How Choices are “Magic”
In my article, “Why I Don’t Say Say to Your Toddler,” I discuss why I don’t advocate demanding early talkers say a word. How do you encourage language then? In addition to setting up the environment to create communication opportunities (putting things out of reach, keeping items in containers, etc.) there is another way to encourage language without the pressure. That’s where choices come in.
A choice is not a demand. It’s a way for children to exercise some control in an environment they have so little over. Simply saying, “Do you want crackers or carrots?” empowers your child while encouraging language and communication. It is not simply asking a child to repeat, but rather showing them that their words have power. Meaningful interactions like this are how children build language.
What if you don’t have two choices to offer? Easy! Simply think of two different ways to present what you have. For example, “Do you want one or two crackers?” “Should we skip to your room or hop?” “Should we clean fast or slow?”
How to Offer a Choice
Visual cues help when you are offering tangible items. For example, if you are holding two items, put one in each hand, and present each object as you say the word. This develops vocabulary and teaches that that a choice means choosing between items. Hold items near your mouth so your little one can watch how you say the words. Be sure to accept your child’s best communication attempt. If they look and reach, scaffold by modeling the word again, but do not demand they say it. Your job is to shape your child’s best communication attempt.
Choice in a Nutshell
A choice is a wonderful way to teach your child about communication, empower them, and give them control in a world they have so little over. Next time you find yourself demanding your child asks for something, simply remember the magic of a choice.
Brooke Andrews, M.A CCC-SLP is the owner of The Speech Dynamic, PLLC, a boutique speech therapy practice in Houston, TX. Brooke has presented at various conferences and shares her expertise in her workshops for parents, teachers, and other clinicians.. Her clinical expertise include speech, language, social learning, and executive functioning