Why talk about VERBS when supporting language expansion

Before we delve into the WHYS of what we do, lets backtrack to highlight how we use language to socially communicate with others.

Pragmatics (how we use language to socially interact)

There are three major aspects of the development of pragmatics. The first of these is the development of communicative functions, the way the child comes to be able to express a range of intentions, such as requesting, greeting and giving information, through a variety of communicative behaviours, such as gesture, vocalisation and language.

The second aspect is that of the child’s response to communication, the way the child reacts to and understands communication from other people.

The third aspect is the way the child participates in interaction and conversation, looking at the child as a participant in social interactions involving initiation, turn-taking and repair. We also looked at the way the expression of these aspects of pragmatics is affected by variations in context, such as time and place and the people involved.

At this age children begin to express a range of communicative intentions, first by gesture combined with vocalisation and then by words:
• attention-seeking
• requesting objects, action or information
• rejecting or protesting
• greeting
• naming

At this stage children start to use single and begin to combine words to:
• comment
• express feelings
• assert independence
• begins to use language imaginatively


At this stage children being to share stories or events
• talk about past and future events
• give information

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of this blog...verbs…what are they and why is it important to know about it? Verbs emerge later than nouns and are harder to acquire. Early nouns refer to concrete entities (e.g. bear, Mum). But verbs are often tricky to label as we can’t link it to something concrete that we can see. Verbs are essential for many word combinations and all sentences.

So which verbs should we focus on?
In short, parents should use lots of different verbs when interacting with their children and label out loud what they see their child do.
(a) General all-purpose actions
These are not tied to specific actions and can be used in a variety of places, including “do”, “get”, “go”, “have”, “look”, “play”, “put”, “see” and “want”.
(b) thinking /feeling actions
Such as “know”, “think” and “like” “feel”.
(c) Actions specific to particular activities
These actions are commonly associated with play and other common activities. They include words like “eat”, “feed”, “cook” (when playing in the kitchen area), “fit” (for puzzles), “blow” (for bubbles), and “open” (cabinets, toys in boxes with lids), “push” (when playing with cars), “dry” (drying the dishes).

I go by the ‘+1 rule’ ….. When playing or interacting with your child, observe what they say and add a word

How do we do it is easy!

Your child says    ‘car’

I say                        ‘push car’

Your child says:   ‘push car’

I say                       ‘push big car’.

Model the action of pushing as you push the car. Please do not have expectation that your child is automatically going to repeat what you say. This technique, known as ‘parallel talking’ will give your child exposure to language during play and daily routines. This provides your child with the idea that talking is fun and meaningful. It helps to bridge the gap for a child who has yet to realise that actions, objects and feelings have a name and can put together to express meaningful messages.

Use words and phrases that are age appropriate and at the level your child is at. So first observe what your child is saying or doing and say out loud what you observe.

Think about the activities that your child has fun playing with or a daily routine that both of you can interact with.

Follow the OWL approach

observe… wait …listen

Dewart and Summers (1995), “Pramatic Profile for preschool aged child’

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