Following the child’s lead is a research-based technique speech-language pathologists (SLPs) use to grow speech skills. The best part about this strategy? You can use it anywhere! Follow their lead at home, in the car, or at the park. You probably have already followed their lead without even noticing it. It’s natural and rewarding for the child because they have a little control, and takes the pressure off of you to create an exciting activity they just aren’t into! Ready to learn how to follow your child’s lead at home? There will be no “sitting and saying” at a table here (unless your child enjoys that, of course).
What is “following their lead”?
“Following their lead” is noticing what your child is interested in and doing (with joy), and then joining in and expanding on what they’re doing. I’ll dive into real-life examples below.
Why should I do it?
Following the child’s lead is research-based, motivating, and fun! The child gets to choose the activity, we just follow along (while building in new skills). If you’re ready for the how-to, here it is!
A step-by-step guide:
1. Stop and watch them play on their own
What are they doing? What toys, objects, and pictures are they interested in? What captures their interest for the longest period of time?
2. Listen for any sounds/watch for movements they are making
If they are babbling or talking- What sounds or words are they using?
How are they playing? Are they crashing cars together or building blocks? Dropping toys into a cup?
3. Join in by:
A.) Imitating them (copy their movements and babbles/words) or
B.) Adding to the narrative
Stop: Notice they are interested in flipping the pages? The pictures? They might not want to hear the book, so notice what they are interested in, instead.
Listen: Are they making any noises requesting to flip or are they just doing it themselves
Join in: Take turns flipping the page, try “me” and “you” or point to who’s turn it is. Turn it into a game with “ready, set, ___”. They fill in “go”!
3. On a walk