Category Archives for "3 year olds – Talking & Learning"

Speech Therapy Recommended Toys

Speech Therapy Recommended Toys For Children of All Ages and Needs.

Learning for children and adults occurs best when you are interested and having FUN! Speech therapist tools are TOYS!  Speech therapist use toys in their speech therapy sessions and Speech Therapists recommend specific toys depending on the interest of the child and skills they are helping children to boost!  Here are lots of links to toys frequently used and recommended by speech therapists to boost babbling, speech clarity, first words, language, cognition and reading/spelling skills.  

Speech Therapy Toy Recommendations for Toddlers, Preschoolers and Children Late to Talk

teaching number vocabulary


Great for active kids - action words - rolling, falling, standing up. Colours and Names - the yellow one, the one with red stripes, the cow one! Grab this toy and then download our Free Toy Tip Download for skittles - Great Speech Therapy recommended toy tips!

Speech therapy toy farm magnets

Farm Magnets

Any toys that involve Farms are frequently recommended by Speech Therapists - sound play, animal noises, make up stories of animals eating, and going to sleep & more! Magnets add a new dimension.

Farm house toy recommendation

Farm House with a Difference

This farm house has latches on the doors! Great for fine motor skills + encourages speech as they might need to ask for "help", "open", "close" + bonus animals for noises and FUN!

Speech Therapy Farm House with tractor

Farm House with Tractor

Great concept development as this farm house has "front" & "back" doors, "up" and "down" stairs, the fence can go "next to" the barn & the tractor can go "all around"!

Speech Therapy Toy Pop up Pirate

Pop Up Pirate

A classic game enjoyed by all! Great interactive toy that boost attention - waiting, waiting for Pirate to POP UP. (Pop - such an fun easy word to say for little people!).

Speech Therapy Game -Fishing

Fishing for Colours & Numbers

Fun Game that not only encourages colours & numbers but also turn-taking, practising the /f/ sound and the "sh" sound - common sounds children need help with.

Realistic Real Pictures of Fruit Magnets

Lovely real fruit pictures to build vocabulary! Pop them on the fridge and match them to the real thing! Speech Therapy Recommended Toys frequently include toys that represent "real things" children see everyday.

Animal Magnets

20+ beautiful animal magnets. Sort them into zoo and farm, make up stories as the animals play and move around!

Vehicle Magnets

Grab animals and the vehicle sets to work on grouping skills. This is an important pre-maths skill. Take the animals for a ride - The horse is riding on the plane; The lion is driving the car.

Phlat Ball

A fun pop up ball. Encourage cause and effect, waiting, early words (push, pop, up, put things on). Hours of fun!

Other Items:

Air Diffuser

Create an atmosphere of calm!

Vanilla Essence

Calming & Refreshing!

Bendable Spoons

Great for early self feeding. Self exploratory feeding leads to feeding success.

Spoutless Training Cup

These cups build the ideal tongue, lip, jaw and teeth involvement for cup drinking. Spouted cups require a sucking, rounded lips and often biting occurs on the spout. And BONUS, it is non-spill!

These links will direct you to Amazon. While they are affiliate links the main goal is to provide examples of the toys and materials recommended.

Parent Reading Tips For All Big W Free Books

Big W Free Books  PLUS FREE Teaching & Talking Tips Download Printables

Focus on Books

Big W is giving away FREE Books for 12 weeks to help impact childhood literacy.  To help boost the impact even further SpeechNet is offering FREE Teaching and Talking Tips downloads for each FREE book.  

Big W Free Books Plus Free Teaching and Talking Tips Download Printables

What is inside each Teaching & Talking Tips Download Printable?

  • Each Teaching & Talking Tips Download is written in our unique FOCUS SYSTEM Format (What is our FOCUS SYSTEM? See below!)
  • Each download is broken down into two levels:
    • 1) Boosting Early Words & Ideas for UNDER 24 MONTHS & LATE TALKERS
    • 2) Boost Speech, Language, Literacy & Cognitive Development from 24 MONTHS to PRIMARY SCHOOL
  • In these downloads you will receive pages++ of information and tips broken down into an easy to read and understand format that will inspire you with ideas that you can put into practice today.
  • Use these Teaching and Talking Tips while reading. The download helps boost speech, language and literacy skills while reading

Children's Books Educational Resources 

Visit this page each week to download all the FREE Teaching & Talking Tips Printables as they are released!

