Speech Therapy for Toddlers: Give Choices

Speech Therapy for Toddlers: Give Choices

When we give choices to toddlers, we’re telling them that they have some control and their input matters. Providing choices also encourages decision making and promotes language development.

Giving Choices

Giving Choices

Photo Credit: pawpaw67

How do choices promote language development in toddlers?

  • When we provide choice questions, we are providing models of the potential target words for the child to imitate. For example, "Sammy, do you want the airplane or the truck?" The child hears the potential targets: "airplane" or "truck". Open-ended questions like, "What do you want to play with?" can be harder because it's requiring the child to recall and retrieve a word from memory.

    • Giving choices not only makes it easier for the child to potentially imitate and repeat, but it allows the child to point or gesture if he can’t say anything yet.

      • E.g. The child who points to the airplane is similar to an adult in a foreign country who doesn't speak the language and orders his food by pointing to what the person at the next table is eating.

How can adults ask questions to promote language development in toddlers?

  • The adult can SAY the choices and SHOW the choices simultaneously. I highly recommend doing this if your child struggles to answer questions.

    • If the question is, "Sammy, do you want an airplane or truck?", pick up the airplane with one hand (say it an show it) and pick up the truck with the opposite hand (say it and show it).

    • Depending on the child I like to give two choices at a time. Giving him 3 or 4 choices may get confusing. It all depends on the child.

    • With two choices, the adult can manipulate the choices to help the toddler make a decision and to help develop their language. Folks, this part is important. Read carefully.

      • Pair a preferred choice with a non-preferred choice. For example, you know your son hates green beans but loves peas or he prefers Buzz Lightyear over Woody. Pairing a preferred choice with a non-preferred choice makes it easier for the child to make a decision.

        • E.g., “Sammy, do you want to play with Woody or Buzz?”

        • To encourage imitation, put the preferred choice last. This is because the child will be more apt to remember the last thing you said making it more likely that he’ll imitate you.

          • E.g. “Sammy, do you want to eat green beans (non-preferred choice) or peas (preferred choice).

          • To encourage processing, put the preferred object first. This works very well for children who tend to echo or always repeat the last thing you said without thinking about it.

            • E.g. “Sammy, do you want to eat peas (preferred choice ) or green beans (non-preferred choice).

I hope you found these tips helpful!

How can you give choices during your daily routines or during play routines to help your toddler talk?

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