Teaching Turn Taking and Imitation for Communication

Teaching Turn Taking and Imitation for Communication

Teaching Turn Taking and Imitation for Communication

Did you know, children can learn to have conversations even before they talk! One of the key features of communication is taking turns. Just as we hit a ball back and forth when playing tennis, we use the same kinds of ‘turns’ when we communicate. You can work with your child on taking turns for communication at any age or level of development!

  • With infants, you can ‘model’ turn-taking. You can do this by responding to their actions or vocalization the same way you respond to talking. The child will see that after you say something, you wait for them, and after they move or make a sound you continue.
  • For a child who babbles, you can even hold a “conversation” by talking in response to things they babble. Bonus points for using the same tone and pitch patterns as your child!
  • When a child is saying words, you can also incorporate movement, throwing a ball back and forth saying “Ball!” or “Throw!” or “Catch!”

talking to kids

  • You can use familiar nursery rhymes, each of you singing a line in turn. You can maybe even use a paper rolled into a cone as a pretend “microphone”!
  • Reading storybooks to your child that involve conversation-like dialogue is also a fun and effective way to work on this skill. Some examples could be “Brown bear, Brown bear, what do you see?” or “Are you my mother?” As your child begins to understand the story more, they can role-play one of the characters in the dialogue.
One more skill that is important for communication is imitation, and this can also be taught with play!
  • When your child is babbling, playfully repeat what they are saying or doing. This will encourage them to make more sounds or actions. Hold them in front of a mirror to show them that you are doing the same thing.
  • After catching their interest, you can start making different funny faces or actions (e.g. clapping, sticking out tongue, smiling or frowning) in front of the mirror and encourage them to imitate.
  • If they try to imitate you can praise them by smiling, tickling, and/or hugging or kissing.

Baby with her mother

  • You can take the help of other young children by making it a game to imitate.
  • After they start imitating simple sounds and actions, start making sound combinations like /bababa/ or /mamama/. Use a playful, sing-song tone. If your child also produces some other sound combination, repeat it back as a part of the game.
  • Use different pitches like high/low, and different loudness like soft/loud in this. You can then move on to animal sounds or vehicle sounds as a part of this game.
  • You can introduce simple words such as mama, car, ball, give, or come by showing the action or the object while playing this repeating game.
  • Don’t force your child to say it, instead keep giving them examples and let them try to imitate on their own.
  • Gradually increase the length of the syllables and words.

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