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How to Build Language by being a "One-Upper"

Updated: May 31, 2021

You know when you tell a story, and there’s always that one person that has a BETTER, BIGGER, MORE EXCITING story to tell? Yeah, we know, it can be extremely annoying. However, we are going to encourage you to throw social norms out the window and become a ONE-UPPER with your child!

There are two different ways to be a "one-upper"

(Disclaimer: this information is a great tool for all children; however, if your little one is a late talker, click on the link at the end of the post for additional steps to support your child's language growth)

1. EXPAND what your little one says using language expansion, by adding in a word or two, to the phrase they just told you.

So, what does this look like?

Repeat and Rephrase what your child says by using a complete sentence or phrase,

but do not add in any new information. Basically, you are completing your child's

comment by adding in the missing words.

Child says “Lego fall”
You say “the Lego fell down”
Child says “baby cry”
You say “the baby is crying”

2. EXTEND what your child says using language extension.

Repeat and Rephrase what your child says with a complete sentence and add-in one or two new words. That new word can be a descriptive word (i.e. color, shape, size), a verb, a noun and so on.

Child says “car”
You say “big car”

Child says “car go”
You say “the car is going fast”

Repeating and Rephrasing what your child says can help them learn new vocabulary in context. This model will help your child learn vocabulary, including verbs, adverbs, pronouns and adjectives, and can also help them learn appropriate grammar.

We know that this seems like a very simple addition to your day, but research shows that expanding and extending your child’s language can be very effective. The more you practice, the more it will come naturally to you!

CAUTION: This becomes a habit quickly, so DO NOT start “one-upping” the adults in your life!

Side note: If your little one is a late talker, there are some additional steps to support their language growth. Click here to read more on how to do that. If you are unsure if your little one is a late taker, read "Is your little one a late talker" for more information.


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