Are you reading the title to this post and feeling confused? Well, that’s ok because you’re right to be a bit confused. I have shared how important early intervention is with you and why taking a “wait and see” attitude may not be the best path for your child. So what is this all about? Waiting is a powerful technique I use in speech therapy to support a child’s use of words and language building. It’s also an important lesson I teach in all my Hanen classes.

A fundamental lesson in the Hanen ‘It Takes Two to Talk’ program is called OWL. This stands for Observe, Wait, Listen. When you OWL with your child, you open up more opportunities for communication. Before I get into why it’s so important to wait, I want to highlight another important strategy to use when interacting with your child.


Try to start interactions by getting face to face with your child. Face to Face time with your child provides time to connect more easily and share the moment. When you can see each other and hear each other, you begin to understand each other’s messages better. It is easier to encourage your child to communicate when you are face to face with them.

Now that you are face to face with your child it’s important to also wait. As a pediatric SLP, I do a lot of talking but I also spend time with children waiting. Waiting is an incredibly powerful tool. Waiting gives your child a chance to either initiate an interaction or respond to something you have said or done.

When you WAIT you should do three things:

  1. Stop talking
  2. Lean forward
  3. Look expectantly at your child

When you wait, you are also giving you child extra time to process information. This is particularly helpful for children with a language delay that often require extra time to process auditory information. The most important thing about waiting is to give your child enough time to understand that you are expecting him/her to send you a message. The message can take lots of forms–a sound, a word, a gesture. Anything your child does to make their needs known is a message.

Here is another tool you can use when waiting. It's called 'give a little bit....then wait':

  • By giving just a few you give your child an opportunity to request more
  • Give a few crackers, instead of the whole package
  • Then WAIT and be sure to have the rest of the crackers in sight so your child knows there is more
  • When your child gives you a message that they want more, provide them a few more crackers
  • By immediately giving more crackers, you reinforce the communication
  • The more positive reinforcement your child receives for communication, the more they will send messages to you

Want to learn more strategies to support your child's development?

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Learn how to purposefully and intentionally interact with your child during play and help them increase opportunities for speech and language development with our Playing with Purpose book!

Hello, I'm Emily!

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