Language Simplified: Food

Children learn best while playing. It is the most meaningful and motivating activity for a toddler. Therefore, use this time wisely. As a bonus, playing is fun! Play food is one of my favorite activities for speech therapy since children find it so interesting and it has a great variety of vocabulary words including colors and names of food.

Language Milestones Targeted

Expressive Language

Receptive Language

  • Uses 30-50 words consistently 
  • 60% intelligible to unfamiliar listeners 
  • Imitates words easily 
  • Vocabulary increases each month 
  • Speaks with 2 word phrases 
  • Asks simple questions 
  • Points to body parts 
  • Follows simple directions 
  • Understands "no" 
  • Points to pictures in books 
  • Understands about 300 words

Play Food

 What you need: Play food

How to Play: There are no specific directions on how to "play" this game. Instead, simply model the vocabulary words as your play. Remember to ask questions and make comments using simple direct language.

Sample Vocabulary Words:

  • Names of Food
  • Colors
  • Attributes: Small, Big, Hard, Soft, Yummy, Yucky
  • Verbs: Eat, Cut, Cook
  • Numbers

These concepts are all appropriate for toddlers. You, the parent, will work on great vocabulary without thinking. 


1. Using simple language at this age does not mean baby talk. Your speech should be slower with a little more animation but closer to adult-like speech.

2. Match your child's length of speech and then add one more word. If your child speaks using 1 word, use 2 words.  If your child does not speak yet, use 1 word phrases, etc...

Food Script: What NOT to do!

Child who is 20 months old and says about 15 words (what NOT to do)

  • Parent & Child: Parent and child playing with food on the floor.
  • Child: Bread. Child grabs a piece of bread.
  • Parent: Here is the hamburger. Put it on the bread. Parent gives child the hamburger.
  • Child: Bread. Child takes the hamburger and puts in on the bread.
  • Parent: You are missing another slice of bread, lettuce, and a tomato.
  • Child: Looks confused.

This child only speaks using single words; therefore, talking in 4-5 word phrases can be a bit overwhelming. While this parent and child play and have some conversational exchanges, the child did not have the opportunity to repeat words and/or learn a new word.

Block Script: What TO DO! 

Child who is 20 months old and says about 15 words (what TO do)

  • Parent & Child: Parent and child playing with food on the floor.
  • Child: Bread. Child grabs a piece of bread.
  • Parent: Here's hamburger. Parent gives child the hamburger. 
  • Child: BurgerChild takes the hamburger and puts it on the bread.
  • Parent: Yummy hamburger. More bread?
  • Child: Bread. Child looks for more bread.

› Food