Let’s talk a little about the very basics of communication. Why do we communicate?

There are so many reasons, but here are a few of the most important: We communicate to express our thoughts and feelings, even our basic needs. We also communicate in order to connect with people and stay close with family and loved ones.

What do all of these purposes for communication have in common? They are all extremely rewarding. They add value to our life.

In order to help your child start their journey in language development, you have to give them a little taste of the rewards they can experience through verbal communication. This means we start very simple, and teach them how to communicate their basic needs and desires. We can do this through implementing something called communication temptations.

Maybe your child hasn't started to speak, or maybe they've begun to use a handful of words. Regardless, communication temptations is an effective strategy that can be applied to your child.

In this article we will review what communication temptations are, and how to implement them in everyday situations.

What Are Communication Temptations?

Communication temptations are essentially ways that we can encourage a child to communicate. We do this by offering a toy, snack, treat (basically anything desirable) without rushing to give it to them.

You can place one of these desirable items just slightly out of reach of your child - typically a place they'd have to verbalize, “Help!” in order to receive it. You could also show them options of something they may like to eat, without automatically handing it to them.

Do you notice how in these examples we do not hurry to give your child what they want? This is where the temptation piece comes into play. We have to give a child time to process and problem solve. Maybe they can see the snack they want, but they have to figure out how to get it from you. They will learn to do this through verbalizations. This is key in motivating your child to begin to talk!

How To Implement Communication Temptations In Everyday Scenarios

In order to practice communication temptations, children respond best when they are targeted in day-to-day activities.

To start implementing communication temptations into your daily routine, think about things that your child typically likes or requests throughout their day.

Here are a few examples: books, toys, snacks, drinks - anything motivating!

Let’s use the example of snacks for the purpose of communication temptations. When it's time to sit down and eat, place your child at the table or in their high chair, but don’t give them the snack just yet. Be sure to place the snack where they can easily view it. Then, wait and see if your child will vocalize for their first bite.

When your child indicates that they want the snack through a vocalization (either imitated or spontaneous), reward them with a bite. Cheer and praise them for their response! Once your child feels this sense of accomplishment, they will be more likely to continue communicating purposefully.

Keep snack time structured (request-reward-request-reward, etc.). This may be very different from how you have implemented snack time in the past. And it may feel a little strange. But this is the perfect opportunity to really encourage your child to gain new, functional language skills.

Your Child’s Responses: Imitation Vs. Spontaneous Words

The ultimate goal is to have your child begin verbalizing their first words, or more words than they're currently using, through the use of communication temptations.

But sometimes we have to figure out what types of words to expect. They may initially be imitated words (words repeated after your speech model).

They may also be spontaneous words (words you did not say previously for them).

If your child does not make their request independently after providing enough response time (about 10 seconds), then be sure to provide them with a word model.

Here is an example: Let’s say you get out your child’s favorite stuffed animal, a toy dog. If your child does not verbalize “dog,” or an approximation of “dog,” then model it for them. You could say, “Dog! I see the dog!" If they reach for the dog, you can model, "Dog, I want the dog!"

Once your child is consistently imitating your word models, it is time to prompt them for spontaneous word usage. Give your child a little longer to respond without jumping in to provide them a word to imitate. We have to increase the challenge just enough in order to help your child verbalize independently.

Communication Temptations For Phrase Usage

Communication temptations are perfect to help your early talker begin speaking even more! Once your child is pretty consistently using single words during communication temptations at home, then you can begin to prompt your child for longer phrases.

You can easily lengthen your child’s phrases by modeling a phrase that is one word longer than what they are giving you. For example, if your child says, “Cookie!” in order to request a treat, then model, “Cookie, please!” or “More cookie!”.

As your child starts giving you two word phrases, then focus on increasing to three word phrases. Phrases like, “I want cookies!” or “More cookies please!”

For even more information on communication temptations and phrase usage, you can read these lessons on imitation of multiword phrases and spontaneous use of multiword phrases.

Need More Tips?

If  you find that your child likely needs to gain some basic imitation skills, be sure to check out these lessons on verbal imitation and word imitation.

We have so many more amazing lessons over at Expressable Academy. Check out all the topics in the left hand column in order to help your child with speech at home!