One Special Girl

I can’t tell you how many times I learn a great lesson from a child–one that inspires me. Here goes.

Yesterday when I was talking to a friend, she mentioned that her daughter, Becca, had befriended a peer with autism. She shared about their weekend trip to the beach and how her daughter takes time to explain things, change course when her friend gets “stuck” in a behavior, and even slows down her speech to be understood. Clearly it is unusual and praiseworthy that this second grader has the compassion, patience and confidence for a friendship with this little girl.

Apparently there is a cost to this friendship because Becca is being teased by other girls in her class for befriending her peer with special needs. That hasn’t stopped Becca. Planning her birthday party, Becca placed her friend at the top of the list of invitees. Good for her. She will reap the rewards of going out of her way to learn and care about someone just a little bit different than herself. Becca is taking a risk and she will be the winner here.

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

Best New Children’s Toys and Games Awarded by Parents’ Choice

Last week, Parents’ Choice Foundation announced their 2008 Toy Awards which includes new games, puzzles and toys.

Preschool: Topping the list was my favorite, “eebee’s Adventure Play Mat and Activity Play House” by Every Baby Company. This play house is begging to be put together for a child from 6 months to 3 years. What kid doesn’t like to build a fort and play house in it? When I brought this to a family’s house to play with their 2 ½ year-old, mom sat his 6 month-old sister in there too and they had a ball. The thick soft panels stick together with Velcro for endless possibilities for creative housing. For my full review go to the Parents’ Choice website.

Several new games made the list for the preschool set. Cranium introduced creative games that promote learning through activities your little one experiences every day-“Let’s Play Stamp and Mail”, “Let’s Play Measure and Cook” and “Let’s Play Neighborhood Sounds Bingo.” These are creative, fun games that I saw introduced at the International Toy Fair in February.

5 Years old and up: Games for the slightly older set, 5 years and up, that have been winners with the kids that I have played with include “Animal Soup” and “Clothespins! Game” by Briarpatch. With “Animal Soup”, every player gets a flip book with variations on their cartoon-style animal. Each picture varies with the addition of a scarf, tiara, jeweled necklace, lei, or varied hats. It’s a race to be the first one to match your picture to the figures on the game board so the winner can collect an animal disc out of the soup bowl. Kids love this game, not realizing that while they’re madly looking for their animal match, they are building their visual discrimination, memory, and fine motor skills. See my full review at the Parents’ Choice website.

“Clothespins! Game” is like a kid’s Gin Rummy where the player decides how to collect items of clothes to hang on the line—by color and pattern (stripes or polka dots) or by type of clothing (pants, shorts). Collect at least three of the same cards, put a pole at the end and no one can steal off of your line! See my full review at the Parents’ Choice website.

Babies: One of the products that received an award is the “Taggies First Touch Ball.” These soft, fuzzy balls dotted with taggies to touch and explore are easy for baby to squeeze and grasp and even for big brother to throw and catch. See my full review at the Parents’ Choice website.

8 years and up: For older kids the award-winners look really great. Try “Chocolate Fix” by ThinkFun Inc that garnered the gold award. Players place chocolates in order on a tray according to clues provided in a puzzle. Sounds yummy to me!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Games, Preschool, Toddler, Toys | Leave a comment

Game Review: “Animal Soup” by Briarpatch Ages 5 and up

Animal Soup Game

Kids beg to play Animal Soup again and again. It’s a game of match as players race to find their animal dressed in different garb—a lei, scarf, baseball hat or tiara—on the game board. The winner collects an animal disc from the soup bowl! See my full review at Parents’ Choice website.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Game Review: “Clothespins! Game” by Briarpatch Ages 5 and up

Clothespins Game

Clothespins!, This game of strategy requires the player to collect items of clothing by pattern—polka dots, stripes or wiggly lines, or by type—pants, tops or shorts. Finish three laundry lines with three matching articles of clothing and you win. But don’t let the bird steal your laundry! See my full review at Parents’ Choice website.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Toy Review: “Taggies! First Touch Ball” all ages

Taggie Ball

Taggies! First Touch Ball, this newest member of the taggie ball family, is a soft, cuddly soccer ball, covered with the smooth tags that attract kids. Great for rolling and retrieving, the ball inspires a new crawler to take off. For my full review see Parents’ Choice website.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Singing Versus Reading to Your Baby to Encourage Language Development

Every time I speak to a new parents’ group about nurturing their child’s language development, I always ask if everyone is reading to their baby. Recently, I spoke to new moms and dads and posed the question. One mom said she wasn’t reading to her baby but was singing instead and asked if that was okay.

