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The Grammar Police are Here!

Just kidding! But seriously, “Is there anything I can do to help my child improve his/her grammar skills?” is a question that we, as Speech-Language Pathologists, are asked often. Fortunately, there IS a lot that caregivers can do to work on these skills at home. However, before we get to the solution, we have to understand the “problem” first.

Some children have a hard time using word forms correctly, such as:

  • Plurals (ex: balloons, apples, cars, geese)

  • Pronouns (ex: he/she, him/her)

  • Possessives (ex: mom’s, dog’s, sister’s)

  • Verb tense (ex: running/ran, will go)

  • Comparatives (ex: bigger, faster)

  • Superlatives (ex: biggest, fastest)

Other children may have difficulty with using the correct word order in a sentence:

  • Subject-verb sentences (ex: The girl is jumping.)

  • Subject-negative-verb sentences (ex: The man is not running.)

  • Subject-verb-object sentences (ex: The girl is braiding her hair.)

  • Making indirect requests sentences (ex: Can I…?)

  • Subject-verb-complement sentences (ex: The dog is happy.)

  • Subject-verb-object-object sentences (ex: The boy took the toy from the cat.)

  • Complex sentences (ex: It started to snow so I put on my boots.)

These mistakes are common for young children to make, and can also be found in older children with developmental language disorders and/or children learning English as a second language. But the great news is that these difficulties are quite simple to address, using two effective strategies.

The first tactic you can use is called recasting. Simply put, this is a way of rephrasing what your child says correctly while acknowledging their message.

Child:Him is nice?”

Parent: “Yes, he is nice. He is sharing his toys. He has a cool firetruck”

The second tactic you can use is called modelling. This can be done by giving your child lots of correct examples of a word form/sentence structure that they might be having difficulty with. If your child was having trouble using verbs ending in -ing, you might make an effort to highlight this sentence structure during an outing to the park.

Parent: “The girl is jumping"

“The boy is playing"

“The dog is eating"

Your child doesn’t have to repeat you, but extra points if they do! Modelling can be done anytime, anywhere: in conversation, during structured play activities, and during book reading activities.

Both of these methods appear to be very effective in helping kids improve their grammar. In practice, a conversation using both recasting and modelling to target the plural s marker could look like this:

Child: “I have two shoe.”

Parent: “Yes, you have two shoes, don’t you?”

Child: “Yeah, shoe have pink flower?”

Parent: “Yes, your shoes do! Both shoes have pink flowers. Their flowers are pink. The shoes have pretty pink flowers! My shoes are purple. Daddy’s boots are black.

If you think your child’s expressive language skills might be behind for his/her age and you would like more coaching on how to target these skills at home, contact us today:


Aurora Speech Clinic

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