The Speech Teacher’s Top 5 Language Boosting Tips For Your Little One

Here are Molly – The speech teacher’s- top tips for helping your little one improve his or her speech and language skills. You can find these suggestions and much more in her new parent guide: The Speech Teacher’s Handbook. It was created in order to provide you with fun and practical ideas that are easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Get it here.

  1. I Spy, You Spy

Always start by checking in on your child’s environment. If he can easily access his favorite toys and everyday items without your help, then he won’t feel the need to interact with you. Start slow and place one or two items on a higher shelf or in a clear container that your little one will need help opening. The idea is that your child can see the wanted item, but will need your help in order to get it. That way you are providing more opportunities for interaction. You also want to know whether or not your son is able to identify everyday items. We often focus on our kids’ ability to label items and forget that the identification part comes first. These skills are needed when you ask your child to find a certain object in the room, touch a specific picture on the page, or point to a particular body part.

  1. Play Like You Mean It

Children are highly motivated and attentive during play, making it the perfect time to build language. Get down on the floor so that you are on your child’s level and talk through the pretend world that she created. You can narrate the scenes with simple phrases, add dialogue or corresponding sound effects, and expand on her expressions. Play is also a great time to practice following directions. I love songs with built-in directions, such as We Are the Dinosaurs by Laurie Berkner or We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen. You can also engage in simple games such as Simon Says or create mini obstacle courses with furniture pieces. The more motivated your daughter is, the more likely she will be to listen and follow directions.

  1. The Hierarchy of Imitation

Imitation is a powerful skill! Teaching imitation is easiest when we go through the hierarchy of skills. Actions come first (arms up, touch nose, shake hands, etc.) Once your son is consistently able to imitate simple actions, move to sounds. Silly, nonsensical sounds are usually imitated quickly because they are the most fun! Then, you can move to animal sounds (meow, woof), environmental sounds (beep beep, choo choo) and exclamations (uh oh, wow). After sounds, you can move to words. It’s best to start with simple one-word models and build up from there. It’s important to go slow and make sure that your little one is consistent before you move to the next step. I always say: the slower we go, the faster we will see progress!

  1. Up The Ante

Little ones are very good at pointing at wanted items in order to request them. We often give in to these requests. However, by doing so, we reinforce that pointing is a sufficient way to get something. If you want your daughter to start using words or sounds, then you’ll want to model this behavior and encourage her to imitate. When your little one tries to imitate you –even if it doesn’t sound exactly correct–, give in. The more praise you provide for her efforts, the more likely she will be to continue. Gentle withholding is a great way to practice! Simply hold onto an item that your child wants until she does something new in order to get it.  This technique works best with special treats or during play. That is, don’t push the toy car until your daughter completes the phrase ‘ready, set…’ with a big “GO!”.

  1. Slow & Steady

As much as we wish it were true, children do not learn language overnight. Baby steps are key to language acquisition. You know your son best, so trust your instincts in order to know when to take the next step. It’s important to note that there will be times in your child’s development when language might lag. That’s because your little one learns to move and to talk at the same time, and that creates a seesaw effect. While he is focusing on one developmental area, the other is sure to take a backseat. Your son may babble less when he is learning to crawl, or jabber the day away while sitting on his bottom. First words and first steps follow the same pattern.


Learn more about our Guest Writer

Molly Dresner is a Speech Language Pathologist and Feeding Therapist based in New York City. She is ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association) Certified and trained in the SOS (Sequential Oral Sensory) Approach to Feeding. She received her Masters in Speech Language Pathology from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and her Bachelors in Speech and Hearing Science from George Washington University. She currently works with the birth-5 population conducting evaluations & providing speech and feeding therapy in NYC. To read more about Molly and check out her blog click here.

What you should know about Prenatal and Postnatal vitamins

About to expect a baby or just had a newborn? Chances are you’ll soon start looking for a prenatal or postnatal vitamin pack to get the nutrients the both of you need for good health. A healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs, however even if you are eating healthy, you may fall short on some key nutrients – which is where supplements come in.

