Between 12 and 24 months a child with typically developing language learns to understand some early prepositions or location words including in, out, on, off, up, down, here, and there. Late talkers and other toddlers with language delays may need some extra help with these kinds of words.
Remember — you must make sure a child understands the word before we can expect him to say (and use!) the word!
Here are my best tips…
1. Think about word placement. Many toddlers learn new words best when you use them as single words and at the ends of your phrases.
2. Repeat the new word often as you talk – not just once or twice. Research tells us that we should plan to model a new word 12 to 18 times before we expect a child to try to repeat it.
3. Toddlers learn best by doing. Teach these words during context while playing using objects to demonstrate the concept. For example, if a child is playing with a garage, say things like, “Look! In! Your car goes in! In! In the garage! In!” Then when he’s taking the car out, emphasize that word with “Out! Here comes your car! Out! Car’s out!”
Include these words in your everyday routines too. For example, when he’s taking his shoes off, be sure you’re saying something like, “Off! Take your shoes off!” Or if you’re walking downstairs, say something like, “Down, down, down! Let’s walk down these steps! Down!”
One fun way to target prepositions is to use the child himself to model each concept. Place him “in” a laundry basket and then take him “out.” Lift a child, “Up, up, up,” into the air, and then back “Down!” on your lap. Climb “on” the couch, and then jump “off” to the floor. A toddler’s favorite way to learn “on” and “off” may be flipping the light switch or pushing buttons on the remote control!
While you might label and point out examples of prepositions/location words while reading books with a child or playing an app, please don’t rely on these as your primary method of teaching this important word category.
One last tip…
With typically developing children, these words are often learned in pairs as “opposites” such as in vs. out, off vs. on, and up vs. down. However, it may be necessary to teach one concept at a time for a child with significant delays to avoid confusion.
Need more tips like this? This information is from Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual. Get your own copy to teach every receptive and expressive language milestone from under 12 months through 48 months. It’s a great resource for SLPs and parents of late talkers! (Be sure to use the coupon code SAVE15 for 15% off!) Quick order here.