Teaching & Talking Tips: 

Hush Little Possum by P. Crumble

Hush Little Possum Educational Resource


Teaching & Talking Tips: 

If You're Happy and You Know It! by P. Crumble

If your happy and you know it Educational Resource


Stay tuned! 

More Free Printables to come!

Follow us on Facebook to see when they have arrived!

Keep reading for More Ideas & valuable information!

Teaching & Talking Tips:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Educational Resource


Teaching & Talking Tips:

Where's My Teddy by Jex Smith

Where's My Teddy Free Educational Resource


What is our Unique FOCUS SYSTEM?
What is our unique FOCUS System

Each letter of the Word "FOCUS" refers to an aspect of communication that is important for communication & learning development.

FOCUS as a word was chosen as itself encompasses what we want carers to do.  We want carers to learn the key ​strategies that help them to "FOCUS" on developing their child's communication and language development at all ages and stages of learning. 


The "F" in FOCUS

Simply refers to the over all goals.  That is, the "focus" is on communication and it's importance.  One or more key learning goals will be identified as the focus for each product or service.


The "O" in FOCUS

It is important that parents and carers Observe children to help determine the child's "strengths and the potential areas that may benefit from a boost". The "O" for observe also means we need to help a child's ability to observe the things, people and actions in their everyday environment so that  skill at observing the things they see and hear in their environments.  That is, the "Observe" concept encompasses factors that help the carers and child FOCUS on developing Speech and Language at the correct level for their present skills and modelling one level above.  

communication speech and language skills

The "C" in FOCUS

Draws attention to the verbal and non-verbal pragmatics or "use" of communication. The "C" in way refers to the Conversation between people.  It Helps carers develop and boost Social & Self-esteem Skills in children.

Understanding speech and language

The "U" in FOCUS

Puts the FOCUS on Understanding skills - receptive language skills.  Areas that may be highlighted could include: Receptive vocabulary, concept development - logical reasoning, attention skills, following instructions, Blank level of questions, auditory and visual memory skills, 

Speech and Language

The "S" in FOCUS

Concepts encompassed in this letter involve speech sound development, oro-motor skills, expressive language skills (eg., saying sentences).  

The unique FOCUS™ system is at the heart of all our Online Programs, Printables, Books & Apps. It is based on state of the art research and knowledge, and is only available through SpeechNet.

​Specific F, O, C, U, and S components appropriate for each stage of development have been developed in detail by Dr Sandra McMahon, Speech Pathologist, PhD for all of our products.   These have been systematically developed by synthesising the research and knowledge regarding milestones expected at each stage of development, and methods and techniques known to enhance and optimise development of communication at the different ages and stages. See our Online Programs, Printables, Apps and more in our SpeechNet Shop. Pop & Top beautifully illustrated Sound Adventure books are also available for sale at our Shop.

TOddler Talking

Online Program

See how Focus on Toddler Talk can Start Boosting your child's Speech and Language today!

speech and language

Contact Us 

Contact us and an experienced Speech Pathologist will answer. We are here to help!

Ideas for Home

Early Intervention Activities, Resources & Ideas for home. 

when do children start to talk


Developmental Milestones & Online Checklists 

when do children start to talk

Games & Toys 

Educational Games and Toys.  With Printables!

When do children start to talk


Educational Book resources with Printables 


Phlat Ball – Speech Therapy Toys & How To Use Them

Phlat Ball - Speech Therapy Toys & How To Use Them!

Let's Talk 

​Phlat Ball

Focus: Phlat ball  

Speech              Therapist            Dr Sandra McMahon PhD
Phlat balls are flat discs that pop up into a ball shape. They are made of soft plastic and the “pop” time is random which adds to the fun of the game. Can be used as a Frisbee with a twist or just a fun ball. I like to place light soft toys or picture/ letter/ sight word cards on top so that the toy flies into the air when the toy pops – it encourage fun anticipation waiting for it to pop! If you put a couple of toys or cards on you can see who can catch one and they can tell you what the toy/letter/word is that they caught. If a child hasn’t seen one before you may need to demonstrate the toy as they often want to grab disc while it is flat and do not realise it will pop up.Main themes – waiting, changing shapes, motor skills (catching & throwing action words)


Observe what they do with the toy when first given to them and before you start to play. It may not be obvious how “to play with them” at first. Do they notice they attach? Do they look at why it attached? 

