Tummy Time is Language Time

Baby Tummy Time builds language

Babies need tummy time to build their upper body strength but it isn’t always their favorite activity. So start early and give them something to talk about!

I set 3 week-old Caroline on her tummy and put the Taggies Crib bumper in her line of sight. She was delighted to look at the black, white and red zebra and penguin as I narrated what she was looking at. Check out the moving parts, wiggle the zebra’s head or the penguin’s taggies, talking about movement, color and textures. Your continuous description keeps her engaged and stimulates her language development.

Prop up a bright, colorful book like Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do You See? and read it to her as she watches. Accordian books, like Baby Einstein’s World Around Me Oceans, are great for tummy time too because they can wrap around your baby and give her a panorama of pictures to investigate and for you to talk about.

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Vocabulary Tips for Reading to your Child

Whether you are reading to your preschooler or elementary aged child, point out the vocabulary associated with reading that will later help your child become a good writer. Point out the title and the author. Talk about what an author and illustrator does. Take time to examine the pictures and describe them. Recently, I found a new book in the library called Lola and Fred by Heuer. It is a delightful wordless book that I have used with children of many ages, since they become the author as they tell the story from the pictures. Kids were fascinated at the story behind the illustrator. He is from Switzerland where not one but four national languages are commonly spoken so a book without words appeals to everyone and leaves no one out! Take time to read about the author or illustrator and share it with your child. The insight about where they live, what they like or how they got started writing can be an inspiration to your little one.

Talk about the beginning, middle and end of the story, who the characters are, what problem they faced and how they solved it. Take the story a little further and ask your child how they would feel in the same situation or point out a similar theme in their everyday world of activities. Bringing books to their life makes the stories real and stimulates their imagination to create stories launched from their own experiences.

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Stimulating Your Toddler’s Language

Toddler’s BathI just got a call from Will’s parents excitedly telling me that he was putting 2 words together and gabbing away in the bathtub! He had said “pine cone” and “thunder boom” on his walk outside and later during a big thunderstorm. His parents were so excited as was I. Even though I knew it was coming as i watched Will’s vocabulary build, it is a milestone to hear your child start to form little sentences. So much more can be communicated when a child combines words. Just think, “Daddy come” or “Mommy read” invites you to participate in his activity. He is able to express his wants and needs more easily. What should you do next?

Encourage more two-word combinations by feeding your child some short sentences like “Here’s a pine cone” or “Thunder says boom!” Add on a word or two to what he said to expand his language. Always speak in grammatically correct sentences—no need to talk to toddlers in telegraphic speech like they are using. They respond to accurate language that you are modeling. Always encourage their language with a resounding “Yes!” after they tell you something new like “big boat.” You might say, “Yes! That is a big boat. You big boat floats. Let’s push your big boat.” You are providing him with new ways to use his words and expand on what he says.

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Speech Celebrations!

Today was a day for celebrating! Domenick graduated from speech therapy after 5 years of hard work on many sound and language goals. He started when he was three and now he is a big, old first grader, writing and reading.We had a chocolate party with shakes and brownies. The whole family was invited because they all contributed to his success. Little sister Samantha had to be quiet and give up some of her favorite activities to stay home so Dom could have his speech time.

Mom and Dad have been so influential as they followed through on practice activities during the week. Upon arrival at their home, I could see his speech homework paper tacked on the cork board with comments indicating they had practiced. Of course it was evident as I started to work with Dom that week, because he had improved in my absence. Life is full of challenges and celebrations. Today is Domenick’s day to rejoice! When he began speech therapy he was hard to understand but today, as his mom says, “His speech is better than lots of kids in his class!” Good for you, Dom. I will miss you. Keep in touch.

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Stuttering or Normal Dysfluency?

I have been working with little William since he was 16 months old and not saying words yet. He has made steady progress and seems to be taking off with his language development lately. He just turned 3 years old, is using 3-4 word sentences and guess what?

Much to Mom’s surprise he has started to repeat a word at the beginning of a sentence as he tries to say something. “I I I I want pirate.” It seems that he is having trouble getting out what he wants to say. “This is something new,” Mom says, “What does it mean?”

