Communication Temptations: How & Why

Your child wants something, so they stand in the kitchen with you while you show them item after item, trying to figure out what it is that they want. Does this sound familiar?


To communicate effectively, we need three things and often one of those things is missing. Essentially, we need a communicate partner to communicate with, we need a reason to communicate, and we need a way to do so. Sounds like an easy formula, right? But time and time again I see parents who know the formula but keep getting frustrated when it doesn’t work so easily. And that makes sense as when children are not yet communicating with words, we get good at reading their cues, which allow us to know instantly what they might want or need.



When your child is a reluctant communicator or is exhibiting delays in their expressive language skills, you may have to help them communicate more directly with you and you can do that by creating communication temptations. Communication temptations is a strategy you can use by modifying the environment in such a way that it encourages your little ones to use their communication skills to get access to the items they want or need.


Communication temptations can help a late talker to begin to talk, a toddler start to combine two words together, or create opportunities for a child with autism to begin communicating. Essentially, communication temptations provide a reason for your little ones to start communicating.


Let’s see what­­­­­­ communication temptations are designed to:


● Increase a child’s desire to communicate

● Making communication fun

● Show our children the power of communication

● Increase opportunities for spontaneous communication

● Provide opportunities for our children to hear target words and phrases


When using communication temptations, it is important that you provide simple language models paired with wait time to allow your children the opportunity to imitate your language when they do not yet have spontaneous language.



Some simple communication temptations to try include:


Placing desired items out of reach, but in view. This provides the opportunity for making requests.

Placing items in clear, hard to open containers such as a box with lid or a zip lock bag to create an opportunity to request “open” or “help.”

Offering a little bit at a time, or bit-by-bit. For example, instead of giving your

child a bunch of grapes all at once, give them just a few. This creates the

opportunity for your child to request more.

Being silly. When your child asks for something specific, you can purposefully hand

them the incorrect item. This provides the opportunity for your child to send you a

clear message about what it is that they want.

Play with hard to operate toys such as wind ups or bubbles. This creates the

opportunity for your child to hand you the toy, to ask for help or name the item.

Sabotage. Give your child a favorite treat such as yogurt or ice cream but do not

give them a spoon. This creates an opportunity for your child to make a request.

Pause. Use the power of pause and see if your child can fill in the word to familiar

songs, books, or phrases. You can do this by singing, reading, or speaking a phrase

and then pausing before the last word as needed to allow your child the

opportunity to fill-in that word.

Offer choices. When you hold up two items and label them as needed to offer

choices, you provide a language model for your child to imitate.




The key behind communication temptations is simply providing the opportunity for your child to communicate with you by creating a reason for them to do so.