Teaching your child to make a choice
Choice making is an early skill that your child learns which helps them become more independent and can help to show others their likes and dislikes.
Teaching your child to make choices and offering them more choices during their day can have a dramatic impact on your child’s behaviour. Many children who struggle with choice making may react strongly to being given an item that their parent has chosen for them rather when it is not the one they wanted for themselves. For example when giving your child a snack they may respond better to a choice of two items rather than just being offered one.
Steps to teach Choice Making
There are many steps and stages to developing choice making skills and the pace at which your child moves through these steps will vary.
Step 1: Offer 2 items one preferred and one non-preferred. Hold up both items and name each of them individually as you move it towards the child without giving it to them e.g. Do you want apple or pen?
Step 2: Offer 2 items one preferred and one less-preferred. Hold up both items and name each of them individually as you move it towards the child without giving it to them e.g. Do you want apple or carrot?
Step 3: Offer 2 items both preferred. Hold up both items and name each of them individually as you move it towards the child without giving it to them e.g. Do you want apple or banana?
Step 4: Gradually increase the number of items offered to more than 2 choices, the older your child is the more choice you can offer them. Hold up the items and name each of them individually as you move it towards the child without giving it to them e.g. Do you want apple, banana or biscuit?
Step 5: Fade out the display of the actual item and use a picture or words instead. Hold up pictures or say the names of the items e.g. Do you want apple or biscuit? Children who are non-verbal (or still developing their spoken language) can make their choice by tapping on the picture of the item they have chosen. Children who are verbal can respond using the spoken word “banana please.”
In order to ensure your child become consistent at choice making and masters this skill it is vital that you take their first choice as their only choice and remove the other offered item immediately. If you allow your child to frequently change their mind or to just have both items they will not master the choice making skill. Staying strong even when the child changes their mind makes this a learning experience for the child and next time they will better understand they will get the item they choose and not the item they ignore.
Everyday activities to teach choice making
- Toys with pieces such as puzzles, Mr Potato Head, Pop-up pirate. Offer two choices depending on the step your child is currently at e.g. red sword of blue sword? red sword or paper?
- Meal and Snack times
- Bath time – Have your child choose the toys they want to bring into the bath with them
- Getting Dressed – Have your child choose from two items of clothing
- Story time – Have your child make a choice for their bed time story
- Location choices – Have your child choose where they would like to participate in an activity such as outside or inside? your room or on the lounge?