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“Creative Stupidity”

Frequently I get asked: “How do I get my child to talk more?” My answer inevitably involves adding a little “creative stupidity.” Yes, you read that right, putting some thought into how to be ‘stupid’ can actually help your child to communicate more! You see, we parents often do a tad too much for our children and sometimes that results in our children talking less. For example, take the morning routine in my house, I know what my twins like to eat, what bowls they like to use, which spoons are their favourites, what they like to do first thing (watch T.V. - of course), and so on. We can breeze through the morning with them barely saying a word - I turn on their favourite TV show, get their cereal, and give them everything they need.

“Creative stupidity” involves shaking it up a little. I don’t mean, don’t do anything for them (because in my house, chaos would quickly ensue). I mean, do things like turn the TV to the wrong channel, hold up two different bowls and have them tell you which one they want, give them their cereal and “forget” the spoon - you get the idea. When you are “creatively stupid”, your kids will quickly let you know what you’ve “done wrong” and you provide them with an opportunity to communicate.

Communication might mean pointing for very young children or using full sentences for older children. Once your children tell you (in their own way) what they need, you can help them use more advanced language by “one-upping.” For example, if they say “huh?” when they don’t get a spoon, you can repeat what they say - “huh?” and then “one-up” them by adding what they could say next time (e.g. “spoon - want spoon”). Or, if your children say “hey, my spoon!” you could say “Mommy, I want a spoon please.”

Here are some other ways we can be “creatively stupid.” Be as silly as you want to be, the goofier the better:

• Give them a juice box without opening it first.

• Put them in the bathtub without any water!

• Put their shoes on their hands!

• Put some favourite toys high on a shelf where they can see them, but not reach them.

• Hand them the jar of bubbles with the lid tightly
closed (note: this only works if your child can’t open it yet!)

• Put their snack in a see-through container that they can’t open.

• Blow up a balloon - let it go, and watch it deflate then hand it to your child.


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Karen D. Bopp PhD S-LP(C).

Dr. Karen Bopp is a certified Speech-Language Pathologist and a Post Doctoral Fellow in Special Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada. She has worked with children for over 16 years and is also the mother of preschool twin girls.
Her areas of expertise, (when she is not chasing after her twins), include early intervention for children with autism, speech and language development in the preschool years, positive behavior support, augmentative and alternative communication, and training for families and professionals.

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