Games For 3-Year-Olds
Develop Speech & Language Skills

This page has many great ideas and games to help 3-year-olds develop their speech and language skills. Some games are appropriate for children as young as 2 years old.

If you don't think your child needs help to develop his or her speaking and listening skills, stick with me anyway. EVERY CHILD should practice these skills. 

Language Games For 3 Year Olds

There will be an immense growth in speech and language skills as a child turns 3 years old. This language growth sets the foundation for all communication, learning, reading, writing, speaking, listening, telling stories, making friends... the list goes on!

It is important but yet fun to help your little one learn!

Below is a quick overview of all the speech and language skills a child learns between 3-4 years of age. STAY WITH ME HERE! It is important to have an understanding of WHY you are playing certain games. 

What Your Toddler Will Learn This Year
By 3 years of age


  • Understands 1000 words 
  • Follows 2-step directions 
  • Knows simple concepts: big, little, in, out 
  • Understands contrasting concepts: up vs down


  • Uses about 1,000 words consistently 
  • Speaks with 3+ word phrases 
  • Uses articles: a, the
  • Uses present progressive, -ing: running 
  • Uses negative words: no cookie 
  • Time concepts emerging: tomorrow 
  • Uses words to get attention


  • 75% intelligible to unfamiliar listener 

Okay, we can get playing now!

Language Games: Talking  (Top 4)

1. Treasure Hunt

This is a fun one that will encourage language use out of sheer excitement!

Ideas To Try:

  • Get out a bucket or a toy box and throw a bunch of toys in it. Close your eyes and go on a "treasure hunt."
  • If you have a sandbox, bury toys in the sand and then go on a treasure hunt!
  • As you and your child pull toys out of the box, name them and say something about them. For example, if you pull out a doll...say "doll, I found the little doll!"

What You Are Working On:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Grammar Development
  • Taking Turns
  • Creating sentences


By playing this game with your child, you are modeling functional vocabulary words such as "dig" and "found." You are teaching irregular past tense verbs and personal pronouns with the phrase "I found."

2. Blocks

Blocks are a wonderful way to develop motor and cognitive skills, but it can help to develop language too! Old school blocks are the best and the cheapest.

Ideas To Try:

  • Name the pictures on the blocks
  • Talk about concepts - big, little, up, down
  • Build castles, houses, farms. Once your masterpiece is built, create stories out of your play animals and people. Click here for oral narrative tips for young children.

What You Are Working On:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Introduction to early developing concepts
  • Early narrative structures (possibly the MOST important skill to have)


By playing this game with your child, you are teaching the concepts little, big, tall, etc... When your child learns this through block play and then plays again later in the day, learning is reinforced! Way better than learning in an app :)

By creating stories, your child is learning about characters, setting, problems, and resolutions. It is an important schematic to know.

3. Meals

There is so much you can learn while eating!! This may be the best time to work on speech and language skills. We have a FREE handout that you can open today.

Click here or the images below to get your free handout. 

4. Reading

Reading is one of the best ways to develop expressive language due to the illustrations and predictable text.

Ideas To Try:

  • Read a page in a book and then have your child read to you
  • Have your child name pictures and expand on anything your child says. For example, if your child says "cow," expand with "black and white cow." 
  • Ask your child to predict what might happen next.
  • Have your child "read" to you!

What You Are Working On:

  • Everything!
  • Vocabulary
  • Early narrative structure


By reading the same book every night...and yes, repeating books is a GOOD thing... your child has lots of repetitive exposure to story structure, vocabulary, prediction skills, grammar and more!

Grab my FREE eBook for more in-depth tips. You don't want to miss out on this one!

Language Games: Listening (Top 6)

1. Red Light, Green Light

This game is great for listening skills and to get your child moving!

How To Play:

Play a game outside where you take turns starting to run by saying "go" and then say "stop" to freeze. If your child's listening skills are more advanced give directions such as "jump up and down until I say stop."

