This ‘‘Feed the Monkey” game is a go-to activity that I use in most therapy sessions with young children who are considered late talkers. I want you to be able to use it at home, because I have seen many children and families benefit from it.

A ‘late talker’ is a child between 18-30 months old, who has good play skills, motor skills, social skills, thinking skills, and understanding of language; but, has a small vocabulary.

Here are some guidelines:

  • 18 month olds should use at least 20 words. There should be a variety of words such as social words (“hi”, “bye”), nouns, verbs, prepositions (“up”, “down”), and adjectives (“hot”, “soft”).

  • 24 month olds should use at least 100 words and combine 2 words together such as “daddy go”, “doggie gone”, and “eat cracker”.

I like to include common early first words in my therapy sessions, and some common first words include “monkey”, “banana” and “eat”.

Print out the pages, cut out the monkey’s mouth, and cut out the bananas (two versions of the monkey for your preference). Find a tissue box, remove one side (so banana can fit through), and tape the monkey to the box. Now you can play the game.

Monkey blog.png

In the game, you have to hold the banana near your face, say the word “banana”, wait for the child to request the banana, and then give the banana to the child. The child then has to put the banana inside the monkey’s mouth while you model the words “eat” and “monkey” (e.g. 3-5 times). You can also say things like, “the monkey eats the banana” and “monkey eats” (emphasizing italicized words).

Focused stimulation starts with an adult and child sharing the same focus of attention. Then your child hears examples of a specific word or words. In this case it is our three early words - “banana”, “eat”, and “monkey”. Try saying these words 3-5 times during each turn with the banana. Focused stimulation is an effective strategy for stimulating vocabulary in children with language delays.

Determining when you give the banana to your child depends on your child’s level of communication. For instance, at first you may wait for your child to make eye contact with you before giving them the banana. Later, you can wait for them to make eye contact + gesture (e.g. point at the banana). As your child becomes more advanced, they can combine eye contact, gesture + a vocalization (e.g. “uh”). Still, your child can also say ‘nana’ for “banana”.

Below is the game for download, for you to use at home to get your toddler talking! If you are concerned about your child’s language skills, contact a Speech-Language Pathologist.