Keep it Short and Simple

​Short and Simple Phrases Work at EARLY STAGES of Language Development

When we talk with any young child, we make our face and our voice expressive.

  • We try to say and/or sign interesting things
  • We use short, simple phrases and sentences
  • We use a lot of repetition

Young children are trying to understand what we tell them AND they are trying to learn about the language we are using. Babies who are deaf or hard of hearing are trying to accomplish those same jobs.

  • Because they have to be paying close attention to get a message, they need many, many opportunities. 

Here are some examples of parent turns that are "just right," or "just a little bit too much" for a child in an early stage of language learning (e.g., using single words, but not phrases yet):

Short and simple Phrase ExampleMaybe too much for right now:
Big bite!You ate a big bite and your mouth is full!
​Time to go night-night.Brush your teeth and then go to bed.
​That's my sock.​This is mommy's sock and this is your sock.
​Mmmmm, good cereal.​That cereal tastes really yummy.

Communication Exercise

Here are some phrases parents might use with their babies. All of them are about ideas that might interest a baby or respond to a signal. Some of them are a little too long. Which ones do you think are short and simple?

Example #1: Your Baby Holds Up an Empty Cup

A. "Do you want more milk or are you done?"


B. (look in cup) "All gone." (hold up milk) "Want more milk?"


The two phrases in (B) are each short and supported by an action. Your baby has a chance to catch the meaning and the language.

Example #2: Your Baby Fusses and Pushes a Toy Away

A. "No ball? Okay…want your bear?" (offers alternative)


B. "You don't want this toy anymore. Let's find something else for you to look at."


The phrases in B express good ideas, but they are rather long for child in an early stage of language learning. Shorter phrases, like in A, affirm the baby's idea and invite the baby to play something new.