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Why are Categories Important?

Each one of us categorizes information in our minds, whether we realize it or not! Our minds are designed to store information in an organized, efficient way to allow us to access it quickly and easily. A lot of times, when children have language impairments, they also struggle to categorize and organized new vocabulary and information, making it even more difficult to store it away for later use. In speech therapy, we are able to use fun, age-appropriate activities in order to improve this skill area. Here are some ideas for how this can be targeted:

1. “One of these things is not like the other…” – Do you remember this song? This is a great way to improve categorization skills in young children. You can use either pictures or items and set out 3 that are related and 1 that is not. Then have your child choose which does NOT belong!

2. Simple categories – You can do this two ways. Tell your child a category and ask for 3-4 items that fit in that category. For example, “tell me three fruits.” Or you can do the reverse by giving your child 3-4 items and asking them what category they fit into. For example, “broccoli, cucumber and carrots are all types of ________.”

3. Categories by function – This is a more challenging way to target categories with older children. In the same way as with simple categories, you’ll be asking your child to tell you 3-4 items that belong in a category. However, to make it more challenging you can use more abstract categories. For example, ask your child, “tell me three things that grow,” or “tell me three things that fly.” You want your child to be able to give you a variety. Make sure their answers are more than just naming three flowers or three types of bugs. With this activity you are looking for your child to give answers like, ‘a baby, a tree, a flower,’ or ‘an airplane, a bird and a bug.’