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There are 7 functions of language or 7 reasons why children talk. Children do these functions both verbally and non-verbally (or prior to emerging word development).

  • Label/Comment: Sometimes children talk to simply name things or make a "comment" on some novel event. If you see a dog, your child may point to it and say "doggie".

  • Imitation: Children will often imitate a word you have just said.

  • Answering: Children talk to answer a question you have asked. If you said, "What's this?" your child may say "car" or the name of the object.

  • Greeting: Children talk to greet people using "Hi" and "bye-bye".

  • Regulation: Children talk to regulate your behavior. Your child may say "up" as he looks at you with his/her arms extended. The child is trying to regulate your behavior to lift him/her up.

  • Conversation: Sometimes children will talk in order to carry on a conversation with you. They take turns with you verbally.

  • Questioning: Children talk to learn information about the world. They may say "What's that?" or "Where's Daddy?".


Your child should eventually use all of these reasons for talking. It is best for you to "model" or show him/her how to use all of the reasons to talk when you play with your child. Try to set up situations where the child will have a chance to regulate your behavior or comment on novel things or ask questions. Do not just interact with your child using only 1 or 2 of the reasons to talk. For instance, don't ask your child, "What's this?" all the time or have him imitate all the time.

Speaking, hearing and understanding are essential to human communication. Problems in one or more of these abilities can interfere with a person's capability to communicate.

What parents can do:

  • Talk to your child about everything. Children need a lot of verbal stimulation from infancy on. Play games with sounds or words. Your children pick up most of their vocabulary from you.

  • Listen to your child and expand on his language. Use well-formed sentences that are a little longer than his. Use new vocabulary:

    Child: "truck broke"

    Parent: "The truck is broken. It needs a new windshield".

  • Read to your children frequently. Talk about pictures and situations in books. You child learns new vocabulary, concepts and patterns of language from being read to. Read cereal boxes, signs, everything. Use the library and make reading a part of your daily home life.

  • Play games with your child. He can learn coordination, how to follow rules, how to communicate with others and new concepts.

  • Play hospital, zoo, store, barber shop, restaurant or airport with your child. Use puppets. These activities develop creativity and help your child learn about life situations.

  • Classify. Help your child make scrapbooks or sort things so he will learn concepts of color, size, matching, comparisons, and so forth.

  • Provide new experiences. Take field trips, make things, cook, do science experiments. Involve your child in daily activities. Talk about all of these.

  • Use television to it's best advantage. Limit it's use to good programs and spend more time in family interaction.

  • Make language and speech fun for your child. Reinforce his attempts and praise him.

  • Concerning your child's speech and language attempts, don't allow other family members to tease, make fun of, imitate or label him.


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