Hurray for Play! From 0-3 years and how it aids language development

Hurray for Play! From 0-3 years and how it aids language development

Hurray for play!

Play has been likened to a fertiliser that nourishes the brain ‘with the behavioural equivalent of miracle Gro’ (John Medina 2008).  Play facilitates learning, encourages creativity and imagination, supports and develops our memory, language, social skills, problem solving ability and much more!

Play is the ‘work of childhood’ (Fred Rogers). As children learn about their world through play, understanding how it develops and how we can support it, is crucial.  Entering a child’s world, requires that we meet them at their developmental stage of play. By doing this we will have a good chance of encouraging them to listen and watch, explore and imitate.

State of play

You are being watched! All the time. As your child’s most influential teacher, they will be watching and learning from you continuously. When we play with children, they watch and learn, learn learn!  We play from the moment we are born, and we continue to play in to adulthood. The way we play throughout these stages is however very different and children will pass through distinct play stages from infancy to preschool age.

Let’s take a look at this journey.

Exploratory play. From birth.

From the very first stages of life, children learn about the world using their senses. Did you know that the lips are one of the most sensitive areas of the body? The lips have many receptor cells that send information to the brain. It is no wonder then that children who are just starting to learn about their world, will play by putting objects to their mouths and in their mouths. Exploring objects this way helps children learn about their features and uses. Each time they explore, they will learn something new and keep adding to this information store for later use. It will eventually help them name items using language.

Encouraging play at this stage

Having everyday objects around as well as toys is a useful way to encourage this learning.  Slowly children will learn about how to use objects appropriately. Try giving your child a spare cup, spoon or toothbrush to play with when you are carrying out real activities using these objects.

This is also the stage where your child will be looking at you to exchange smiles with you and play with sounds. As your child learns that their actions receive a reaction from you they will be encouraged to play more.

Exploratory play doesn’t stop here. It will continue throughout the preschool years as your child is introduced to new objects and new functions, although rather than putting things in their mouths, they will be more likely to discover things with their hands!

Play at 9 months

Children will start to use the information they learned from exploring objects and will begin to show you that they know how to use them! Your clever little cookie may pretend to brush their hair with a hair brush or put a toothbrush to their teeth.

Encouraging play at this stage

Continuing to demonstrate the uses of everyday objects will support your child during this stage. Try making a ‘treasure chest’ filled with useful things. What can they find? Take your time to explore what’s inside.

This stage of play provides some good opportunities to develop language as your child may start to act out events. Using repetitive phrases such as ‘brush dolly’s hair’ or ‘give teddy the cup’ will expose your child to the same language over and over as they play.

Play at 18 months

Your child’s play is really developing and evolving now. They will start to understand that one object can represent another object e.g. a miniature spoon represents a real spoon.  They have been busy bees and all that important playing has helped them reach this significant point. Understanding that one thing can represent another thing is key for learning language, as we use words to represent objects. Your child is beginning to master something complex!

If you have ever wondered why a speech and language therapist looks at how your child plays with objects and toys, this is why! Play can tell us a lot about where your child is on their language journey. Often, if there is a delay in play, there is a delay in language. Supporting and moving on your child’s ability to play therefore helps build the foundations required for language.

Encouraging play at this stage

You can help your child to learn that one object represents another by:

  • Playing with real objects and then introducing a miniature version (from a doll house set). You can model what you do with these objects e.g. brush teeth, drink from a cup
  • Play with teddies and dolls using these objects e.g. feed dolly
  • Play matching games. Have a bag of big and small matching objects. Take them out one by one and try and match them.
  • You can also try this with a picture of the object and the real object. Use a feely bag. What can you feel? Does it match the picture? You can use real photos of things that your child uses or generic pictures.
2.5 years Acting out!

Through play, your child will now likely be showing you how they understand the world around them. They will be using their toys, teddies and dolls to act out sequences that they have grasped from watching, playing and doing e.g. giving teddy his milk and putting him to bed. Acting out these sequences is crucial for later when your child will tell you stories.

