All About Those Actions!!

Enrichment Therapies

July 29, 2019

Action words (also known as verbs) are so important for children to understand and use in order to talk about what is happening around them. Nouns (those people, places, and things) are also necessary vocabulary words, however, they tend to limit the messages we can communicate. Naming a lot of different farm animals can be fun for farm play, books, or songs. But, are these words alone functional in our day-to-day routines? Do they adequately help us get our wants and needs met? That’s where action words come in! Take the word go for example. We might say go and point outside if we want to go play. We might say go to ask mom or dad to push the toy car across the floor. We could even say go if we need to use the bathroom. A vocabulary with BOTH nouns and verbs allows children to start combining words, like go play, go car, or go potty.

Check out these 3 evidence-based strategies for promoting verbs!

Strategy 1: Expansion of Verbs

The expansion involves taking a child’s utterance and adding one or two words to expand the vocabulary and phrase length. Generally, expansion involves adding any type of speech to expand on the meaning of what the child said. In order to target action words, add a verb to your child’s utterance. 

Child: More bubbles.
Adult: Blow more bubbles.

Child: Milk.
Adult: Drink your milk.

Child: Baby.
Adult: The baby sits.

Strategy 2: Variety of Verbs

Sometimes we use repetitive phrases when teaching child-specific words. We might teach the phrase “I want” when requesting toys or other desired objects. In order to increase the action words a child is exposed to, change up the verbs you use in those “follow-in” phrases.

Child: I want snack.
Adult: I need a snack.

Child: I want airplane.
Adult: I play with the airplane.

Child: I want potty.
Adult: I have to go potty.

Strategy 3: Grammatical Language

When talking to children, we might use “telegraphic speech” which involves using only the words with meaning and leaving out grammatical markers or articles. Telegraphic speech might sound like “baby eat” instead of “the baby is eating” or “kick ball” instead of “kick the ball”. However, using grammatical language supports a child’s learning of verbs. So don’t leave out those verb tense markers, articles, or helping verbs! Try using Toy Talk by talking about your child’s toys and using the name of the toys. This naturally promotes grammatical language use.

Child: Dog food.
Adult: The dog is eating food.

Child: Balloon up.
Adult: The balloon goes up.

Child: Give sock.
Adult: Give me the sock.

Bloem, Marie. “Let’s Hear it for the Verbs! Parents’ Early Verb Use Predicts Children with ASD’s Later Verb Vocbulary.” The Informed SLP, 14 June 2019,

Crandall, M.C., McDaniel, J., Watson, L.R., Yoder, P.J. (2019). The relation between early parent verb input and later expressive verb vocabulary in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi:10.1044/2019_JSLHR-L-18-0081

Hadley, P.A., Rispoli, M., Holt, J.K. (2017). Input Subject Diversity Accelerates the Growth of Tense and Agreement: Indirect Benefits From a Parent-Implemented Intervention. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. doi: 10.1044/2017_JSLHR-L-17-0008

Hadley, P.A., Rispoli, M., Holt, J.K., Papastratakos, T., Hsu, N., Kubalanza, M., McKenna, M.M. (2017). Input Subject Diversity Enhances Early Grammatical Growth: Evidence from a Parent-Implemented Intervention. Language Learning and Development. doi: 10.1080/15475441.2016.1193020. 

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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