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Communicative Temptations

What is a communicative temptation? A communicative temptation is a situation set up by the caregiver that puts the child in a position to communicate in order to receive help or get what they want.

This method is extremely effective in getting your child to produce utterances!

While we use communicative temptations often for children who are not reaching developmental milestones in gestures or speech, parents can use this method on any child to practice verbal (and even nonverbal) communication.

A great way to practice these communicative temptations is to bring as much attention to your eyes and face as possible. For example: if you are withholding a puzzle piece, make sure it is held near your face so your child is prompted to make eye contact as well as request that item.

Eye contact is important for conversation, so practice it as much as you can!

Note: in the “Look for:” section, the attributes increase in developmental abilities from left to right. For example, the expected communication for a preverbal child would be gestures, eye contact, or some kind of sound, while the expected communication for a talking child would be utterances paired with eye contact and gestures.

Different Types of Communicative Temptations

In Sight and Out of Reach

  • Place an item that your child will want in a place where they can see it but cannot reach it.

  • Example: Place their favorite toy on a high shelf (beware of climbing!!). Put their favorite snack in a clear container.

  • Look for: pointing, eye contact, or verbal request.

Control access

  • You control the materials that your child is currently using.

  • Example: Hand them one piece of a puzzle at a time (only when they request it). Lay out a favorite game but hold back a crucial piece. Read a book but do not turn the page until they request!

  • Look for: reaching, eye contact, pointing, whining/grunting, or verbal request.


  • Engage in activities that require your child to ask you for assistance (mainly fine motor skills that they have yet to develop/strengthen) or games that require your participation but withhold until they engage with gestures or vocalizations, ask for help, ask to play, etc.

  • Example: Hand them items with tricky lids (bubbles, water bottles, snacks.).

  • Look for: handing the item to you (preferably with eye contact), engaging and waiting for your turn, or verbal request for help.

Inadequate Portions

  • This communicative temptation should prompt your child to ask for more of something. You are to give them a smaller amount of a snack or just one block instead of the whole set and wait for them to ask for more! Make sure the items that your child should be requesting are in their field of vision so that they know there is an option for more!

  • Example: Hand them two goldfish while holding back the rest of the packet. Building a train track but only give them two pieces.

  • Look for: reaching, pointing, eye contact, or verbal request.


  • This activity is not as mean as it sounds, and it should be used when your child is familiar with every part of the task or function. This is similar to the Control Access temptation, except you are withholding essential parts of the activity.

  • Example: giving them a coloring page with no crayons or markers, giving them a (closed) bottle of juice with no cup, getting ready to leave but not putting their shoes on.

  • Look for: eye contact, pointing to missing parts/showing frustration with eye contact, or verbal request for the item.


  • This strategy capitalizes on your child’s preference to have things done a certain way or in a particular order. You are to slightly change how their routine or activity is done in order to get them to protest. If your child is older, you can use this to teach them how to protect themselves in uncomfortable situations.

  • Example: If your morning routine is to eat breakfast and then change clothes, switch those two activities. If your child is placing toys in a line, take one toy out of the line and place it somewhere else. If your child does not like a certain jacket or shirt, offer it to them and wait for them to say no.

  • Look for: turning away/showing distaste with eye contact, “no,” “stop,” or a longer utterance with protest.

Silly Situations

  • Do/say things that go against your child’s expectations so that they can recognize and communicate what is not normal!

  • Example: Pretend to eat a nonedible item, put on their shoes and then try to put a sock on over it, sit in the passenger seat and pretend to drive to your destination.

  • Look for: shared interest/laughter, eye contact, protest, or correcting.

As you can see, these strategies can be used in many everyday situations! Encouraging your child to communicate is easier than it sounds, and it will help them become better communicators as they grow and develop! Find what works for you and your child and start communicating!!


Gracie Lee is a rising Junior at the University of Alabama studying Communicative Disorders with a minor in Business. She plans to become a Speech-Language Pathologist and specialize in aural rehabilitation. In her spare time, Gracie likes to read, bake, and go to concerts with her friends.

Skyrocket Pediatric Therapy Foundation (Skyrocket) does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Skyrocket provides general information about developmental disabilities and developmental therapies as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Skyrocket has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties. The views and opinions expressed in blogs on our website do not necessarily reflect the views of Skyrocket.


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