Fostering your child’s speech and language development can be as simple as making small changes to your interaction style as well as to your child’s environment. Communicative temptations are situations that occur in your child’s natural environment that encourage him to communicate. In order for children to communicate there needs to be “a need, an opportunity, and a reward for his or her efforts” (Wetherby and Prizant, 1989). Creating circumstances and using toys that “tempt” your child to communicate increases his use of expressive language throughout his day.
In order to remember to use communicative temptations think about using the following strategies: bit-by-bit, out of reach, people toys, and social games.
Bit-by-bit: By giving your child what she desires in small “bits,” she is motivated to continue to ask for more. Examples:
Bubbles: take the top off the bubbles, blow some, then put the top back on (tightly!). Your child either has to ask for the bubbles to be opened again (“open the bubbles”) or for you to blow again before you blow more (“blow more bubbles”).
Meals and snacks: give your child a small amount of food (Cheerios, crackers, cut-up fruit) and wait until she asks for more. Avoid refilling her plate before she asks. Avoid asking simple yes/no questions (“want more crackers?”) so that she has to use specific words to request (“more Cheerios” or “bunny crackers”).
Play dough: give your child a small piece of play dough and one toy so she has to ask for more of each.
Out of reach: Place items your child wants where he can see them but cannot get them himself. Examples:
Containers: Place smaller toys within a larger container that is difficult to open without help. These can be small jars, plastic food storage containers, or larger bins. When there are a variety of containers, your child has to be specific, e.g., “Open big tub,” “Open ball box,” etc.
In your hand: Hold up something your child wants or needs out of reach (e.g., a spoon when he has a bowl of yogurt) and wait (see previous blog post on The Power of Waiting) with an expectant look to give your child the opportunity to ask for the spoon.
Shelves: place desired items on high shelves and wait for your child to communicate his desire before retrieving the item. Our son loves to pump the soap in the bath and we have a variety of bottles on a shelf next to the bathtub. We also have different-sized containers so he has to be specific about which color and size soap container he wants (e.g., “pump big green soap”).
People toys: These are toys that require adult assistance to operate. (some have small parts so supervise closely with children under 3 or those who mouth objects) Examples:
Balloons: whether using a balloon pump or blowing up a balloon, most small children cannot do this without adult help. Wait for her to ask for “more balloon,” for you to “blow balloon,” choose a specific color balloon, or, my favorite, to “let if fly!”
Spinning tops: again, these typically require help from an adult. My favorites are the ones that you wind up and press a button to release. Your child can say “spin, go, top,” or “fast!”
Wind-up toys: Wait for your child to ask for you to “wind-up” the toy or for the specific action of the toy (e.g., “monkey jump, car drive”)
Bubbles: some children cannot blow bubbles, or if they can, the adults can still blow them faster and/or bigger. Ask your child if she wants a “big bubble” or a “little bubble.”
Social Games: these are games and routines that require an adult to be entertaining. Examples:
This little piggy: your child can ask for “piggy” if she wants you to do it again.
Peek-a-boo: After peeking out one time wait for your child to say “hide” or tell you where to hide before continuing (e.g., “behind couch”). You can also pause after “peek-a…” and wait for your child to say “boo” before peeking out.
Horsey ride or airplane ride: any game where your child “rides” on your back or legs creates the opportunity to put her down and wait for her to ask for more (e.g., “more horsey” or “airplane ride”).
Communicative temptations should be created around routines and objects that are fun for your child. Stay tuned for the next post in this series.