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“People Games” to Help Motivate Your Child to Communicate

covering eyes


Did you know “people games” help motivate your child to communicate? These games, with repetitive movements, sounds and words, help your child learn to take turns verbally and to imitate/copy what you are doing. Verbal turn taking and imitation are early communication skills that are delayed in many of the children we see in the clinic. These games can help strengthen these skills, while creating fun opportunities to bond with your child!

SLP Tips 

It is important to keep the game the same every time you play until your child becomes consistent in taking their turn and imitating the desired actions or sounds.  If your child struggles with imitating/copying sounds, start with imitating actions first. (Imitating actions always comes before a child will imitate sounds!) Be sure to pause to allow time for your child to take their turn communicating and/or asking for more. During these times, pause and look at your child (I often count to 10 in my head. Sometimes longer depending on the child and their response time).  This lets them know it is their turn. If after 10-15 seconds your child does not respond or take their turn, you can fill in their turn by completing the actions and/or saying the word again. Don’t give up though. Through repetition, your child will learn their role in the game.

Choo Choo Train 

Have your child lay on their back (or if they prefer, sit up and hold your hands across from you) If laying down, take their legs and move them side to side (knees are bent) while singing the song below. If they are sitting up, rock forward and backward while holding their hands and singing the song.  Song:  “The train is going down the track. Chugga Chugga Chugga Chugga. Choo Choo…Choo Choo…” (while stopping to do the up and down arm movement with the choo choo sound) If your child is imitating actions, only model the “Choo Choo” action 1x, then pause completely to have them attempt to copy/take their turn. Wait 10-15 seconds. If they do not take their turn, you can do it again yourself or assist them by taking their arm and helping complete the up and down “Choo Choo” movement. If your child is imitating sounds, you would say “Choo Choo” 1x, then pause and wait for your child to imitate the sound. If after 10-15 seconds, they do not take their turn, you can say the sound again yourself and then restart the game. 

Up Up and Away 

Start with child down on the ground. While making eye contact with your child, say “Want to go up, up, and away?” while you model reaching your arms up to the sky. Lift your child up (but only a little bit) while saying “up” and the put them back down. Lift your child up again (a little higher this time) while saying “up” a second time before putting them back down again. Then pause and provide your child the chance to say “up“ to be lifted up even higher. Be sure to make eye contact and lean in to let them know it is their turn.  If your child is only imitating actions, they may reach up to request to be lifted. If your child is imitating words, have them imitate “up” to request the last part of the game. Once your child has requested with their turn, lift them all the way up and say  “up and away!” 

Turning Routines Into Games

Many games and routines can be made into people games, such as peek-a-boo, row your boat, ring around the rosy, and many more. Be sure to always start and end the game the same way. If your child is not yet using words (or imitating words), remember to start with having them imitate an action instead, such as covering their eyes, lifting their arms up, pretending to row the boat, etc. Remember to give them time to take their turn. Be sure to make eye contact, lean in, and give them 10-15 seconds before showing them or filling in their turn. Most importantly, have FUN! Make sure to check out our other helpful articles, for more tips!

Shanna Case, M.S., CCC-SLP, CAS