Understanding and Using Basic Concepts

Learning basic concepts are very important in helping your child understand and follow through on directions given in the classroom setting.  By learning these words, your child will also become more descriptive in his or her verbal expression.  Some basic concepts that kindergarten and first graders will have to know include: front/back, between, beside, behind, above, and below.  These are fun to work on because they can be learned easily in a natural setting.  Here are some ways you can build in these concepts in a natural setting:

While writing: You can talk about what letters go above or below the lines.

While reading: You can talk about words that are in the center, or in the middle of the book.

You can also use body parts to reinforce concepts:  What is in the middle of your face?  What is above your mouth?  What is below your nose?  What is between your eyes?

While walking or playing:  Walk in front of me.  Stand beside me.

Some other basic concepts for first graders include:  first/last, wide/narrow, longer/shorter, part/whole, closer/farther, thin/thick, similarities/differences

Preschool and Kindergarten Vocabulary Checklist

This checklist can be used by parents to see where their child needs to grow in terms of vocabulary.  By going through this checklist, you may find out that your child is not identifying or expressing many animals or body parts.   This will help you to identify words that you can teach your child.  Click on this link:  Kindergarten_Vocab_List

Building receptive vocabulary (e.g., understanding of vocabulary words):  Asking “where is ___?” questions; Instructing your child to show you certain items.  For example, you can say: “show me ___” or “point to ____.”

Building expressive vocabulary (e.g., verbal expression of words): Asking simple, “what’s this?” questions or labeling items together while playing; Attach the nouns with verbs while you are playing.  For example, you can say: “Kick ball” or “roll ball.”  This will hep your child build more vocabulary.


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 Kindergarten.com.

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.