I teach a child to use and understand Yes and No as soon as I think this is possible and I use a simple little game that is quite compelling for most children. The clips above are video models of two Yes/No Games using a ring sorter toy and a Hats Off Bowling Game. Any toy where the child clearly understands that an object belongs one place and does not belong in another place will work for this game. One clip is verbal and the other is a nonverbal Yes/No Game.
When the game is played with a child, the game can take on quite a playful feeling. Often the child is quite serious and concrete as you start this game, simply seeing the words as indicating incorrect placement or correct placement. But, when the game is presented playfully, a child learns that the game is really a social game not a matching game. My favorite moment is when the child intentionally puts an object in a spot where it does not belong in order to see mom or dad shake their head No. The game, played this way, becomes a friendly teasing interaction something along the lines of--I know and you know that this yellow ring does not belong on this green pole but I will put it there anyway and you will pretend to correct me. This game has the same feel as when a parent pretends to be looking for a child in a hide and seek game, or pretends to be a scared when a child puts on a mask, or pretends to be upset when a child eats all the vegetables on a dinner plate . For the child, there is a delicious feeling of pulling one over on the parent although it is achieved with a simple cause/effect routine.
The Yes/No idea, once taught, can be used in a variety of ways. Once a child understands the idea of Yes/No in a game, I often use the nonverbal No with a child when I have to tell the child No for real. With a nonverbal, mimimally verbal child, I say Uh! Oh! and then get down on the child's level, take the child's hands and sadly shake my head No. While this can be a meltdown situation, it rarely precipitates a meltdown when the child has played nonverbalYes/No games with me prior to the real No moment.
I use the Yes/No concept to teach many other ideas. Today, for example, Khalil did not understand that we are putting away toys with the blocks in one bin and the Marble Game parts in another bin. A verbal explanation would not have been helpful as he does not understand language very well yet. I started showing Khalil each piece and saying Yes or No appropriately and he studied what I was doing and understood. There are many, many other games and activities that can be distilled down to a Yes or a No thus taking the comprehension of language out of the equation.
Some of the toys that I have used to teach Yes/no include Shape Sorters, (Noisy Shape Sorters are great), Puzzles, Color Match Games, and shoes (since almost all children seem to know who belongs in which shoes and we always have a pile of shoes at the door of my playroom.) If you purchase any of these particular toys from http://www.beyondplay.com/ in November of 2008, please put in the Promotional Offer Code SRC08 and the Scottish Rite Clinic will get a small percentage of the profits. See Side Bar for more information on this.
I also want to mention appreciation to RDI as this intervention approach brought Yes/No games to my attention and I have used these games extensively ever since.