When your child is an infant your job is to anticipate their needs and meet those needs as quickly as you can. This lets your child learn that you are there when they need you, that you understand what their needs are and can provide the care they need. And that is just perfect.
Now, as your child gets a bit older and we are focusing on helping the child learn to communicate, we need to step back just a little bit and try not to always anticipate your child's needs but let them "tell" you what they need. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying to not meet your child's needs or frustrate them or be mean to them. Let me try to explain how this would look.
Your child is sitting in their highchair and they drop their fork on the floor, or their sippy cup, or whatever. Instead of quickly picking it up and giving it back to them, I would wait and see what they do next. Your child might look over the edge at the object and then back to you; they might point at the object on the floor; they might even fuss and whine. Let them take their turn, which would be any of the above actions and then you take your turn. You might say "oh no!! cup fall down" and maybe gesture with your hands out and palms up. Make your comment, use some animation and then wait. You gave them the words, a gesture and all your attention, so let's see what they do. Build on your child's next turn. Do they say "oh no"? Do they look again at the object and then back to you? Do they point? If they do any of those things it's your turn again, so exaggerate pointing at the cup, or looking at the cup and maybe say "oh no" again. See if you get another turn. In the end I would finally pick up the object and say "cup up", or even ask the child a question "do you want the cup?" and follow it with a head nod and say "yes" while you are picking up the cup.
Now of course this could become a game of throwing things on the floor and watching your animated expression, and I am not looking for that. But this is just an example. Here are some other ideas of ways to not anticipate, or as I sometimes refer to it "playing dumb :)"
-Your child brings you their sippy cup and you only put a sip or so in it and then hand it back. The juice will be gone quickly and your child will want to request that you get them more juice in some way.
-Your child is trying to open the playdough container and instead of rushing over and doing it for them you wait.
-You enter a room at night and don't turn the lights on right away.
-A DVD they are watching is done and they want another show on.
-They spill their milk...don't clean it up the first second...wait and see.
-Do the unexpected like putting their socks on their hands.
-Say we are going outside and don't open the door right away.
These are just a few suggestions so let your mind start thinking this way and you will see many times during your day that you just assume that your child wants something but they have not made any communication attempt to tell you that.
Once you set up the situation and are waiting to see their turn, think about what you are going to model for them...like with not opening the door you could look confused at the door, knock on the door while saying "knock knock" (kids love to imitate knocking). And then wait.....and then maybe model "open door!" like you are telling it to open. Then look surprised at your child because it still isn't open. And wait. And then maybe model "open?" and turn the doorknob and once it is open you can say joyfully "open :)" and out you go. Now of course you will have another time to try this when you want to get back into the house.
This activity is fun so please don't push your child and the waiting to a point where they are frustrated and angry. Focus on fun and novelty....it works best in that frame of mind. And pick one or two times a day to try this, not all the time because then it won't be fun.
And don't feel guilty. Sometimes when I have had parents do this they feel like they have been "bad" because they do everything for their child. That has been your role up until now and children need to have that security and if you are reading your child so well that they get their needs met just by making a noise or whining or just pointing and looking, that's OK. That's more than OK, that's being a caring parent. But now let's take that next step on the developmental ladder and help them learn that they can let you know what they need. They will feel proud and you will have helped them on their way to be a confident communicator.
Have a great week!