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By: Grandview Kids — May 19, 2020

A little motivation goes a long way! When a child is motivated to ask for something, we can use that opportunity to teach them a more efficient and effective way to communicate. We call these opportunities “communication temptations”.


Child speaking with random letters appearing in the backdrop


How to teach new words using Communication Temptations:


Step 1:  Create a need for your child to communicate by showing them an interesting or desirable item or activity (e.g. juice, puzzle piece, bubble container).

Keep that desired item available but out of reach of the child (e.g. put it in a clear container out of their reach, place it on a higher shelf).


Step 2: Wait expectantly (and know what you’re waiting for!)

The child will have to engage in some kind of communication attempt in order to access that item or activity. Wait for it!

–        Use your best “I’m waiting” face and body language to cue your child (e.g. lean forward, smile, eyes wide)

Remember:  We want our children to be successful. Always wait for something you know your child can consistently do.

For example:

–        For a child who has no words or only a few words, you might be waiting for them to look at you, reach and/or make a sound.

–        For a child who consistently uses a relevant word (e.g. can say “blueberry” most of the time when presented some blueberries), you might be waiting for the child to say that word (e.g. “blueberry!”)

(Watch out!  If your goal is to expand your child’s language, avoid asking a yes/no question like “Do you want blueberries?” because the answer is likely to just be “yes” or “no”.   While “yes” and “no” are fantastic functional words, we want to expand the child’s vocabulary by teaching new words like the names for things or action words.)


Step 3: Deliver the goods!

Respond immediately when your child has made his or her communication attempt. Provide the desired item/action and model what they could say next time. Hand it over while you say the word(s) you want your child to say.  This is a great opportunity to teach your child a new word or a new phrase.

(Caution: don’t keep waiting – your child doesn’t have to imitate you. He or she already communicated.  You are just showing them a better way to ask next time).

–        Tip: Giving just one piece or one little bit can help you keep it going! If your child only got a tiny bit of something, he or she still has a need to communicate – to get some more!  The more opportunities you create, the more opportunities your child has to learn!

–        Tip: Responding right away helps reward your child’s communication attempt. Modelling the appropriate word(s) helps teach your child what they could be saying. You can use this as an opportunity to teach your child a specific word or later to show your child how to combine words together.

What does this look like in action?

Example 1: Waiting for a sound or gesture and teaching a new word

Your child loves blueberries. You have some in a container they can see but not reach. You might comment “mmm, blueberries” or show the container to your child.

You wait with an expectant look on your face.

Your child looks at you and at the blueberry.

You show the blueberries (still out of reach) and wait some more while giving your best expectant look (it may feel like a long time).

Your child reaches.

Immediately, you model “blueberry!” AS you hand your child one blueberry.

You wait expectantly.

Your child reaches AND says “buh!”

Immediately you hand over another blueberry AS you model “blueberry!”.

Continue to Repeat!


Example 2: Waiting for a single word and teaching how to combine words

Your child loves wind-up toys but can’t operate them independently. You put a windup toy on the floor between you and wait with your best expectant look.

Your child hands you the toy and says “help!”

You model “help please” as you wind up the toy and set it down.

Once the toy stops you again wait expectantly.

Your child hands you the toy and says “help!”

You model “help please” as you wind up the toy and set it down.



When you use Communication Temptations, you can create a need to communicate in many different ways.


Try being the…


–        The child will have the opportunity to practice requesting many times with:

·       Puzzles, blocks: hold all of the pieces and give the child one at a time.

·       Snack: do this bit-by-bit, give a tiny bit of juice and one small cookie/cracker/blueberry, etc.

·       Bubbles: you hold the bubbles and the wand, blow the bubbles once



–        The child will need to communicate for the activity to continue with:

·       Wind-up toys: wind them up once and let them finish

·       Pop-up toys: place your hand over the top to stop the object from popping up

·       Shape sorters: block the hole with your hand

·       Snack: give the child a sealed juice bottle or unopened cookies/cracker

·       Song: start a favourite song or nursery rhyme (like wheels on the bus) and pause in the middle



–        You may pique the child’s curiosity if you play the “hider” with:

·       Puzzles, Mr. Potato Head: hide the last piece and the child will realize it is incomplete

·       Snack: give the child the bottle of juice, but no cup

·       Cups: hide an object under one of the 2-4 cups and have the child try to find it

·       Container: Hide a toy that makes noise in a container or bag and shake it to make noise then hold it up and wait



–        You can tempt the child to communicate by doing silly things with:

·       Shape sorters: give an object that does not belong

·       Craft time: offer a hairbrush instead of a paintbrush

·       Snack: try to pour the juice with the lid still on, or try pouring an empty bottle


With “communication temptations” you can harness the power of your child’s motivation to teach him or her new words.



Written by:

Alishia Chamney, M.H.Sc., S-LP(c), Reg. CASLPO

Speech-Language Pathologist


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