Teaching negatives: Why No is Important

No is one of the first words that most children learn. Before the age of one, babies start to develop an understanding of the word ‘no’. It’s often one of the first words that children will start to say. Negatives form an extremely important role in language and social development!

There are a few different forms of negatives: non-existance, where a child is expressing that something is not there, e.g. “No cookie!” if the cookie tin is empty. Refusal, where a child expresses refusal,e.g. “No bath.”if she doesn’t want to take a bath. Denial, where the child is claiming something as false,e.g. “Not sausage!” if she believes that a veggie has been falsely identified as a sausage.

Whilst this development is usually normal, some children struggle to use negation and negatives appropriately. A child may use ‘yes’ to answer all yes/no questions, without fully understanding the meaning of the question and without really meaning “yes”. This is something that is often seen in children who have specific language impairments or autism.

How can you help teaching negatives (“no”) at home?

Use gestures to make the concept more concrete. Using gestures can assist children who have language learning difficulties to develop language. Look up the gesture for no in Baby Sign. This may vary in different areas, as most methods of Baby Sign is based on that country’s sign language. Use this sign consistently when you use the word ‘no’ or ‘not’. Make sure to still speak when you use the sign! It is meant to augment verbal language, not replace it. Ask yes/no questions when your child needs to make a choice. Encourage small responses.

Look at books n pictures together. Start by asking yes/no questions, e.g. “Is the lady wearing glasses?” and “Is that ball blue?”. You can also target the understanding of negatives, give instructions like “Show me the lady who does not have glasses.” “Show me the dog with no spots”.

Play games such as Zingo, or matching games (bingo is a good one). I’m a massive fan of Zingo! It’s such a great learning tool. Ask your child yes/no questions: “Do you have a dog on your board?”.

There are many materials on Teachers Pay Teachers that are great to target yes/no questions and negation. You can find one resource that I’ve made here! Yes/No Questions in the Garden

Yes/No Questions in the Garden

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