Part 2 of the Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home

Good afternoon, everyone. This is part 2 of the basic language concepts your child needs and how to teach them at home. Part 1 covered what the basic language concepts are, why they are important, the teaching process to follow when teaching someone a new skill, and how to use everyday activities at home to teach your child vocabulary, body parts, colors, following directions, spatial concepts, textures, and quantities. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you can check it out here: Part 1 of The Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home

If you do not want to read Part 1 right now, here’s the most important thing I want you to know: why is it important for your child to know basic concepts?

Basic Concepts are Important Because…

The following statement came from I thought they worded it so beautifully, I had to use it.

Basic concepts are the building blocks that children need to be successful in any environment – at home, at school, at the park, in social situations, etc.  Basic concepts are words that all children need to understand in order to participate in everyday activities.  These activities include following directions, participating the the classroom, playing with siblings,  talking with friends and family, etc.  Basic concepts are also critical for academic success – reading, writing, math, the sciences, history… The list goes on and on!

If you have read Part 1 and do not need to read the “First Things First” and “The
Teaching Process,” just scroll down to “Activities for Teaching Sizes.”
First Things First – See What They Know So YOU Know What to Help Your Child With

Test your child’s ability to demonstrate the basic concepts to see what they already know. The basic concepts are:

body parts
textures (soft, hard, smooth, bumpy)
spatial concepts (in, out, under, over, top, bottom, beside, behind)
following directions
quantities (little, a lot, more)
size (big, small, biggest, smallest)
sequences (first, next, last)
emotions (happy, sad, mad)

Some examples of how to “test” what they know are…

Body Parts – ask them to “point to your belly” for example. If they do not know what the word “point” means, see if they look in the direction of the body parts you ask your child to point to.

Colors – get some blocks or Play Doh out and set 2-3 different colors in front of your child. Ask them where “red” is, “blue,” and so on.

Spatial Concepts – get a teddy bear and a box and ask your child to put the teddy bear “under the box,” “on top of the box,” “behind the box,” etc.

The Teaching Process

First and foremost, be patient. Things that seem so simple to us as adults, weren’t at one time.

Write down simple, small goals. Have a game plan and change it as your child learns. Suppose your child does not know their colors and body parts, a beginning goal would be, “Allyson will be able to identify red and blue and point to her belly, eyes, and nose 2 weeks from today.”

Introduce and teach in baby steps. When you begin teaching a basic concept, introduce only 2 or 3 parts of the concept at a time; for example, begin with only 2 or 3 colors.

Ask your child to do it, then do hand over hand. When teaching new concepts or new parts of a concept, introduce it, then ask your child to “point to your toes.” Immediately after you give the direction, put your hand over theirs and guide their hand to their toes (hand over hand).

Choices. Hold up two differently colored objects and ask your child which one they want. When you say “Do you want the red one?” hold it up higher or shake the blue object when you say “Do you want the blue one?” Do hand over hand if necessary in the beginning.

Modify the goals. As “Allyson” learns more colors, the goal would need to be modified to “Allyson will know red, blue, orange, green, and white and will be able to point to all her body parts when asked.”

Test their “targets” frequently. Whatever goal you made for them, test their progress frequently. You need to know if your child is benefiting from the way they are being taught. REMEMBER: start simple. When you ask them to point to the “happy face,” only put 2-3 pictures out in front of them. Rule of thumb is: the more choices, the more complex the task.

If your child is not learning as much as you had hoped, re-evaluate your goals and how much you are asking of your child. Simplify your goals and/or reduce the number of basic concepts you are trying to teach at a time. Also, we are all different types of learners. Some children learn by doing and some by watching, or a combination of both. Do trial and error to see what type of teaching works best for your child.

Increase the complexity of what you ask your child to do. As your child’s basic concept knowledge improves, ask more of them. In the beginning, you may ask your child to “give me the RED shoe” or “point to the bottom.” A more complex task would be asking your child to put the RED shoe ON the BOTTOM shelf. Another way of increasing the complexity is putting 4 different colored blocks in front of them and asking them to give you the “yellow” one.

Activities for Teaching Sizes

Line up family members. Line up members of your family from shortest to tallest. As you go from person to person, emphasize the target word. He is the SHORTEST, she is the TALLEST. To increase the complexity of the task as your child begins to grasp the concept of “tallest” and “shortest,” stand the family members up, but not according to size; ask your child to line them up from tallest to shortest.

Line up toys. Talk about which toy is the “biggest” and which is the “smallest.” Repeat the same process as above in “lining up family members.”

Play-doh. See who can roll the biggest ball of Play-Doh and then use key words, such as “mine is BIG, but your’s is BIGGER” when comparing the balls of Play-Doh.

