Fun Activities for Expressive and Receptive Language Development

Children need to be able to understand the world around them and to express their thoughts about that world. Both expressive and receptive language development are crucial for proper communication and interaction with others.

What is Expressive Language?

Expressive language is what a child can communicate verbally or via alternative methods of expressions such as sign language or picture symbols.

What is Receptive Language?

Receptive language is what a child can understand that is said to them.

What are signs of a language development problem?

If a child has difficulty following directions, answering questions, engaging in conversation, or understanding gestures; they may have an expressive or receptive language development delay.

How does this affect their life?

They may become frustrated at attempting to get others to understand.

They may have difficulty participating in group activities or understanding compromises.

They may have trouble completing tasks.

How Can You Support a Child’s Language Development?

There are some easy ways to support a child’s language development to ensure that they can interact with the world around them and feel confident in doing so.

    1. Reading Picture Books With No Words

    Reading to a child can help develop language skills in a way that no other activity can. It also creates a special bond between the storyteller and the child and exercises both expressive and receptive language development.

    Take a book that has no words and ask the child to make up a story from what they see or you can model language by coming up with your story.

    Begin by telling a little about what is on the page and then ask the child to continue the story. You can use our free feelings resource to get the content. Be sure to give them a support if they get stuck.

    1. Filling in the Details Flashcards

    Show the child picture flashcards that you think they would be interested in. Talk about the pictures and if they give you vague answers like, “It’s a dog,” fill in the details for them by saying, “It’s a big dog.”

    Don’t have any flashcards handy? Jam packed with content the app Describe it to Me brings practicing this skill into a fun Game Show theme.

    1. Playing Robot

    Children love to know things so let them be the teacher for a while. Pretend that you are their robot. Tell them that you can only do what you are told. The goal of this game is to get the child to explain to you how to do things.

    1. Sequencing What They Did

    Take 3-5 pictures of the child doing an activity like putting on their shoes or washing their hands. Print the pictures and ask the child to put them in order of how they happened. This is easier than sequencing random events because they experienced the activity and can rely on memory for help.

    Are you not big into getting out the scissors and glue? Have no fear: the iPad app Go Sequencing has 50 built in real life sequences, and the ability to make your own with your own photos.

    Making Friends With Puppets

Often children with an expressive or receptive language development will engage with puppets when they are reluctant to communicate with people. Many children become eager to communicate with puppets and are much more apt to actively express themselves and listen as the puppets converse with them.

  1. Other Resources

One particularly fun yet functional resource for teaching expressive and receptive language development is the app Fun and Functional. It allows the child to try to guess the purpose of an object and then gives them the name of that object and allows them to express what they know about it.


Have fun with it, adjust to your child’s level, and don’t overcorrect you want to encourage the process not just the result.

Who knows? You might just find that when children begin talking, they never seem to stop.

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