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Clear Bin Magic

Today I’m giving a pretty big secret away, and also an excuse to go to Target, all in the name of getting your toddler talking. Who doesn’t need another reason to go to Target? I’m already wishing I was there. Anyway, back to the good stuff. This is for parents who want to increase the talking at home with very little effort.

Where Your Toddler's Talking is Now

Maybe your child isn’t talking a ton, or maybe they know what they want (and so do you), so they just direct you without words. This is fine for a period of time. We do not want to get too comfortable and stay here if we can help it. To help, we’re going to raise the bar for them, so the talking increases naturally.

Are You Ready for the Secret?

Clear bins. You know, the clear storage bins that lock on the sides? Yes, those. Those are going to be your new best friends.

Favorite toys? Going in the bins. Favorite books? Going in the bins. Favorite snack? Going into glass or plastic containers with lids. Does your child know how to unlock them? Great, we’re going to put them somewhere they can see them, but can’t reach them. Put them somewhere they also won’t try to climb, because we aren’t trying to create an accident, we’re just creating opportunities for them to talk.

Why the Bins Work

Because your child can see their toys, but can’t quite get to them, they’ll need to ask for help or direct you to the bin. You may get protests or tears from this, but these should fade once they learn the new expectation (we’re using this word or this sign) from your models. This is the key to getting your toddler talking!

You can totally use other options like bags that zip. As long as they want and can see what’s inside, they will work.

How to Use Them

  1. Go to Target (or your garage) and bring a few bins inside.

  2. Put their favorite toys in the bins. Have your child help you and teach them that the bins are their toys’ (or snacks’ or books’) new “home”.

  3. Put the bins somewhere in their sight (out of reach if they know how to open them!)

  4. Choose a word, sign, or phrase from below you’d like them to use to get your help opening it

  5. Model it for them 2-5 times and wait

Signs, Words, or Phrases to Use

After you buy the bins and put their favorites inside, you’ll be ready to focus on words and signs. I put together a starter list to try. IMPORTANT: try to focus on 1-2 words a week. The point is not to overwhelm them, but to give them a “step” they can actually take and be successful with.

Signs (google if you need a reference!)

  • Help

  • More

  • Please

  • Open

  • Eat/Drink (snack)


  • Help

  • Open

  • Play

  • Toy

  • Book

  • Please


  • Help please

  • Help open

  • Open

  • Please

  • More ___ (snack, toy, book)

  • I want ___ (help, snack, toy, book, open, that)

Other Options

As long as your child knows there's something of interest inside and they will eventually need to ask for help, it will work! You can try zip-up bags or clear drawers out of reach.

If you're ready to build on this, try using toys to get them talking. Get our toy list for more ideas without all the bells and whistles to get them talking!

Wrapping it Up

We learned:

The magic of clear bins- They create opportunities for your toddler to talk (i.e. to use words or signs, instead of directing (or crying))

Why clear bins work- Your toddler can see what they want, but can’t physically get it without help. This is the KEY to getting your toddler talking!

How to set it up- Keep it in their sight, but out of reach.

What words to use with the bins- Reference the list above and choose 1-2 words or phrases to keep it simple and not overwhelming.

Questions for You

How do you feel about clear bins and creating talking opportunities? Have you tried it out? Let me know in the comments below!


More milestones here! Get the guide for a complete list of speech skills from 0-7 years old. Unsure if your child needs speech therapy? Check out our FAQs under "start here".

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