As a parent and a speech and language pathologist, I started to notice myself talking WAY TOO MUCH with my own littles and the kiddos that I work with in speech therapy. As I started to challenge myself to talk less, I noticed that I was giving my kiddos so many more opportunities to communicate.
During snack time, I could ask, “Do you want yogurt?”, “Do you want crackers?”, etc. OR, I could give 2 choices, and the kiddo has to use words or pointing to communicate which snack they choose. Depending on the child’s skill level, I might also ask an
open ended question creating opportunity to request the specific food item.
When your little one is struggling to open a box of a game, it’s so easy to say, “Do you need help?” But what if, I shrugged my shoulders instead. The hope is that then the child would initiate, “help me!” or "help" or make eye contact or gesture. I’ve now created an opportunity to communicate and interact with my child. During speech therapy, I'll often set the selected game in the middle of the playing area, look expectantly, and wait. I might comment on how I can't wait to play. I'm waiting for that child to initiate opening the box, setting up the game, picking a player, etc. All of those steps will likely require help, giving them the opportunity to communicate instead of answering a yes/no question. If I have the game completely set up for them, I've missed all of those opportunities.
Communication can happen even with putting on socks and shoes. If I see a kiddo struggling to get on his sock or shoe, it's so easy to want to help that child and put it on for him/her. If I want to use this as a communication opportunity, I could simply validate his feeling that putting on socks and shoes is difficult. I could also use a "hmm". I'm waiting for that eye contact, request for help in some form, or gesture.
The Hanen Early Language Program has a great acronym…O.W.L. observe, wait, and listen. Observe the child's body language and interests. Wait as in “stop talking, lean forward, and look at your child expectantly”. This is creating an opportunity for communication. Lastly, listen to what the child is trying to communicate, not only to his words but also his sounds, gesture, and eye contact.
I'm confident that if you challenge yourself to use less words, you will find many times that you are giving your child communication opportunities. Give it a try!