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When it comes to early language development, it's important that we consistently provide children with motivation to talk regularly. Of course we can have a child imitate what we say, or name items in a book - those are great skills to practice!
However, prompting your child to name photos in a book or imitate a word is not the same as having them use words independently to communicate their wants, desires, and feelings. Because of this, we need to set the stage for spontaneous language, giving your child different scenarious to best support this essential skill. These are called communication temptations. Let's dive into what communication tempatations are, and how to implement them at home.
Setting the Stage for Communication
Think about situations in your everyday life where you have a strong desire to communicate with someone. Maybe you have some really good news to share. Maybe your family is picking up dinner from your favorite restaurant and you want to place your order. Or maybe someone in the house is being too loud and you can’t concentrate on your work.
What is similar about all of these situations? There is a reward that comes with communicating your needs. For example, your friends can celebrate the good news you've shared; you get a delicious meal after placing your food order; or you can focus on your work if the person making loud noises settles down or closes the door.
The same motivation is needed for your child! Of course their reasons for communication will be somewhat different than yours. But we can create situations and scenarious where they will be tempted to communicate.
Communication Temptations and How To Implement Them
Almost any activity can be a communication temptation, so long as it's motivating and exciting for your child. Here are two simple examples:
- Think about a snack that your child loves to eat. Try eating this desired snack in front of them to see if it promps them to request the snack themselves!
- If you're playing outside, stand idly by the swing without picking them up and placing them in the seat. See if your child verbalizes that they want to swing.
As you can see, these are tempting scenarios that will hopefully encourage your child to communicate what they want.
More Communication Tempation Ideas
Looking for some additional communication temptation ideas? Check out this super helpful online reasource that contains a list of different scenarios to stimulate language production (from Weatherby and Prizant, 1989).
You’ll notice that many of these activities tell you what to present to your child to promote communication. However, once completed, the most important part is to simply wait. If your child hasn't responded after a few seconds, it can be tempting to rush in and start modeling what your child should have said. Resist this urge! Silence in these moments is key. You must give your child the opportunity to reflect and verbalize before doing it for them. If they haven't communication after about 20 seconds, then you can model an appropriate response, such as "Candy please" or "I want swing."
When first starting out, it is likely that your child will need you to frequently model a simple phrase for them to imitate. Imitation skills develop before spontaneous production. When your child does imitate a response, offer them lots of praise! When they get that big round of applause from you, and see the happy look on your face, they will be encouraged to talk more!
How Often To Practice
Since these are natural tasks that can be easily incorporated into your child's routines, it's a great idea to practice them daily!
Try to focus on these activities for about 10-15 minutes daily. If your child gets overwhelmed or annoyed, you can take a pause and revisit these activities the next day or at a later time. However, also keep in mind that a little frustration is normal and to be expected. We want a child to have a small sense of frustration because that is what helps them problem solve. They may be thinking something like this: “I really want that cookie! Mommy isn’t giving it to me. How do I get that cookie?” This motivates them to verbalize what they want.