Good Page, Bad Page

You’ve read the Fill the Page Theory. You know what a page is and you’re ready to start filling them, but where to begin? When you are just starting to fill pages there are good pages and there are bad pages – just like words. For example, the curse word your uncle accidentally blurted out at the last holiday gathering left a mark on a page you probably don’t want to fill. There are other pages to avoid as well, or at least pages that aren’t so important at the beginning of your child’s story. Here’s the three criteria you can use when evaluating what pages to fill to make sure your child’s story is off to a good start.


1) A good page is motivating to your child.

Without fail, when I ask a parent what word they’d like their child to be able to say, they tell me “thank you” (yes, even over “mommy” or “daddy”). I ask them to think about how motivated their child is to say a word, any word, after you’ve just handed them exactly what they want. They have to stop enjoying what you’ve just given them and focus on saying a word that is purely for someone else’s benefit. I know that “thank you” and showing appreciation is incredibly important, but not before kids even understand the power of words. A child who does not yet have solid language skills can’t be expected to halt an enjoyable activity to say a word that reaps them no immediate benefit.

Instead, a good page is for a word that your CHILD really wants to be able to say to get what they really want. Your child’s favorite toy, food item, or activity are all big motivators. Things like “ball”, “cookie”, or “go” are examples of great first pages. Those words teach your child the communication connection, meaning that when they talk and say words they get great things.

2) A good page is easy to fill with marks.

Your child could really love Disney. It could be his favorite thing on the planet and something you are sure he is really motivated to say, but unless you live in Orlando or Anaheim there are probably limited opportunities to really talk to your child about Disney and put marks on that page.

Remember, to fill a page and have your child say a word it takes many marks on the page (or experiences hearing that word), so you need to be able to easily provide that to your child on a daily basis. Words like “up”, “out”, “open”, “juice”, “milk”, and “shoes” are easy to repeat throughout the day and therefore easy to make many marks to fill each of those pages.

3) A good page is meaningful when used to communicate.

If your child has one word. One word. And it’s yellow. That’s not good. Picture her walking up to someone and saying, “Yellow”. That’s not going to get her very far. And certainly it’s not as good as saying, “Cookie”. That’d get her much more!

Yet we are so programmed as parents with all of the push-button-yellow-green-circle-triangle-C-F-H-in-your-face toys to teach our children academics. For short, I call them the dreaded SCLANS (shapes, colors, letters, AND numbers). Particularly when parents are worried about their child’s language development, they want to start to teach their child something, anything, and that seems to be the easiest thing to latch on to. Stores are overrun with toys geared toward SCLANS and it seems like our children will be failures if they don’t know all of their SCLANS by two!

But take a moment. Calm down and just remember, say no to SCLANS!  At least until your child has a solid vocabulary and is really able to communicate their wants and needs. It’s not that SCLANS are bad. SCLANS are really good. But SCLANS are not meaningful. They will not help your child truly communicate.  They are really just memorization, and SCLANs will come much easier to your child once they have a stronger foundation of language.

Now you’re ready to pick your pages. What page or pages have your decided to help your child start to fill?

Once you pick those pages, learning how to Talk Less, Talk Smart is an important skill and your last stop in the foundations of Little Stories.

  1. Lacy Hicks says:

    When John Edward was working on language, we worked on “drink” first and then “stop”. Because John Edward had no communication he would get frustrated and just throw a fit when someone was doing something he didn’t like (like touching him or taking something he was playing with). It was important to teach him a word that would give him control of what was going on around him. “Drink” was a much easier page to fill because it was concrete and we could teach him by saying it everytime he handed us his cup. His page was full in about a week and he was saying it everytime he wanted something to drink. “Stop” was more difficult because not something he could see or express by pointing or handing us something. Do you have any pointers on how to teach a word like “stop” or don’t ?

