Reception Use of Language

What is it?

Expressive language means your child’s use of language, including the words they use and how they can combine words in sentences. As children develop, their vocabulary increases and they can use more complex sentence structures.

What to expect?

In Reception, children can usually:

  • Explain meaning of simple words.
  • Describe similarities and differences.
  • Can talk more about experiences.
  • Is likely to have some age-appropriate grammatical errors e.g. irregular plurals, e.g. ‘sheeps’ / past tense e.g. ‘goed’.
  • Can talk about past experiences with increasing accuracy.

Information & advice

You can help by:

  • Providing a good model for the child. Speak clearly and not too quickly.
  • Giving time for the child to respond. Don’t be afraid of silences as these may encourage the child to ‘fill the gaps’.
  • Commenting on what the child is doing to allow them to hear the appropriate language.
  • Using modelling strategies e.g. repeating back what the child has said using correct grammar or expanding on the information the child has given.
  • Not asking the child to repeat back (‘parrot’) exactly what you have said. However, the child may do this spontaneously.
  • Avoiding the use of too many questions as this can put pressure on the child. Try not to ask ‘What’s this?’ constantly when looking at books.
  • When you do need to ask questions, the use of open questions (those requiring more than a one word answer) can be useful to encourage more language.
  • Encouraging your child to think and talk about what is going to happen in the day or has happened- start to talk about time as well as encouraging sequencing skills which are important to develop sentences. This can be supported through the use of pictures and objects e.g. pictures they have made at school or photo of activities they have completed.
  • Teaching them new words that have similar meanings i.e. if they know what a coat is then teach them body warmer, rain mac, fleece etc.
  • Playing a Guess the object- choose an object (could be a selection of objects in a bag) and describe it to the other person e.g. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it do?  Where would you find it? – can they guess what it is? Take turns as the describer and guesser.
  • Sharing stories and talking about the story together – talk about who is in the story, where are they, what happens in the story. Identify and discuss new vocabulary.
  • Finding objects that go together (categorising) – it might be because they move in the same way, are the same colour or we do the same thing with them i.e. eat them, drive them etc.
  • Asking your child to tell you a story, using a familiar book or children’s TV programme. Perhaps they could tell ‘teddy’ a bedtime story. Ask them follow up questions about any information that they have missed out.
  • Encouraging the child to talk about words they can’t recall, please see resource section for strategies on how to help word finding.

Watch our video on using words, sentences and beyond.