This simple strategy is easy to implement at home. At snack time, get down on your child’s level and offer two choices. Hold them about shoulder-width apart and far enough away so that your child cannot grab. Once s/he points to or reaches for the desired object, hold that one up by your face and say the name of it. Pause expectantly, giving your child the opportunity to imitate. After about 5 seconds (you can count in your head), say the name again and pause. Do this once more and then hand the item over whether or not your child has imitated. If your child does imitate (or attempt to imitate) the word, be sure to praise the effort.
Benefits of using this strategy:
- By offering a choice, your child has to intentionally communicate a want or need. This is an early step on the way to talking.
- By getting down on your child’s level, you get his/her attention and make it easier to watch your face.
- Children tend to look at the object they want, so bringing it up by your face while you say its name encourages eye contact and allows your child to watch your mouth as you form the word, so s/he can see how it is said.
- By pausing expectantly and waiting, rather than saying, “Say ___,” you are giving your child the opportunity to imitate without any pressure. This is important because many children with delayed language will shut down when pressure is put on them to speak. Please be sure not to tell your child to say the desired word.
- By saying the word 3 times, you ensure that s/he has heard the word 3 times in the immediate context of the item, which helps with understanding the meaning of the word.
- By giving the item to your child after the third time you have said it, you reduce everyone’s frustration. You, as the parent, do not have all day to wait for your child to say a word before giving a snack. By limiting yourself to saying the word 3 times, you get to move on. Your child also gets to practice being patient.
- When this strategy is used consistently, many children get tired of waiting for you to say the word three times, and learn to imitate after the first or second time.
- If your child points specifically to what s/he wants, you can skip the step about offering a choice, as your child has already used intentional communication to indicate a want/need. Go straight to holding the desired item up by your face.
- Once you’re comfortable with this strategy at snack time, try it out during other routines. (Green shirt or red shirt; play trains or blocks; milk or water)