I love to find books that encourage girls to be all they can be. One series I like is Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Coyle, Gordon and Gordon.
Once again, I was searching our public children’s library for treasures and found I Want to Be a Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis. The more I read this to little girls, the more I like it. This is for the girl who doesn’t want to be “a good girl” because good girls “have no fun.” She much prefers the rain and sun to playing quietly inside with tea parties and girly girl activities. The sassy dialogue is enhanced by the clever pictures with lots to discover related to the theme. The clouds in the city take on the shapes of cacti, steers and ten gallon hats. She breaks in broncos by riding her dog and throwing her lasso that was a clothesline a few minutes before. My favorite is when she sports her new fuzzy chaps and we see the outline of the carpet where she has cut out the chaps!
Use this book to make comparisons between the city and country, talk about what the artist is drawing to depict the western theme–a dog for a bronco, a goose for an eagle, a clothesline for a lasso or a banana for a gun. Watch her straight-laced dad listen to her pleas and see his reaction at the end.
I love to have my “play on words” sessions with moms and dads of typically developing children because I pick up so many funny but poignant stories.
Yesterday I met with Jack and his mom and dad. Dad is high on my daddy list because the last time I came, there was a big cardboard house that he had built and decorated with Jack. Anyways, Dad told the story of being left at home without his keys. (Mom had mistakenly taken them with her to work!) Without realizing it, while searching the house, Dad was repeatedly talking to himself saying, “I need my keys.” Later, little Jack who had been listening intently to Dad, kept saying, “Nee, nee.” We aren’t sure if he was saying “key” or “need” but he surely was imitating Dad!
Remember, you have an audience so take advantage of it. Describe your actions and activities like a running commentary whether you are picking flowers, strolling to the beach, or watching a bird. You child is listening and taking it all in.
I’ve been working with 2 year-old David to increase his 2-word combinations for a couple of months. He loves to play and has no idea we are working on expanding his language. But the other day, we reversed roles. He made up the game, and I played along.
We were sitting on the couch and he was clutching two favorite wooden cut-out cows when he started to hide them. Next thing you know, I was asking, “Is the cow under the pillow? Behind Sherry? Between the cushions? or Under the couch? He was delighted with “tricking” me as he hid the cows and I searched for them. Pretty soon, David was repeating the prepositional phrases “under couch” or “back pillow” and using the positional words that I had modeled for him.
Take advantage of the fact that toddlers are great imitators so give them something to imitate. Talk about where toys are–in, on or under during your everyday play, inside and outside. Describing their world will expand their vocabulary and eventually have an impact on reading.
As parents we can get exasperated when matched with the wit and will of a toddler and sometimes we say things in desperation.
Yesterday I was talking to a dad of a 21 month-old boy, Sam, who refused to stay in his crib and go to sleep for the night. Now I had just been at the house of twin 2 year-old boys who had a fancy “tent” over the crib that was obviously designed for the purpose of keeping the little ones where they belonged at night. But this father was using logic and negotiation with Sam, not realizing, Sam was processing the whole thing and would hold him to it.
Dad was tired of the game of “climbing out of the crib” and finally told Sam that if he stayed in his crib, Dad would take him to the beach the next day. The following morning, the first words out of Sam’s mouth were, “Daddy beach!” As a matter of fact, that is pretty much all Sam said the whole morning. Dad was being held to his word.
So be careful what you say–someone is listening and won’t forget!
Every parent is interested in finding the best preschool for their child. Within my neighboring towns I can think of such a variety of experiences for a preschooler. Some preschools have small classes with one teacher, some have larger classes with 2-3 teachers. Some are highly academic, others stress more play. Some have a curriculum based on nature or the arts, while others are more traditional in their learning units.
Matching your child’s needs with a preschool can be daunting, but I ran across a good article by The National Institute for Early Childhood Research with questions to ask a preschool to evaluate it’s quality: “The Top 10 Pre-K Questions: What Parents Need to Know About High Quality Preschool.” Do we really ask the hard questions of the place we are entrusting our child to? Observations are important so you can see if the school is a good fit for your child. One of the questions asks if the program assesses children for problems and if the staff is equipped to handle children with special needs.
So check out the list and take it along on preschool shopping!
Don’t we all like to talk to someone that is looking at us and not absorbed in some other activity? Well, babies are no different. They love it when we look right at them, repeat what they are saying and give them our full attention.
Research shows that babies prefer faces and talk more to a face–including a doll–like little Caroline who is fascinated with Emily the doll. Make sure your baby toys have bright, distinct faces whether they are a boy, girl, banana or “whoozit.” Recently Lamaze redesigned their plush baby set of animals, “Pupsqueek,” “”Jacques the Peacock,” “Stretch the Giraffe,” and “Mortimer the Moose,” to name a few, so their eyes and facial features are bigger for baby to see and react to.