    • Kim says:

      Wonderful examples! The word “stop” or “don’t” are great pages for kids because it can be something that is really very motivating for them! Like you said though, these pages may take a little while longer to fill because there may not be quite as many opportunities to repeat these words and make marks on the page. If you can really watch your child, see that they are about to get frustrated, and get in there right before that moment with the word “stop” or “don’t” (also including a gesture like putting their hand out in front of them), these words can be very powerful!

  2. Sjell23 says:

    I agree about the SCLANS! They will learn all of that soon enough – what’s the rush? One of the most helpful signs I taught my daughter was “help me”. It was motivating to her because she got what she needed and think it helped avoid a lot of tantrums because it reduced frustration.

  3. Janelle says:

    What a great theory! I like the examples you’ve given! What a great way to frame teaching of vocabulary & communication!

  4. erin says:

    I also taught me daughter, Sadie, “HELP” and it has been a great form of communication for her. She is now starting to use the sign and say the word together.

    Thanks Kim for sharing more information on how to Fill the Pages and what are good vs bad words. I am excited to start Sadie’s book now that I have a better understanding. I too was hoping to teach Sadie “thank you” but understand for her it is not important. There are plenty more words she will enjoy learning like our latest…MOON. Will keep you posted :)

    • Kim says:

      Erin, what are you doing to fill the page for moon? Please keep us posted on how Sadie’s book unfolds! It may even be fun to get an empty journal (kinda like the one in the video) and make a page for each word. You could record how Sadie had fun learning that word or even include pictures of her engaging with that word in real life. It would be a lot of fun to look back on!

  5. Sam says:

    I worked diligently on teaching my daughter please and thank you when she was learning to speak. Now it’s clear why those particular words didn’t stick until she was quite a bit older.
    For us “Help” was also a word we used often. I think we avoided a lot of her frustration when she was able to tell us that she needed help with something. It also opened up the opportunity to teach new words. Help with blocks, shoes, etc…

  6. liz says:

    I love this post! We bought the It Takes Two to Talk book for help with this sort of thing, I love that your posts go into even more detail. (and, incidentally, our son often picks the ITTTT book as something for us to ‘read’ to him because he loves the pictures of parents communicating and playing with their little ones).

    My question is…my son seems to actually fill up the pages that he wants fairly quickly. Like “moon” for example–saw the moon once, liked it, now every time we’re out and see it he points it out. But–his pronunciation of it is “muh.” He has about 60 ‘pages’ right now at 23 months, but they are all different meanings for muh, buh, kuh, duh, guh, nuh….

    So once a page is filled, should we try to do something that makes that page comprehensible to other people besides mom and dad? I keep reading that by 24 months, some of his language should be understandable…he hears really well but just has no interest in trying to repeat more specific sounds.

    I realize that for our individual concerns, we should really talk to a speech therapist, but since I’ve done a lot of reading about language and haven’t really found an answer to this question, it might be a great topic for a post! ; )

    • Kim says:

      Hi, Liz! I’m so excited you are enjoying your ITTT book! As you probably saw from my bio, I love Hanen and that book is a goldmine. You obviously are doing your son’s language development quite a service if you are following the principles in ITTT and here at Little Stories. That takes patience and dedication, and I want to acknowledge how impressed I am by that.

      I started to answer your question here, but it is a long response, and I really think I’m going to take YOUR advice and make it a post. I will get to work on it and let you know here in the comments once it’s ready! Thank you for your thoughtful question and I think many parents will benefit from the response.

  7. Holly says:

    One of the first words we tried to teach my grandson was “more” so that if he was hungry (for anything) he could say more. I noticed he was also saying “more” when he really needed help. So I would just say, ‘the word you need here is “help”‘. It didn’t take long for him to learn the difference. I think it helps to empower them by having their needs met.
    While I don’t focus on colors, numbers, etc. I do add them in at appropriate times when I speak to him, but I don’t expect him to repeat them, just to get used to hearing them.