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Talking Toddlers: Offering choices

Why is making a choice so important?

Making a choice is an important life skill. Offering choices creates an opportunity for your child to use their language so that they can understand the purpose of communication. Children love to make a choice and will enjoy learning how to communicate with you. Making a choice helps your child to understand and learn new words. It can also help reduce frustration and is a good way to manage your child’s behaviour.

What you can do:

Illustration of adult letting child choose what's next

You can offer choices in lots of different situations, for example, with food, toys and when getting dressed.

  • want apple or banana?
  • book or teddy?
  • t-shirt or socks?

To help your child make a choice show them the choices as you say the words, only offer two options.

Ways your child might make a choice:

Two eyes

Looking

A person pointing to one of three different shapes to show they are choosing

Pointing

Reaching

Saying what they want

Vocalising, looking and reaching

Illustration of adult letting child pick their cup

Your child is likely to use a gesture before they use words to make a choice.

Some children might choose both options or they might not want either offered. This is okay, your child is making a choice.

When your child has made a choice, say the name of the thing they have chosen for your child to hear and praise your child for making a choice.

It will help your child if you offer choices everyday.

If this is too easy you can try:

  • Using photographs or pictures instead of objects to help your child make a choice.
  • Offer choices with action words.
  • Use gestures or Makaton signs as you say the action words.
  • Your child might make a choice by copying your gesture or sign.
  • When your child makes a choice name the action for them to hear.
  • Use pointing or gesture to show your child their choices. Ask ‘hold mummy’s hand’ (show your hand) or ‘hold push chair’ (point to pushchair handle).
  • Model two word phrases when offering a choice. Ask ‘drinking juice or drinking milk?’ When your child has made their choice name the thing they have chosen using a two word phrase ‘drinking milk’.

If that’s too hard you can try:

  • Show your child how to make a choice by encouraging them to watch yourself or other family members choosing from the two options. Name the choice for your child to hear.
  • Give your child time to look at the options and to respond when they are ready.
  • Make sure you are face to face with your child when you offer the choices so that you can see what they are looking at. If your child looks at one of the options or moves towards one of the options – this is their choice. You can gently guide their hand towards their choice.

Weekend Words – Giving Choices

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service on 0114 3053966/3053967.

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Disclaimer

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.

Resource number: SL217

Resource Type: Article

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United Kingdom

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