Give your child choices they can understand

Giving your child a choice doesn't just help them in the moment. It also instills agency, confidence and connection long-term. Here are three ways you can give children choices before they can understand spoken language or express themselves with words.

1. Use artifacts (aka the thing itself)

Do you want the child to choose between dolls and blocks? Put a doll in one hand and a block in the other. Simple enough! And very effective! However, it's not always that simple. What if you're pushing them on the swing outside? You don't want to go inside to get the artifacts and leave your child alone. You also don't necessarily want to risk a meltdown by taking them from their swing to -- from the child's perspective -- who knows where?! Using artifacts are the best way to give choices when you have few choices and they're readily available.

2. Use a choice board

Choice boards are usually about the size of a notebook with pictures of choices the child may want. These choices are often food and toys, but they could be choices of activities, bedtime stories, etc. Unlike artifacts, choice boards are an abstraction from the thing itself, which could confuse children at certain stages of development. The nice part is that you can have much more than two choices, so the process of gathering the artifacts (ie different snacks) isn't a big todo. Choice boards have some downsides though. The process of creating them is time consuming. Also, even if you DIY it, it can get costly since you have to have a printer and ideally a laminator and velcro.

3. Use a smart app

With speech recognition and AI, apps can turn your speech into on-the-fly choice boards. Using the Viz Kids app, simply press the record button, state the choices as you normally do, and press visualize. The choices are displayed in a grid of images for the child to choose from. And since it's on your phone, you'll always have it with you! There is still the potential downside that the child isn't developmentally able to associate the images with the things themselves. Viz Kids has a free trial though, so you can try out the app before subscribing. Download the app for iPhones and iPads here.

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