By 3 years of age, a child should be using 200-300 words consistently. That is A LOT and can be overwhelming for parents who have a child who has an expressive language delay. My “repeat-expand-repeat” technique is very effective way of talking with a child to expand vocabulary and length of utterance (combining words together to make a sentence).

This technique can be used ALL DAY LONG when talking with a child.

How to perform Repeat-Expand-Repeat

  1. First, a child says a word.
  2. Next, a parent repeats their child’s utterance.
  3. Then, the PARENT expands on the utterance by adding one or two words to the original utterance.
  4. Next, the parent waits to see if their child will repeat the expanded phrase (5-10 seconds).
  5. Finally, whether the child repeats the phrase or not, the parent repeats the expanded phrase one more time to give the child more exposure to the grammar and vocabulary of the expanded utterance.

The repetition portion helps to build vocabulary, the expanding portion helps to lengthen utterances as well as build vocabulary, and the final repeat is just another verbal model. There is a lot of learning to be had with this simple technique!

Got it? Yes? No?  If not, don’t worry! Keep reading. You can practice this technique with the "game" below. 

Recommended Use:

  • Print out the activity
  • Place the activity in a frequented spot to help remind yourself to try it out for a few days. 
  • Jot down some notes on what seems to work and what does not.

Reading Game

Needed Materials:

A book and time to read with a caregiver

How To Play:

There are a few ways to use Repeat-Expand-Repeat while reading depending on the language level of your child.

First things first, grab a book, sit down with your child, and start reading. As you read, have your child point to pictures or name pictures. Once your child says a word or phrase, use the Repeat-Expand-Repeat technique. Repeat what your child says to give validation. Then repeat the word or phrase while adding a word or two. Wait a few moments to see if your child will repeat your expanded phrase. If your child repeats, yeah, success! If your child does not repeat, repeat it one more time and move on. 


  • Don't correct your child’s grammar if he/she is less than 3 years of age. Grammar skills develop slowly over the next few years.
  • Expand with one or two words only. Keep it simple! If your expansion is too long, your child may not repeat it.
  • Give adequate wait time, up to 10 seconds, for your child to respond.
  • This technique is beneficial as it gives validation to your child’s communication attempts and expands the length of their utterances as well as introduces new vocabulary words with a visual reinforcer (pictures in book).

Example Script:

Parent and child are picking out a book.

Parent and child reading a book.

Printable Handouts

› Reading


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