the newsletter


September 25, 2022


If you didn’t read last week’s WAIT TIME: PART I, go ahead and read it now. Then, we can get going. Let’s help babies and toddlers learn to think independently (and feel like they have permission to do so) with wait time.  If you have bigger kids, hold your horses! I have more tips coming your way, but the number of things I had to say got so long that I decided to break the series into more parts. 

Most babies aren’t having full on conversations with their parents yet and toddlers all develop language at different rates, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start practicing wait time! As soon as your baby is born, you can start working YOUR brain so that wait time will be automatic for you. 

The Preface:

I need you to know that I’m not in the business of teaching your child to talk, or even HOW to read, but I AM in the business of teaching your child to think, and teaching you to give your child permission to take the time they need to think.

If you were constantly peppered with questions that were answered for you before you had time to process them and come up with your own answer, would you want to keep attempting to share your thoughts? Wouldn’t you get frustrated? I would!

So, before you say, “I’m just not patient!” Tell yourself that you are. Find a mantra. Sing a little song. And read on for a couple of SUPER easy ways to practice waiting, while doing things I’m sure you already do.

wait time with your baby:

  • Gear yourself up to wait. Talk to your baby all the time, but act as though your baby is going to fill in a blank: “Now, we are going to pick out a [pause for three seconds] book!” 
    • Please don’t only speak this way, but practice doing it so that when your baby is ready to point, you are in the habit! 
  • As you narrate your life, model pausing to think: “Hmmm.. I’m thinking about this, but I can’t quite decide.” Or: “Let me think about this for a minute before I give my answer.”
    • Again, you are training your brain!
    • (Personal note: I was not good at narrating my life with my son. Let’s not panic.)

wait time with your pointing baby:

Before reading:

Ask, “Which book would you like to read now?” Offer TWO choices, and then pause calmly until your child lets you know which book they want to read. 

This gives your child a chance to make their own decisions. Being comfortable with a low-risk decision builds confidence to take bigger opinion-related risks down the road. 

Find things while reading:

Sometimes it’s more fun to just look for things in books than it is to read the actual words, and if you have a child like this, that is absolutely 100% how you help them have a positive association with reading. 

Ask questions like, “Where is the bunny?” and right before you are about to move that little finger (or your own finger!) to the bunny, I want you to say to your self: “I can wait three seconds.” 

If your child doesn’t get it, I want you to slowly model thinking: “Hmmm… where is that bunny? Is the bunny out the window? No… Is the bunny under the bed? No….” Then pause again. If your child still needs help, you can say, “I see the bunny sitting on the….” and then you wait again! If your child knows the word “bed”, you’re looking or for them to fill in the blank. If they don’t, you’re looking for them to point. If they don’t get it this time, then you will point to the bunny on the bed and say, “I found the bunny on the bed!”

wait time with your talking toddler:

Fill in the blank while reading:

I first started filling in the blank with my own son after taking a Speech Sisters online course when my son was 13-months old with very few words. If you have want to learn more about how you can help your child develop language skills through your own routines, I found it incredibly helpful to take their course.

Here’s what you do:

After reading a book over and over and over again (the number of times you need to repeat may decrease with time, depending on your child!), stop at the end of a sentence and wait for your child to fill in the last word. You may need to pause for longer than you feel comfortable, and that’s OK. 

Personal note: Sometimes, when we are reading a new book, I’ll leave a quick pause at the end of a sentence to let him know that in the next few times, I’ll be waiting for him to fill in the blank. 

If they mess up, just say the correct word, and move on! You can always say, “It’s OK that you weren’t able to finish the sentence YET. We will keep working on it.”

Again, you are practicing with your toddler. The waiting for them to retrieve the word is helping them practice think time, while you are honing your ability to sit and wait while they do the thinking – the work you both know they can do! 

This should be fun! Don’t force it, but don’t give up, either.

You can also use this strategy with commentary:

  • “Digger is crying. Dozer smashed the flower. He’d been taking such good care of the flower, and now his friend destroyed it. I bet he’s feeling…..” 
    • You can also say, “I’m going to give you a minute to think of the feeling word. Take your time. You don’t have to answer right away.”


Sometimes I feel like I’ve waited far too long – like to the point that he’s forgotten what we’re talking about – and then my son will answer my question. This is when I make a mental note that we need to tailor wait and think time to the children in front of us. So, please, learn from your child!

Final Notes

  • Fill in the blank works when you aren’t reading, too! 
    • “So we can go outside, let’s put on your _______.”
    • Again, you are helping your child get comfortable with putting their “answer” out there, building confidence to participate, and working on vocabulary skills. 
  • If you have a child who likes to play while you read, don’t skip these strategies!
  • Questions? Email or read our on Instagram @readingandwritingmatters. I’m here for you!

Repetition is key. Repetition is key. Repetition is key.

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