Ideas for Playing With Preschoolers in Speech Therapy and Home While Increasing Language

Great ideas for playing with preschoolers while working on language skills

Are you looking for ways to play with preschool-age children? It can be tricky to know what to do to encourage play and language while you are with small children. I know that when I started working with preschool students it took some time to really learn how important play was in their learning. 

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers.

Play is really the work of childhood.

I learned quickly how much language learning happens during play with preschoolers. Here are some tips that you can use today to start playing with your preschoolers while encouraging tons of language! You can also grab this freebie Tips for Playing with Preschoolers that is great for giving to parents to play at home.

playing with preschoolers parent handout

  • Start by noticing what the child is interested in. It could be something they are playing with like some blocks or something they are doing, like jumping on cracks in the sidewalk.
  • Ask if you can join in with them.
  • Go along with what the child is doing.
  • Imitate what they are doing, then try adding your own ideas and see how they react to that addition or imitate. If they are interested, they may imitate you and add on. If they are not interested in that idea, they may move on to something else.


  • Use Self-Talk. Talk about what you are seeing, hearing, or doing using short, simple sentences. "I'm jumping!" or "I'm stacking the blocks. The tower is getting tall!" "Uh-oh, the tower fell."
  • Use Parallel-Talk. Talk about what the child is seeing, hearing, or doing. "You're jumping in the puddle." or "Wow! Your tower is getting tall!"
  • Remember that when you are using self-talk or parallel-talk, you are not requiring the child to repeat you. You are simply exposing the child to rich language.


Man and children playing with box

You don't need flashy toys or games to play with preschoolers. You can have simple staples that work great like blocks, dolls, pretend food items, etc. You can also have things like empty boxes, fabrics, or other items around the house. My favorite toys are tried and true. They have not changed much over the years I have been working with preschoolers. 


children playing at table
With the way I structure my sessions, when students first come into my room I use the first 5 minutes of every session for play. Every time. Never fail. My students love that time to transition into my room. You will gain so much from having your preschoolers play during each session. For your students struggling with their articulation skills, you'll have an opportunity to hear how their intelligibility is improving and which errors are truly impacting that intelligibility over time. For your students working on language skills, you'll have great opportunities to listen to where they are and to also encourage language skills from the above tips. You can incorporate so many language goals into your play, and may not even need to move anywhere else during your session!

I hope these tips help you to become more comfortable with playing with purpose with your preschool students! Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter and get a great handout with tips for parents.


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