Encouraging play at this stage

You can help your child at this stage but acting out the sequences with them. Use familiar toys and clear language e.g. ‘Dolly is eating breakfast, now she is getting dressed’.

You can help your child to structure these ideas but using words like ‘first, second, third’ or ‘Now and next’. Make up sequences containing two steps and see if your child can copy you or do their own.

3 years

Your child has come a long way since the stage of exploration and mouthing objects! They can now use their imaginations and act out short sequences and pretend to be different people e.g. doctor, nurse, fireman. This sort of play will further help them expand on their world knowledge and support their understanding of other people’s emotional states.

Encouraging play at this stage

Encourage this sort of play by using fancy dress. Pretend to be different people and create scenarios where your child may have to think about how someone feels e.g. taking on the role of a doctor to help a patient who is unwell or a vet who is helping a scared animal.

Your child’s play skills will continue to develop and evolve now as they mature to school age and onwards.

Learn to play, play to learn!

Playing allows children to explore and learn about their world, it powers the imagination and boosts their creativity. As your child’s best teacher and first playmate you have an amazing role in spurring on all these skills.  Each stage of play is dependent on the stage before and in each stage, they are learning something crucial that will help them navigate their world.

We learn best when we are having fun, so it makes perfect sense that learning is so rapid in these early years!

Written by Carolyn Fox, Children’s Speech and Language Therapist

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5 Reasons YOU are your child’s best Speech Therapist

5 Reasons YOU are your child’s best Speech Therapist

5 Reasons YOU are your child’s best Speech and Language Therapist

Speech and Language Therapists are keen to get parents involved in the therapy process, but is this just a cop-out to avoid doing the work themselves?  Yes, it can be tricky to convince a child to practice their new words with you (and most likely the last thing you want to do) when you’ve just spent 20 minutes convincing them to eat one green bean.  But there are really good reasons therapists want you to be closely involved:

  1. You know your child best

You experience their ups and downs.  You know what really motivates them, and what really frustrates them.  You’ve been through it all with them.  But don’t just take your own word for it, research has been carried out which shows that parent’s opinions and questionnaires about their child’s language skills, are as accurate as some of the tests Speech and Language therapists do to measure language abilities (Dale 1991).

  1. You can practice communication ‘in the moment’

What’s the point in learning how to say ‘more cake’ unless there’s a real cake on offer?  Why practice listening to items to pack in a school bag if it’s not actually time for school?  Plus there’s limited realistic opportunities to practice signing ‘hello’ in a therapy session, but countless times throughout a day.  You can see why some children are perplexed by the activities they may be asked to carry out in a therapy session, even though the parent and therapist know there is a clear reason behind them!  But you can incorporate your child’s communication targets into everyday activities.

  1. You can personalise your child’s therapy

So your child just got a trampoline for their birthday?  Let’s take the therapy outside!  The cartoon character they loved last week has been replaced by a new favourite?  No problem, they can practice clapping out that name instead!  A therapist can give you pointers as to what kinds of activities to carry out, into which you can then incorporate your child’s interests.

  1. Your child gets more therapy sessions

Imagine being able to give your child access to Speech and Language Therapy for most of their waking hours, or one hour a week.  Which option would you pick?  Let’s add in to that scenario that the one hour a week could be at a time when you’re child’s just woken up from a nap, so are grouchy, or maybe they’re so focused on the toy shop you walked past on the way to the session, they aren’t listening to the therapist…  Training you up as the therapist means that you can provide therapy to your child on a daily, even hourly basis, and you can keep activities short and sweet because you know there will be other chances that same day.

  1. It might just make things easier for you…

Let’s be a little selfish here, and also return to point number one.  Who does your child talk to most often, and therefore who needs to understand them when they talk the most?  You!  Who might also be most needing the tips and tricks to work out what children mean when they are having difficulties communicating?  Or need the strategies to manage conflicts raised by the social communication difficulties?  By building your skills as therapist, learning some of those little tricks and strategies, you will help both of you enjoy the time you spend together.  And that’s what it’s all about… just promise to share with us teachers and therapists what you learn about what helps your child!

