Parents and caregivers always ask us how they can stimulate more speech from their toddlers, so we thought we would share a few tricks we use as speech therapists. Most often children just need a little more incentive to get them talking so we like to use what is known to speech therapists as “Communicative Temptations.” There are many ways of “tempting” your child to speak. Here are 8 Communicative Temptations we have found helpful in therapy. After getting the idea of how this works, we’re sure you will be able to come up with some of your own “temptations”.
1. Eat something your child loves in their presence with out offering them any. When your child indicates that they would like some, model a more advanced way for them to make the request, whether it is using a sign, a word or a simple phrase. For example, if your child points and grunts to the candy, model the sign for candy then wait and see if your child will imitate the sign candy. If your child simply keeps pointing and grunting take his/her hand and help him make the sign for candy then reward him/her with the candy.
2. Play with something your child loves but don’t offer to share. For instance if your child loves playing with playdough and wants to participate in the fun, you could model the /p/ sound for “please” or “play,” or you could model the signs for please or play. If your child can already say one word model a two word phrase for him/her to imitate like, “play please.”
3. At meal time and snack time give your child bite size portions, rather than dishing up a whole serving for them, then wait for them to request more. If no attempt is made model the sign “more,” help them make the sign, or model the /m/ sound for them to imitate.
4. Limit your child’s access to things like the TV, toys, food, or going outside. Set it up so they have to make a request or ask for help to access these things. You may accomplish this by putting favorite things up high or locked up.
5. Play turn-taking games such as rolling the ball back and forth, or pushing a car back and forth. Once your child expects another turn hold the car or ball and wait. Look at him/her expectantly if no sign or verbal request is made, model an appropriate request such as the sign for “ball,” the /b/ sound, the word “ball” or “ball please."
6. Use tight containers to store things in. When your child indicates he/she wants a cookie you might hand him/her the cookie jar (tightly sealed of course), when he/she can’t open it and hands it back to you make him/her sign open or help.
7. Use wind up toys or other toys that are difficult for kids to operate on their own. Wind up a wind-up toy your child gets a kick out of then hand it to them when they want a turn, wait for them to request help by using the sign or the word to operate the toy.
8. Blow bubbles then screw the lid on tightly and hand it back to your child for their turn. Wait for your child to request help with a sign or a word. Model the sign or word if necessary.
Using these little tricks that require your child to communicate will teach your child the power of communication. They will learn very quickly that when they sign or say “out” they can go outside but if they simply cry by the door nothing happens. It is important to be quick with your reinforcement so your child will make the connection easily, for example if you are teaching your child to request “more cookie” be sure to have that cookie ready to give to them right away. When your child points and grunts, or tantrums pay no attention at all, or be sure to explain that you don’t understand what they want even when you do. Then model an appropriate way to make the request. Little tricks like these have helped us get most non-verbal children to start communicating. And of course these things need to be done in patience and love. When your child sees that he/she can communicate their wants/needs effectively, it will give them added confidence that will help them in the continuing process of language development.