Skip to main content

Let’s put the FUN in Functional Language!

Letters start with ABC, Numbers start with 123, Music starts with Do-Re-Mi, and Functional Language starts with you and me!

We all know it is important for little ones to learn their colors, shapes, numbers, and letters… but those are not always functional for everyday use when a toddler is just learning how to talk and trying to express their wants and needs.

For example, if your child is eating and would like to have more food- it is much easier if they are able to express their wants by saying “more”. Many times when children have not been taught these fundamental words, we see an increase in negative behaviors. Instead of saying “more”, they may throw their plate, or begin to cry because they are not able to effectively communicate with you.

Another example, if your child is playing with a puzzle, but is struggling with getting the piece to fit correctly, they can say “help” rather than giving up on the puzzle or getting too frustrated with it.

The situations given above are two likely situations in a day, but there are a hundred more examples out there. As you can see, many daily circumstances require the use of functional language rather than academic language.

What are some important beginning functional words?

  • Help
  • More
  • Go
  • Up
  • Open
  • Yes
  • No
  • All done

At Granite Bay Speech, we like to teach functional language before academic language with toddlers because functional language will help them to get their wants and needs met, as well as helping to decrease negative behaviors. Academic language is also very important but not until your child has mastered some functional language first.

Functional language is so important… and it can be FUN! How can you teach your little one these words while having fun? Here are a few examples:


  • Blow some bubbles, then stop. Have your child request “more”
  • Blow some bubbles, and then put the lid back on tightly. Have your child try to open it and then request “help”
  • Before you blow bubbles, model “ready, set, GO!” have your child join in on “go”
  • Ask your child if they want more bubbles and have them respond with “yes” or “no”
  • When you are finished with the bubbles, say “all done”