child to be the storyteller instead of having to listen mom or dad read the words. This encourages story telling skills, language and overall comprehension.
2.    It increases vocabulary.  You can use the objects or actions in the books to introduce new words to your child. It’s also a great way to work on synonyms. For example, your child might say, “The dog ran fast” and you could talk about other ways you express what’s happening in the picture (“The dog ran quickly”).
3.    It works on inferencing. Without words, your child will have to rely solely on the pictures to infer what is happening in the story. You can probe further by asking, “How did you know that?”
4.    It works on predicting. You and your child can talk about what you might think will happen next based on the picture you’re looking at; you can also talk about why they made that prediction.
5.    It introduces story structure. Your child will learn about the beginning, middle, and end of the story as he describes each picture. At the end of the book you can go back and identify, then discuss, each part.
6.    It promotes creativity. Your child is not constricted to the words on the page in wordless books. Because there are no words, the pictures on each page often have a lot to say. This encourages your child to go above and beyond with his story telling.
7.    It helps with story retell. I’ve noticed that children who have difficulty retelling stories they’ve read or heard can retell stories that they have helped develop much easier. Wordless books provide a great building block to retelling stories they have read or heard.
8.    It can help with written language. Older children can write their stories down instead of verbally expressing them. This is a great way to work on descriptive language, sequencing, and overall cohesive writing.
9.    It encourages higher level thinking skills. Some of the pictures can be abstract. This opens up questions like, “What if?” and “What would you do?” “What would it be like to___?”
10.    Wordless Books are fun! I love that the story is always changing and evolving each time you “read” it. Children love to create and use their imaginations, and wordless books provide an outlet for that. It’s amazing to see the ideas that children have and they way they process the information. They may have a completely different idea of what’s happening in the picture than you do; and you may realize, that their idea is often more imaginative and original than your own.

Here is a quick list of some of my favorite wordless picture books:

  • Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day
  • The Lion and The Mouse by Pinkney
  • *A Boy, a Dog and a Frog by Mercer Mayer
  • *Frog Goes to Dinner by Mercer Mayer
  • *The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez
  • *Fox and Hen Together by Beatrice Rodriguez
  • *Jack and the Missing Piece by Pat Schories
  • *Breakfast for Jack by Pat Schories
  • The Snowman by Raymund Briggs
  • Tuesday by David Wiesner

* Indicates a book series

Click here to read more about the stages of reading development.  If you have concerns about your child’s early reading, contact our Blossom Reading Program.