Using Trains and Cars to Promote Language

“My child’s favorite toys are trains and toy cars – I can’t get him to play with anything else! How can I use trains and toy cars to work on his language skills?”

Using your child’s favorite toy motivates him or her to stay engaged for a longer period of time, allowing you to provide a rich, language-filled environment. 

Adult-like speech consists of a variety of words and word combinations. Some examples of the types of words you can target with cars/trains are listed below: 

  1. Nouns/Pronouns: car, road, train, track, it, me, you, my, your, I
  2. Verbs (actions): go, stop, turn, come, honk, beep, give, want
  3. Adjectives (describing): slow, fast, first, last, colors, that
  4. Prepositions (locations): up, down, in front, behind, under, over, between, here, there

Using these words, you can narrate and model word combinations to your child using the “one up” approach, shared by SLP Blogger Mrs.SpeechieP. This strategy suggests that you model or recast what your child says but adding 1 word to their utterance to create a longer word combination. Here are some examples using cars or trains:

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“One upping” and modeling adult-like language are great for children who produce single word utterances or those who speak in complete sentences. Playing with your child’s favorite toys in addition to pairing books about their favorite item (e.g. Thomas the Train) provides opportunities for learning and using new vocabulary and basic concepts, answering questions, and learning turn-taking skills. 

Shannon Greenlee, M.A., CCC-SLP