How does turn taking help early language development?
Turn-taking may seem like a very basic concept, but it is an essential skill in speech and language development. As infants and toddlers develop, turn taking begins in play and routine scenarios (supported by Joint Attention skills). Turn taking is a foundational skill for speech and language development.
Communication is a “give and take” process. Turn taking for communication purposes refers to the ‘back and forth’ interaction that may involve gesture, signs, sounds and/or words. Parents and caregivers are in a prime position to help reinforce a child’s positive actions and vocalisations. We are able to teach them how to use these basic skills that are essential for communication development.
To demonstrate how turn taking and imitation can help a child’s speech and language development, consider an experience I had earlier this week. A client, who I’ll call James, was playing with the train set. He was making repetitive noises as he moved the train along the track. I sat next to him and after a while, started doing exactly what he was doing – I grabbed a train, pushed it along the track and made his “mmm mmm” noise. He looked at me as if to say “What are you doing/Would you like to play”. We both continued in the routine. As I continued to imitate him, it turned into a great opportunity to keep the interaction going – which reinforced the concept of turn taking (My turn to make the sound, your turn to make the sound). After a while, I stopped immediately imitating him, and he noticed. He glanced up to see if I was still there and if I was still participating. On the next turn, I introduced a new sound “Choo Choo”. After a few turns, he had a go at ‘my’ sound (“too too”). This is just a small example of joint attention, imitation and turn taking are essential foundations for building language.
Ideas for encouraging turn taking at home
A speech pathologist will be able to give you advice specific for your child, but here are some basic suggestions for getting turn taking happening at home:
- Use play time as a means of facilitating turn taking
- Have toys available that will allow turn taking.
- Follow your child’s lead to determine what is of interest to your child
- Take turns with a pop up toy. Hold the toy near you and say “my turn” and push the button. You can then give it to your child and say “your turn”.
- Look expectantly and remember to wait and allow your child a chance to initiate their turn.
- Be dynamic!
- Use visual and/or tactile cues to reinforce the concept. You can pat your chest when it’s your turn and show your child when it’s their turn.
- Other toys that are good for turn taking skills are: toy car and slide, building blocks, shape sorter toys, tickling.
- It is a good idea to keep some of the play items (i.e. shapes for the shape sorter) with you so you have some control over the turns.
- Read our blog about ‘Imitation’ for more ideas on how to get communication interactions going.
Contact us for results focused speech therapy
This article was written by our speech pathologist Jenna Butterworth who is a Speech Pathology Australia member.
If you have questions about early language development, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist in Sydney. Contact us today!