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
How Parents Can Teach Position Words
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.
Books for Teaching Spatial Concepts
Interactive Books & Adapted Books (Print and Prep)
Where’s Lucas? by Elizabeth Hepler
Where’s the Barn Cat? by Panda 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
Free Printables and Handouts
Super Duper Inc: Parent Handout on Basic Concepts
20 Pages of Free Printables from Ausome Speech
This is a free set of 20 pages of visuals for spatial positions. Enjoy!