Object function – that is a real speech therapy term! What I mean is linking a verb to an object e.g. what do we cut with? – scissors, what do we sleep on? – a bed. So we are linking a function or verb to an item. This is an important step in language development in younger children.
I often go and see a younger child where the parents are concerned that the child isn’t say much yet. You will often find that they can name items (nouns), but aren’t yet using verbs. You can read more about encouraging verbs here. Once a child understands and can use a range of verbs, linking these back to the nouns they know can get overlooked.
So here are some ideas on teaching object function:-
- In the same way that we teach nouns e.g. lots of repetition. You can teach function in the same way. So as you eat lunch you can name the food and then link it to the verb – so you say “sandwich, yummy sandwich for eating” or “knife, for cutting”. We are naming the item and then linking directly to the verb/ function.
- Once you have named and practised understanding the function of objects, you can ask direct questions. Start with real objects – show your child two items, say an apple and a sock, and then ask which one’s for eating? Hopefully your child will reach for the apple! If they do, praise them. If they reach for the sock, comment that the sock is for wearing and that the apple is for eating.
- When your child can answer these questions with real objects, you can move on to pictures. You could use pictures of everyday objects – put 2 or 3 of them out in front of your child and ask for one by function. You can make this more fun by posting them or blowing bubbles after each one. I also found these lovely pictures on Ms. Lane SLP’s site. You can print them out.
- As another way to extend this task is to look in books. This gives you access to a range of different pictures and objects! You can talk about the items on a page and then ask for one by the function.
- A last step, which I must admit I tend to use with slightly older children, is to ask function questions, but without any pictures for help. So I would just ask the question “Can you think of something you can pour?”, “Think of something for cutting”. This could be a great warm up activity for school aged children. However I would stick with pictures if you are trying these tasks with toddlers!
So remember once you have taught verbs, check and see if your child can link the function back to an object.