Long before your baby has said her first word, she’s learned to communicate. Her responses to you – such as a cry or a smile – help you understand her needs. As your baby grows into a toddler, her communication will begin to develop. She will go from babbling, pointing and simple words (such as “mama” and “dada”) around 11 months, to understanding simple commands and saying two and three word phrases (such as “all gone” and “I see truck”) around age 2.
But not all children develop language at the same pace. Pronouns can be one of the most challenging things for any child to learn. Additionally, for children on the autism spectrum or who have a language or developmental delay, it’s very common to have difficulty with pronoun usage.
When teaching your toddler about pronouns, it’s important to always pair pronouns with gestures as a visual cue. For example, when you refer to yourself, pat your chest; when referring to your child, tap their chest. If you’re having the child refer to themselves with “I”, “me,” or “my”, take their hand and place it on their chest.
To help your toddler improve their use of pronouns, here are three simple exercises you can practice with them daily.
1. Photos, Books & Toys
Use your child’s books and toys to learn “he” and “she.” Identify toys with boy and girl faces, or gesture to pictures in books, and talk about “he” or “she”. You can also look at family photos with your child and point to people in the pictures. “Who is that? Yes, he is daddy. Daddy is a boy. Boys are ‘he’.”
2. The “Who wants?” Game
Take something your child loves, such as a doll, toy, crayons, or some kind of treat, then ask them, “Who wants this?” For example: “Who wants a piece of candy?” To teach them, you answer “I do!” You can also model “Me!” to mix it up, once they successfully repeat the first phrase. You can also use “this is for you” and “this is for me” as you hand the treat to the child or yourself to teach additional pronouns.
3. The “I Spy” Game
When you take your child shopping or to the park, point to something people are holding or wearing to show examples of he, she, her, and his. For example, if you see a girl wearing a pink dress you can say “I spy with my little eye, something pink.” When your child identifies the girl correctly, say, “That’s right, that girl is wearing pink. She is wearing a pink dress,” or “Yes, her dress is pink.”
Are you a parent concerned about your child’s speech and language development? A licensed speech-language pathologist can help. Please give me a call at your earliest convenience, so we can chat and book an appointment.