Language refers to understanding and using words and sentences to communicate with others.
Receptive language refers to comprehension or understanding what others say. Receptive language skills are essential for making sense of the sentences we hear or read, such as understanding questions, and following instructions.
Some children have trouble understanding what others say or write. They might have difficulty:
- Following directions
- Answering questions
- Understanding concepts (e.g., where something is and what it looks like)
Expressive language is the way we use words and sentences to express our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We rely on expressive language skills to talk with others, build relationships, express our views, and participate in activities.
Some children have trouble using words and sentences. They might have difficulty:
- Asking questions
- Using all the words in a sentence, including little words (e.g.,
a and the) and grammar to add meaning (e.g.,
- Putting words in the right order in a sentence
- Naming objects or pictures
- Telling a story
- Using words to tell someone what they want or how they feel
Speech pathologists help children who have language difficulties.
For many children, there is no known cause for their difficulty with understanding and/or using language. There are different terms that are used to describe language difficulties in children. These include developmental language disorder (DLD), specific language impairment (SLI), language delay, and language impairment.
The below short video explains:
- What is language?
- What should a child know and when?
- How can I help a child with language difficulties?
What should a child know and when?
Children learn language skills at different ages.
Children typically say their first real words at 12 months of age. These are most often names of people and objects (e.g., ball, car). They begin to put two words together (e.g., throw ball) and understand two-step instructions (e.g., give me the ball and the car) by two years of age. Children’s vocabularies continue to grow to include different words, including action words (e.g., jump, push) and describing words (e.g., big, fluffy). Children typically say sentences containing four to five words by 3 years of age. By five years of age, children typically say and understand more complex sentences and can tell simple stories.
To find out more information about children’s language development across different ages, visit the following websites:
What can I do to help?
You can help young children learn words and sentences in different ways.
with children every day. Talk about the pictures, and what children are interested in on the page.
Play games and do activities together. Think of words that match the activity (names, actions, describing words). Say these words often to during the game (e.g., blocks, box, put on, stack, fell). Say the words in short sentences too (e.g., stack the blocks, the blocks fell down). Pause and give children a chance to try and say the words.
Repeat what children have said. This shows children that you are interested in what they say. Make their sentences a little longer by adding some words.
Listed below are some handouts with practical activities/ideas you can do with children to help their language development.
Helping children with language:
Download the Helping children with language resource for the complete collection of language handouts.
The handouts include suggested play-based activities and books that provide opportunities for children to hear and learn about different words, sentences, and uses of language.
I want to help a child to:
Click on the links below for information about helping children with different aspects of their language development.