My very clever friend Tracey Blake, has written a book with speech therapist Nicola Lathey called Small Talk: Simple ways to boost your child’s speech and language development from birth to four. So obviously, with a two and a half year old myself, I am always keen to know what Jago should be able to say for his age and how to help him improve his speech. Although he was a late walker, so he’s always been a chatterbox, it is brilliant to learn new ways to encourage the next step in his speech development. See below for an interesting extract, and what we’ll be trying at home.


Prepositions are words (or spatial concepts) that describe a location, such as ‘in’, ‘on’, ‘under’, ‘in front’, ‘behind’ and so on. First, your child will learn to understand these words and then begin to use them herself. For instance, during the two to two-and-a-half-years phase, your child should understand ‘in’, ‘on’ and ‘under’ and, during the two-and-a-half to three-years phase, she should start to say them.

So, before embarking on prepositions, make sure your child can say two-word sentences and understand three-word sentences. Start with putting a preposition into a two-word sentence, for instance, ‘It’s under blanket’.

Prepositions are crucial for your child to learn as they will help her to expand her sentence length, enable her to answer a ‘where’ question and retell a story or an event in greater detail. Let’s think about some Small Talk games that will help your child to learn prepositions.

Getting into space, man!

In order of difficulty, below is a list of the prepositions your child
needs to master:

in/out, on, up/down, under, behind, in front of, on top of, at the bottom of, over, near/next to, beside, between

The games below are listed in order of difficulty, so progress through them in sequence (as far as possible). They involve your child physically putting herself into a position, then putting a toy or an
object into a position and, lastly, using the word without any visual information to help her. 1. Begin with a physical demonstration, like standing ON the chair or sitting UNDER the table – say what you are doing. Then help your child perform the same actions whilst you describe what she does. This will help her to understand the prepositions. Why not take photos so that you can talk about them later?

To make this game more fun, play Hide and Seek – leave the room and tell your toddler to ‘Hide UNDER the cushions!’ Or make up an obstacle course out of furniture, enabling you to both climb over, under, on top, beside and between things.

2. There are a number of nursery rhymes that use prepositions (see the list, below). Sing these and act out the prepositions, then talk about them.

  • Ring a Ring O’ Roses (we all fall down)
  • The Grand Old Duke of York (up/down)
  • The Hokey Cokey (in/out)
  • Roly Poly (up/down)
  • Jack and Jill (up/down)
  • Hey Diddle Diddle (over)

3. Hide a small toy in, on or under a box and direct your child to find it, telling her that it is ‘in the box’, ‘under the box’ and so on. Model the words for her so she learns their meaning.

4. Try to incorporate prepositions into your daily routine.

For instance:

• When tidying up, ask your child to put things in specific places (‘Put your pyjamas under your pillow’, ‘Put bunny on the chair’).

• When you’re loading the washing machine, say, ‘Put your trou- sers in the machine.’

• When wiping the table, say, ‘Here’s the cloth, wipe under your plate.’

• When in the bath, say, ‘Wash in your ears, under your chin, next to your tummy button.’

5. Read books that have prepositions, such as Where’s Spot and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (in which the repetitive line is ‘we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it . . .’).

6. Once you feel your child is able to understand these concepts, move on to tabletop activities. Draw pictures of people or animals in, on, under, in front and behind things. Also, cut out pictures from magazines of people in, on, under, in front of and behind things.

7. Ask your child to help you with some basic cooking. Use this opportunity to talk about what is going ‘in’ the mixing bowl, what is ‘on’ the table, and where items are (for instance, ‘The spoon is under the lid’).

For more talking tips click here