Early Language Activities

Using Everyday Objects for Language: Tools

Continuing with our series on using everyday objects for language. On Week 9 we will focus on all things tools. We will have 4-5 activities and crafts to complete throughout the week. My goal is to keep it simple and use only items you likely already have or can substitute easily. Want to take a peek at what we’re doing?

Get the Packet

Get the packet HERE

In this packet you will find:

  • 8 activities with 4 visual directions that make it easy for your child to follow along (and help retell after!)
  • 5 worksheets for additional practice/creativity
  • 1 Social Narrative on Tool Safety
  • Visual Rules for Working with Tools


Monday: DIY Tool Box

Tuesday: Tool Sensory Bin

Wednesday: Robot Play Dough

Thursday: Tools Shadow Matching

Friday: Hammering Porcupine

Saturday: Painting with Tools


DIY Tool Box

Materials Needed:


  1. Cover table with paper (we used a paper bag).
  2. Get materials. Let your child help with this by saying “Get the ____”. If your child is older try giving them clues and letting them find based on those (e.g. Paint- find something we use with a paintbrush to add color).
  3. Once you have gotten all materials, read through directions completely with your child. Point to each step as you read. After wards ask your child to tell you what you are about to do (this is great for sequencing, retell, and working memory).
  4. Choose the paint you want to start with (“I want ____”). If your child points, label the color and have them try to imitate.
  5. Dip paintbrush in the paint and begin painting. “Put paint on tool box”. Then narrate what they are doing- label as they change colors, label brush strokes/designs, label the part of the toolbox they are painting, etc.
  6. If there are places missed you may try to encourage by saying “do more here/put paint here”.
  7. When your child is finished tell them “Paint is wet. We need it to dry” and put away.
  8. Wipe hands down. “Our hands our dirty, let’s clean them!”
  9. Clean surface and put away paint. This is a great opportunity to show your child an activity is not finished until everything is put away. “Let’s put the materials up.” (Clean up song may be helpful during this)
  10. When the paint is dry ask your child what tools you should add to their tool box. If they struggle, bring some options out for them to see if they can name them. If the child does not know the vocabulary yet, label the tool then say “put the ____ in the tool box”. Do this for each tool.
  11. Now your child has their very own toolbox to help you do your next project!

Tool Sensory Bin

Materials Needed:

  • Bucket
  • Filler (Craft Sticks, Wood Chips, Styrofoam Peanuts, etc.)
  • Tools (below are my favorite functional tools for small hands)

How to Use for Language

  • If you are new to the world of sensory bins and your child is young- I strongly encourage you to read How to Introduce Sensory Bins to Your Toddler before getting started.
  • Requesting: Put the sensory bin just out of reach but in line of your child. Have them request (pointing, “want”/”(item name)”, “I want”, “I want ______ please”) based on their level of communication. Then add 1 word to it (this is called language expansion). Periodically as they play do this over and over- putting the lid on, holding onto the tool so they have to request, moving just out of reach, etc.
  • Labeling Vocabulary: As the child finds the different objects (typically theme related- here it is tools) have the name the item. If they don’t say the name, label it and have them try to imitate.
  • Expanding Words to Phrases/Phrases to Sentences: Once your child knows the vocabulary you can expand to a phrase (or phrase to sentences). Use a repetitive sentence (it can be different every time you use this sensory bin) to practice making phrases/sentences. Some possibilities:
    • “Found Hammer”/ “I found a Hammer”
    • “Got Wrench”/ “I got a Wrench”
    • “See Hammer”/ “I see a Hammer”
    • “It Wrench”/ “It is a Wrench!”
  • Identifying Vocabulary & Following Directions:
    • Print out the picture cards from the packet and see if your child can match the tools to its picture as they find them.
    • Level 1 (1 year olds): “Find the ______” (naming the item). See if the child can find it then have them name it.
    • Level 2 (2 year olds +): “Find something that has a handle, claw, and head to hit nails (hammer)” Give details as clues for the child to make the inference and find the described object. Don’t want to come up with this on your own? Grab my pre-made clues in the packet HERE!
    • Level 3 (2-3 year olds +): Have them put the items in the sensory bin. “Put the carrot above the shovel”. “Put the onion next to/beside the lettuce”. If you want to work on prepositions with your 1 year old, start with “put in, take out”.
  • Describing: As your child picks up each item have them describe it by talking about what it looks and feels like. If this is easy for them have them tell your more about what they know about each items (parts, category, what it does, sounds it may make, where you find it, etc.). If your child is still at the labeling stage you can model this every time they name an item found so they are hearing this language skill in action.

