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Basic Concepts: What Are They and Why Are They Important?

Imagine you and your child are entering the house after returning from a trip to the grocery store. You might ask your child to do the following:

“Before you play with your toys, I need you to help me do some things. First, wash your hands. Then, grab the milk and put it on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator. After that, take the full trash bag outside.”

To accurately complete the aforementioned task, the child must be able to understand the 8 basic concepts embedded into the directions.

What are basic concepts?

Basic concepts are the words that are necessary for comprehension of incoming information and performance of daily tasks. The correct understanding and usage of basic concepts is essential for effective communicative exchanges in your child’s early years as well as success in academia in your child’s later years. Take word problems in math for example:

“Sarah has 4 big pieces of candy and 3 small pieces of candy. Jill has 7 big pieces of candy and 2 small pieces of candy. How many more pieces of big candy does Jill have than Sarah?”

“Sam has 4 cats. Sam’s friend, Bill, has 2 less cats than Sam. How many cats does Bill have?”

To solve the above word problems, the child would have to understand qualitative concepts (big/small) and quantitative concepts (more, less).

More Examples of Basic Concepts:

  • Spatial Relationships/Prepositions – front, behind, top, bottom…
  • Quantitative – more, less, few…
  • Temporal – first, then, before, after…
  • Emotional States – happy, sad…
  • Characteristics – old/new, hot/cold…
  • Textures – smooth, rough…
  • Negation – no, not…
  • Colors – red, blue…
  • Sizes – large, medium…
  • Shapes – round, square…

Ideas for Teaching Basic Concepts

  • Model, model, model! Narrate what you see and hear in the environment. For example, if your child is playing with their stuffed animal, model words such as smooth or soft. Or, if your child finishes their cup of water, model phrases such as, “Your cup is empty!”
  • Incorporate basic concepts through play. Have your child manipulate objects to address various spatial and prepositional concepts. “Put your doll behind the chair,” “Set the pig in front of the horse,” etc. For qualitative concepts, you might ask, “Hand me the small horse. You can have the big horse.”
  • Use books! Model basic concepts during shared book readings. Ask wh-questions. Asking ‘where’ questions elicits a response containing a spatial concept (under, on top) Example: Where is the cat? “Under the table.” Asking ‘when’ questions elicits a response containing a temporal concept (after, later). Example: When did she brush her teeth? “After she ate breakfast.”
  • Expand your words. When describing what you see/hear to your child, instead of using a word they already understand (“big”), expose your child to new vocabulary by modeling a different word (“gigantic,” “huge”).
  • Use songs! Take the song ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider,’ for example: “The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout. Down came the rain, and washed the spider outOut came the sun, and dried up all the rain, and the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.” Incorporating the hand gestures (up and down) while singing can further help your child learn and comprehend these concepts.

Basic concepts are the foundation of communicating and comprehension of language. Incorporate these words into your everyday routines to provide your child with ample opportunities to practice and learn these fundamental vocabulary words. Modeling and exposing these concepts to your child at an early age will prepare them for success in academia and in everyday life!

– Sydney Berg, MS, CCC-SLP

 

Additional Resources:

Basic Concept Milestone Chart from Linguisystems

https://www.naschools.net/site/handlers/filedownload.ashx?moduleinstanceid=393&dataid=2414&FileName=Concept-Development-Milestones.pdf