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The SLT Blog: Encouraging Speech and Language Development

Updated: Jun 25

Hannah O'Neill, one of the Speech and Language Therapists at DSCNE has covered a topic centered around providing parents with ideas for games to play with their children to encourage speech and language development.


By finding enjoyable and effective ways to engage with your children you can greatly support their speech and language development. Games are an excellent way to create communication opportunities between your child and the wider family, help them learn new words, and build strong connections. These games can be enjoyed with the entire family and it is encouraged that other siblings be involved to create a most naturalistic communicative environment. This piece will explore various games that can aid in developing your child's speech and language skills while ensuring everyone has fun.

1. Storytelling and Pretend Play

Why It Helps: Storytelling and pretend play stimulate imagination and encourage children to use new words and phrases, helping them express thoughts and ideas. These activities also promote understanding of different contexts and roles, enhancing social communication skills.

Games to Play:

  • Picture Books: Look at picture books together and talk about the images. Ask simple questions like, “What’s this?” and encourage them to name objects and characters. This helps build vocabulary and comprehension.

  • Dress-Up: Use simple costumes and props for role-playing. Focus on everyday scenarios like playing house or being a shopkeeper to practice common words and phrases. This encourages the use of language in practical, everyday contexts.

  • Puppet Shows: Use puppets to act out short, simple scenes. Puppets can make it easier for children to express themselves and practice conversation in a playful way. This activity also helps with turn-taking and dialogue skills.

2. Board Games and Card Games

Why It Helps: Board games and card games involve turn-taking, following instructions, and simple verbal interactions, all of which are beneficial for language development. These games also teach children about rules and structure, which is important for both language and social skills.

Games to Play:

  • Peek-a-Boo: A simple game that encourages eye contact and verbal interaction. You can vary the phrases used, such as “Where’s [child’s name]?” and “There you are!” This helps with anticipation and response skills.

  • Matching Games: Use picture cards to match pairs. Ask your child to name the items on the cards, helping them practice vocabulary. This reinforces memory and word retrieval.

  • Simple Puzzles: Work on puzzles together and talk about the pieces. Use phrases like “Where does this go?” and “I found the piece!” This promotes problem-solving and descriptive language.

3. Outdoor and Physical Games

Why It Helps: Physical games that involve following instructions and interacting with peers can significantly benefit speech and language development. These activities also promote motor skills and overall physical health, which are important for cognitive development.

Games to Play:

  • Hide and Seek: A simple game that encourages calling out names and using phrases like “I found you!” This helps with expressive language and social interaction.

  • Simon Says: Adapt this classic game to use simple commands like “jump,” “run,” and “stop,” helping children follow directions and learn action words. It enhances listening and comprehension skills.

  • Follow the Leader: A game where children mimic your actions. Use simple phrases like “Clap your hands” and “Touch your nose.” This supports imitation and understanding of instructions.

4. Arts and Crafts

Why It Helps: Arts and crafts provide opportunities for children to follow simple instructions and describe what they are making, promoting language use. These activities also enhance fine motor skills and creativity, which are linked to cognitive and language development.

Activities to Try:

  • Colouring: As you colour together, name the colours and objects. Use phrases like “Red apple” and “Blue sky.” This helps children learn colours and associate words with objects.

  • Sticker Books: Create scenes with stickers. Talk about what they are creating and encourage them to name the stickers they use. This reinforces vocabulary and sequencing.

  • Playdough: Make simple shapes and figures. Use phrases like “Roll the dough” and “Make a ball” to guide their actions and encourage verbal interaction. This activity supports following directions and using descriptive language.


Playing games with your child is not just fun; it’s a valuable way to support their speech and language development. By incorporating simple storytelling, physical activities, and arts and crafts into your daily routine, you can create an engaging environment that fosters communication skills. Remember to keep these interactions enjoyable and pressure-free, allowing your child to learn and grow at their own pace.

DSCNE currently has two SLTs who both work two days a month. For more information check out our SLT area https://www.dscnortheast.ie/slt 

You can add your child's details to our Expression of Interest list via : https://forms.office.com/e/tzcaJjazQj 


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