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Language strategies: Giving choices

Why is giving choices useful?

Giving choices can be a really helpful strategy to help children learn to make requests, and give them a little bit of control over their daily routine. It also gives us the opportunity to model some spoken language and for your child to link the language with the real object. Waiting while you present the choices can also help to develop your child’s attention.

How to give choices

It’s important to begin by limiting to 2 choices. Hold up and show your child the real objects and name each one as you move it towards your child, for example, “apple or banana?”, “car or train?”.

You may have noticed that if you offer two items to your child they will take both items every time or you might find they do not take either item at all. You can help your child become more consistent at choice making by moving through the following steps:

Step 1: Offer 2 objects, 1 that your child really likes and 1 that they are not very interested in

For example, “biscuit or parsnip?”, “car or pebble?”, “light spinner or glue stick?”.

Step 2: Offer 2 objects that your child really likes

For example, “car or tractor?”, “banana or grapes?”.

After offering a choice, pause and wait to give your child time to respond.

Children can indicate their choice using different kinds of communication. They might reach for the object they want, point, vocalise, or even copy the spoken word after you.

When they indicate their choice, you should hand them the object immediately and repeat the word to model the vocabulary and help them to link the object with the spoken word, such as if they reach for an apple, you say “apple, mmm apple, here’s the apple!”, as you give it to them.

Good activities for choice making

Some good activities for offering choices include,

  • meals and snack times
  • toys with pieces, such as puzzles, Mr Potato Head, pop-up pirate, wooden train tracks
  • bath time (such as “rubber duck or boat?”)
  • getting dressed (such as offering a choice of two different tops, or a choice of what to put on next such as “t shirt or pants?”)
  • story time (such as offering choice of 2 books)

With some of these activities, particularly using toys with pieces or offering snacks, you can create lots of extra opportunities for making choices by holding pieces back. For example, if you keep hold all of the train track pieces or all of the slices of apple and grapes, then every time your child has finished with the one in their hand, you can offer another piece, such as “curved or straight track?”, “apple or grape?”.

What next?

Once your child can consistently make a choice from objects, you could progress to offering choices while holding up two photos or symbols, for example “slide or scooter?”, “fish fingers or pasta?”. Photographs are particularly useful for requesting things that aren’t immediately available (such as meals or toys or activities that are in a different place).

Additional resources and information

This video is part of the Weekend Words series and explains and demonstrates how to use the language strategy of giving choices.

Contact us

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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