Occasional easy repetitions of whole words or phrases at this age can be typical and is referred to as “normal dysfluency,” not stuttering, by a speech-language pathologist. Often it occurs when a child is experiencing a surge in his language development. Tips for responding:• Don’t draw attention. In the same way that you wouldn’t correct your child’s pronunciation, don’t draw attention to these repetitions. Just listen attentively and be affirming.

• Be patient. Give him your full attention with ample time to express himself. He’ll get the idea that he doesn’t have to hurry and you are interested in what he is saying.

• Slow down yourself. Answer him in a slow, relaxed rate of speech yourself, creating a calm environment in which to share. I often tell parents to use their “Mr. Rogers” voice. By your modeling a slower pace, you can affect his rate of speech.

• Don’t finish up. It’s easy for a parent to want to finish his child’s sentence but it is important to let him complete his thought. Interrupting is disruptive and will not promote fluency.

• Shorten up. Respond to your child with some shorter, less complex sentences, pausing between phrases. “Let’s get your shovel and truck. We’re going to the park today.”

Be Aware:
If your child begins to show signs of dysfluent speech that are different from the typical examples given, such as repeating parts of words, “m-m-m-my car” or prolonging a sound in a word such as “mmmmmy car” and this persists, you should seek an evaluation from a speech-language pathologist. To find a professional in your area refer to The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website at www.asha.org.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

Best Toddler Toys

Toddler creative play in box

As parents we are bombarded with the next best toy coming out on the market. Having walked through the many floors of the 2008 International Toy Fair in New York City, I was overwhelmed with the spirit of invention, creativity and passion to find that next best toy, book or game. I get caught up in it too. I love when a package arrives with new products to review and I can see what some of my favorite manufacturers are introducing.

Then I come down to earth when I see a toddler fascinated with a cardboard box that has become his ship, house or fort. I drove up to a fantastic grandma’s house the other day and right next to her beautiful gardens were two huge cardboard container boxes from a furniture delivery. Little scribbles were on the sides and windows and doors were cut out for play.

Yesterday I spent almost an hour with little Ian who was busy with just a watering can and the hose. He never tired of asking mom to turn on the hose, filling up his can and watering every bush he could find in the yard. In the meantime we discovered leaves that looked like rabbit ears, purple flower petals, bugs, sticks and even a bale of hay that Dad left behind.

Springtime is a wonderland of new sounds, textures, objects and colors. Let you child lead you to what he loves and describe it for him and give him a little more information. Show him the tree where the petals fell from, collect sticks and compare sizes, talk about an empty and full watering pot, and describe the furry rabbit ears. When you follow your child’s lead and his interests, he takes in more language and will be talking sooner.

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A Great Resource for Parents: Parents’ Choice Newsletter

As parents we are always looking for helpful sites on the internet to make our job easier. I have mentioned before that the Parents’ Choice Foundation site has interesting articles, and reviews of award-winning toys, games, books and media selections by age.

In addition, I wanted to share with you an opportunity to get their monthly e-mail newsletter. Last month’s newsletter included the following three articles:

“Digital Picture Books: Breaking the Paper Habit”
“Best Strategies to Stimulate Your 3-Year Old’s Language Development”
“Attending My First Concert: Three “M”s to Maximize Your Child’s Experience”

“Digital Picture Books” gives an interesting look at the future and is written by a children’s book author and illustrator. I had the privilege of writing about “Best Strategies to Stimulate Your 3-Year-Old’s-Language Development” and ” Attending my First Concert” deals with focusing on “music, milieu and manners.”

So take a look and sign up. It’s free and fun information!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Games, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Book Review: A First Guide to Baby Signing by Amazing Baby

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When I was at the International Toy Fair in New York City in February, I stopped in at Dolphin Books and was introduced to their new book on baby signs,  A First Guide to Baby Signing. I was impressed because it was authored by a professional who actually works with sign language, Katie Mayne, a teacher of the deaf.

