Offering choices is an alternative to yes-no questions. Offering choices allows your child to answer with a wider range of responses, gives your child some control, and offers more opportunities for communication. Offering choices can let child know that language is a powerful tool that can be used to control their environment. Giving your child some control using language will help them feel more confident and will help them experience the rewards that communicating offers.
Some children need to be motivated to produce language and we can help them by offering choices. We are actually contriving the situation to make it motivating and creating opportunities to practice using language.
Here is how to offer choices
Hold out two choices and ask them, “Do you want an apple or a banana?” You can offer choices for many activities: snack time, play time, at the park, etc.
Children as young as 10-months-old can begin to make choices. Choices help children focus on appropriate options while giving them the opportunity to communicate what they would like to do, either verbally or by pointing. Keep the language simple.
You can see in the first video, I am giving my 11-month-old, Max, choices in which book he would like to read. It takes him a second to make a choice but he makes one.
By offering 2 choices and letting your child choose one, they will understand that when they look, point, or reach for an item they have made a choice and they will now get the item they chose. It is positive reinforcement for communicating. Secondly, it creates opportunities for you to model simple language for them. Lastly, they will also learn more about the choices offered. For example, if you hold up milk and water and ask your child, “Do you want the milk or water?” They will learn the word “milk” and know that it is the white drink that they like.
Give choices to a child who is difficult to understand
If you have a child that is difficult to understand, try providing limited choices when you aren’t sure what your child wants. Holding out 2 items, lessens the stress of having too many choices.
Choosing between 2 choices gives the child control. Many young children are unable to do many things for themselves or have many choices to make. Giving them a verbal model and having them repeat will make them easier to understand and they are also able to point to what they want. This helps eliminate some frustrations and avoid meltdowns.
In the second video, I am giving my son Miles a choice. Miles was 13-months-old at the time and difficult to understand. I ask him, “Do you want the blue sticker or the purple sticker?” You actually can’t hear me ask him this question in the video, but that is the question I asked. It helped decrease the stress of the communication situation, provided him a model to repeat, and helped to make our communication experience pleasant.