During breastfeeding, your body needs more of all the nutrients that a well-balanced diet can offer. Taking prenatal vitamins even after pregnancy is a recommended option. They work well as postnatal vitamins, since your breast milk will continue to provide important nutrients for your baby. Make sure your supplements include essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, Vitamin D, fish oil, and calcium.

How long should you take prenatal vitamins for?

It’s best to take prenatal vitamins throughout your entire pregnancy. Your healthcare provider may suggest continuing to take prenatal vitamins after the baby is born — especially if you’re breastfeeding.

Which specific nutrients are recommended during the postnatal period?

  • PRENATAL VITAMINS: Continuing to take prenatals while breastfeeding is a good way to provide nourishment for your baby. Most prenatal vitamins include around 20 crucial nutrients that help meet you and your baby’s nutritional needs. Be sure to look for fermented choline, methylfolate (a form of folic acid that can be more efficiently used by the body) and Vitamin 2, as some are not included in many prenatal formulations.

 

  • FISH OIL: Women tend to cut back on fish, a main source of omega-3s, during pregnancy or breastfeeding to avoid mercury. Fish oil is a great way to get these healthy fatty acids (such as DHA) which are necessary to maintain your cognitive health. These essential nutrients also support your little one’s brain health and nervous system.

 

  • CALCIUM: Some mothers are not getting the necessary levels of calcium from their regular diets (especially vegans and people who are lactose intolerant). Calcium supports your baby’s skeletal development and maintains your bone health. It’s important to keep your levels up with supplements, as the ability to absorb calcium decreases with age. Be sure to combine your calcium intake with vitamin D and K for better absorption.

 

Consider checking if your vitamins are gentle on the stomach! Some supplements are fermented with probiotics or yeast, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause nausea. We recommend you take them with a meal for optimal absorption.

If you’d like to get a postnatal or prenatal recommendation and your very own personalized daily vitamin pack delivered right to your door, try Care/of.

 

How can we foster self-control and self-regulation in our kids?

 

During your adventures in parenthood, you’ll come across a wide-range of typical baby and toddler moments that can basically come down to one thing: self-control or (most times) the lack of it. First off, when talking about self-control we’re referring to the ability to inhibit strong impulses (like running off or biting a friend). On the other hand, self-regulation is all about reducing the frequency and the intensity of those strong impulses by proper management (for instance the ability to resist sweets). In a way, self-regulation is what makes self-control possible. So, what can we do to teach our little ones these very important set of skills?

Developing self-control begins at birth and continues across your little one’s entire life. It’s critical in helping your baby succeed in school, his or her social environment and overall development. It will help your baby learn to cooperate, cope with frustration and resolve conflicts properly. When it comes to these skills, it’s your simple day to day interactions as parents that mean the most:

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Newborn reflexes

During the first weeks of your baby’s life much of her activity is reflexive due to the fact that all babies have a limited amount of control over their body. To make up for this lack of control, mother nature made sure babies were born with a set of survival mechanisms that protect them from harm. For this reason, although your little one is very dependent on her caregivers, she is not completely defenseless.

Reflexes disappear within the first few months or year of your baby’s life once she does not need them anymore. Some even turn into voluntary actions once your little one begins to gain control over her body. These innate mechanisms usually have a short duration, but they are very important. For this reason, it’s crucial to make sure your little one has all her primitive responses present, as they indicate that the brain and nervous system are doing their job correctly. You could verify your baby’s reflexes at home but know that your healthcare provider will make sure your little one displays all her reflexes during her first check-up. If you’d like to learn more about these fascinating involuntary movements or actions, check out our list of the most common baby reflexes below.

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How music helps boost language development

We tend to emphasize the importance of reading to children to develop their language skills, but sometimes we forget to consider the incredible benefits that music and singing also provide. Studies have shown that the brain areas responsible for understanding music and language are closely connected.

According to Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, singing lullabies and nursery rhymes to infants before they learn to speak can lead to future educational success and emotional well-being. She identifies singing as speech all on its own; a special kind of speech that carries the inflections of children’s primary language and therefore prepares a child for its acquisition. Continue reading

My toddler was born a scientist! Ideas for fostering discovery at home

If you’ve ever watched a young girl engaging with her surroundings spontaneously, you’ve noticed that young children approach daily life activities and objects with the curiosity of a postdoctoral scientist.

