I'm asking about interacting with my 1.5 year old goddaughter.
I'll start off by saying I believe it's good for kids to make decisions and feel empowered to do so when possible. I want to give a kid as much decision making power as I can on small stuff so she knows she can express herself, even if some decisions she's not allowed to make on her own. She's already independent and self-confident, but it's a trait I want to further encourage.
As such I do what I do with slightly older children, and try to offer decisions often. For example while babysitting her last night in a mall I would offer her the choice of where she wanted to go in the mall by suggesting she could point where she wanted to go (she loves riding on my shoulders so she can't always just walk that way on her own). I also gave her choices like to play or go eat. I try to phrase them in ways shes capable of understands and make it clear how she can express her answer (like saying one option is eat because that's one of the words she can say and uses to express hunger so I know she will know how to express that choice, or suggesting she points since she does that all the time to express desires).
Sometimes I get very clear answers and that's great when it happens!
Other times I don't get a clear answer from her. That's not always wrong, she may not be up to parsing some of the questions I'm asking yet and sometimes she may not have a strong opinion either way. However, even when I think she is capable of understanding the question and likely would want to make a choice she doesn't always respond.
I think part of my problem is that I try to talk to her always when were together, to help her develop her language skills and generally allow more interaction with her, especially when were doing something otherwise 'boring' like walking places. With me talking soo much to her though I don't know how much she is listening to me, and I suspect sometimes she just drones my words out. When I try to ask her a question I'm not always certain if she has heard and bothered to understand the question, or if she stopped listening to my constant talking to pay attention to something else. That's particularly hard to tell when she's riding on my shoulders as she is prone to do since I can't tell where she is looking or if she is paying attention.
Any tips on how I can better express decisions to her?. That could be ways to make it obvious that she's being asked a questions and may want to pay more attention, or ways to make it easier for her to understand her options and/or help her to understand how to communicate her preferences back to me?
I also sometimes feel a little odd deciding what to do when I don't get an understandable response from her when the options are just complex enough to challenge her cognitive understanding. I know there is a good chance she may not understand me, but there is also the chance she did but didn't know how to express her decision (not every question can be answered by pointing). If she did have a preference she couldn't express and then I pick the opposite decision because I couldn't understand her choice I know it would be frustrating for her, she imagine her sitting on my shoulders wondering why I bother to ask a question if I'm just going to ignoring her. I don't think there is much of a way to avoid that happening on occasion, that's just part of the frustration any kid has during that period of language development where they can understand but not always respond back, but I wonder if there is a good way of explaining "were doing x because I couldn't understand your answer" that still makes it clear she has the right to make a decision if she expresses it and I'm not intentionally ignoring her answer?
An update from a year later. My goddaughter ended up needing tubes in her ear due to fluid buildup and ear infections. The fluid build up was muffling sound making her somewhat hard of hearing, After her surgery her vocabulary improved rapidly, as did her ability/willingness to discuss things with me and respond to my comments to her.
So it's likely the extra difficulty I had with getting her to express herself, relative to other kids her age, is that she honestly couldn't hear me, or at least was hearing my voice muffled enough to make it hard for her to understand.