written by Nancianne Chin, Speech Therapist
Learning when to use gender specific pronouns she and he can be challenging for some children. In these cases, adults can help their child learn by simply placing stress on the pronouns they use when talking to their children.
Example: “Jimmy is in the playground. HE is swinging. What do you think HE will do next?”
Parents can stress pronouns during play and also when talking about what is happening in the world around them. Take a look at the toys in your house and consider which ones which have a gender. There may be some girl dollies, a stuffy who is considered to be a boy or male toy soldiers. Parents can stress the pronouns they use during play with these toys. Here are some ideas.
Tea Party: Talk about what the dolls are doing and wearing.
Example: She can wear this dress. Do you think SHE would like the blue or the white shoes? SHE likes chocolate cake. Would SHE like some more? Mmmm… SHE likes tea too!
Mr. Potato Head: Provide your child with Mr. Potato’s main body piece of the game while you keep the remaining Potato Head pieces for yourself. Provide your child with piece options while she or he puts Mr. Potato Head together.
Adult: “Does HE want blue shoes or green shoes?” Hold up the two options for your child to see.
Child: “Blue shoes.”
Adult: “HE wants blue shoes!” Hand the preferred item to your child. “Good choice!”
Note: Try not to correct your child when your child makes errors, as this often results in a child feeling self-conscious about how she or he speaks. Repeating your child’s utterance is a less direct way to let your child know that the words she or he used were correct.
Books: For some other ideas on opportunities to practice, these books can also be helpful.
- He Bear She Bear, by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Silly Sally, by Audrey Wood. Retell the story to talk about what SHE (Silly Sally) did!
- Franklin, by Paulette Bourgeious and Brenda Clark. Talk about what HE (Franklin) did during or following the reading.