How can having a child make a choice help with speech, language, and feeding development?
When we ask a child a yes or no question (Do you want to play with the truck? Do you want more strawberries?) and they respond with “no” (as most children do even if they mean yes) that is usually the end of the conversation. While there is a time and a place to target yes/no questions, having children make choices has key benefits to development.
Improves behavior: Offering choices establishes that this activity is going to take place and these are the boundaries that the caregiver has set. Asking a child if they want to play with blocks or puzzles, sets the boundaries for the activity and makes it easier to redirect. If the child responds with “TV” and that is not an option, respond with “Our choices right now are blocks or puzzles”. This takes away the negotiation.
Increases language opportunities: When we ask a child if they want the blue truck or the red car during play, we open up the opportunity to expand on a desired item. If the child chooses the blue truck, the caregiver can respond with “You picked the big blue truck to put on the track”. It opens the door for us to expand the child’s utterance by prompting them to imitate more words in the sentence such as “I want the big blue truck”.
It gives hesitant eaters a sense of control: Asking the child to choose from a big scoop or a small scoop of a new food, takes away the option of “no”. It helps to set the expectation that this is the food we are having, but allows the child to have control over how much is on their plate. Caregivers can also ask a child if they want more raspberries or green beans (while knowing the child will always choose raspberries) to continue to expose the child to the option of the green beans in a low stress way.
Making choices through activities is a great way to target development goals and allow children to develop stronger cognitive, speech, language, and feeding skills. Adults make choices throughout the day, so let’s give kids the chance to do it too!
April Anderson, MA, CCC-SLP, CLC