Speech Pathology News: Building Sentence – Using Toy Talk

Typically children are able to combine words to form a diverse range of sentences by around 2 ½  years of age. These basic sentences usually include some form of a subject (i.e. person, animal or thing) doing an action.  Initially the subject of the sentence is about what the child wants or has e.g. I want juice. Gradually, the range of subjects grows and includes a focus on other people or objects using simple pronoun e.g. That go in. He want car. and then expanding further to include a specific noun as a subject e.g. Ball go in., Baby want milk, Block fall down. Young children with Developmental Language Disorders (DLD) may have difficulty developing and using a diverse range of subjects in their sentences. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a strategy call Toy Talk which can be very useful for supporting this at home, particularly with our Kindergarten and Pre-Primary children.

This strategy is very similar to the commenting or parallel talk strategy you may have learnt about if you have attended our Talk Learn Grow Group for Kindy children or Hanen Groups through other speech pathology services. When using parallel talk you have learnt to comment on your child’s actions as they engage in activities that interest them e.g. You’re building a tower. In Toy Talk you are encourage to:

  1. Talk about the toys, rather than your child, when your child is playing. Specifically talk about the toy’s location, properties and actions.
  2. Name the object your child is playing with rather than using a pronoun (i.e. Use the label “blocks” when you child builds a tower rather than saying “it”).

Toy Talk sentences might become like

  1. The tower is getting bigger. As your child builds a tower with blocks
  2. The tower fell down. As your child knocks over a tower
  3. The cow goes in. As your child does a farm yard puzzle
  4. The noodles are coming out.  As your child plays with a playdough press
  5. The train is coming through. As your child sends a train through a tunnel

As with anything new, this strategy can feel strange at first. You may worry about getting it right, but the thing to always keep in mind is, as long as you are having fun your child will enjoy you engaging with them as they play.