Mind your language – giving directions

[12mths +]

Remember, when giving directions to your little one, as a ‘general guide’:

  •  if your child is using single words (eg. more?, go!, drink) or nonverbal communication such as pointing, they will only understand about 1-3 words at a time (give or take)
  • if your child is using two word phrases (eg. no more, daddy car), they will only understand about 2-4 words at a time (give or take)

So when your child doesn’t follow your directions, or appear to understand, FIRST stop and think about how many words you have just used and if you could say it again more simply. This is also for the older ones who can be assumed to understand more than they really do. Too many times I see the child get into trouble when the directions (or complex words used) would have flown ooooover their head!

As I always say, think about learning another language and imagine someone coming to you with a direction of 5 or 6 words when you are just learning single words. You would have no hope of getting more than a ‘gist’..  And then that person rousing on you for not understanding and obeying.

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3 thoughts on “Mind your language – giving directions

  1. Hello! I have a 23 month-old boy who still only says a handful of words – around 20. However, my his and and I have always spoken to him in full sentences, using a wide range of vocabulary. Even from a very early age, he has had excellent language processing skills: can identify an enormous number of objects from books and point out details on different vehicles/animals (since around 10 months but he improves all the time) recognises numbers up to 10 an entire alpabet since around a year old, could follow 2 and 3 step instructions from around 13 months, ientified colours at around a year, and points out connections between things all the time. He understands abstract concepts such as up, down, wet, dry (can point these out to me in real terms) and knows a large amount of 2d shapes

    But – there is definitely a speech delay there.

    Just interested in your thoughts on this? I enjoyed reading your above article but I would say my son does not correspond to these rules! What I mean is that his comprehension seems way beyond his speaking ability.

    Have you seen this before?
    What do you recommend we do?
    Thanks in advance!

    Marianne Botting

    • Wow Hi Marianne!
      I’m sorry I have never gotten back to you from ages ago..
      So yes, I have heard of this before. It sounds quite like my son who is 4.5.
      Your son is obviously very bright. Have you started to write down all of those ‘milestones’?
      Maybe google ‘giftedness’ and more so ‘dabrowski’s overexcitabilities’ to see if this rings true for you. My son is gifted and whilst he wasn’t as delayed in his expressive language, he certainly held back as he was busy developing his cognitive skills (eg teaching himself the alphabet and other crazy things!). He is very big on ‘i’ll only do it when i can do it perfectly’ and went from single words to whole sentences very quickly with a big gap in between for language development.
      I always say ‘anything goes before 2’ as far as language development. So definitely don’t worry about his language for now. You can read a few other posts in my language category about what to do when waiting for words to come. But I would not worry at all. It sounds like he is so bright, I am interested to hear your thoughts on the giftedness/overexcitabilities.

      Let me know! Heidi

      • Heidi, thank you for sending such a detailed response. I don’t like to admit I am concerned about the speech but I am really. It’s reassuring to hear that, whilst he isn’t following “normal” patterns of speech development, this doesn’t necessarily mean he has a delay.

        I will have a look at the giftedness/overexcitabilities sites and see if it sounds familiar.

        I wanted to say we have had a breakthrough in the last couple of days where he has started to say two words together. He said “no more” as part of a game we were playing with a puppet (won’t explain as its a long story) and also “there daddy” when daddy asked him where something was!

        He also loves counting and ordering numbers, and has started putting his Thomas trains 1-6 in order. I ask: what comes after 1? Etc. and he used to just find the number in silence but since I’ve followed your tips to encourage him, he now tries to say the numbers! They don’t all sound perfect – it goes something like “bub, doo, dee, door, dah, si” but I know what he means! And it’s so nice to see him actually using language to communicate!

        I am a bit distracted right now waiting for my next baby to arrive (due today!) but am looking forward to having a good old browse on your site for tips on encouraging speech. I have definitely found that waiting a good 10 seconds for him to try and reply to a question or repeat a word has helped – I would never have thought to wait that long!

        Thank you so much for your help and I will keep you updated 🙂

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