What do they spontaneously “say” when they play with the toy? Do they have a “word” or way of describing how the ball changes (a surprised face, a wow, ooooh, look!, pop, ball now, flat now.

Do they think it’s funny or a bit scary when it pops?

Do they inspect it to try to see how it works?

Do they try different things with it? (sit on it, roll it like a wheel, try to bounce it, throw it up or forward)Can they push it hard enough to work or do they look puzzled if they don’t push it hard enough and it stays as a ball?

communicating with others

Communication: how the themes/ ideas of the toy encourages or give opportunities to practise social interactions

*Do they want you to look at the ball changing?

*Do they ask questions about how it works or ask for help? (hand it to you to make it pop again or uses words to ask for help)

*Do they communicate the emotions the ball evokes? (surprise, scare, delighted, excited)

*Can they wait patiently for the ball to pop or do they want to grab at it? This is a great game to encourage attention, waiting and turn taking skills. These are all skills we need to use when having a “conversation” with someone.

understanding of lanuage comes before talking

Understanding skills – words, sentences, ideas/themes/concepts, reading/literacy skills

Action words – suggest different things they can do with the ball and see if they change their actions accordingly eg push, roll, throw, kick, make it a wheel, waiting, tossing, releasing, changing

Similarities and differences of the ball as it changes (Does it change shape or colour?), it’s like a ball vs like a wheel

Gestures – do they show anticipation gestures – looking intently, jiggling or jumping as it gets more likely to pop, surprise gestures, pointing gestures to show they noticed the change or where it changed (eg pointing in the air)

Concepts: shapes flat vs round; time concepts: now, soon, later, nearly

Cognition: Count how long it takes to pop. Remember that number and see if the next one takes a longer or shorter time to pop.

Problem solving - Enocourages an understanding of “cause and effect” – if you push it goes flat, if you wait it pops; Can roll the ball easily because it is round but not so easy when it is flat.

Numbers: Time concepts and counting as wait for the ball to pop. See how many steps or how far it can roll before it pops.

spoken speech & language

Speech: saying sounds, exclamations, words, sentences, stories. Making gestures & facial expressions.

saying sounds

Pop, boom, wee, (as the Phlat ball pops up)

Speech Clarity

/p/ is an early developing sound and so words like “pop” are great first words to encourage. Encourage them to look at how your lips are squeezed together as you are “busting” to say “pop” as you are waiting for the ball to pop. /p/ is said with a build of air pressure behind the lips and so “holding” it back before popping out the /p/ sound encourages this sound pressure. Simliarly you can use a phrase “pop up” to encourage more /p/ sounds. Also early words like “go” are great as lots of children under three will say a /d/ for a /g/ sound – “go” -> “do”… You can model or practise the /g/ sound by repeating the/g/ sound as you are anticipating the ball to pop: “g,g,g,g,g,g,…GO”;

Saying words

Names of the things: ball, Frisbee, button

Names of action words: see above (rolling, tossing, flicking, exploding, changing, waiting)

Describing words: hard, flat, not bouncy, round, colours,

Other words: now, soon, going to, nearly, yet

  • Saying Sentences: Encourage them to repeat sentences at a length that matches their ability after you say it – after a few times of reading the book can they say the words and sentences by themselves?
  • By choosing words with different endings will help build spoken grammatical words eg popping, flatter, edges (word endings –ing, -er, plural ‘s’). These can then be put into sentences: rolling the ball (action word + a thing)The ball IS flat, The ball IS NOT popping (important little words – “is; pronouns – “he”)The ball popped in the air. The ball IS taking a long time. (encouraging longer sentences by adding a thing or a place)Sentences like "If I push it hard, it will take a long time", "It won’t roll because it is flat" helps develop the use of joining words ( e.g, “and”, “because”, “so”, If)
  • Saying more: Explain why they think it stays flat. Explain why it takes sometimes a long time and sometimes a short time to pop. Predict what might happen if we put something on top of the flat ball. What might happen if we put our fingers in the spaces when it is flat? What things are round and what things are flat.

