Encouraging Your Baby to Express Wants & Needs

Encouraging Your Baby to Express Wants & Needs
Photo credit: Chrysty Clarkson Photography

Newborns get their wants and needs met mostly though crying and body language. As babies get older their ability to express wants and needs improves. During this growth, frustration may occur because your baby isn’t able to fully communicate and may not even know what he wants in that moment.

Encouraging your baby to request his wants and needs, at the level of communication he is at will empower him to communicate. Sometimes older babies use whining and crying to request what they want, even if they know how to use gestures, signs, or word approximations. This is normal and presents great opportunities to teach other ways to effectively communicate wants and needs. Remember to follow your baby’s lead and listen for his cues.

• Have your (older) baby or toddler “request” things he wants (using signs, babbling, grunts, words, phrases, or sentences) as often as possible.

– If he wants a snack and is able to point, encourage him to point to the snack instead of whining. If he can say “eat” you might ask him, “can you say eat?” or model the word “eat” for him to imitate.

– Maybe you have a ball he wants and he reaches for it. This is a great opportunity to model the word “ball” or give him a cue like, “can you say ball?” and have him try to say it.

– Following your baby’s motivation is important because motivation often
leads to communication. If your baby
wants something, give him the chance to communicate with you before giving him the item he wants (at least some of the time) to encourage communication.

• Sign language is great for helping your little one get his wants and needs met as his verbal language is emerging.

–  Signs that might support your little one in communicating wants and needs are things like the names of his favorite toys (e.g. ball, car, doll), food & drink signs (e.g. water, milk, strawberries), or signs for people (e.g. mom, dad, grandma).

–  Action words like, “more,” “eat”, and “all done” are also great for helping baby get his needs met.

–  Visit the Tiny Signs website to find many great resources for teaching baby sign language! This is our favorite website for baby sign language. 🙂

Encouraging Your Baby to Express Wants & Needs