Teaching Kids To Understand and Use Abstract Language

teaching kids to understand and use abstract language

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Language is a complicated thing, especially for the kids! It is all very well when they can see something and label it, for example, a ball or a cat, but it is the intangible that really has them in trouble. We are talking about abstract language that includes adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and prepositions. How can you help your child master these parts of speech?





Research has proven that these parts of speech are more difficult for kids as opposed to something like nouns mainly because they are relative. There are no fixed rules about these words. If you take adjectives, for instance, they change in relation to other objects. The ball you have in your hand is “bigger” than the one on the floor but “smaller” than the one in the supermarket. Similarly, it may be lying “on” the table as well as “beside” the nightstand at the same time – so confusing!

Now that we have identified the problem, let’s check out some solutions to help your child understand the key aspects of abstract language:




To Teach Adjectives

  1. Help them experience the sensation that you’re trying to label. Example, a candy is “sweet” while a glass of cold water is “chilled”. Experiencing these sensations in real time helps the, make the connection better.
  1. Be careful when referring to objects with multiple features as it may confuse the child. Example, if you are trying to explain the adjective “striped”, it’s better to use an object which you haven’t previously used to describe another word, say, “large”.
  1. Encourage them to ask and respond to questions using adjectives. Example, if they want ice-cream, check if they want the “chocolaty ice-cream” or ask them “Give me one word to describe this ice-cream.” Nothing helps like conversation!

To Teach Prepositions

  1. Teach your child prepositions in pairs that he can use. Example: inside and outside, above and below. This also helps reduce confusion when he later finds these words used in different contexts…
  1. Use his favourite objects to teach him the locational aspect of prepositions. For example, put his teddy bear “on” the table and his red pajamas “under” the bed. Then, have a discussion on where these things are kept.
  1. The outdoors can be also an excellent place to teach prepositions to kids. This is because there is a lot of scope to move around! Then can climb over the bars, jump on and off the swing and slide under the branches of the trees!

To Teach Adverbs

  1. Getting your child to answer questions about how he wants a certain thing done is the best way to help him understand adverbs. So if he asks you to throw him a ball, you can ask him whether you should do it slowly or quickly. Encourage him to ask you similar questions.
  1. When you are out together, notice other people and things and ask each other questions about their movements. Seeing adverbs in action is a great way to familiarise your child with them.
  1. Comparison works excellently to understand adverbs. For example, if you have two toys wherein one monkey is beating the drum very fast while the other is doing it slowly, ask your kid about the speed of the activities. He is sure to notice the difference and try to explain it in words.

To Teach Pronouns

  1. Make pronouns a part of your daily conversations. Ask your child what he had been doing all day. After he says “Playing with Dad” or “Playing with my friend Raman” the first time, encourage him to use “him” or “her” subsequently.
  1. The body parts game, picture books and songs work very well for understanding pronouns. Use them to your advantage to speed up this learning.
  1. Make sure that your child understands the first person personal pronouns early in life. Many parents reinforce their child’s name to talk about him and this is done so much that your child gets used to referring to himself in third person!