Language skills targets for babies and toddlers: 5. Play Sounds

Mar 20, 2016

Before a baby says her first words, she will learn to use sounds in communication and to make particular noises on purpose. A great way to encourage this process is to introduce fun noises to your little one’s play. It may seem trivial, but in fact learning to imitate playful sounds is a big step towards learning to talk. This post is all about encouraging your baby or toddler to get noisy and verbal in play with easy to imitate sounds.


Here are some appealing play sounds:

  • Wow
  • Wee
  • Brrrm brrrm
  • Yeah
  • Bang bang
  • Boom
  • Crash
  • Pop
  • Splash
  • Tap tap
  • Uh oh
  • Oh no
  • Fake sneezing, snoring and coughing
  • Animal sounds

With simple ‘words’ like this we can start to make our shared playtimes verbal. We also strengthen the connections between our little ones and ourselves, which is a lovely and effective way to boost language learning.

Try using these kinds of sounds and words in a very animated and repetitive way to encourage your child to join in (just one or two sounds at a time). Accompany your sounds with big facial expressions and fun, intuitive gestures, such as covering your face with your hands for ‘oh no’ or slapping your hands on the floor for ‘crash’.

My favorite playtime activities for early play sounds include rolling cars or balls, building block towers and knocking them down, and chasing and popping bubbles.

Enthusiastically use the words yourself during play, making sure your child can see your face as you talk by staying close to their level. The aim is for her to imitate you, and then for her to use the sounds even when playing independently. Making play noisy in this way shows that talking is fun!

Perhaps you’re asking yourself, ‘But are play sounds words?’ If you could write it down, and the sound has meaning in a certain context then, why not? How exciting! Our little ones are talking!

I’ve put this target before ‘first words’ because it is often easier for babies to imitate this kind of sound before making words. Play sounds are simple to pronounce and are very motivating because they are associated with fun. However, most parents will probably find that this type of sound-making emerges around the same time as first words.

Before my big post on first words I’m going to write about a special group of play sounds babies and toddlers love to make: animal sounds! That’s up next in this series on language goals. Check out the rest of the series here, and my book for effective strategies to get your little one talking, and hundreds of fun playtime activities to share.

square play sounds 

This post is shared at Let Kids Be Kids.


1 Comment

  1. Let Kids Be Kids
    March 22, 2016

    These sounds are important, I always played with my children using these sounds and their language has always been great. Play is so important to language and fun.
    Thanks for sharing with #LetKidsBeKids


Leave a Reply