If you’d like to find out more about how you can help your child – check out our SPARKLE course

Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist

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Lost Voice Guy – more about the communication aid he uses and what they are

Lost Voice Guy – more about the communication aid he uses and what they are

Lost Voice Guy

Lee Ridley, known as ‘Lost Voice Guy’, is the first comedian to win Britain’s Got Talent… and also the first communication aid user to win!  Lost Voice Guy may not “speak”, but he certainly has a voice –  sharing his experiences of cerebral palsy and communication aid use in his comedy, and discussing the representation of disabled people in the media.

This may be one of the first times you’ve seen a communication aid used by someone in the public eye – apart from Stephen Hawking.  Lee Ridley’s BBC Radio 4 sitcom ‘Ability’ amusingly shows just how frequently he hears that comparison, as people’s only cultural reference point for someone who uses a communication aid.  You might therefore be surprised that around one in two hundred people use some form of aid to help them communicate (also called “augmentative and alternative communication”, or AAC) (Blackstone 1990).   Lee Ridley, and American sitcom “Speechless”, may be the first tentative steps towards more accurate media representation.



Apart from Lost Voice Guy who needs a communication aid, and why?

Communication aids, or AAC, are used by children and adults who have difficulty using spoken language (and sometimes with understanding language too) for a wide range of reasons.  Some will have needed additional methods of communication from childhood, such as those with cerebral palsy, autism, or many other developmental or learning disabilities.  Others may need to use additional methods to communicate following a brain injury, stroke, cancer, or a neurological disease such as Motor Neurone Disease.  These are just some of the causes of communication difficulties, and having one of these diagnoses does not mean that person will definitely require a communication aid.

The potential power of a communication aid is immense:

“My aid has enabled me to live independently in my own home, employ my own care staff, set up my own business (self-employed), earn enough to come off means-tested benefits, earn enough to buy my next new AAC device soon.”

Scope’s “No voice, no choice” Communication Aids Survey respondent, 2007


Always so technologically advanced?

Not at all… AAC, or communication aids, are anything ‘extra’ that helps communication.

We don’t just communicate using spoken words.  Watch just a few of Lost Voice Guy’s videos  and you’ll see a wealth of facial expressions, gestures, not to mention comic timing.  All this would be lost if you were just listening to the voice synthesiser only.  Communication aids are frequently used alongside speech, gestures or signing.  Speech and Language Therapists sometimes refer to this as ‘total communication’, supporting the person to use a wide range of communication methods to get their message across in the best way possible for the person and situation.  In the BGT final, Lost Voice Guy made a joke out of how cumbersome communication aid use can be, by typing a response ‘good’ to David Walliams over the course of a comic 20 seconds (complete with ‘thinking’ pause and gesture).  Sometimes a simple ‘thumbs up’ is all that’s needed to get the message across!

A communication aid may consist of:

  • a gesture or signing system (such as Makaton or BSL, see our article for more info this area)
  • a symbol or picture-based system, mounted on a board, or in a book
  • alphabet or word boards or books
  • typing based systems (such as the Lightwriter system used by Lee Ridley)
  • A mix of some or all of the above!



MyChoicePad uses Makaton sign language and symbols


This is the Lightwriter system used by Lee


Communication aids can be controlled by pointing, using a keyboard or switches, or even small head or eye movements.  A person’s literacy skills and physical skills will be taken into account when considering what methods of communication will work best for them.

This clip shows the teens from sitcom “Speechless” demo-ing two different types (pointing with a headlight to a word board for someone to read vs. a computer system operated by eye movements), and discussing some of the pros and cons of different communication aids.

As personal as any method of communication

The way we talk is highly individual – from our accent and tone of voice, to the words, phrases and expressions we commonly use.  A communication aid should be as personal as this – an adult communication aid user will need a very different vocabulary to a child so they can join in with social chit-chat (“Kanye West” being a crucial omission from Lee Ridley’s, before you consider the specialised vocabulary an adult communication aid user might need in the workplace.