Certainly singing to your baby is important for hearing rhythm, beat, and language. One mother of twins, made up and sang a song for each child using their name repeatedly. Children receive information from music in a similar place in the brain as language. Research is constantly being done to look at links between music and language.

That being said, let’s not substitute singing for reading to your baby. Do both! When you read with expression, emotion, variation in pitch and gestures, you are drawing your child in to the enriching experience of language. Babies are hearing the rhythm of language and already making the distinctions between their primary language and other languages. Reading exposes your baby to the flow of language and starts the process of their being little detectives, recognizing sounds, patterns and rhythms that precede their ability to talk. Your close, cuddle time while reading strengthens the social emotional bond with your child and starts a tradition of a mutually enjoyable time of reading together.

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

Children’s Poetry Builds Language

I just left a first grade class that is studying poetry. The students were filling in their poetry journal. A big heart was on each page and a line beneath it. Each page was devoted to a topic “close to their heart” that they wanted to write a poem about. They named that topic and drew a picture in the heart. Then they wrote words around the heart that came to mind on that subject—for the ocean, hot sandy beach, sun, fish swimming and bathing suit. This is a fun activity to do with your child beginning in preschool. You will be the scribe, writing down your child’s words and thoughts and they can illustrate the page, or an older child can do this independently.

Poetry is a great venue for building vocabulary, which enhances language development. As I work with children in elementary school, I find that so many of their language arts activities—writing, reading and speaking—involve encouraging rich descriptive words. Children have to stop and listen, observe, smell, and describe their environment with words.

Of course, not all poetry rhymes, but beginning baby board books are already preparing your child to listen for similar sounds at the end of words and hear beautiful descriptions for later use.

Some favorite poetry books for children are Talking Like the Rain A Read-to-me Book of Poems and Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry by Yolen, Peters and Dunbar. Expose your child early to the beauty of poetry and model creating fun poems as you go about your daily activities with your child.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler | Leave a comment

Helpful Calendar for New Moms and Dads to Promote Language

Cradle Year Calendar for babies

I’m always up for a surprise and since launching my website,, I have had some delightful surprises, meeting interesting people. About 2 weeks ago I got a note from a fellow speech pathologist, Debra Levinson, who liked my website and found the articles especially helpful. Naturally, I looked up her website, and saw that she had developed a calendar for your baby’s first year. Debra is a Board Certified Educational Therapist as well as a Speech-language Pathologist. She kindly sent me a copy of the calendar and I have been sharing it with new moms ever since.

When my daughter-in-law became a first time mom five weeks ago, I asked her what information would be most helpful for her to know in regards to language development. One of the things she said was, “A time-line.” Begin this calendar the month your child is born–just fill in the month on the first page and proceed through the year. There is plenty of space for you to record developmental milestones and even a picture each month to see his growth.

Each month has five learning blocks: vision, hearing, movement and touch, emotions and relationships, and speech, language and thought. Within each area of learning you are given 2-6 “Basics” (what your baby may begin to do that month), and 3-5 “Boosters” (suggestions to support his development in that area, leading to future academic success). Helpful tips are sprinkled throughout the calendar and suggestions on topics such as baby-massage, breastfeeding, how to avoid ear infections, comforting a crying baby, and child-proofing refer the parent to extensive “Resources” at the end of the calendar for further reading. A “Parents’ Problem Solving Guide” gives signs for a sick baby, when to call the doctor, how to soothe a crying baby and the signs of postpartum depression.

In a world of too much information coming at new parents from all aspects of the media, this calendar is a concise, helpful chunk of relevant tips covering the five main areas of your child’s development his first year. Busy new parents have just enough time to refer to this calendar and be reassured of their baby’s progress in the first year of his life.

Posted in Babies, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment