Top Toys for 18-Month-Olds

Having an 18-month-old at home is a lot of fun–but it can sometimes feel like a lot of work! Toddlers are busy creatures. They’re constantly on the move, looking for new things to do and toys to play with. 

While you don’t have to have the newest or fanciest toys at home, some toys are better than others for entertaining your toddler–and promoting their speech and language development. Whether you’re looking for a gift for an 18-month-old or new ways to keep your toddler busy, this article is for you. Read on to learn about some of the best toys for 18-month-olds. Plus, get expert tips on how to boost your toddler’s language skills and teach them to talk while you play!

Kids learn through play

First, a quick word about the importance of playtime. Play is an extremely important area of early childhood development, especially when it comes to growing speech and language skills. Play is how children learn and explore the world around them. Developing good play skills helps children learn how communication works and grow their ability to communicate. 

Now, on to the toys!

Toy phone 

This toy is a winner with 18-month-olds. Toddlers love carrying around things that they see other people using, and a toy phone is just the thing! 

Your little one can practice pretend play by pretending to talk to others. They may say or repeat words like “Ring ring!” “Hello?” or “Bye bye!” Toy phones are an excellent way to practice verbal imitation.

As you help your little one and model different words and sounds for them, try having them face you, so that you’re looking at each other face to face. Point to your mouth and direct your child to watch as you speak. This can make a big difference as toddlers are beginning to talk.

Baby doll 

Another toy that’s perfect for pretend play is a baby doll. Your child can pretend to play doctor, pretend to have mealtime or give the baby a bottle, or even pretend to give them a bath. You can use some of your toddler’s own items, like their blanket or bottles, to act out scenarios together. Some dolls also come with toy accessories.

Here’s a specific type of imitation skill to try out with this toy: action imitation. Action imitation typically comes before verbal imitation. While you can still work on practicing words and sounds together, try having your 18-month-old repeat gestures and actions like rocking, patting, bouncing, or kissing the baby. These activities support your child’s growth as they continue to begin using words and, eventually, phrases. 

Indoor slide

If your toddler is always on the move, consider an indoor slide like this one. It’s perfect for those moments when your kiddo just wants to move, or when it’s raining and you need an indoor activity for your toddler.

To incorporate some speech and language skills, practice words like “up” and “down” or “stop” and “go” as they play on the slide. Your little one will better understand these concepts when they’re doing the actions that go along with the words. You can let your toddler go up and down the slide, or even practice sending their favorite stuffed animals down. You and your toddler will have lots to talk about! 

Car ramp 

Most toddlers love a good car ramp! Toy cars and ramps–or a homemade ramp you make yourself–entertain your toddler and give them lots of chances to practice speech and language.

Something that you may not realize is part of childhood development is called “receptive language skills.” This is the comprehension piece of communication–how well your child understands the words said to them. To help build your toddler’s comprehension skills, try giving them simple one-step directions to follow while you play together. These can be things like “Put the car on top” or “Give me the car!” 

Pay attention to how much help your child needs to do this. Do they need you to point to the car, for instance? If gestures are helping, keep using them! But over time, see if you can phase out the help, and pay attention to how well your child responds to just your verbal direction.

Playskool Busy Ball Popper

OK, don’t shoot the messenger–this next toy is one that makes a lot of sounds. And we all know how annoying loud toys can be. But this one is worth it!

The Playskool Busy Ball Popper keeps toddlers entertained for long stretches. You place the ball in, it goes down the tube, and air shoots the ball up to the top and out of the tube. It’s a surprise for the kiddo every time. This toy gets little ones giggling and participating in great back-and-forth play. 

There are five balls, so you can use one at a time. Have your child sign or say “more” or “ball” each time they want another. 

Bonus: Watch your toddler’s face when they lean over the top and realize the air comes out fast enough to blow their hair around!

Best books for 18-month-olds

You can never ever go wrong with a good book. There is a world of them to choose from, but here are a few we especially like.

Check out Wishy Washy by Tabitha Page. She’s a speech therapist and wrote the book in a way that helps promote speech and language growth for young kiddos. Repeated words and sounds help children learn new vocabulary, and the beautiful illustrations hold their attention (and yours).

Speech therapists also love these Poke-a-Dot books. Each page features several plastic dots the child can push. Every time they push one, it makes a “pop!” sound. 

Modeling how to pop each dot and having your child repeat after you is perfect for practicing imitation. So start popping those dots together–your child will be having a blast and learning new skills! 

To practice saying words, have your toddler label items on the page or say something about what they see. You can reward them with getting to pop the dot on the page after each verbalization. These books are great for toddlers who need extra motivation! 

Bath toys 

You’re already giving your 18-month-old frequent baths, so why not use that time for playing? 

Take a look at some of these car- and animal-themed bath toys. You can practice environmental sounds and animal sounds. This will keep your little one entertained while also promoting early speech skills! As toddlers are learning to talk, sounds are often more motivating (and fun!) for them to say than the names of items. 


Simple puzzles are the perfect activity for your 18-month-old. Grab some puzzles with pictures your child likes, and practice related vocabulary words and speech sounds. Let’s say your child picks up a purple square. You can model the word “purple” and emphasize the /p/ sound: “P-p-purple.” 

Another way to teach your toddler new words is to model them many times, in lots of simple sentences. Let’s say they grab a puzzle piece shaped like a cat. You can model “I see the cat! The cat is white. The cat has a tail.” If you feel a bit like a broken record–you’re doing it right! This gives young kids the opportunity to hear words frequently, then eventually repeat them.

As your toddler’s parent or caregiver, you are in the best position to support their speech and language development. In fact, research has shown that children learn language best from the people they love most. Happy playing!  

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