An accent is also a highly personal thing, Stephen Hawking was reluctant to change his when technological advances made it possible, saying “It has become my trademark and I wouldn’t change it for a more natural voice with a British accent.”  However, Lee Ridley is not as attached to his, saying he’s going to spend some of his winnings on a Geordie accent for his communication aid so he doesn’t sound like ‘a posh version of Robocop’.

If this blog has inspired you to find out more about AAC, you could start by reading some of the personal experiences of using AAC here:

But let’s leave the last word to Lost Voice Guy.  Whilst this article celebrates the empowering nature of communication aids, the communication aid is not the star of this story, it’s Lee Ridley and his hilarious comedy:

“When I am performing, it’s as if I have finally found my voice – and it’s a great feeling making people laugh.”

Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist

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7 reasons why short, simple sentences are best for language development

7 reasons why short, simple sentences are best for language development

Simplifying language

The language we use when we chat is complicated.  We don’t mean to, us adults just can’t help saying things in a more difficult way than we need to.

There’s an example: I could have said above “Adults use complex language”.  Instead of being clear and simple, I said the same sentence in two different ways, used a lot of emphasising phrases, and tricky grammar.  In fact, there were only three important words in that sentence in order for you to understand the gist of it – ‘adults’, ‘complex’, ‘language’.

Keeping language simple can help children understand and learn language.

Top 7 reasons short, simple sentences are the best – simplifying language

There are many reasons, short, simple sentences help our children:

simplfying language

  • My span of attention is short! If there is too much language before you get to the ‘point’, I’ve lost interest and moved on
  • When you say a sentence, I have to listen to lots of words and work out which bit of noise (word) matches the picture or toy you are talking to me about. The more words you say, the harder it is to work out which one means the same as this stripy animal (picture of a child looking at a zebra).
  • My understanding develops gradually. At two years old, I may only be able to understand two key words in a sentence at a time (see our language course for more information and games).  Don’t make all your sentences just two words long though – keep reading for why you should still include the grammatical words!
  • My memory is also still developing. If there’s too much language for me to remember in your sentence, I can’t understand it (or if you’ve given me an instruction, I can’t follow it)
  • Repetition helps me learn. If you’re using simple sentences, you are most likely to be using similar words or sentence structures each time (e.g. ‘the frog jumped’, ‘Sarah laughed’, ‘the cat miaowed’), and I will pick up on these patterns.
  • Silence is powerful. It gives me time to focus my own attention, think about what you’ve said, and think of what I can say back.
  • If we both have short turns, it’s more likely we’ll be taking equal turns, which leads to a more fun chat for both of us!

Here are some examples of instructions and information simplified to two different levels:

Tricky Why’s this hard? Medium Simpler
“You can’t have any ice-cream until you finish your peas” This sentence is actually made up of two parts, ‘you can’t have any ice-cream’, ‘you finish your peas’, joined with the connective ‘until’.  This increases both the memory load, and the grammatical complexity of the sentence.  The time concept ‘until’ is also difficult for young children to understand “Eat your peas, then you can have ice-cream” “Peas first, then ice-cream”

Or “Eat your peas”

“Make sure your library book is in your bag” If the book and bag aren’t right in front of your child, they have to remember two pieces of information for the time it takes to look for both items.  There’s a high chance they will get distracted, or forget one of the items. “Put your book in your bag” “Get your book” (pointing to the location of the book, then wait for your child to get the book).

“Find your bag”

“Put your book in the bag” (when both the book and the bag are in front of your child)


“Brush your teeth after you put your pyjama’s on”


In these examples the two steps in the instruction are actually in reverse order – you want the child to put their pyjama’s on first, then brush their teeth.  Watch out when using ‘before’ and ‘after’ with very young children. “Put your pyjamas on then brush your teeth” “Put your pyjamas on”

“Brush your teeth”



“Come on, hurry up and get your shoes on” Saying the same thing in 3 different ways gives your child three pieces of information to process.  If you need to repeat, say the same simple sentence again. “Get your shoes on” “Shoes on!”
“Oh no, the boy is being chased by the monster!”