Parents are increasingly interested in teaching sign language to their babies. Sign language provides babies with a way to communicate with hand movements long before their vocal mechanism is ready to say words. Allowing babies and toddlers to express their needs and wants earlier, relieves frustration and gives us a peek into their thoughts and desires.

The author’s expertise accounts for the simple but accurate information and inclusion of important tips such as making sure family members and care givers can recognize and use signs too since the purpose is to provide a means for your child to communicate. Her tip to keep background noise to a minimum correlates with research that says babies learn language better in a quiet environment, since they have a harder time distinguishing foreground and background sounds.

The yummy colors and kid-friendly graphics surround captivating pictures of babies and moms signing 44 basic words divided into ten categories from “starter signs” relating to your child’s basic needs of hunger and thirst, to “indoor”, “outdoor” and “evening” signs. The categories of signs as well as the sequence in which they are introduced are based on language learning while individual signs were chosen to link to earliest speech sounds and words spoken. Step-by-step photographs make learning easy and fun.

Grab this inviting  manual and start signing with your child. Your reward will be a gesture of “I love you” far before your child can say the words.

 

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Sign Language, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers | Leave a comment

A New Resource for Teaching Baby Sign Language

 Baby sign language book

When I was at the International Toy Fair in New York City in February, I stopped in at Dolphin Books and was introduced to their new book on baby signs,  A First Guide to Baby Signing. I was impressed because it was authored by a professional who actually works with sign language, Katie Mayne, a teacher of the deaf.

Parents are increasingly interested in teaching sign language to their babies. Sign language provides babies with a way to communicate with hand movements long before their vocal mechanism is ready to say words. Allowing babies and toddlers to express their needs and wants earlier, relieves frustration and hopefully reduces temper outbursts.

The author’s expertise accounts for the simple but accurate information and inclusion of important tips such as making sure family members and care givers can recognize and use signs too since the purpose is to provide a means for your child to communicate. Her tip to keep background noise to a minimum correlates with research that says babies learn language better in a quiet environment, since they have a harder time distinguishing foreground and background sounds.

The yummy colors and kid-friendly graphics surround captivating pictures of babies and moms signing 44 basic words divided into ten categories from “starter signs” relating to your child’s basic needs of hunger and thirst, to “indoor”, “outdoor” and “evening” signs. The step-by-step photographs make learning easy and fun.

This is a good, basic manual for starting the signing process with your child. Try it.

 

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Sign Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TV’s Influence on Kids

I am continually amazed and impressed with the number of parents who are endeavoring to raise their babies without TV or limited TV. That’s a commitment,  considering all the marketing done to parents of new babies regarding the latest videos and TV shows designed to make your baby brighter. I haven’t read any research supporting those claims but enlighten me if I am missing something. Even the research looking at the effects of TV on older children is not conclusive.

In the New York Times on 3/4/08, there was an interesting article on “A One-Eyed Invader in the Bedroom.”  The author states that about half of American children have a TV in their bedroom and one study found that 70% of 3rd graders did. Recent studies have linked TV in a child’s bedroom to health and educational problems. The mere presence of a TV in the bedroom relates to an increase in the number of viewing hours. The article sited a study in Buffalo that looked at children ages 4 to 7, where the presence of a TV in the bedroom “increased average viewing time by nearly nine hours a week to 30 hours.”  Wow. That is three quarters of a standard work week! Think what a child could be doing with that time.

The article mentions a 2002 study in the Journal of Pediatrics that “reported that preschool children with bedroom TV’s were more likely to be overweight.” Other studies found that children with bedroom TV’s spent less time reading, and scored “significantly and consistently lower on math, reading and language-arts tests.”

 I know it is hard to remove a TV once it is in your child’s bedroom, but this is when parents need to be parents, and act in the best interest of their child. I took a lot of flack from my boys when their friends across the street had TV’s in their bedrooms.Somehow it was interpreted that I wasn’t as good a mom. I told my boys that it would be easy to let them have whatever they wanted—it was a lot harder to hold back for their benefit.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Preschool | Leave a comment