Isn’t it exciting when you hear those first words your child says? All of those months of house tours, reading, and exploring the word with you narrating is finally paying off and your child is beginning to talk! So now what? How do you continue to help your child have a new way to express their wants and needs?
Many parents immediately begin teaching very specific words, usually nouns. In today’s world of go go go it seems natural to immediately begin working on naming shape, colors, and animals and their sounds. But let me ask you this- will that cow saying “moo” help your child say what they want? Will the cow saying “moo” teach your child to use a phrase? Unfortunately, that answer is likely no. And if your child is anything like mine, this is the height of a whiny stage where they need their wants and needs met NOW.
Insert “Core Vocabulary”
Core Vocabulary is defined as a term used to describe the most frequently used words in oral and written language (Banajee, Dicarlo, & Stricklin, 2003; Deckers et al., 2017; Trembath et al., 2007). This list comes from studies involving typically and atypically developing young children, school-age students who are mono and bilingual, and children with and without language impairments. These words are primarily pronouns,verbs, auxiliary verbs, prepositions, adjectives, and determiners.
Some of the Benefits of Using Core Vocabulary:
- These words can be used to communicate in a variety of settings, activities, and partners
- They allow for a dramatic increase in opportunities for practice
- These words can be combined more easily to increase from single words to phrases/sentences (e.g. “want” + “more”= “want more” or “I want more”)
…OK, Core is Good. But how do I practice THOSE words?
The good news? You are still going to do all of the same activities you did before. You will still model the names of allll the things. But instead of focusing on the names of farm animals you focus on “in”, “go”, “want”, “more”. Here’s an example:
Activity: Pretend Farm
- Nouns we model but don’t focus on: cow, pig, farmer, chicken, duck, horse, barn, tractor, etc.
- In: As each animal moves around say “in barn/pen/water/grass”. Put the food “in” the containers. “Where is the ____?” (In!).
- “Go”: Each time the animal moves say “go” or if working on phrases it may be “it goes/go pig/go fast!).
- “Want”: when the child reaches for an animal or farm object, model saying “want”. You can give choices with “do you WANT the pig or horse?”. “Want to feed the animals?”
- “More”: use “more” when your child tries to add to anything. “More” animals in the barn. “more” food. Play “more”.
Activity: Snack Time
- Nouns we model but don’t focus on: any kind of food serving, milk/water/juice, cup, plate. utensils, etc.
- In: If you are using a bowl or snack carrier – “where are the goldfish?” IN the bowl!. Or “put IN (your mouth/hand).
- “Go”: have fun playing with the food! “ready, set, GO”. Also great practice for stop/go while eating. When finished say “(let’s) GO”/”GO wash hands”/”GO get a napkin”
- “Want”: I love practicing want with snack because it’s a highly desired item. I often will pick too snacks, one liked and one unliked, to practice “want”. Ask, “What WANT?/Want ___ or __?” then have them imitate “WANT” while pointing to the snack they want. Give only 1-2 then have them practice requesting again “WANT (say item or point to item)”.
- “More”: Another easy word to practice with snack. Hold onto some of the snack after the initial serving but keep it in eye sight. Have them ask for “more” when they are ready and give another small serving. By doing this you can practice “MORE” easily 10x in a few minutes. Want to make more challenging? Make it a phrase or move the snack out of eyesight.
4 words, used in 2 very different activities. I hope this shows you how easily certain (core) words can increase your child’s ability to communicate in ANY setting. While you will certainly continue exposing over and over again to all of the specific vocabulary, I hope you’ll take this list and pick a couple of core words to also focus on each week. After all, the faster your child is able to express their wants and needs the faster the tantrums will decrease!
- Banajee, Meher, et al. “Core Vocabulary Determination for Toddlers.” Taylor & Francis, 12 July 2009, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0743461031000112034.
- Deckers, S. R. J. M., Van Zaalen, Y., Van Balkom, H. & Verhoeven, L. (2017). Core vocabulary of young children with Down syndrome, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 33(2), 77-86, https://doi.org/10.1080/07434618.2017.1293730
- “DLM and Universal Core Vocabulary.” Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, 16 Jan. 2020, http://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds/resources/core-vocabulary/./
- Erickson, K., Geist, L., Hatch, P., & Quick, N. (2019). The Universal Core Vocabulary [Technical Report]. Chapel Hill, NC: Center for Literacy & Disability Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- Trembath, D., Balandin, S., & Togher, L. (2007). Vocabulary selection for Australian children who use augmentative and alternative communication.Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability,32, 291–301. https://doi.org/10.1080/13668250701689298