Thursday, July 19, 2012

Moving Beyond Single Words

Whether on time or delayed, hearing baby’s first word is always a tremendous source of pride and enjoyment for parents.  Babies and toddlers learn quickly that their words can be powerful tools to influence others.  When that happens, the words tend to come quickly ~ more, ball, bottle, NO!, up, eat, etc.  It’s easy for some children to become content at this level.  They are able to communicate basic wants and needs with their parents and are happy with that. 

Most experts will tell you that children typically begin to combine words into two word phrases around 18-months of age.  Many will take until closer to 24-months to achieve this milestone, and some beyond that.  As parents and SLPs, there are some VERY SIMPLE tricks you can use to encourage the journey toward 2-word phrases:

Source: WikiMedia Commons

Mind Your Manners!

Adding “please” to a simple request is one of the easiest ways 
to build length of utterance.  “Cookie” becomes “Cookie please.” 

Color His World

Teach your child basic colors.  By doing this alone, you will build his vocabulary by up to 10 words.  Once your child knows colors, encourage him to use them to request and describe:

When getting dressed:   
           Do you want your blue shirt or your red shirt?   

While coloring:   
            I have a yellow crayon.  What do you have?

Little Helpers

Encourage your child to help with household tasks like sorting or “folding” laundry.  Yes, it may end up being a tiny bit more work for you in the long run, but it’s a great language building experience with lots of opportunities for expanding words into phrases:

            Shorts --> Daddy’s
            Shirt --> Pink shirt
            Socks --> Two socks

(And you’ve just targeted possessive and plural markers as a bonus!)

More You Say?

Snack time can be a great time for language expansion (between bites, of course).  If your child likes to snack on small items (goldfish crackers, fruit chews, dry cereal, grapes, blueberries), start by giving her only one or two items.  This is a great way to encourage requesting.  Once she is good at asking for “fish” or “cereal,” encourage her to add the word “more” (“more fish” or “more cereal”). 


These are just a few of the simplest tricks to help children become more effective communicators and build length of utterance.  I’ve created a parent handout for SLPs to provide parents that contains the information from this post.  Feel free to download and distribute.  If you download, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

What are your tried-and-true ways to increase utterance length?

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