Language development

Children learn to talk and to understand the world around them through play, listening and interacting with those in their environment and engaging in shared reading and music activities. This is also how they develop their basic concept knowledge and language skills.

However, not all children progress through the natural stages of language development and may struggle to understand what others are saying and to make themselves understood. Some of these children may be “late talkers” but some may have a language disorder.

What are basic concepts and why are they important to language development?

There are many causes for language delays; however, one of the core underlying factors is weak basic concept development. Basic concepts help children understand:

  • Direction & Position – closed/open, front/back, over/under, right/left, above/below, behind/beside
  • Number & Quantity – all/some, counting, number names, written numbers
  • Temporal & Sequential – before/after, first/second/third, either/or, don’t/unless, first/then
  • Size – big/small, full/empty, long/short, far/close
  • Similarities / Differences

Understanding basic concepts helps children organize and make sense of the information they are receiving. Often, children are attending and listening, but they do not have the rules and structures of the language system in place to retain and organize what they are taking in.

A strong understanding of basic concepts helps children to become more specific in their understanding and use of language and helps them process incoming information more effectively in their day-to-day learning and interactions.


A strong foundation in basic concept development helps children:

  • Follow instructions: The ability to independently complete tasks/instructions upon request:
      • Understand and identify differences between objects “pencil crayons, markers, or crayons”
      • Understand quantity of time “in 15 minutes we will have lunch, we will have recess after math”
      • Follow 2-3 step directions to get ready for school “get your backpack, put on your shoes and coat”
      • Understand directions during class “get out your paper, scissors and glue and find a partner”
      • Complete school assignments (e.g., math word problems, English assignments)
  • Understand language (receptive): vocabulary development, ability to answer WH questions accurately and retell a story in a sequential order, process, and store information.
  • Use of language (use): To use speech, signs, or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.
  • Drawing pictures: Able to conceptualize what it looks like and include all parts.
  • Problem solving: The ability to identify a challenge, including what the challenge is, what strategies could be used to overcome it, and what actions need to take place to overcome it.
  • Literacy: Strong reading and writing skills.

Knowledge of basic concepts is an essential component of language development and helps build a strong foundation for lifelong learning. Parents and educators play an important role in helping children bridge the gap between their early learning environments and school experiences. Having strong basic concept knowledge and language skills fosters future learning, social and academic success.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts where we will be highlighting the different ages and stages of concept development and how you can help your child learn and develop fundamental concepts that will nurture their language learning, growth and understanding.

If you feel your child is having difficulties with basic concept development, please reach out to consult with one of our Speech Language Pathologists. Furthermore, if you have other concerns, you may want to consult with one of our Speech Language Pathologists and/or Occupational Therapists.


As always, we look forward to connecting with you,

Kara & the SLN team