Discover seven activities to support young children with word-finding difficulties

Speech Therpaist in London
Discover seven activities to support young children with word-finding difficulties

You watch your child struggle to find the right words in conversation. You’ve noticed that they describe what they mean (e.g., it lives in the trees outside, has wings to fly and squawks) but cannot think of the correct word to use (i.e., bird). You see the frustration on their face as they search for that never-ending missing word. You know that as your young person becomes older, they are likely to face an increasing frustration. You recognise the importance of putting strategies into place for their word-finding difficulties. It’s vital that this diagnosis has come from a Speech and Language Therapist, as different activities will target different needs.

Ensure activities are interesting and fun. Be creative and use the activities your young person relates to. Use words that interest them. Remember, the words we use matter.

1. Read, read, and read some more!

  • Read books that rhyme, or those that talk about opposites
  • Read about the semantic classes in the book such as occupations, the equipment they might use, or names of related words
  • Talk about books that involve animals and their young, and the names of the animal genders (i.e., Horses have foals; horse; mare, stallion, filly, colt)
  • Use books that have repetition of the same word or ones that have a silly rhyme

2. Play word-games

You could play games which transform one part of speech to another

  • Today I am riding, yesterday I … (rode)
  • Today I am driving, yesterday I … (drove)

You could name the odd word out from a list of items

  • e.g., cat, dog, sheep, red

Why not read out a list of words and your child must guess which two go together

  • e.g., television, sofa, apple, banana

Play a game of complete the sentence

  • e.g., “A house is a place to live. An office is a place to …”

Play a word game involving synonyms or antonyms

  • e.g., Can you think of another word for “small”? Can you think of another word for “sleepy”?
  • e.g., “The opposite of hot is …” or use a question-and-answer format e.g., “What is the opposite of hot?”

Play a word game involving similarities and/or differences

  • e.g., “what is the same as a car and a bus?”
  • e.g., “what is the difference between a car and a bus?”

3. Use story telling

Sing rhymes or songs, and allow children to complete the sentence

  • e.g., ‘Little Jack Horner sat in a …’ (corner)

4.Tell jokes

Why not tell knock-knock jokes, or riddles? These need accurate word-retrieval otherwise they wouldn’t be funny.

5. Make up words in rhymes

Use rhymes and make up words

  • e.g., “Humpty Dumpty had a great… grandmother”

6. Play word category games

These games might include ones (e.g., “see how many boys’ names you can think of in one minute”. Time yourself while you do it. Categories may include tools, games, girls’ names, drinks, films, toys, animals, makes of cars, clothes, sports, items that you find in school, colours, names of places beginning with ‘B’). You could also play this in reverse, so name items in the category and your conversation partner guesses the category.

7. Play “what comes next?”

  • e.g., ABCDE…
  • e.g., First, second, third…
  • e.g., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…

Knowing that you’re helping your child with their word finding is a weight off your mind. It helps you to relax knowing that you’re supporting their word-finding difficulties. Watch your child develop strategies as their word knowledge grows.

Credit: Caroline Bowen

All information in this blog originates from:

Bowen, C. (1998). Information for Families: Helping Children Who have Word Retrieval Difficulties. Retrieved from on [15.11.2022]

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.


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