Toy Teaching & Talking Tips Downloads 


Teaching & Talking Tips: Toys


 An Educational Teaching & Talking Tips PDF  jam packed full of ideas to help boost speech, language and literacy skills while playing with a Phlat Ball.  


 An Educational Teaching & Talking Tips PDF  jam packed full of ideas to help boost speech, language and literacy skills while building with a Magnetic Construction Kit.

Phlat Ball V3 RandomPhlat Ball Tornado Football - YellowTucker V2 TU85010 Phlat Ball

Importance of rhymes & rhyming games in early literacy development

rhymes rhyming games

Importance of Rhymes & Rhyming Games in Early Literacy Development

rhymes rhyming games

Rhymes are essential for speech clarity and a foundation skill that needs to be learnt in the preschool years ready for formal school entry. Rhyming is one of the phonological awareness skills shown to impact on how easy learning to read and spell is for children entering the school system. It can be developed through play in many fun ways such as rhyming games and while playing with toys. Here I'm going to use Tea Sets as an example of how you can help boost and develop rhyme while playing with a simple Tea Set.  

Focus: Tea Set Toys 

Speech TherapistDr Sandra McMahon PhD

Tea for Two, and Two for Tea, One for You and One for Me” Even from this simple old rhyme you can see that Tea Set play is fantastic for building social skills and symbolic (pretend) play. See our Pretend Play Blog for more information about how pretend play is vital for early speech, language and learning development.

So instead of talking about how Tea Sets can help with social skill development I am going to use Tea Sets as an example of how early play can be used to boost rhyme development.


Children need to be able to hear the difference between similar sounding words e.g., “tea” vs “key”. We call these minimal pairs. That is, the words sound the same except for just one sound.  If words sound the same at the ends of words we say they rhyme (“plate” vs “Kate”). If they cannot really focus or “hear” the difference between words like “tea” and “key” they will not be able to easily say them clearly. 

Ages children learn to say sounds follow a developmental pattern:

When children are saying the wrong sounds in words it can reduce how easy it is to understand them (reduced speech clarity). Many 18 month olds will say “tea” when they mean “key” as the “k” sound often is not said well in words until about 3 years of age. The first thing to Observe then is to see if the incorrect sounds a child is saying is “OK for their age” or not. Children at four for example may still be saying “fumb” for “thumb” and this is also OK. Take a look at our SpeechNet Speech Sound Checklist. However, if you have concerns always consult a speech pathologist. We are here to help.

Hearing Rhyme:

There is a reason all those kid’s nursery rhymes, songs and early children’s books rhyme (Humpty Dumpty, Where’s the Green Sheep.). It is not because we want them to be poets later on (although we might!). It is because rhyme & rhyming games allows children to understand word “families”. f we hear and see similarities in words we do not have to learn to spell and read every single early word from scratch. If we can read “Man” we can see and hear the patterns in “pan, tan, can, fan etc.” making them really easy to read and spell! 

​Does your 3+ year old notice rhyme? Would they say “those words sound the same”?

If you start off a rhyme string can they think of more words (fall, ball, t…., c…). Can they tell you “key” and “tea” rhyme but “tea” and “plate” do not? All of these skills should be in place before they go to Prep. All of these skills are often in place before they even know their letters! They are foundation skills  preparing the way for children to learn their letters  develop reading sills.

Again, if you have concerns your child that is heading into Prep or in Grade 1 cannot achieve these rhyming foundation skills then contact a speech pathologists . A child Speech pathologist can conduct a Phonological Awareness Screen. SpeechNet Speech Pathology provides Pre-prep screens for children going into Prep in our clinic and via Skype.

communicating with others

It is important to ask someone politely to repeat themselves if you did not hear what they said or did not understand what they said. In play you can ensure similar sounding toys are put out at the same time (e.g. tea and key). You can model asking for clarification by pretending you thought they said one word instead of the other. For example, if the child says “I want the key” you can pass them the “tea” cup. You can them model an apology for not hearing and model of how to ask nicely to repeat themselves. 