This is a passive structure – look out for a ‘by’ sentence telling you who did the action.  Children are thought to understand these sentences around age 3-4 (Thatcher et al 2008). “The monster is chasing the boy!” “A monster!”

“A scary monster!”

“Poor boy!”


You don’t want to keep your language simple forever, take the lead from your child and use sentences that are a couple of words longer, or a bit more complex, than they are using themselves.  If they are chatting away, having conversations or telling you about what happened today at nursery or school, chat back!

Simple, but keep the grammar!

Keep your sentences grammatical.  Your child is learning language from you, so if you give them examples which do not contain the grammar they will eventually learn, you are not doing them any favours!  For example, it might be tempting for a child who is starting to join two words together who points to your face and says ‘glasses’ to model back ‘mummy glasses’, but this way your child is missing out on the grammatical information that helps them understand why the two words are used together – ‘they’re mummy’s glasses’ (Fey et al 2003).

Children have been found to listen out for the words we naturally stress in sentences to make sense of them and learn language.  If we take out the grammatical words, which will be less stressed (e.g. ‘they’re’ in the above example), we are left with two words only.  Your child will listen to which of these is most stressed and focus on this, so they may only focus on one word (Bedore and Leonard 1995).  Having the grammatical words around them makes the content words stand out even more!

Children also use the entire sentence structure to help them work out the role of a new word in the sentence, for example whether it is a key word or a grammatical word, whether it is the name of something or an action (Venker et al 2017 provide useful information on this).  As adults, the best thing we can do to help this language learning process is keep our sentences short but grammatical so our children can use their natural language learning strategies.

Venker et al 2017, “When Is Simplified too…Simple?”, available at

Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist

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Laurel or Yanny – and what it reveals about the listening process for children

Laurel or Yanny – and what it reveals about the listening process for children

Yanny or Laurel?  Isn’t listening to a single word meant to be child’s play?

Yes, it’s the latest viral sensation.  The game to play (and debate) with your colleagues, family and friends.  But how can two people listen to the same clip and hear two completely different words?  Scientists have put across their explanations (for example here and here), citing as reasons for the two different words heard similar frequencies of speech sounds, slightly unclear (or overlapping) audio material, and our brain hearing what it expects to hear.  But as well as being a fun social media sound experiment, it also gives us a chance to reflect on the listening process…

Hearing is not an all or nothing process involving just the ear. The processes involved in working out what the sound information means are many and complex (see our auditory processing article for more information).  This means that even if your child passes a hearing test with flying colours, they may still have trouble hearing the differences between sounds in words, or understanding words or sentences.

For example, some children with speech sound difficulties (but good hearing) may need practice to hear the difference between the sound they are learning and their error sound, so a child who says ‘ch’ as ‘sh’ may practice listening to pairs of words like ‘ship’ vs ‘chip’ before learning to say the ‘ch’ sound.  You may have heard speech sound difficulties called ‘phonological delay/disorder’, and listening games play a vital role in speech therapy.  In the yanny/laurel, we see how our brains can interpret sound information differently – even as adults who know all the speech sounds they are listening to!

There are very few situations in our lives when we are listening to words without background noise. We can take for granted what our brain is doing to screen this out.  The clip seems pretty high quality, yet the background noise is still thought to have an impact on our perception.  Will this prompt you to minimise background noise when talking to or playing with your child at home?  Turn off the TV or music during talking time to help them focus on your words.  Also, if someone you know wears a hearing aid, these amplify all noise including background noise, which can make it harder and more tiring to understand speech.

We fill in gaps, and hear what we expect to hear. Think about when you mishear song lyrics, then no matter how you try you can’t work out what the singer is actually saying (once you have heard “we built this city on sausage rolls” it’s hard to hear it as “rock and roll”…).  You only have to watch this fabulous clip from Peter Kay with Sister Sledge singing “Just let me staple the vicar”.

