Speech, Language, Literacy & Feeding Therapy for Children

Joining words together – 3 strategies to help your child use two word phrases

When children are using lots of single words, they may need some help to learn how they can put words together to make short sentences. There are also a number of different types of two word phrases. As a quick refresher for those of you who can’t remember school English a noun is a naming word. Here are some of the different types and some example phrases for each type:

  • Action + Noun eg. “running horse”
  • Noun + Action eg. “boy is jumping”
  • Noun/Action + Location eg. “teddy in” or “jumping the log”
  • Descriptive Word + Noun/Action eg. “soft kitty” or “silly walk” or “one apple”
  • Social language + Noun/Action eg. “ta Mum” or “more tickles”

It’s important that children have lots of chances to hear a variety of these different sentence types used every day. Remember as a parent you are the best language teacher your child has and it’s more about talking throughout life rather than formal sit down practice that will make the biggest difference.

Most children start joining words together at about 18 months of age.

Here are a few of the strategies that we find consistently work with most children who have a number of single words (50+) and are ready to start moving towards joining two words together.

1. Model:

Use 2 and 3 word sentences to demonstrate the sort of phrases your child could use. For example, when having a drink of juice you could use some of these phrases:

  • All gone
  • No more juice
  • Drink juice
  • Pour juice
  • Uh oh! Spilled the juice.
  • Cold juice
  • Let’s pour slowly
  • It’s your juice
  • My juice.

2. Expand:

Expansion is when you take a single word that your child says and put it into a small phrase or sentence – we also call it “build-ups”. Simply use your child’s word and then “build it up” by adding one or two extra words of you own.


When your child says… You say…
Hands Wash hands
Ball Big ball
Clock Clock up there
Dad Dad eating


3. Use a Forced Choice Alternative:

When using this strategy you provide your child with a model, but give them the opportunity to make a decision about which two of the alternatives are correct. For example, when having a snack:

  • Offer the child two different pieces of fruit, and ask “Would you like apple or orange?” If the child only points, you may like to prompt them using something like “Use your words, would you like apple or orange?”
  • To use this technique at a two word level, offer the child two similar items that have one difference such as a choice between big and little sandwich pieces, or vegemite or honey on toast.
  • You can also use an choice of continuing or stopping an activity for example, “More toast or finished toast?”

It is important that children learn to use different types of language. It is often tempting, (and sometimes a trap!) to always ask children “What’s this”, but in normal conversation, we don’t all label everything we see! To construct sentences, children need to be able to use:

  • Nouns (names of things)
  • Verbs (action words – what things do/are doing)
  • Adjectives (descriptive words)

When joining words together verbs (action words) are one the most useful tools you have so if your child isn’t yet using many action words it might be worth spending some time working on expanding the number of action words they can use first. This will mean they have more words to choose from when they try combining words to make sentences.

Different questions you can ask your child to help stimulate the learning of different types of words rather than just naming things include:

  • What does this do?
  • What is (animal/person) doing?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What does it sound like?
  • What does it taste like?
  • What does it look like?

If you ever have questions about your child’s development you can always CONTACT US to speak to one of our therapists, discuss your concerns and find out if an assessment and/or therapy would be beneficial. IF IN DOUBT, CHECK IT OUT!

December 24, 2015 This post was written by Categories: LanguageSocial SkillsUncategorized No comments yet

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