Once you have engaged your child’s attention by:

  • Slowing down and Modelling Language
  • Looking at your Child
  • Keeping quiet and waiting


Create the need to talk


Some children will happily engage in verbal communication without having to challenge them, but others are content to get their needs met by merely gazing in the right direction, dragging you to what they want or pointing.

If your child is the “silent type” then it is imperative that you do not anticipate his needs, but wait until he tries to communicate before responding. Initially, it is acceptable for your child to use an approximation of the word or even a sound. For example “ba” for “bottle”, but as he becomes a more proficient communicator, you need to demand better word approximations more frequently. For example “ba” may become “ba-ba” and then “botty”




Communication Temptations

Communication temptations refer to structuring the child’s environment so that he is tempted to use communication to interact. The rationale is simple: a child is much more likely to communicate if he has a reason for doing so!

These situations do not have to be artificial but can be created within your child’s activities of daily living. The trick is to identify them and use them.



  • Wind-up toys are often difficult for a toddler to manipulate. Activate a wind-up toy, like a car and when it’s done, hold the toy and wait for the child to indicate that he would like the toy to be wound up again or he would like to try. Model the language you want him to use.
  • Give your child a broken toy to play with and play alongside him with a toy that is not broken. Wait for the child to request the other toy, or to let you know that his toy is broken. A doll with an arm or leg missing that can be easily repaired by clicking the part back into place works wonders. Removing the batteries from a toy also works.
  • Along the same lines as above, you can give the child some of the pieces of a puzzle and wait for him to request more or give the child items from mixed sets for example 2 different train sets that don’t fit together.
  • Find an activity or a toy that your child really enjoys and start playing but don’t allow the child to play. When he indicates that he wants to play, model the language e.g. “my turn”, or “car” and reward his attempt to communicate with the play activity.
  •  Look for an activity that is easily stopped and started such as blowing bubbles or swinging. Let the child blow bubbles, but keep the soap in your hand. Allow him to dip the wand in the soap bubbles only when he requests “more”. Push him on the swing and then hold the swing in the air. Wait for him to request “more” or “go.”
  • Engage your child social games like peek-a-boo, piggy went to market. Pause and allow your child an opportunity to request more. Communication does not necessarily have to be verbal. It depends on the level that your child is at.

Daily Routines

  • Put snacks into clear containers that your child cannot open. Your child will have to request items in order to get them. Initially, “ta” is sufficient, but you can demand the word “chips” or “biscuit” as your child’s vocabulary increases.
  • Give your child a very small amount of juice or water instead of the usual amount. Let him drink it…and wait.
  • Make mistakes when carrying out routines. For example, call your child to have a bath, but “forget” to run the water. Call him to brush his teeth and hand him the toothbrush without any toothpaste. Model the language you want. Use inflection in your voice. “silly mommy!” “no water?” “want toothpaste?”
  • Walk to the door and don’t open it. Wait for a response. Model “open?”  Then wait for a response.



    Mealtimes/Snack times

    • Choose some food that you KNOW your child loves, and eat it in front of him without offering any. Wait for your child to indicate that they want some, and then model for them how to appropriately request an item.
    • During meals or snacks, rather than giving your child all his food at once, only provide him with a small piece of each food item. When he indicates that he wants more, model the way that you want him to request. I know that many therapists do not advocate the use of “baby words”, but I personally feel that particularly when your child is learning to use words to communicate using onomatopoeic words such as “num –num” for food or “vroom” for car is really not an issue and as they start using more language new words can be introduced.
    • When feeding your child, hold the plate or spoon away from him and wait for him to request “more food/chicken”.
    • Give the child a food you know your child does NOT LIKE. Model the language you want him to use like “no” or “don’t like/don’t want”.




    Tempting communication depends on your child and his current level of communication. If your child is not yet using words, then pointing, reaching, or vocalising is STILL communication  


    The important thing to remember is that for these strategies to work, the child needs to actually WANT the thing you are ‘tempting’ him with.


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