Request. Ask your child to give you something. When they hand it to you, ask if you can have a “smaller” or “bigger” one.

Give them the “wrong” one. If your child asks for a cookie, set a small cookie and a big cookie out. Tell you child they can have just one, so do they want the SMALL cookie or the BIG cookie? If they say, “small,” but they are looking at the “big” one, give them the small one anyway and say, “You want the SMALL one? Here is the SMALL ONE”. If they indicate that is not the one they wanted, encourage them to say they want the BIG one.

Activities for Teaching Shapes

Shape Sorters. If your child does not already have a shape sorter toy, look for one that at least has “circle, triangle, star, and square” shapes. Talk about them as you all pick them up and put them in the appropriate hole.

Books. Sesame Street offers several books that focus on shapes. Some of the books ask questions throughout the book, such as, “Can you find the shape that looks like this pizza?”

Play-Doh. Get some shapes that will enable you to create Play-Doh circles, triangles, squares, etc. If you do not have the actual Play-Doh cutters, plastic cups work well for creating circles, wooden blocks to make squares, and plastic blocks to make rectangles. I should seriously be a spokesperson for Play-Doh…Flo won’t have nothin’ on me.

wave hello GIF by Flo From Progressive

Activities for Teaching Sequences

This one can get broad and sticky. Sequencing ranges from performing simple tasks, such as eating (picking up a spoon, putting food on it, then bringing the spoon up to your mouth, chewing, swallowing) to being able to verbally describe how you get ready in the morning. Being able to sequence allows you to perform everyday tasks, tell stories, explain and describe occurrences, and how to perform tasks. Imagine what it would be like to get driving directions from an adult that was not able to verbally sequence or ask your child to tell you what happened that day that caused them to get in trouble with the babysitter or at school. If they can not effectively tell you what happened first, next, and last, you’ll have a hard time figuring out whether or not they did something wrong and what even caused the whole issue in the first place.

I am going to briefly cover sequencing today and discuss it more in-depth again in the near future. I am also doing the same with “following directions” from Part 1 of The Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home 
With both areas, there are many other factors that need to be addressed that may play a role in your child’s difficulty with sequencing.

Cooking. Pick a simple recipe, one with pictures, would be even better, and talk about what you and your child should do first, next, then last.

Patterns. Make a pattern with colors, toys, blocks, whatever have you. Start with a 2-sequence pattern. For example, make a block tower with a red-blue-red-blue pattern. Or make a pattern with crayons and talk about what will come FIRST, then NEXT. As your child’s ability improves to the point where they can perform this task independently, increase the pattern to a sequence of 3; i.e. red-blue-green red-blue-green.

Story-telling. Tell your child a story and throw in the words FIRST, NEXT, THEN, and LAST with emphasis on those words each time you say them. If your child is old enough, have them retell a story to you-just make sure it’s one you are both very familiar with so you can correct as needed.

Arrange pictures. Go to to print off free picture cards that you and your child can arrange together to show what happens first, next, and last.

Activities for Teaching Emotions

Start with the basics. Start with happy, sad, and mad. If you are working with an older child that may have difficulty in social situations, start with the basics also and later incorporate bored, confused, worried, etc. I will touch on this in more detail in a future post.

Make it a game. Say, “Show me your happy face!” while you show it to them. Do the same with a sad face.

 kpop k-pop smiling k pop highlight GIF

Look for different faces in cartoons and books. Talk about what you see, mimic them, and talk about why they may be feeling that way.

Draw pictures. Draw pictures that portray the different emotions.

Narrate your child’s emotions as well as your own. For example, you could say, You’re MAD because you can’t stay up past your bedtime” or “You’re SAD because you didn’t get to go to grandma’s today.”

A Note About Basic Concepts

As with everything, there is a simple, introductory part of each basic concept that builds into more complex parts. You don’t initially learn about the hexagon shape nor is a very small child expected to explain to a potential employer the events that led them to being qualified for a certain job or recount a funny story to some friends. In order to do these things eventually, however, the foundational basic concept building blocks must be in place first, in order for your child to later demonstrate more complex versions of the basic concepts.

My disclaimer statement: If you are concerned about your child’s speech or language development, please have them evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. I am a speech-language pathologist, but unless I personally evaluate your child, these are just suggestions and general guidelines.

Related Posts:

Part 1 of The Basic Language Concepts Your Child Needs and How to Teach Them at Home

How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication

Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking

What Does It Mean if My Child Has A Language Delay or Disorder?

Did you see anything here that you would like to try with your child or have already tried? Any other activity ideas? If so, please comment below. I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.

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