How to teach prepositions using common toys at home

Prepositions are location words that tell us where an object is in relation to another object. They are an important concept that can be super easy and fun to teach, be it in the classroom, in therapy sessions, or at home!

Here’s what you need:

  • Box of some sort (empty tupperware container, a cardboard box from a board game or package)
  • Small ball
  • Small pull-back car or other small toy
  • Teddy bear or some other stuffed animal

Steps:

Put the ball and the car in the box. Ask the child to take the ball and car out. Model “out!” as the child pulls each toy out.

Ask the child put each toy back in, and model “in!”

If the child has difficulty with following these instructions, provide hand-over-hand help, or show them how to do it with the first toy and see if they can imitate with the second.

Next, take the toys back out of the box and turn the box upside down. Now, say, “Look! I’m going to hide the ball UNDER the box” as you put the ball under the overturned box. Emphasize the word “under” and repeat it. Remember, repetition is the key to learning new words and understanding their meaning and purpose.

Give the child the car and say, “can you hide it UNDER the box?” Praise if they can, help them if they have difficulty. Remember, always give them an opportunity to try things on their own before offering to help. And when helping, start with a model (i.e., showing them how to do something). If they need further support, provide hand-over-hand help.

After a few rounds of showing them what each preposition means, see if they can follow your directions without any visual cues. Give them a simple direction such as “let’s put the ball in the box” or “let’s hide the car under the box!” Try and let them figure it out on their own, and encourage them to ASK for help before you offer it. You can say, “do you need help? If so, you can say – help me!”

Try some of these other serious and silly directions, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

  • Serious
    • Put the car ON the box (when the box is upside down).
    • Put the ball IN the box
    • Put the ball NEXT TO the teddy bear
  • Silly
    • Hide the teddy bear UNDER the couch
    • Balance the teddy bear ON your head
    • Put the teddy bear IN the bed/sink/bath tub
    • Put the teddy bear IN the highchair
    • Take the teddy bear OUT of the highchair

Drop a comment to tell us how you work on prepositions with your children!

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