Last week's blog talked about attention and the importance of joint attention on language development and predicting academic success. But what overlaps with building joint attention is eye contact. So today we're going to talk about why eye contact is important and some things that you can do at home to build eye contact when playing with your little one.
Eye contact is the first means of communication, and usually the first goal during speech therapy. We use eye contact for social greetings, making requests, commenting or directing attention to something new.
When you are working on eye contact at home, you want to first think about positioning. Place your child in a position that makes face-to-face contact easy. That could mean getting down on the floor during playtime with your child, or putting them in a high chair, or propping them up on the couch.
Second, you want to hold a desired object close to your eye/face during play. So as your child reaches for something... a ball, a puzzle piece, or a snack... they will soon associate looking at a person as a means to obtain/request that desired object. This is the basis of communicative intent.
You want to reward good eye contact by giving them the object they were initially requesting, and saying "Good Looking" or "I love when you look at Mommy."
As eye contact improves and your child starts to look at you first, you can fade away holding the object near your eye, and just use a verbal cue like "Look!" This way, your child will look at you, then either follow your eye gaze or look to where you pointing to direct his/her attention.
Hopefully today's blog was helpful for implementing methods to elicit eye contact at home with your little one.