Children start to learn the rules for making plurals fairly young—often in their second year. Irregular plural forms are mastered a little later and it is not uncommon for 4-year-olds to make occasional errors with plurals. If your child seems to have trouble mastering the rules for plurals in his speech, some focused practice can often help him along.
The following activities are excerpted from my book Language Lessons, which is packed with games and activities to enhance skills in listening, comprehending, and producing language.
Gather pictures of nouns. To keep the activity simple, make sure these nouns all have regular plural forms. For a more advanced activity, include irregular verb forms such as child, man, or mouse. Explain to the child that adding –s or –es to the end of a word is the way that we show that there are more than one of that object. Put the pictures on the table and have the child finish the phrase one _____, two ______ for each picture, using the correct singular and plural forms. (Some picture cards can be found at the end of this book.)
To make this activity more challenging, take a coin and put a sticker on each side labeled "s" for singular or "p" for plural. Alternatively, you might put one dot on one side and several dots on the other to indicate one and more than one. Have the child flip the coin and give the correct form for each picture card.
Ask your child to complete these sentences.
(If the child cannot produce the target sentence structure accurately for any of the exercises, model the correct response for the child and have him repeat it. Some children may require extensive practice repeating words or phrases before they are ready to attempt to produce them independently. )
· I have a little dog. My friend has two big ___________.
· Mary has a spot of paint on her arm. Fred has three __________.
· I stubbed my toe. On each foot, I have five _________.
· I have a can. You have three ________.
· I have a jelly bean. You have ten ___________.
Ask your child to complete these sentences. (-es endings)
· My house is red. My street has a lot of red ___________.
· This flower is a rose. The garden has a lot of red ___________.
· I filled my glass. I filled the cabinet with ___________.
· The school bus is yellow. At school, there are a lot of __________.
· Put the toy back in the box. Put three toys in three __________.
· I put my dish in the sink. After dinner, we will wash all the __________.
Ask your child to complete these phrases and sentences. (Irregular plurals)
· One fish, two ________ (fish).
· One child, two _________.
· One goose, two _________.
· One wife, two _________.
· One shelf, two _________.
· One woman, some _________.
· One tooth, many _________.
· One deer, three _________.
· One sheep, a flock of _________.