Building Vocabulary for Parts of Things

39-month old Sam commonly uses words and phrases like “thing,” “that” and “right there.” Use of vague, or non-specific, vocabulary is common at this age, but it is a great time to begin giving a child specific vocabulary (In the video, I encourage him to use the word “roof” to be more specific). Being able to talk about the parts of things (e.g., that a tree has leaves, branches, limbs, a trunk, etc.) or people is necessary for the following expressive language, or talking, skills: describing, defining, explaining, giving directions, comparing and contrasting. It is absolutely crucial for developing early understanding and use of science concepts. It allows a child to repair a breakdown in communication, such as when a child wants you to fix a certain part of a toy. Once a child learns to write, using “parts” vocabulary will help him write longer, more interesting and more complex sentences (e.g., The wheel on the blue car hit the bumper of the red car.). In the last example regarding car parts, we can also see how using “parts” vocabulary would be important during play with others.

Below are 10 early-developing “wholes” and some of their corresponding “parts” that are important to teach to the under 3 year old crowd. Many of these appear on vocabulary tests that speech therapists use to test a child’s understanding and use of vocabulary.

1) car: steering wheel, radio, tire, wheel, motor/engine, windshield wipers, headlights, brake lights, bumper, door, window, trunk, mirror, roof
2) house: bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, family/living room, door, window, ceiling, floor, wall, fireplace, chimney, roof
3) animals: tail, whiskers, paw, hoof, claw, horn, antler, fur, stripes, spots, shell, scales, feathers, wing, antenna, mane
4) fruit/vegetables: stem, seeds, skin, peel, leaf, pulp, juice
5) furniture: leg, back, seat, top, bottom, edge, corner, cushion, pillow, mattress, drawer, shelf
6) kitchen: oven, stove, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, cupboard/cabinet, drawer, sink, dishwasher, counter, shelf, trashcan, toaster,
7) nature: leaf, trunk, branch, limb, bark, log, stone/rock/pebble, flower, puddle, grass, bush, meadow, tree, weed, seed, river, creek, ocean, pond, lake, mountain, hill, dirt, mud, insect, bird, animal, plant
8) park/playground: swing, slide, merry-go-round, see-saw, bench, picnic table, jungle gym, mulch, monkey bars, basketball hoop, balance beam, basketball court, fence, fountain, trail, grill, sandbox, shovel, pail/bucket, dump truck/digger
9) doctor’s/dentist’s office: doctor/dentist, nurse/hygienist, waiting room, examine table/chair, thermometer, stethoscope, magazine/book, scale, prize box
10) Clothing: arm, leg, neck, collar, button, zipper, snap, velcro, sleeve, belt, buckle, shoelace, hood, pocket, stripes, plaid, polka dots, check, drawstring


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