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.

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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.

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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

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.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Speech and Language Delay | Leave a comment

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

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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