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Language strategies: Extending

What is extending?

Language difficulties are nobody’s fault but changing the way you talk can really help your child.

When your child says a word or short phrase, say it back to them but add one more word. For example your child may say “dog!” and you could extend this by adding, “Yes, dog running”.

You can use this strategy:

  • when playing together
  • looking at a book
  • out and about
  • in everyday situations

This strategy will be very effective at helping your child move from single words to 2 word phrases, or from 2 word phrases to 3 word sentences, and so on!

You can add different types of words when extending your child’s language.

Illustration of adult extending what a child is saying

Action words

‘toes’…”yes washing toes”

‘bird’…”yes bird flying”

Describing words

‘bus’…”yes red bus”

‘socks’…”yes spotty socks”


‘daddy gone?’…”yes daddy gone home”

‘teddy hiding chair’…”yes teddy’s hiding under the chair”

Add all sorts of new words to make a longer sentence but try to keep it simple. The new sentence needs to be just one step harder than the sentence level your child is currently using.

Why use this strategy?

  • It is very effective at helping children build up the length of their phrases and sentences.
  • It gives a perfect model of the next stage of sentence building. It is not too long or overwhelming and it uses their talking as a starting point, showing them how easy it is to make it longer.

By adding just one more word to their talking, they are more likely to try and copy you than if you used longer sentences.

By reinforcing what they are saying, you are:

  • showing you are listening
  • giving them praise for their talking
  • showing you understand and value their comments

It is more likely to result in a little ‘conversation’ between you, as you ‘follow their lead’ of conversation topic, and add a little bit more interesting information.

Additional resources and information

These videos are part of the Weekend Words series. They explain and demonstrate the language strategy of extending.

Information to help you understand and support children and young people’s speech, language and communication: Speech and Language UK

Activities for parents, children and young people to improve their language, literacy and communication skills from home: Words For Life

An article on: Helping Your Child to Talk

Helping you help children to communicate: The Hanen Centre

The Giving Voice campaign aims to ‘give voice’ to people with speech, language and communication needs: Giving Voices 

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: SL27

Resource Type: Article

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