If your child is able to produce words but refuses when asked to, or your child won’t try to produce a word when asked, you can try using the strategy of withholding. This strategy can be used for children who are around 20-months-old and older. If your child is an early talker or capable of saying some of these words earlier it can be used at an earlier age.

Withholding is when you do not give your child something they want until they say or attempt to say the word. For example, let’s say your child wants more cheerios. You know they want more because they show you with their body, they point, and they may even say “eh eh”. Instead of giving them cheerios right away look at them as say “Do you want more? More, more. Your turn, you say more.” Some children may say the desired word right away, while others will hold out on you. The idea would be to hold out on giving them cheerios until they try to say more.

Let’s say you are unsure that your child can say the desired word you are asking them to say. Simplify it, slow it down, repeat it, make sure they are watching your mouth as you say the word and try the whole thing again, and give them about 5-seconds to respond to you. Still nothing? Let’s introduce the sign for the desired word, in this case the word would be “more.” Demonstrate the sign and pair it with the word. If they are unable to make the sign independently help them do it, take their hands make the sign with them and say “more.” Then give them a cheerio. Since cheerios are small you can repeat this process many times. The goal is for them to learn to use their words to request and get something they want.

Your child may  get a little frustrated during this. That is OK! Frustration can lead to communication. We communicate to get our wants and needs met and if we are not getting our wants and needs met we need to communicate better; even little children can understand this.

Now what happens if this leads your child to get so frustrated that they throw a tantrum? Should you give in right away and give them what they want? No, because then your child will correlate their negative behavior to getting what they want. Do not reward the negative behavior. If it happens just set the item down where he can see it and reach it, but don’t actually give it to them. That way they can get it but they did not win the battle.

You can apply the strategy of withholding to many things that a child wants and have them request and ask for it. They may want you to read another book. Have them say “more” again and if they can say that add on and try to get them to say “more book.” Withhold a few times and help them to say this word. Now, let’s say they want a toy or a shoe or something else. Apply the same principle with that word. Instead of giving them what they want right away look at them as say “(the word)” and repeat it a few times.  Your turn, you say (the word).” Some children may say the word right away when others will hold out on you. Again, the idea is to hold out on giving them the desired object until they try and say the word or sign it. You can also use this strategy to tag on the word “please” at the end!

Good luck! I hope this strategy helps you find new ways to practice words for everyday items.