So when our younger son wasn’t developing language skills and hitting all the “normal” milestones, I worried. His daycare teachers did too. They suggested some help from a free speech pathology service through our area education agency. I jumped at the opportunity.
What we found is not that my precious youngest son couldn’t talk, but rather that he needed to be encouraged to and we need to provide him the opportunity to. You see, he’d learned that older brother’s role was to be the talker, and his role … well … wasn’t. This exploration into bringing out the “chatty Kathy” in our little boy was thrilling.
What is a talking stick? How does it work?
During one of the visits with Miss Anne, she also suggested a way to help our oldest son learn balance in conversation, stop interrupting, and “share the floor” with other family members: a talking stick!
The basic principle is simple. Whoever has the stick talks. It’s his/her turn. Then, it’s passed to another person to share. Don’t have the stick? Bite your tongue.
The Perfect Book
Before my son and I made our talking stick, we read a wonderful book that must surely have been written by a mom with a child just like my oldest son.
My Mouth is a Volcano is an amazing piece of children’s fiction that tells the story of a boy who cannot stop the words from erupting right out of him. He doesn’t understand the impact his volcano mouth has on people until he’s the victim of others’ eruptions. It’s a great book to read to help kids understand why it’s important to have control over when you use your voice.
Once my son finished reading the book, I grabbed a wooden dowel rod my husband had purchased and cut down to a little more than 12 inches long. I explained what we were making and we raided the art supply cabinet and decorated our stick. There’s no rules. In fact, you probably don’t even NEED to decorate it. But I knew my son would like the chance to get crafty.
Making our Talking Stick
He painted. He glued on glittery foam strips. And then we stuck on star stickers and letters to identify what our stick was. To seal our stickers on, we coated the stick with a layer of Mod Podge.
When it was dry, it was ready to put into action.
Did it work? You betcha!
The next night at dinner, the stick found a place in front of each of our plates. (I love it when we share our favorite parts of the day!) My oldest son interrupted my youngest twice but we were quick to point out who had the stick, and immediately his lips were zipped. Our little guy was chattier than usual that night.
Teaching our oldest son to respect others by not interrupting and giving our youngest boy the chance to share how fun playing at preschool is was a real win-win. The talking stick has been just as successful ever since.