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Basic Concepts: Negation (not!)

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

Now your toddler or preschooler has an expressive vocabulary of over 50 words and is starting to make two word combinations, so... what's next?

Next up - negation!

sassy toddler language learning to say no

This can be a tricky concept for kids to pick up on, even receptively. Once they know a word, they'll notice you using it for the wrong thing. Picking up on the meaning of that little 'not' in a sentence is another skill entirely. Here are some fun ways to play around with this basic concept!


Right around this age, many kids will start to develop the ability to tell their own jokes, making outlandish statements (I'm a puppy!) and howling with laughter. Model how to respond (You're NOT a puppy!) and then have fun making silly statements of your own!

Daily Routines

Picking out clothes - let's find a shirt that is not blue. Or, if you have a child like mine, have fun pointing out 'that's NOT a summer outfit!' when they try to pair a fleece dress with jeans.

When you're sitting at the table, try handing them the wrong utensil - say forks for oatmeal. When they look surprised, model how they can set you straight, "Oh, silly me, that's NOT a spoon!"

Getting out of the house can be hectic! Pick a time when you're not in a rush and try offering the wrong pair of shoes. Give them Daddy's (or big sister's) shoes, and try fitting the smallest size on your own feet. "Oh no, these are NOT my shoes!"

Turn clean-up time into a game by giving your kiddo specific items to find. "Go grab something that is NOT a block! Who can find a book that is NOT blue?" High fives for any successful finds (and for the unsuccessful -they're still cleaning!)

toddler playing with food

Taste testing

This is a great way to introduce your kids to both new vocabulary and new foods, while still targeting negation. Pick some mystery food items (including some unknown or unfamiliar foods, if they're adventurous) and prepare little slices/squares.

Invite your kids to taste the food and add commentary. For the younger ones, you can target "yummy" and "not yummy". If your kids understand salty/sweet/sour, prompt them (with the wrong answer!) - "is it salty?" and help them answer.

So many ways to play and help your kids expand their understanding of negation. Get on their level, get a little (or a lot!) silly and just go for it!

Remember to have FUN!

Do you have any questions or concerns about your child's speech and language development? Reach out today to schedule a free initial consultation!

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