What You Are Working On:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Following directions
  • Attention
  • Turn-taking
  • Playing in a group


By playing this game with your child, your child has to learn how to follow rules and work with other children. He/she has to listen to a direction or sometimes a 2-step direction. There are lots of teachable moments in this game and your child will be motivated to learn. 

2. Read, Read, Read!

Can I say this enough :)? Your child can sit longer for a book. Use that time wisely!

Ideas To Try

  • Ask your child to point to pictures as you read
  • Work on 2 step-directions - ask your child to point to a picture and then a second picture. For example, "Point to the dog and the house" or "Where is the boy and the car?"
  • Ask some comprehension questions such as "who" and "what" after reading a page.

Don't forget your free eBook! There are lots of great tips in it to make the most out of your reading time.

What You Are Working On:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Answering WH questions
  • Early narrative structures (possibly the MOST important skill to have)
  • Practice asking questions


By reading a familiar book and asking "following direction" questions, your child can really practice understanding those "directional" words such as "point to," "find," "then," etc...without having to learn new vocabulary too. 

Many children have trouble learning how to answer WH questions. Practicing this skill while reading is GREAT since you have a visual right in front of you to refer to! Also, you are introducing the idea of predicting what will happen next and discussing WHY (context clues.) 

If your child is struggling with answering WH questions and you are a member, please log in and check out our:

  • NEW WH worksheets
  • WH questions on the language page (just scroll down a bit)

If you are not a member, don't worry. 

4. Organize

Yes, organizing can be a game 3-year-olds. This can be a popular one too! You can clean the house and work on 2-step directions at the same time. 

How To Play:

Ask your child to pick up two different objects and give them to you. Or, tell your child, "get your shoes and put them by the door." 

What You Are Working On:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Following 2-step directions
  • Introduction to early developing concepts


By following directions in a familiar environment, your child can practice understanding concepts such as colors and size. Your child can also practice direction words like the ones listed above in other games. 

5. Laundry

This is another favorite of mine. Do laundry and work on language skills!

Ideas To Try (give directions)

  • Sort socks or shirts by size. All little socks go in one pile and all big socks go in another pile. 
  • Sort clothes by gender (girls vs boys)
  • Sort clothes by colors

What You Are Working On:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Introduction to early developing concepts
  • Early narrative structures (possibly the MOST important skill to have)


This game isn't any different than the ones above but you can focus on teaching concepts such as colors and the meaning of matching, folding, and sorting all while finally getting your laundry done!

6. Cleanup, Cleanup

The cleanup game can be fun with a little creativity!

How to Play:

The parent and the child take turns "being in charge." Whoever is in charge asks the other to complete 1-, 2-, or 3-step directions. For example, "pick up the blue book and the green block and put it away." By taking turns being in charge, your child gets to practice listening skills as well as expressive language skills. 

**For more advanced children, start introducing some prepositions such as on, in, or under with your directions. 

What You Are Working On:

  • Vocabulary development
  • Introduction to early developing concepts
  • Ability to follow multi-step directions with spatial modifiers


By playing this game with your child, your child is learning direction words and listening skills naturally.

Hooked? Want more EASY ideas?

Aren't you glad you stayed a while and read this page? Hope so :)

Children learn best while playing with other children and with adults who create lots of natural language learning. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend that you read how to talk to 2-3 year old.  A few simple adjustments such as body height, how you ask questions and when NOT to talk can make all the difference.

You may have been expecting a list of toys you could buy. I do have some recommendations for toys that are fun and functional. Please read our recommended won't be disappointed! Also, there are some great language ideas there. 

Speech Games For 3-Year-Olds

For ideas on how to target specific speech sounds, click on the links below. These are the sounds your 3 year old should be able to say correctly soon. 






Want help with more speech sounds. We have extensive tutorials, flashcards, and functional games at Speech Talk Members Section. Check it out!

Want more language games for all areas of development?

The language development eBook series might be just what you need! There are 4 books in the series:

The all include:

  • Introduction and review of developmental milestones
  • Functional ways to develop language skills at home
  • Fun games to play with your child so that he/she won't even know they are learning

Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series

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