Babies and children often need a little longer to respond to our communication or to initiate interaction with us. This is totally normal, they’re still putting all their skills together. When we pause, we give them the chance to respond to us. This is hugely satisfying for your child but also helps their development – when they respond we usually go to town on praising them which encourages them to have another go.

So it might look like this: 

(Adult blowing bubbles)

Adult: “Ready, steady……” [Pause]

Child: points/looks/reaches/signs/ says “go”/says “bubbles now, please”

Adult: yes! GO! (And blows bubbles)

By pausing, the adult gave the child plenty of time to let them know they wanted some of the bubbles. This pause can feel achingly long for an adult, but is really helpful for your child.

This is useful for older children too, when they might be learning how to put longer sentences together so need a bit longer to put all their words together or when they’re learning new vocabulary.

Have a go today, try counting to 10 in your head before you jump back in.

How to……Pause.

Nursery rhymes and songs really lend themselves to pausing because they are repetitive. This means, you’re child has heard the same lines again and again and again so has a better idea of what they could do to join in. That repetition is basically lots and lots of practising.

Let’s take a classic, Old McDonald. You sing the lines “Old McDonald had a farm, ee eye ee eye oh. And on that farm he had a……” over and over again. Which means your child will quite quickly learn that after the bit “he had a” comes the name of an animal. Instead of naming an animal yourself, try pausing instead, to give your child a chance to tell you which animal they would like.

Remember, communication is about so much more than the words that we use, so get face to face and look out for:

  • Eye gaze – looking at the animal they want (if you have a few toys or pictures in front of you)
  • Reaching or pointing for the one they want
  • Signing or gesture for the animal they want
  • Making the animal noise instead of saying the word
  • Saying the name of the animal they want

These examples all count as communication and are all ways of telling you what they want.

When they point to the cow and you sing about the cow what you’re doing is reinforcing that attempt at communication, which makes them more motivated to have another go. This is useful at any age, even for older very chatty children.

What nursery rhymes will you be singing today? 

PS for more info on how nursery rhymes and singing support language and communication development in general, check out Kate’s video with @foxtotslondon talking about just that on Instagram

Contributed by Kate Burgess of We Can CommuniKate Speech and Language Therapy 

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