Understanding of language comes before talking

As noted above if a child cannot hear the difference between similar sounding words (Kate/gate/plate) they will not “understand” the conversation or instructions given to them. 

Remember for some children they can “hear” perfectly well but it is the AUDITORY DISCRIMINATION skill that is difficult for them. They literally hear the words (“tea’ and “key”) as interchangeable. Emphasising the first sounds in these words helps them “tune into” the individual sounds in a word so that discrimination is possible. 

​The same thing applies to rhyme. If children cannot hear rhyme or are not even aware that rhyme is occurring, they will not understand the underlying concept. By saying the rhyme word really loud at the end of each line is important to make it stand out for the child. Point it out as well. “OH, fall and wall” sound the same!

Spoken speech & language

I often set up play with toys and scenarios to indirectly model and encourage particular speech sounds and rhyme play.  For example, I might set up tea set play but put out  certain other specific toys to target certain ideas. I might suggest we invite teddy and a doll to the tea part. We can then call teddy “Mate” and the doll (Kate). Then we can share out the plates: “a plate for Kate and a plate for our Mate’.  We might pretend they have to call from the gate (pulling from a farm set to add to the props). They can then call out saying ‘Hi it’s Kate at the gate”.

You could perhaps pretend the tea cups are locked in a cupboard and we need a toy key to open the cupboard: “need the key to get the tea”; “pass me the key” and “give the tea to me”.   By playing with rhyming and minimal pair words the children are exposed to lots of models to listen to. Give lots of social praise if they then try to copy saying the target words or think of other words that rhyme.

Let's Talk Play 

We hear a lot about how Play is important to a child’s development.

How imperative it is for early childhood teachers and parents to foster children’s development through play.  

 How language development through play supports early literacy and further school success!

But!  How do you put it into practice?  

How can you actually boost and develop a childs oral development while playing? 

One way is for the parent or early childhood teacher to use -  ask questions as part of the play. 

But! Not any questions.  The type or “Level” of question you use with a child needs to grow as their language grows. Blank Level of questions provides 4 levels of questions with each level getting harder and harder for children to answer. 

What are Blank Level Questions?

​Blank level questions begin by answering very direct, concrete questions (e.g., Where is the ball?) and can be used in play with children from about 10-12 months of age. Blank Levels of questions then become increasingly more difficult until a child’s understanding and communicating abilities can deal with more abstract ideas like inferencing. This level of Blanks questions can typically become part of play at about the 4- 5 year of age level (e.g., If we put a big block here what do you think might happen? Why would that happen?)  

Blank Levels of questions is often a model used in many Speech Therapy Sessions in a play based approach.

For your convenience, we have compiled lists of Blank level questions for you to use with specific toys and books.  These questions are broken up into levels with general ages for you to work through.  We have included Speech and Language information for you to use with these toys and books to help further develop speech and language.  By combining play and situationally appropriate questions you can help your child’s speech, language and learning development immediately & in the future.


Teaching & Talking Tips: Toys


 An Educational Teaching & Talking Tips PDF  jam packed full of ideas to help boost speech, language and literacy skills while playing with a Phlat Ball.  


 An Educational Teaching & Talking Tips PDF  jam packed full of ideas to help boost speech, language and literacy skills while building with a Magnetic Construction Kit.

Teaching & Talking Tips: Books 

BOOSTING SPEECH, LANGUAGE & LITERACY SKILLS WHILE Reading Books with Where's My Teddy by Jex Smith 

 An Educational Teaching & Talking Tips PDF  jam packed full of ideas to help boost speech, language and literacy skills while reading.

BOOSTING SPEECH, LANGUAGE & LITERACY SKILLS WHILE Reading Books with The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

 An Educational Teaching & Talking Tips PDF  jam packed full of ideas to help boost speech, language and literacy skills while reading.

rhymes rhyming games

Online Program

See how Focus on Toddler Talk can Start Boosting your child's Speech and Language today!

rhymes rhyming games

Contact Us 

Contact us and an experienced Speech Pathologist will answer. We are here to help!

rhymes rhyming games

Ideas for Home

Early Intervention Activities, Resources & Ideas for home. 

rhymes rhyming games


Developmental Milestones & Online Checklists 

rhymes rhyming games

Games & Toys 

Educational Games and Toys.  With Printables!

rhymes rhyming games


Educational Book resources with Printables 

Toddler Talk

Take a look at our amazing new eProgram!

