Following 1-2 step directions

In preschool and kindergarten, your child will be asked to follow 1-2 step directions.  Directions will get more complex eventually, involving descriptive concepts and prepositions.

Some descriptive concepts include: colors, size (big, little), shapes, long, short, wet, dry, dirty, clean, hot, and cold. Give your child one step directions using a descriptive concept.  This can be done while you are playing, eating, and doing every day tasks.  For example, you can say:  “Johnny, give me the long crayon.”

Some prepositional concepts include: on, off, in, out, up, down, under, behind, and in front.  Give your child one step direction using a preposition to give your child practice at home.  This can be done in a natural setting.  For example, you can say:  “Put the ball behind the shelf.”

Here is a fun website your child will love to get them practicing with these directions:

Website that works on categorizing

One great way to increase vocabulary and cognitive skills in your child is to teach them association or categorization skills.  By doing so, your child will increase his/her ability to distinguish between similar or different items, and learn how to think more critically about why something belongs or why it doesn’t.  The website below allows your child to categorize items based on the place that you would usually find them.  You can name the items with your child to work on vocabulary.  Ask your child why certain items belong, and why certain items do not belong.  If your child can not answer accurately, you can help by starting a sentence and having your child fill it in.  For example, you could say:  “The pan belongs in the restaurant because the chef needs it to ___.”

Apps that Teach Association Skills

Teaching early association skills, such as items that belong and items that do not belong, will be  important from kindergarten through first grade.  Learning how to associate items will build your child’s language abilities and increase early problem solving skills.   These two apps will work really well with young children:  Which Does Not Belong and Which go together.  You can get them from

Which Does Not Belong:  Your young child will probably need assistance to understand how to answer questions on this app.  First, label the four items on the screen along with your child.  For very young children, I will often ask them:  Which one is not a ____ ?  This will give your child opportunities to also learn how to answer questions containing negation (e.g., the word “not” in the question), which are usually difficult for language delayed children to pick up.  After your child answers correctly, you can say: A book is not a food item.  It is a ____.”

Which Go Together:  Like the app mentioned above, you can label the pictures with your child.  If your child can not answer the question independently, you can identify one of the associated items, and ask your child:  What goes with the ___?  The App will then ask your child why the items go together.  If your child has a difficult time answering, you can start the sentence off for your child.  For example, you could say:  The bacon and the pan go together because you use the pan to _________.  This will give your child a model on how to answer your questions.

Melissa and Doug Farm Sound Puzzle

These wooden sound puzzles bring back great memories!  They were one of my first therapy materials as a young therapist and were very effective as a tool to elicit speech from my little kiddos.  Melissa and Doug also make a few other sound puzzles, including pets and vehicle sound puzzles.  When the right puzzle piece is placed in its appropriate location, your child will hear the corresponding animal sound.  These puzzles create great excitement for children and are great tools to help your child start talking.  Here are some ways to use this toy to your advantage in helping your child talk:

Keep the puzzle pieces in your possession: This is one of the key elements of motivating children to speak.  A child needs to have an incentive to speak.  For young children, the incentive to speak would be to obtain something tangible, like a toy or food item. 

Label the animals with your child to work on vocabulary:   You can also sing “Old McDanold Had a Farm” to introduce the various animals.  Kids love this song!

Use carrier phrases (e.g., simple phrases that help your child to communicate his wants and needs):  Before giving your child the pieces, model for your child, “I + want + (appropriate animal name).”  If your child is not very verbal, present each word in isolation and allow your child to imitate you first, before moving on to the next word.  Once your child imitates you, quickly reinforce your child by giving the puzzle piece.

Build receptive vocabulary skills (i.e., your child’s understanding of spoken vocabulary):  Ask your child to point to the animal that you name.  For example, you can say: “point to Horse!” or “show me horse!” or “where is horse?”

Suggestion:  If your child is not speaking yet, you can just work on the simple word, “more,” when your child wants more puzzle pieces.  Exaggerate the “m” sound for your child by saying “mmmmore.”  This will help your child to say the word.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

This book is a sure classic, and for good reason!  The simple sentences, repetition, early vocabulary words, predictability, and fun pictures make this book ideal for young children.  I use this book to build early vocabulary for animals, pronouns, answer yes/no questions, and work on early sounds.  Here are some ways that you can use this book with your child to elicit more speech:

Sentence completion:  Pause before completing the sentence responses in the book.  For example, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?  I see a ____.”  This will give your child an opportunity to answer with the animal name.  You may want to read the book several times, before doing a sentence completion tasks. This will allow your child to know more of the vocabulary in order to complete sentences.

Yes/No questions:  If your child does not know the answer to the sentence completion task above, you can ask yes/no questions, such as:  “Is this a dog?”

Use gestures while reading:  I (point to yourself)  see (point to your eyes) a brown bear (tap the brown bear) looking at me (point to yourself again).  Children love gestures and being active while learning.  This was something I learned from a talented coworker of mine that I continue to take with me wherever I go.

Animal sounds:  After naming the animals, ask your child what sound each animal makes.  You can say the sounds together with your child.  This will give your child practice with early developing sounds, like “neigh” for horse.