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  • Writer's picturePaige Rosano

Why you shouldn't ask your child to "say" words

Written by Paige Rosano, M.S., CCC-SLP

One thing I frequently see when working with a new client is how often a parent asks their child to "say" words. For example, the parent holds up a ball and tells the child, "say ball." The child typically looks at them or ignores them. It's understandable why caregivers want children to "say" words but requesting them to do this produces the opposite effect typically.

You might be wondering what you should do instead. Here's some ideas:

  1. Model the word yourself (e.g., look, it's a ball)

  2. Do something with the item and repeat it (e.g., "it's a bouncy ball") - if it's an action word, simply do the action. (e.g., "I'm jumping" and show them jumping)

  3. Offer choices (e.g., do you want the ball or the puzzle). This forces them to choose one. The child may point if you're offering these items in front of them and that's OK. Just repeat their choice. (e.g., You want the ball. Here's the ball.)

  4. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. This goes back to number 1, but this is the most crucial part of a child picking up the word. Hearing it over and over. When they know the word, they will say it.

Why should I not ask them to say it?

Simply, it's not fun. Children learn through fun, playful interactions. Asking them to say the word is like asking you to say a word, it's boring. In addition, this can be hard for children depending on what's impacting their speech. Imagine I told you to play the guitar and you've never played the guitar. You need to learn many steps and skills prior to playing the guitar. It's the same with speech.

Let me know below if you found this helpful. Thanks for reading!

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