Check out these 3 evidence-based strategies for promoting verbs!

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Strategy 1: Expansion of Verbs

Expansion involves taking a child’s utterance and adding one or two words to expand the vocabulary and phrase length. Generally, expansion involves adding any type of speech to expand on the meaning of what the child said. In order to target action words, add a verb to your child’s utterance. 

Child: More bubbles.
Adult: Blow more bubbles.

Child: Milk.
Adult: Drink your milk.

Child: Baby.
Adult: The baby sits.

Strategy 2: Variety of Verbs

Sometimes we use repetitive phrases when teaching a child specific words. We might teach the phrase “I want” when requesting toys or other desired objects. In order to increase the action words a child is exposed to, change up the verbs you use in those “follow-in” phrases.

Child: I want snack.
Adult: I need a snack.

Child: I want airplane.
Adult: I play with the airplane.

Child: I want potty.
Adult: I have to go potty.

Strategy 3: Grammatical Language

When talking to children, we might use “telegraphic speech” which involves using only the words with meaning and leaving out grammatical markers or articles. Telegraphic speech might sound like “baby eat” instead of “the baby is eating” or “kick ball” instead of “kick the ball”. However, using grammatical language supports a child’s learning of verbs. So don’t leave out those verb tense markers, articles, or helping verbs! Try using Toy Talk by talking about your child’s toys and using the name of the toys. This naturally promotes grammatical language use.

Child: Dog food.
Adult: The dog is eating food.

Child: Balloon up.
Adult: The balloon goes up.

Child: Give sock.
Adult: Give me the sock.

Bloem, Marie. “Let’s Hear it for the Verbs! Parents’ Early Verb Use Predicts Children with ASD’s Later Verb Vocbulary.” The Informed SLP, 14 June 2019,

Crandall, M.C., McDaniel, J., Watson, L.R., Yoder, P.J. (2019). The relation between early parent verb input and later expressive verb vocabulary in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2019_JSLHR-L-18-0081

Hadley, P.A., Rispoli, M., Holt, J.K. (2017). Input Subject Diversity Accelerates the Growth of Tense and Agreement: Indirect Benefits From a Parent-Implemented Intervention. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi: 10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-17-0008 

Hadley, P.A., Rispoli, M., Holt, J.K., Papastratakos, T., Hsu, N., Kubalanza, M., McKenna, M.M. (2017). Input Subject Diversity Enhances Early Grammatical Growth: Evidence from a Parent-Implemented Intervention. Language Learning and Development. doi: 10.1080/15475441.2016.1193020. 

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