We use our previous experiences, the position of the word in the sentence, and the situation in which we hear the word or sentence to make sense of it.  If we had heard the clip in the sentence “I need to prune my yanny/laurel bush” we may all have heard laurel!  Encourage your child to ask if they haven’t heard you, and encourage older children to use clues to work out the most likely word for the context.  This is a great skill for children to try when they come across new words in their reading book.

So before you go home and debate with your other half whether it is obviously yanny/laurel, spare a thought for the hard work your child is doing whilst learning to listen and understand words, when we adults still don’t always hear the same thing!

Written by Alys Mather, Speech and Language Therapist

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Can grammar ever be fun? Our top 3 games

Can grammar ever be fun? Our top 3 games

The phrase ‘grammar fun’, for some of us, may seem like an oxymoron at best. The explicit approach to learning how to structure sentences may bring with it memories of tedious drills and the rote learning of rules.  However, for many of us, grammar will have been absorbed, through experimentation and correction, rather than through the digestion of endless rules. Whichever way we do it, we learn how to put words together in English so that they are meaningful. For children who struggle to do this, understanding others can be confusing and participating in conversations, a challenge. Many of these children will fall under a speech a language therapist’s radar and some will need some extra support internalising parts of the English grammar rule book.

Helping children use pronouns

Pronouns are important little words!  We use pronouns such as ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’ to refer to people and objects without having to name them. In this article we will explore how to help your child use them correctly and take a look up a speech and language therapist’s sleeve for some fun activity ideas.

Understanding first

Before we can be expected to use something, we need to understand it. The activities below are therefore split in to two parts: games to aid understanding and games to help with production.

Learning to use new rules

When your child is first learning to sort out new rules, they will find it easier to focus on one rule at a time e.g. if working on ‘he’ and ‘she’ don’t worry if they make other errors e.g. ‘mixing up her/him’. It is likely that they will also find it easier to focus on shorter sentences when they start to say the words. You can model longer sentences for them but at the beginning, do not worry about them being able to copy you. As they become confident, they will start using the new rule in longer phrases, sentences and stories!


GAME 1 > ‘Me wants it’

Saying ‘me’ instead of ‘I’ can be quite cute when your child is very young, but if this continues past around the age of 2 years old, your child may benefit from some gentle guidance. Children generally learn to say ‘I’ correctly (around 1 – 2 years) before they master using ‘me’ correctly (around 2-2.5 years)


Using real or pretend food, plates, make a food order e.g. ‘I want the apple’. You can play with another adult or child and pretend you are in a cafe. Your child role plays the waiter/waitress or chef and must serve the food to the correct person. This will ensure that they receive lots of listening practice first.

Take turns to say what you would like to eat and see who can fill their plate first.

If your child says, ‘Me want the pear’, you can gently model the correct way e.g. ‘I want the pear’ and grab the pear and put it on your plate, emphasizing ‘I want it’.

Which hand is doing the good talking?
You can also give your child a chance to correct themselves by showing them both your hands closed in to fists. The first hand says, ‘I want’ and the second hand says, ‘me want’. Model the hands talking and then ask your child to hit the fist that is doing the ‘good talking’. If they tap the correct hand, spring it open and say repeat it back to them again ‘I want the…’ and then reward them with the food.

Game alternative – find silly ingredients for soup and collect as many silly things as you can. Who can make the silliest soup?

Most children will correctly use ‘he’ and ‘she’ by the time they reach 2.5 years of age.

*To work on your child’s understanding of ‘he’ and ‘she’, you can adapt the above game using a girl and boy doll or picture cut outs. Pretend the dolls are whispering to you what they want and then tell your child e.g. ‘he said he wants a pizza, do you have any pizza for him?’. See if your child can correctly place the food on the right plate. Offer feedback as your play e.g. ‘that is right, it is for the boy because I said ‘he’.

