Being a parent often involves anticipating your child’s needs, which no one can do better than you! But are there times when a little frustration is actually helpful to your child? and could this frustration be a key ingredient in enticing your toddler to talk?

What are Communication Temptations?

As Speech Pathologists, we often see times when a child’s frustration becomes an opportunity for them to communicate with us — to tell us what they want, or even what they don’t want. Setting up these opportunities is called creating Communication Temptations.

For example, I might know that a child wants a toy dinosaur from a closed jar. If I go ahead and open the jar and have the dinosaur waiting for the child before they even ask, what need does the child have to say anything?

On the other hand, if I have the toy dinosaur in a jar on a high shelf with the lid on, there are multiple opportunities for the child to communicate with me about what he or she wants. Here’s how that conversation could go:

Child * points to jar of dinosaurs *

Me: Hmm, I wonder if there’s something you want?

Child: Dinosaur! Roar!

Me: Oh, okay, here you go! * hands child jar of dinosaurs with lid on *

Child * struggles to take lid off *

Me: Maybe you want some help.

Child: Help please!

* opens lid for child *

In this example, the child had the opportunity to use language to tell me what they wanted and to ask for help!

When you’re using this technique it’s important to remember that this is to encourage your child and give them opportunities to communicate, not to withhold something from them in order to force them to talk.

Keys to Using Communication Temptations

  • Only use this technique when you want your child to use a word/sign that they already know! You want this to be an opportunity for your child to be successful in using language.

  • Be silly! The child will enjoy this if you are doing it in a silly way. I sometimes pretend that I’ve forgotten something, and the child has to help me remember it. For example, if a child asked for a sandwich and I just gave them a piece of bread, they would need to remind me about the rest of the sandwich!

  • Don’t use this technique too often throughout the day. You don’t want your child to feel like they have to perform all day. Just a few times is enough!

  • Don’t wait too long before you give the child what they want — if the child has made a few attempts (3-5), that’s enough tries. Just model what word/sign you were looking for and give them the desired object.

Here are a few other examples of using communication temptations to encourage your child to communicate:

  • Child asks for water and you give them an empty cup.

  • Child wants to colour a picture but you only give them one colour pen.

  • Helping a child get dressed and you only put one shoe on.

  • Walking to a door the child can’t open and saying “okay, let’s go!”

Remember, have fun with it and your child will too! If you’d like to chat with one of our team about using communication temptations at home, get in touch! Phone: 3103 0776 or email :