When to Correct Bad Grammar

Your guide to the ages and stages of development

"Mommy, Grandma taked me to the park and I runned all around! Then we goed to the pet store and seed some mouses!"

When your preschooler is stumbling over the English language, it's tough to know just how much correction you should offer.

The answer is not much.

You might be surprised at how much your preschooler's speech reflects recognition of the rules of our language. Take a closer look at what your child says and you'll notice that he follows these rules rigidly, without regard for the many exceptions in English: "I runned all around," and "I seed some mouses." This shows that your child is clearly on the right track. He's learned that verbs have tenses (adding -ed means something has already happened) and that nouns have plurals (adding -s shows more than one). No small accomplishment!

Once they begin to form sentences, children begin to acquire vocabulary at an astonishing pace. But in addition to learning new words and perfecting his pronunciation, your child is also busy absorbing syntax ? the rules that enable meaningful communication. Your job is not to correct him directly, but to teach him by simply making conversation that models correct usage: "You went to the park and ran around? And you saw some mice? How fun! Did you give Grandma a hug and say thank you?" Keep in mind that as children build communication skills, they want to do well. When mistakes are pointed out in a negative way, they may feel less sure of themselves. Give your child the best start ? and build his confidence ? by keeping your feedback encouraging and positive.

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May 25

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