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Use Everyday Routines to Build Understanding

Did you know that you can use every day routines to help build your child’s understanding of language?

Without receptive language, it is hard to communicate effectively. Children who have difficulty with receptive language may find it challenging to follow a set of instructions or may not respond appropriately to questions, whether at home or school.

Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to help your child with their receptive language development. One of those things is to give your child a role or responsibility during everyday routines.

By giving your child a role during everyday activities such as mealtime, getting dressed, leaving the house, bath time, or brushing teeth, you are setting them up to learn not only the steps within those routines, but also increasing their understanding of spoken language used within those routines.


When you provide your child with a role to do that is related to the routine, you’re helping them link meaning with words, teaching them to follow directions, and improving their foundation for talking by making sure that they understand key words before we expect them to say those words.


To do this, think of some simple, obvious, and naturally occurring or “functional” directions that you can easily embed into your everyday routines. When it’s natural and easy, there’s much more success!

For example, when preparing for bath time, your child can be responsible for getting their pajamas or their towel. When getting dressed you can ask your child to put their dirty clothes in the hamper or after mealtime, you can ask them to clear their dirty plate and place it in the sink or dishwasher.

When you begin using this strategy, you can pair your directions with gestures such as pointing to show your child what your words mean. Over time, you can fade out those cues so that your child is “tuning in” to your words alone.

In addition to getting your child involved in your everyday routines you can also use the following strategies to help build their understanding of language:

  • Be face to face, at your child’s level, making eye contact with your child when speaking to them.

  • When giving instructions, don’t give them all at once – break them up into chunks by giving them one step at a time.

  • Use "wait time" - allow your child 5-10 seconds after the direction to respond. If they don't respond, repeat the direction again and add a cue if needed.

  • When giving instructions, add visual cues such as gestures to show meaning to the words being used.

  • You can also ask your child to repeat the instructions back to you to make sure they have understood what is being said.

  • Play games that include following directions such as Simon Says.

  • Use specific words or labels when giving directions, versus using words such as "this" or "that".

Getting your child to follow directions should be fun. With consistency they will be listening in no time!


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