First of all, what are verbal routines? 

Verbal routines are when the same words are repeatedly used in a predictable way in the same or similar activities.  

Who would benefit from verbal routines?

There is a simple answer to this – all children! When using verbal routines, we want to think in terms of a child’s abilities and not their age, so they are especially helpful for:

●      Children with delayed receptive and/or expressive language skills;

●      Children who are working on engaging with adults or taking turns; and

●      Children who have difficulty with transitions and learning routines.

Why should I use verbal routines?

You have probably already been using verbal routines but aren’t aware of it! Here are a few reasons why verbal routines are so helpful in supporting your child’s development:

●      Repetition: By using the same words in a predictable manner, your child will have increased exposure to them, which will support the development of their understanding.

●      Routine: Using the same words in the same way over and over again makes things predictable for your child. When your child can predict what you will say, they can begin to anticipate what will happen next.

●      Independence: Once your child has an understanding of the routine and can anticipate the next steps, they can become an active participant and may even begin to carry out the routine by themselves. 

Now that I know the ‘what’, ‘who’, and ‘why’, how can I use verbal routines?

●      Consistency is key! Try to use the verbal routines in everyday activities or commonly played games.

●      Use short phrases – we want to make them easy to understand and remember.

●      Use the same phrases in different activities to help your child generalise them.

●      Pair phrases with actions – these will act as visual and gestural cues that will support your child’s understanding.

●      Model slowly and without expectations that your child will imitate you immediately. Routines take time to learn so give your child time!

●      Modify according to your child’s abilities – you can simplify phrases or increase their complexity depending on your child’s abilities.

●      Pause and wait – this gives your child time to process the information and can also be a way to encourage them to join in by filling in the gap at the end of the phrase.

Here are some examples of how to get started!

●      Songs: A lot of simple songs like ‘hello’, ‘good morning’, and ‘clean up’ songs can be integrated into your daily routine. Nursery songs such as ‘This is the way’, ‘Wheels on the bus’, and ‘Five Little Ducks’ are also great because they have repetitive phrases and tunes. 

●      Books: Use open-the-flap books to play peekaboo or consider reading books such as ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?’, ‘From Head to Toe’, ‘Goodnight Moon’, and ‘I Went Walking’.

●      Common phrases: Try phrases that can be used in many situations. For example, ‘Ready, steady, go!’, ‘It’s time for…snacks/water/bath/school’, ‘my turn/your turn’. 

●      Daily routines:

.When getting dressed and undressed, you can use repetitive phrases such as ‘shirt on, pants on, socks on, shoes on’ and ‘shoes off, socks off, pants off, shirt off’.

.When tidying up, you can use phrases such as ‘car in the box, fire truck in the box, train in the box’ and ‘tidy up the car, tidy up the fire truck, tidy up the train’. 

When your child has gotten a good grasp on the verbal routines you’re using and can join in, you can step things up! A previous webpost on our website – “From Phrases to Sentences – Two Simple Ways to Get Your Child Talking” – will show you how to continue helping your child’s language grow!