Posted: September 12, 2018
A parent recently asked about ways to help her child learn prepositions. Laura Mize, Speech-Language Pathologist from "Teach Me to Talk" gives excellent advice on this topic:
Toddlers first begin to understand prepositions in the context of familiar directions and then say prepositions as single words before they include prepositions in phrases. This last skill occurs by 30 to 33 months. Prepositions to be targeted include: in, out, off, on, up, down, here, and there. Other sources also list under, by, and around by 3.
Remember, a child must first understand these words before she says them. Here's some information for making sure she's on track with understanding new prepositions/location phrases –
Toddlers with typically developing language understand the following prepositions by age 3: in, out, off, on, up, down, here, there, under, by, and around. Lists vary by source.
As in the previous developmental period, teach these words during context while playing using objects to demonstrate the concept. 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 to a child with significant delays to avoid confusion.
Using a favorite character for the child to manipulate is a very effective way to teach prepositions. If a child loves her Elmo doll, use Elmo to teach location words in silly and unexpected situations. Hide Elmo under the pillow. Make Elmo run around the train track. By introducing more creative teaching methods, you’re ensuring that a child pays attention, wants to participate, and increases the likelihood that she’ll remember the new concept and word. You’re also encouraging her to be flexible when she plays and to generalize the word beyond one specific context.
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. Climb on the couch, and then jump off. The playground is an ideal place to teach prepositions. Go up the ladder and then down the slide.
While you might label and point out examples of prepositions/location words while reading books or using pictures, please don’t rely on this as your primary method of teaching this important word category. At some point, a child’s comprehension might be assessed using pictures, so be sure a child recognizes these concepts in pictures after he masters locations words with real objects.
If you have any questions or concerns, about your child's speech-language development, or would like more suggestions on ways to help expand your child's vocabulary and language skills, call Talk With Me at 623-6363.