Aim of the game:
This is a great way of giving your child a reason to communicate. Motivation is fundamental to communication and this fun game helps to strengthen word learning and inspires children to request verbally.
Most questions we ask toddlers can be answered with a simple nod of the head, point, an enthusiastic “yeah!” or outright “no!” Sometimes we misunderstand our child’s response and this can lead to frustration on both parts. Asking your child a choice question (e.g. “ball or train?”, “bubbles or balloons?”) can help to avoid limited responses, help to strengthen word learning and encourage your child to use words to request. It also makes saying the word much easier if they are ready as they’ve just heard you say it!
What you will need:
This game can be played with pretty much any toys but they need to be of interest to your child so they are motivated to request. Wind up, pop up and cause and effect toys work really well for us but you know your child best to feel free to choose something else you know your child loves. We’ve given some suggestions of our favourites below, remember you’ll need to choose two toys:
Wind up toys (e.g. pull back cars, walking figures etc)
Jack in the Box
Ball or car run
Glitter or flashing ball
Balloon and balloon pump (NB: not suitable if your child has a latex allergy)
How to play:
- Sit opposite your child so you are face to face
- Introduce your items one at a time to your child as a teaser. For this example we will use a pull back car and bubbles.
- Show your child the car and say “car”. Put it on the floor, pull it back and say “go car!” as you release it. Allow your child time to enjoy the moment but try not to allow them to explore the car too much to keep it novel.
- Now introduce the bubbles. Show your child the pot of bubbles and say “bubbles”, dipping and blowing. Say “popping bubbles!” as you and your child pop the bubbles.
- Now, hold the two items up in front of your child (car and bubbles) and offer…
“car or bubbles?”
- If your child nods, points, says “yeah” or does something else other than say a word to request that’s ok. It takes most children lots of practice and their own inner readiness before they crack this.
- Offer your child again, pretending that you aren’t quite sure what they were requesting (“car or bubbles?”).
- This time, even if they still don’t verbally request but instead look at what they want, nod, point or gesture then respond to this with their chosen toy.
- The aim is to slowly build up your expectation of their communication. Most children eventually will get fed up with mummy or daddy not understanding them and will make more of an effort to communicate their needs first time round.
Try not to get disheartened if your child doesn’t start using words to request immediately. All children are different and while some may be ready after just a few goes, others may need lots and lots of practice. Be reassured that you are helping them on their journey to using words.
How to extend:
- This strategy is so easy to weave into your daily routine, try it at snack time. Most children are motivated by food so this is a great opportunity. Prepare small snack items (e.g. chopped apple, chopped banana, small cheese biscuits etc) and give your child just one piece. Once they’ve finished offer “apple or banana?” and repeat until snack has finished.
- Instead of offering ‘car or bubbles?’, after a few turns pause but look expectantly to allow your child the opportunity to initiate and request unprompted.
- If you want to help your child to have a go at putting two words together, role model two words together for them by offering…
“more car or more bubbles?”
- Introduce colour or size concepts by offering different choices e.g. ‘big bubbles or little bubbles?”, “red car or blue car?” etc.
- Use size and colour concepts to model three words together e.g. “more red car or more blue car”
- Introduce another person to help your child to learn to take turns and wait a little longer (e.g. a brother, sister, another adult or friend).
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