Turn-taking is essential in conversation as speech, language, [and sign] develop. In infants and toddlers, this skill begins in play and during joint attention and interaction. Taking turns is one of the early goals that your child will need to practice to become an effective communicator.¹
Play Activities to Encourage and Develop This Skill:
- Keep the objects for the activity out of your child’s reach. This allows you to control turn-taking and develop the skill.
- Provide your child with tactile, visual, and verbal cues. Pat your chest when it is your turn. Take your child’s hand and use it to pat his/her chest for his/her turn.
- Create anticipation. Engage your child in routine games that create anticipation. For example, you might play peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, sing songs, or read familiar books with repetitive phrases. During activities, pause and allow your child to anticipate what comes next.
- Wait for your child to respond. Show your child that you’re eager to hear [or see] their ideas, by actively listening [and watching]. Lean in close, and give your child attention through eye contact and eager facial expressions. Most importantly, give your child ample time to respond by simply waiting.
- Explain “talking-turns” or [“signing-turns”]. For older children, introduce the concept of “talking turns” [or “signing-turns”]. Encourage your child to let other people have their talking [or signing] turn, and wait for their own turn to talk [or sign]. You might even narrate this (e.g. “It’s mom’s talking turn right now” or “Now it’s your talking turn!”).
1. Mawhinney, L. & McTeague, M.S. (2004). Turn Taking. Early Language Development. Super Duper Publications.
2. Swallow, D. “Turn Taking and Language Development.” North Shore Pediatric Therapy. http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/turn-taking-and-language-development/.
*The wording from the above articles has been changed slightly to include all language modalities.
- A Baby’s Language Development: Joint Attention (georgiapathway.wordpress.com)
- A Baby’s Language Development: The Importance of Eye Contact (georgiapathway.wordpress.com)