A Speech and Language Developmental Program that helps get your 

 Toddler Talking & Learning 

From First Words To Long Sentences

Toddler Talk has over 70 VIDEOS - Videos include: Video tutorials with personal voice over, video examples & explanations from Dr Sandra McMahon PhD, Video demonstrations of games and activities taken from actual speech therapy sessions. Video explanations of goals of each activity and explanations at three different ability levels.

With Toddler Talk Receive Resources.... Worksheets, printables, information printouts, scripts, resources.........

Toddler Talk is Available for you to start right NOW!: Delivered to you through the SpeechNet Portal. This educational Online eProgram is available to you right NOW 24/7!

Work through the program when it suits you no appointments needed. You will have full 24/7 access to the eProgram for 12 months from the date of purchase. Let's get started TODAY!

What is Speech Intelligibility?

What is Speech Intelligibility

speech intelligibility

Intelligibility of speech is the percentage of speech that a listener can understand. If you can only understand half of what a child is saying then their speech intelligibility rating would be 50%.

​Speech Intelligibility changes with a child’s age. Speech development begins with babbling and then speech matures until older children can say all the sounds in their primary language/s and everyone can understand them.

​Speech Intelligibility is Expected to Improve with a Child’s Age

Younger children are expected to be harder to understand then older children. Speech Sound Developmental Checklists and Speech sound charts can help parents, teachers and carers to see if the level of speech intelligibility is at expected levels for a child’s age.

​The graph below shows that an 18 month old child will have lower speech intelligibility levels than a 3 year old child. This does not mean that a 3 year old will not still make some speech sound errors. It means that they are only using a few speech sound errors and that most people will be able to understand what they are saying. Lynch, Brookshire & Fox (1980), p. 102, cited in Bowen (1998)

​Why does Speech Intelligibility Change with Speech Developmental Stages?

speech intelligibility
There are 3 main areas to consider when looking at speech intelligibility
1 Articulation
Toddlers do not have the fine motor control of their tongues and lips to be able to say all the sounds correctly and so their speech is characterised by speech sound developmental errors.

​These are called articulation errors. For example, sounds like the “r” sound can be difficult for toddlers. The “r” sound requires a fine curling of the tongue and young children often will substitute the “r” sound for an easier sound (e.g., w). You will often hear a 2 year old say “wed” for “red”.

2 Motor speech co-ordination 

​Young children also cannot move their tongue and lips fast enough to keep their speech clear as they try to say longer words and sentences. This is called motor speech co-ordination. It is a bit like doing buttons up. Young children may be able to do easy buttons but might take a long time. As their fine motor co-ordination increase their ability to dress becomes easier and faster.

3 Phonological Processes
​Toddlers use more phonological processes that reduces speech intelligibly than older children. As toddlers do not have the oral motor skills to say words 100% correctly, they use speech sound patterns that simplify words.

​One example of a phonological process is called “cluster reductions”. Speech sound clusters like “sp, sk, dr, bl” are very difficult for young children to say. Most young children reduce the cluster to one sound (e.g., “dep” for “step”, “back” for “black”). Young children use lots of phonological processes reducing speech intelligibility. As children get older they use less and less and so speech intelligibility improves.

​As speech develops children use less articulation errors, their rate & co-ordination of speech improves and they use less phonological errors.

​See the Speech Sound Developmental Checklist to see the ages speech sounds and phonological processes are typically present.

​Speech Intelligibility as a measure of Severity of Speech Delays and Speech Disorders.

speech intelligibility

Children with speech delays and speech disorders will often have lower speech intelligibility percentages than same age children.

​If a 3 year old child has speech delays they may be still making speech sound errors like a 2 year old would be making. This can reduce their speech intelligibility for their age.

​Speech disorders such as dyspraxia of speech (CAS) is characterised by significant reductions in speech intelligibility. Speech intelligibility may be one of the criteria used to determine how functional a child’s speech is in their community. If most people they interact with them cannot understand them, then it would be considered a significant speech impairment.

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