What language activities to do with your toddler ?

Do you love Montessori but you feel lost when it comes to how handling language ? Then, I am here for you !

I have talked about vocabulary for younger children here. I will now try my best to explain the next steps.

One of the first thing to do with children 2,5 year old and up is keeping on building vocabulary: surroundings (home, garden, store etc) but also less familiar words like animals, even the ones they don’t encounter and we still try to keep pictures as realistic as possible. Instead of the 2-period-lesson I wrote about above. We add a third period – for this one, the child needs to be verbal – as it involves the child naming what he recognizes on the picture.


Step 1: Giving the name

Let’s say you work on the classified cards/vocabulary cards of the kitchen, you can ask the child what is on the key card (card on top which shows which category it is like the picture of a full kitchen). Ask the child about his own kitchen. Then, take a card and ask the child if he can name what is on it, ex: the toaster. You can acknowledge: yes, this is the toaster – and proceed to ask/discuss what we use it for and place the card(s) in front of the child in columns. If the child does not know it, name it yourself and place this cards in a special pile for later. This pile will be used for the 3-PERIOD LESSON.

Take one card, name it and place it in front of the child. Repeat with 2 more cards. “This is …, this is…, this …”. Then, 2nd period.

Step 2: ASK and PLAY

This phase is the one that will lead to memorization of the words. Ask the child to take, move, point to a certain card/object. Have fun with it ! They can just show you the card you are asking for at first and then, move it onto another one, they can give it to you and you move them around etc. Make sure at this stage, that you move the cards around so the child does not memorize it based on its place on the table. After quite a lot of this game, comes the 3rd period.

Step 3: The child names the object.

Place the 3 cards next to each other as they were placed originally during the 1st step and ask, one by one: “What’s this?” and let the child answer. If she remembers and names, move on to 3 more cards as long as the child is interested. If the child cannot remember one, then name it and continue. It can happen that the child won’t remember any of them, it usually means the 2nd period was not long enough for her to memorize or maybe this is a bad day and the child is tired. No pressure, you can try this every day if need be and as long as the child is interested and happy.

Another activity we start around this age is helping the child being familiar with sounds so we play sound GAMES. I emphasize the word game because it happens too often that the child refuses because it’s hard or they cannot figure it out and they don’t want to do it. I also want to say that even if we start this as young as 2-2,5, it is never too late to play this game to build phonemic awareness.


They can look different but here are 2 examples played quite often around Montessori schools and homes.

“What’s the first sound/the first sound we hear in …. (insert word that are familiar to the child) ?” At first, the child might not understand what you are talking about so you give play the game.

“The first sound in Mom is [m] (x2-3), Mom” as you model this, eventually the child will start understanding where you are going with this and will start identifying the first sound on words.

Keep it fun, it’s a game ! Use words of things you are eating, we love to play it during lunch and supper or in the car based on what we see by the window.

Once the child is at ease with first sounds, we move to last sounds and middle sounds.

Another version, to mix it up a little is “I spy with my little eye, a word that starts with … (insert sounds). There is also, getting objects from the home or classroom and find the first sound etc

USE SOUNDS not letter names – they are very different and can make the child very confused when it comes to start making words or reading later on. If you are not sure about this, please contact me on IG or FB and I’ll gladly record an example for you.

These are the main exercises to do for the first year of the child in a Casa environment (3-6 years old).

This was A practicing her sandpaper letters for the first sounds of these objects in French.

As the child become comfortable with sounds, we move on to SANDPAPER LETTERS which will add the physical letter with the sound. Take one, trace the letter with index and middle finger together as you finish the tracing, give the sound. Do it a few times then invite the child to do it too.

You can even take 3 sounds/letters and do a 3-period lesson with it.

I will stop there for details as this is already quite a lot to process. Just for spoilers, after sandpaper letters will follow Writing activity as in, Movable alphabet so the child can analyse what sound is in a word and find its letter in order to write a word. It’s so much fun ! Don’t expect the child to get there too early and fast, this happens closer to 4/4,5 even if of course, it depends on children – it can happen earlier or later.

Movable alphabet

I’ll talk more about it in a different post. Writing which will be followed by reading later on, are gradual exercises that take time.

Remember to be patient, to have fun and if you feel or the child feels any frustration, take a break and pick up later or another day, there is no rush at all.

One thought on “What language activities to do with your toddler ?

  1. Pingback: Language – follow up questions – Chez Mahe Montessori Blog

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