Imagine your child on one of her a Manhattan private school kindergarten interviews. She looks up at high shelves in the classroom, and asks the teacher while pointing, “What’s that?” The teacher is not sure what she is pointing to. Is it one of the board games? One of the books?
The teacher asks for clarification, but your daughter insists on pointing, and states “It’s the one over there, that thing.”
At the kindergarten interview, your child should be specific with words. Avoiding demonstrative adjectives: this, that, these and those is crucial at ages four and five. Additionally, pre-kindergarteners should avoid vague location words such as: here and there. Knowing how to ask and answer “where” questions, and use basic location words typically emerges between ages two and three. The word “thing” should be avoided altogether. Manhattan kindergarten admissions staff would agree.
In my NYC speech therapy practice, I find the nature of using vague words to begin early in development. Unfortunately this habit is often initiated by parents and caregivers.
Remember your child as a 15 month old, equipped with a handful or so of words. He wants something to eat from the pantry, but you’re not sure what. He keeps pointing, grunting, possibly approximating a word, but you can’t make it out. You point to each item on the high shelf – “Do you want this?”… “Oh – do you want THIS?”… “Maybe you want THAT!”
Naturally this could have been avoided by asking:
Do you want crackers?
Do you want veggie sticks?
As a speech therapist, I would avoid yes and no questions altogether and ask choice questions at this language level (e.g., “Do you want the crackers or the veggie sticks?”). This way you are requesting substantial WORDS from your child.
Back to your four / five year old …ALWAYS encourage him to be specific. Provide good models yourself, (e.g., “Please get dressed in the warm, green sweater today.”) and correct his use of vague words through modeling.
Pre-Kindergartener at a toy store: “Ooo I want that teddy bear!”
Parent: “Oh! You want the purple teddy bear with the red bow?”
Pre-Kindergartener: “Yes, the purple teddy bear!”
There is no need to formally correct your child, as seen in the example above.
However, if you find your models are not helping, and your child’s language needs to be richer, it may be beneficial to consult with a speech and language therapist.
Should you feel your child needs additional grammatical, language, articulation or kindergarten readiness support, and you live on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, please feel free to contact Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP, speech-language therapist. Stephanie looks forward to hearing from you!