*Work on listening for the correct pronoun by telling a short story. The first time you tell the story, make no mistakes. The second time, make a few silly mistakes.

1). ‘Susie and Tom were playing catch. Susie ran to get the ball and she fell over and hurt her knee. Tom tried to help but he slipped up and hurt his elbow’

With Errors e.g.

2). ‘Susie ran to get the ball and he fell over’/ ‘Tom tried to help but she fell over!’

Tell your child that when they hear a mistake, they must shout ‘STOP!” and then tell you what the mistake is. If they can, ask them to repeat back the correct sentence: ‘Tom tried to help but he fell over’.

Remember the focus is on using ‘he’ and ‘she’ so don’t worry if your child makes mistakes with other parts of the sentence for now.

Act out the story –Using teddies, dolls or action figures, try acting out the story and practicing ‘he’ and ‘she’ using the characters. If it is not clear which one is a girl or boy, you could put an identifying item of clothing on them e.g. blue hat

Make the story visual – laminate a picture of a boy and a girl and as you tell the story, colour in red the part of the body they hurt when they fall over. You could even repeat the story again but this time put plasters on the characters!.

*When your child is ready to practice saying ‘he and she’, you can make the dolls do things e.g. jump, run, sleep and say, ‘Who is jumping?’. Model the answer ‘she is’ or ‘he is’ then ask your child to continue by shouting out. You can practice longer phrases this way to by asking ‘what is the doll doing?’ and modelling ‘she is running/he is eating’.

*Additionally, your child could give you the food orders for the boy and girl, like in the game above. ‘he wants chips, she wants ice cream’

*Try supporting story making skills using the story structure above. If you are using laminated cut outs, simply wipe the laminated pictures clean or use two new fresh ones. The level of support here will depend on how confident your child is at this stage, but you can support them as needed throughout the story and prompt them using the pictures, pointing out the blood/ plasters on the boy and girl. For more ideas offering feedback to support language, see our blog on speech and language blog one



Pronouns can be tricky to learn and using ‘his’ and ‘her’ is no different. Children will often have mastered this by around 3.5, but if extra support is needed you could try some of the following ideas.

*Tell a story like the one above, focusing on the words her and his. This will provide lots of focused listening. Again, you can ask your child to shout STOP! When they hear a mistake (you mix up ‘her’ and the ‘his’). Remember, at the listening stage they do not have to provide the correction but can if they wish! Once they have identified the mistake, you can simply model the correct way e.g. ‘Silly me, Susie is a girl, so it is her knee, not his knee!’

*colour, draw or put cut out clothing on pictures of a girl and boy. Your child must listen to you e.g. colour her shoes blue, draw a hat on his head,

*You can get even more listening practice by putting different objects in baskets belonging to the girl and boy doll or the cut-out pictures e.g. ‘put the ball in his basket, put the dress in her basket’

*The activities above will be familiar to your child and therefore provide a good starting point for them to practice using the correct production of ‘her’ and ‘his.

They can start by sorting out objects for the boy and girl and telling you what they have done, ‘I put the ball in her basket’.

*Prompt them to describe pictures to you e.g. You ‘Whose shoes are blue?’ Child: ‘her shoes’

If they are feeling confident, they may even wish to tell you a story like the one used above!

The ideas above provide a starting point for working on some areas that your child might find tricky. Feel free to adapt and expand on these as much as you wish, remembering that listening and understanding come before accurate production. For more information on grammar  in general and supporting word order, check out colourful semantics blog.  If you would like even more specific guidance on how to support the development of pronouns, see our higher language course.

Have lots of grammar fun!

Our top 4 apps for grammar fun

There are some excellent apps to support working on pronouns. Take a look:

TOP PICKS Price range from around 2 – 5 pounds.

Pronouns with splingo

Pronouns by Teach Speech Apps

Using I and Me Fundeck

Story builder for iPad – This app supports many aspects of your child’s language. Can help reinforce pronouns once your child is has mastered them at the phrase and sentence level.

Written by Carolyn Fox, Children’s Speech and Language Therapist

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