How to Teach Prepositions: Spatial Concepts for Speech Therapy

Teaching Spatial Concepts

Ways to Teach Spatial Positions

There are two ways to target position words: receptively and expressively.  


Receptive Language refers to what we understand.  If we are working on position words for receptive language, we might ask the child to “put the bunny on the table”.  The child is working on position words and the word “on”, but they don’t have to say anything. 


Expressive Language refers to what we can say or communicate (through any means, sign language, pointing, gesturing, talking, etc.).  It doesn’t have to be verbal, but it does need to communicate something.  For this, we might put the bunny on the table and say “where is the bunny?”  We’d expect the child to communicate “on” (either through verbal or nonverbal communication expressively).


How Parents Can Teach Position Words

As parents, we are our children’s first and most consistent teachers.  We can teach language by modeling it from an early age, birth!  You can use position words all day long.  “I’m putting your sock on your foot.” “Let’s get the milk out of the fridge.”  “We are going to get in the
car now.”  I often tell parents, if you’ve talked to the point that you’re tired and feel a little bit silly, you’re on the right track!

Ways to Talk to Your Child During the Day: 

  • While getting them dressed.
  • While fixing their food.
  • Singing songs
  • Reading books or talking while looking at the pictures
  • While riding in the car (“look, I see a horse!”)
  • Giving them words when they don’t have any (“I can see that you are very sad right now!”)
  • While watching a movie
  • While getting ready for bed
  • While getting into or out of the car
  • While playing with toys
  • On an outing to the grocery store
  • While making a phonecall to a friend or relative

Evidence Based Practice:


Betty Hart, PhD and Todd Risely, PhD with the University of Kansas found in their research that the more words a child was exposed to, the
better their academic performance was in school (regardless of socioeconomic status).  They described 30,000 words a day as their
“magic number” for meaningful growth and success.  On paper, this looks like a LOT of words…but we can do this, as parents.  We can talk to our children throughout the day….even when they cannot talk themselves.  You can read more about this study and research here.

The bottom line is that even if it feels silly or tiring by the end of the day, talking to your child can make a tremendous difference in their
language development and future success in school. It’s a tool that doesn’t require any money, just a caregiver talking to the child.


While 30,000 words sounds like a daunting task, many of us already do this and don’t even realize it.  You can do it!


Turn Yourself Into an Animated Character


Where’s the bunny?

For a free printable version of bunny position words cards, check here.





In front 

Books for Teaching Spatial Concepts 

Interactive Books & Adapted Books (Print and Digital)

There’s a Mouse in the House by Elizabeth Hepler (Ausome Speech)

Picture Books to Order

Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill

Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres

Llama Llama Hide and Seek by Anna Dewdney

In-Between Things by Priscilla Tey

Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch by Mary Peterson and Jennifer Rofe

Yellow Ball by Molly Bang

Songs for Teaching Spatial Concepts

Itsy Bitsy Spider

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt  

Toys for Teaching Spatial Concepts

Any toys can be used for teaching spatial concepts.  Just focus on modeling language and target terms like these: in, on, under, over, out, around.  


Receptive Language: Play with your child and model what you’re doing.  “Let’s put the dog on.” 

Expressive Language: Keep it simple. Model for your child “Put on”.   You can also work on the child’s expression by pausing to see if they fill in the blank.  “The dog is_____”.

Digital Resources for Teaching Spatial Concepts

 Interactive Book and 8 Boom Card Decks: Where’s Lucas

Free Boom Cards: Where is the Mermaid?

Best Selling Interactive Book and Game: There’s a Mouse in the House!

Hands On Spatial Positions Unit


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My name is Elizabeth Hepler and I’ve been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2005.  I am the mother of four great kids. Our household is neurodiverse: ADHD, Autism, Gifted, and more!

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