Children learn language through choice-making. Modelling language when offering children choices provides them the opportunity to hear and understand language, thus increasing their vocabulary. They also learn to make requests through choice making. Children learn to express themselves through being offered choices.
The first step to teaching children to make choices is to offer them their favourite item and something you know they don’t like.
For example, you can offer your child a ‘car’ and a ‘ball’ knowing they like the ‘ball’ but not the ‘car’. Your expectation therefore is that they will select the ball.
If they don’t choose their favourite toy, offer them what they choose i.e., car. This will teach them what choice making is.
Usually, they will quickly learn to choose their preferred item instead.
The next step is to make sure your language is simple, short and clear e.g., ‘toffee or biscuit’ while showing them the two (each in each of your hands).
Children make choice in different ways. They may request by saying, looking, pointing, vocalising (making a sound) or reaching for the desired item.
Some may even snatch it from you. This is an opportunity to model the words if they don’t say it before offering it to them. After modelling, you offer the object.
Benefits of choice making
Choice making offers children the opportunity to express themselves. The benefits include:
• Learning opportunity for the child to develop language
• Offering them some control in decision making
• Building their confidence in making choices
• Learning about cause and effect i.e., the consequences of their actions
When to offer choices
Children can be offered choices at different times of the day:
• Breakfast time – “Do you want Milo or koko?”, “Do you want bread or bofloat?”
• Dressing time – “Do you want shorts or trousers?”, “Do you want the red shirt or blue shirt?’
• Playtime – “Do you want to play with the car or the ball?”
• Snack time – “Do you want orange or banana?”
• Story time – “Do you want Anansi & the bag of wisdom or Fati & the green snake?”
• Song time – “Do you want ‘A lion, a lion has a tale’ or ‘Fox, fox, fox go into the box’?”
Keep your language simple when offering choices to your child. Avoid offering too many choices. Two or three choices are often advisable. Make sure the choices you offer are age appropriate. Choice making is important in children’s development. It helps children to gain independence. Avoid always making choices for them by being patient and offering them the chance to do so themselves.