Robot Play Dough

Materials Needed:


  1. Pre-arrange all materials. I like parents to be in charge of this since there are small parts. Once you have them all out pick up each one, label it (“It is”), and describe how “it feels” and what “it looks” like using simple, repetitive sentences. If your child is older, let them do this part!
  2. Using the visual directions, read through the steps, pointing to each picture as you go. For preschoolers, have them then point and retell you the steps before beginning.
  3. “Get play dough”. “Make a Circle.” “Make a Square”. Let your child decide if they want the body or head to be the circle/square (opportunity for using shapes and body parts!).
  4. Go through each step using the same repetitive phrases. “Make ______. Put the ___ on”. This uses core/functional language and works on following directions using tools vocabulary.
  5. When steps are complete- describe the Robot. Ask your child if they want to add anything else. A child’s imagination is endless and you may be surprised with what they come up with! Afterwards, have them describe their creation and how they made it (using the visual directions as a cue if needed).
  6. Afterwards, see what other animals/things they can create using the play dough, screws, nuts and bolts! B made a bunny and I made a Frankenstein during unstructured free play with this activity.

Tools Shadow Matching

Materials Needed:

  • Sharpie
  • Large Paper
  • Tools


  1. Grab a large sheet of paper (I didn’t have anything larger than 8.5×11 so I cut open a paper grocery bag and it worked perfectly). Pre-trace tools using a sharpie.
  2. Set the tools on the left side (or keep in sensory bin and combine the two activities!).
  3. Let your child choose the tools to pick up. As they pick each one up say “You have the (pause)”…if no response after the pause finish the sentence.
  4. Toddlers: Describe the tool they are holding using details they can see and feel. Preschoolers: Have them describe the tool to you as they hold it in their hands.
  5. Tell your child to “put it on it’s shadow”. If your child struggles with this, point out key details (1 handle vs. 2; big or small, etc.) and then say “let’s look for that” while you scan the puzzle with your eyes and finger.
  6. Repeat directions 3-5 for each tool.
  7. At the end say “It is done! You found all of the tools”
  8. For Preschoolers: Choose 2 of the tools and talk about how they are the same and different. Ask them to tell you how they knew each tool went where and what clues they used.
B asked for this activity 4 times in a row the first time!

Hammering Porcupine

Materials Needed:

  • Wooden Wedge (I linked the doorstop we used below)
  • Child-Size Hammer (My favorite kid tool set is linked below)
  • Nails
  • Sharpie
  • Visual Directions


  1. ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED for this craft. I recommend this one for preschoolers and older only using appropriately sized tools. A great alternative for toddlers would be to use a child size hammer, shoe box, and golf tees to practice hitting the “nails”!
  2. Choose a workspace that is sturdy and can take a hammer miss or a nail in it. We chose the porch.
  3. Start by showing your child a picture of a porcupine. Talk about it’s body parts and how you can recreate it using the materials laid out.
  4. Face: “Yes it needs eyes and a nose”. “Let’s use the maker. We need 2 eyes and 1 nose” (or try out an absurdity and see if they correct you!)
  5. A Porcupine body has sharp needles all over its body. Let’s make those using the nails. (Demonstrate how to do this first)
  6. “Put the nail where you want it”. Ok. Hold the bottom of the nail with 2 fingers.
  7. “Get the hammer.” “Hit the top of the nail” “tap tap tap”.
  8. “Let’s add some more. How many needles should we give the porcupine?” Count out the number of nails they say.
  9. Repeat Directions 6 & 7 until all nails are in.
  10. “We made a porcupine! Now it’s time to put away the tools and find a home for the porcupine”.

Painting with Tools

Materials Needed:

  • Tools
  • Paper
  • Washable Paint


  1. Let your child help you setup. Say “We need the _____. Get the ______.” When the child returns ask them where the found it (for toddlers- keep in the same room or in a space they know it always stays).
  2. Let your child choose 1-3 colors of paint by pointing, labeling, using a phrase, or sentence (whatever is their highest level). Put the rest away.
  3. Pour out paint for child to dip tools in. This would be a great time to practice “need more” (put only a tiny dot out) or even “too much!” (over squeeze).
  4. Using 1 tool, show your child what you are going to do. Say “I want to paint with the hammer”. “Put paint on the head”. “Let’s put it here”.
  5. Then let your child choose/request a tool. “I want _____” “It should be (color)”.
  6. Narrate your child’s actions on where they put it using prepositions “you put it under my hammer”.
  7. When your child has finished, say “It is done! It is wet so we need it to dry”. Put aside.
  8. “Now it’s time to wash the tools” Have your child help with this task- washing and drying. This shows the child that an activity isn’t complete until all the items are put away (and keeps you from having to do it alone!).
  9. For Preschoolers: At the end ask them to:
    • Describe their picture
    • Compare/Contrast how the tools made different shapes
    • Identify & label the parts used on each tool

Our Favorite Books Related to Tools:

I hope you have enjoyed our week of all things tools and your child has expanded their vocabulary! If you want even more “worksheets” for your child to use during this week you can find my tools unit with additional activities, crafts, and worksheets HERE. Check out Tools Week Story Highlights on Instagram for more on each of these activities.

Follow us on Instagram at @Languageandplaydates this week to see how we use these activities to increase language no matter your child’s age!

This is part of a 12-week series. Check out the other week focus areas below:

Want ALL of the packets with the visual directions? Grab the bundle HERE!


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