I enjoy finding toys that encourage a child’s language and then watch to see how kids interact with those toys. What toys encourage language development? Look for toys that have flexibility—ones that can be used in many different ways. They inspire your child to be creative and use his imagination.
Something as simple as a puzzle should have more options than just placing pieces in the intended slot. “Chunky Puzzle Farm Animals”, “Safari Animals” and “Dinosaurs” by Melissa and Doug have thick enough pieces that the animals can “stand up”, move around, get a bite to eat or roam on the floor at a pretend zoo or farm. I hear far more language from a child as he pretends with the animals and lets them loose! I was working with a 2 year-old who loves the safari animals. He had them hiding “under” the table, “sliding” down the legs of the table, “nibbling” on some food and “swimming”. There is no end to the action your child can produce with the animals as you add a few props for pretend play like a barn or a truck to carry them.
The “Vehicles” puzzle pieces include a three-car train, plane, bus, car, fire truck, ship and boat. The puzzle pieces can go for a sail on the sea, line up on the train track, fly overhead or race down the road with narrated sound effects. Now your child is naming the pieces as well as expanding his vocabulary through pretend play, using verbs, pronouns and prepositions.