What is receptive language (understanding words and language)?
language is the ability to understand words and language
- It involves gaining information
and meaning from routine (e.g. we have finished our breakfast so next it
is time to get dressed)
information within the environment (e.g. mom holding her keys means that
we are going to get the car, a green light means go),
- Sounds and words
(e.g. a siren means a fire engine is coming down the street, the word ball
means a round bouncy thing we play with),
- Concepts such as
size, shape, colors and time
- Grammar (e.g.
regular plurals: cat/s, regular past tense: fetch/ed)
information (e.g. signs in the environment like “no climbing”, written
Some children who have
difficulty understanding oral language (words and talking) may appear to be
understanding because they may be able to pick up key words and get visual
information from the environment or from gestures.
What are the building blocks necessary to develop receptive
Attention and concentration: Sustained
effort, doing activities without distraction and being able to hold that effort
long enough to get the task done.
Pre-language skills: The
ways in which we communicate without using words and include things such as
gestures, facial expressions, imitation, joint attention and eye contact.
Social skills: Determined
by the ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally
or non-verbally), to compromise with others, and be able to recognize and
follow social norms.
Play skills: Voluntary
engagement in self motivated activities that are normally associated with
pleasure and enjoyment where the activities may be, but are not necessarily,
activities can help improve receptive language?
- Name items together
when completing tasks, such as looking at a book, in the car, looking
outside, while playing or when shopping.
- Day to day activities: When going
shopping and visiting places, such as the park, zoo or museum encourage
the child to talk about what you did and saw and possibly even draw or act
out what happened.
- Model new words: Play
activities with the child that they really enjoy and throughout the game
model new words and phrases.
- Explain new concepts in
different ways (e.g. looking at the concept of “wet”: use water to wet
things and talk about things that are wet and dry; look at pictures of
things that are “wet”; if it rains, or the child is in the bath, talk
about the concept of being “wet”; make up sentences and stories about
- Simon says: Take turns
with the child in following and giving instructions. Also, gradually
increase the length of the command that is provided (e.g. ‘Simon says
touch your toes’; ‘Simon says first touch your toes, then clap your
hands’; ‘Simon says before you shout hurrah, count to 10’). Additionally,
reinforce body parts (e.g. pat your head, pull your ear) and simple verbs
(e.g. jump, shake) when playing the activity.
- Obstacle course: Put
together an obstacle course in the house or outside in the backyard. Take
turns with the child in following and giving instructions. Gradually
increase the length of the command that is provided (e.g. run to the
sandpit; first run to the sandpit then crawl over to the bikes).
- Feely bag game: Place different
everyday items/objects (e.g. toothbrush, car, cup, block) into a bag. Take
turns with the child in taking an item out of the bag. Encourage
the child to:
- Reach into the bag and try to
guess what the item is before taking it out.
- Describe characteristics about
the item once they have pulled it out of the bag (e.g. colour, shape,
- Answer questions about the item
that they have pulled out (e.g. Is it round? Can you eat it?).
- Guess the item that you have
pulled out of the bag by asking you questions (e.g. Is it round? Can you
- Books: Look at
picture books with the child. Take turns in asking each other questions
about the pictures (e.g. Who is in the picture? What is the girl/boy
doing?). Try to think about what might happen next in the story and
different possible endings.