Strategies to Help Your Child Talk: Using Expansions and Extensions

As I explained in my last post, children learn language by hearing it over and over. I explained in that post all about using the strategies of Self Talk,  Parallel Talk and Descriptions to help teach your infant, toddler, or young child language. Those strategies can be used with children who have no spoken words or have many spoken words. Here I am going to explain a few other strategies you can use to help teach and expand your child’s receptive and expressive language skills in children who have at least some spoken words.

Use expansions as your child tells you about her toys

Expansions: Expansions are when you take the words your child says about what they see and do and repeat them while adding in missing words/grammar. Another way to look at it, is repeating back the “child-like” sentences back to your child using more “adult” language. By doing this, you are repeating and expanding your child’s language without directly “correcting” him/her. For example, if your child see’s a red block and says “red” you could say “Yes, it’s a red block.” If your child says “Car go!” you would say something like “Yes! The car is going.”  It can be helpful to emphasize the “new” language you are providing by saying those words with a higher inflection/tone in your voice and sometimes can you can even repeat those new words a second time.

The simple act of repeating your child’s utterances not only confirms to your child that you indeed heard him/her, but also this back-and-forth of repeating let’s your child know that what he/she said was “worth repeating” and therefore can encourage your child to say it yet again (either immediately or later). This provides your child with continuing modeling and practice of language concepts.

Use extensions to provide more information

Extensions/Expansions Plus: These are similar to expansions, but one more step up. In extensions, or otherwise known as expansions plus, you not only are repeating and expanding your child’s language, but you will also be adding or extensions new information. For example, if your child says “Car go!” you could say “Yes the car is going. The car is going fast.” If your child says “Red block.” you could.  say “Yes, you have a red block. The red block is shaped like a triangle!” Another example, if your child were to say “yellow doggy” you could say “Yes you see a yellow doggie! The yellow doggie is big and fluffy.”

Repetition: This is for children who are speaking at least in single words, to help provide correct models for articulation. You simply repeat back the word he/she said incorrectly, the correct way. For example if your child says “wabbit” for “rabbit” you would repeat back that word to him, while emphasizing the /r/ sound in the word.

Just like self talk and parallel talk, the use of these strategies may come more naturally for some people than for others. And that’s ok!

How often should I use these strategies? Again, like I explained in my last post, you don’t want to use these strategies with EVERY word your child utters. You need to find a nice balance. I personally find myself using these strategies quite often with my own daughter in a very natural way. If you find that using these strategies is breaking the natural give and take of the conversation, you are probably using them too much.

What other strategies can I use to help my child’s language development? Check out these posts in my Strategies Series:

Parallel and Self Talk

Using Expansions and Extensions

Commenting and Asking Questions

Modeling and Asking Questions

Setting up The Environment for Communication


Please remember that this information is for educational purposes only. If you feel your child has delays in his/her communication skills, please speak to your pediatrician or locate a speech pathologist in your area for an assessment. Be sure to read the full TERMS OF USE on this site for more info. For tips on how to find an SLP in your area. read HERE.


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  1. says

    I remember my aunt telling me how she used extension and expansion with her daughters when I got pregnant with my first. She didn’t use those terms, but now I know what to call her advice. :) I find myself repeating what my toddler says and sometimes naturally extending it, but I want to make sure I’m not just parroting him. Eventually, that started to make my oldest irritated. Glad to find your blog from the Mom Loop Blog Frog community.

    • Katie says

      Thanks for stopping by Kristy! It’s also ok just to repeat back what your toddlers say sometimes, it lets them know what they said is important, or “worth repeating.” But yes, you need to make sure not to do it too much! HA! :)