Hold the toy in front of your baby and talk for it. Engage in a dialogue with your baby, pausing for her to fill in with her coos and goos. You are having your first conversations! Be sure to pause after her little sounds and then imitate what she said. Research was done that looked at 5 month-old babies when parents paused before repeating their child’s sounds. The frequency with which mothers responded to their babies’ attempts to engage them, correlated strongly with the baby’s attention span, ability at symbolic play and understanding or words several months later.
Every time you have a conversation with your baby, you are encouraging language development. Babies are hard-wired to learn language, but they need to hear it to begin making their scientific analysis of it and eventually speak in words. You are their first and best teacher!
Last week I was playing with a little boy in his basement playroom. In a house of three preschool boys, this was clearly the room to move in. It had several kid-sized vehicles lined up against the wall, and smaller trucks, helicopters, fire engines and cars ready for play.
I asked Mom, “Where are the people?” She replied that the little people were upstairs with other sets of toys. I suggested she bring some back downstairs!
Always have play people or animals available to join the pretend play. When you have people, you encourage dialogue and language skills are strengthened. Pick up a little person yourself and start up a conversation with one that your child is holding. Ask an open-ended question like, “I wonder where we should go?” and let your child take off with the direction of play. Remember to to be the producer not the director of your child’s play. You set up the beginning props and watch their imagination take over the theme of play. Follow their lead and they will gain more from pretend play.
Think about props that could be added to a play scheme that your child enjoys. If he likes to ride vehicles, add a cardboard box with a string attached so he can fill his car with gas from the pretend pump. No need to buy every toy–a cardboard box can represent many things. Invite him to make the gas pump with you and decorate it with markers, adding numbers on the outside.
One of the perks of having a website is the interesting people that I meet, responding to something that I have written.
Last week I posted an article on “Cool Picks for Hot Summer Reading–Building Language and Literacy.” I shared new children’s picture books that encourage language and vocabulary development. After each review, I gave tips on how to build pre-emergent literary skills (those skills that precede the ability to read).
One of the books that I discovered and reviewed was the Pout-Pout Fish by first-time author, Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Dan Hanna. Read this story in rhyme to your child and the beat just goes on in your head. Today I read it to a 5 year-old and he pointed to the repeated “Blub, Bluuub, Bluuuuub,” read it out loud and told his mom he was a real reader! Check out my tips to build language and literacy in the above article.
Anyways, yesterday I got a letter in the mail from the author, Deborah Diesen, thanking me for my article and giving me a little bit of her story. It is important for our children to have models. Go to Deborah’s website and see her story of writing, revising, and trying again until she got her first book published. Share it with your child how a “professional” writer sets aside time to write and goes back to a story and makes another draft. These are all things that your child is learning to do in school.
Also, Deborah’s website has a “Kids Click Here” which takes you to several free downloads related to the book as well as lists of other rhyming books. Take a look and introduce your child to an author.
In response to my post on Dr. Seuss, I got a note with some interesting facts for Dr. Seuss lovers.
Do you know what book of his was the result of a bet with his publisher that he couldn’t write a book using just 50 different words? By the way, it was a $50 bet!
Dr. Seuss met the challenge and created Sam to repeatedly ask where you could possibly eat Green Eggs and Ham? Check out this video from Barnes & Noble Studio with the story.
This would be an interesting exercise to try with your child–creating a story or poem with a limited vocabulary, say 30, 40 or 50 words. Draw up a list and see if you can do it together.
Around 2 years of age, your child is transitioning from using gestures, grunts, crying and whining to get what he wants. Now that he is 2, he should have around 50 words and be putting 2 words together like “me go” or “more doh.” Somehow one and two-word sentences don’t feel like enough to him and the whining starts. I work with a little boy who had become accustomed to yelling “Ma ma ma”whenever he wanted something. After several sessions and modeling for mom, he knows that I won’t respond to that kind of talk and that he has to talk quietly and use his words to let me in on what he wants. Here are some tips to curb whining and yelling and encourage using language to make his needs known:
- Model quiet, calm talking to your child and label it as using a “good talking” or “using your words.” Try to be positive and not focus on “Stop whining” but rather “I like it when you use your words.”
- Play a game taking turns, whether it is adding to a play-doh creation , painting or turning the pages in a book. As you take your turn or make your requests, you model the right way to ask for something.
- Ignore the whining or yelling. This is hard but if you are consistent your child will get the message that he won’t get the Popsicle, mom’s attention, or someone to go outside with him if he whines.
- When he whines, calmly model an appropriate way to say it such as “More paint” and continue modeling it until he imitates you. Then reward him with the paint.
It is hard work to be consistent but you will be rewarded with less whining and more communication.