In speech therapy, I often work on the skill of making choices with my clients. This skill enables children to feel more independent, and allows them to demonstrate their likes and dislikes. When we consider the skill of making choices, there’s various components at hand: building vocabulary, establishing attention and strengthening verbal skills. If a child is not yet at the verbalization stage, gesturing or pointing still facilitates communication. When offering choices, I often also see a decrease in negative behaviors such as inattention or crying/yelling. So how do I promote this skill? Through repeated practice, of course! Parents often ask how they can be facilitating this skill in the home environment — there are many ways to target making choices at home, here are just a few ideas:
In the kitchen: Making choices can be elicited through a variety of ways in the kitchen. When providing your child a snack, offer two choices. Holding both items up and allowing him to see both choices clearly is helpful. Ideally, they will verbalize which snack option they desire, however, if they are not yet verbalizing, accept pointing as a valid method of communicating and model the option for them after they’ve selected. Children can also make choices when selecting a type of drink or even the cup the child might like to use.
In the bathroom: When taking baths, offer a child two choices for a bath toy. Once they’ve selected the toy, you can play with them while modeling language at their communication level (examples might include, “duck go, duck swim, under water, all clean.)
In the bedroom: Clothing options are a great opportunity for toddlers to make choices. They can choose which shirt, shoes or hat they’d like to select. If reading a book is a daily part of a child’s routine, first offer two choices for a story; then, throughout the story, pause to ask questions such as, “what should the character do next, should he open the door or go eat?”
During the beginning stages, it may be helpful to present your toddler with one preferred and one non-preferred choice. After your toddler makes his choice, be sure to move the non-selected choice out of view. As your child progresses in this skill, you can offer a larger number of choices. Consistency is beneficial in improving this skill, try and offer choices throughout the day, everyday!