Be it in the kitchen or in the playground, they are intuitively observing avidly, testing ideas, asking creative questions and inventing. This is how children boost their cognitive development moving from infancy and into toddlerhood.

What can you do to foster your toddler’s natural inclination towards discovery? Here we propose some easy and fun activities that you can do to encourage her in the quest of exploring the world she is growing in:

• Classify. Sort out day-to-day objects around the house in categories. For example, fruits with edible skins vs those that have to be peeled.
• Explore magnetic forces with a fridge magnet. What is attracted by a magnet and what isn’t?
• Encountering her shadow. You can interact with a shadow in many ways to see what happens, like trying to step on it, noticing its size and shape, and its relationship to the sun or to light.
• Do a night-time puppet-show using your hands to cast shadows.
• Explore motion and gravity. What rolls like a wheel? You can use soda bottles, rocks, apples, books, leaves, etc. Continue reading

Introducing Kinedu Skills® – and how it benefits you!

 

We’ve been working on something big… huge, actually! A complete redesign of our milestones and the way we present them. We are thrilled to present Kinedu Skills®: a more intuitive way of understanding your child’s development and interacting with Kinedu.

Over the course of the last 18 months, we’ve worked to restructure our milestones. We’ve eliminated redundant items, non-observable ones, and also consolidated items that measured two skills in one. Having clearer milestones makes it more probable we’ll get precise information from our users about their child’s development, and therefore will be able to provide a more personalized experience.

We also analyzed our database of over 500,000 families and with the help of Stanford University Psychology Professor Michael Frank, and we identified 26 core skills present in early childhood development. Every skill groups together the milestones a child is acquiring from 0-24 months, and serve as major developmental goals to work towards. For example, milestones related to walking will now be asked together, and parents will get a progress report on that particular skill with percentile data. It’s easier to identify how your child is doing on one particular skill, rather than a more general developmental area and our percentiles can help you gain a better understanding of how your child is doing compared to other children his or her age. You’ll get to answer the milestones in every skill that is developmentally appropriate for your child, depending on his or her age.

At Kinedu, we recognize that every child develops at his or her own pace. This is our effort to produce more personalized activity plans, tailored to every child’s particular needs, and offer our users a deeper understanding of their baby’s development.

Introducing Kinedu Skills®

Over the past couple of years, we’ve been working on a complete redesign of our milestone and evaluation structure. We are proud to present our new project: Skills®. We’d like to share with you how we came up with a new way to assess early childhood development and give you a better way to understand your baby’s development.

We dug deep into our milestones – over fifty million individual data points, and we came to learn that our milestone structure needed an upgrade – a better way to present milestones to families, to get accurate data and to provide more personalized activity plans.

First, came a full revision of every last one of our 550+ milestones. We collaborated with Professor Michael Frank from Stanford University to produce a final list. Based on his suggestions, we reviewed them to eliminate redundant items, non-observable ones, and also consolidated the ones that measured two skills in one. With this revision, also came a full revision of each milestone’s attributed month according to CDC and AAP standards, along with other evidence-based studies, and the data from over half a million families.

From this analysis, we realized that milestones could be grouped into “families” of milestones that described the development of specific skills in a child. This provided an opportunity to improve how we cluster our data, and this in turn came with a complete redesign of our assessments as well. Instead of following age ranges and developmental areas, our milestones now follow skills – regardless of age (although age is important to understand developmental variability!).

For example, milestones that led to being able to crawl, such as posture on all fours, sliding on the floor, and crawling, have all been categorized into a separate skill: Crawling. Users will now be able to see at a glance how their baby is doing in developmentally appropriate skills, like walking, babbling or imitating. This will allow us to display milestones to our users without limiting which ones we show based on their baby’s age. Since every baby develops at his or her own pace, this is something imperative. More importantly, grouping milestones in such a way allows us to measure variability in development – recognizing and pointing out (with data!) that it is perfectly OK for babies to say their first words before walking or walk before talking. In the end, our data uncovered 26 major groups of milestones, which we believe are the core developmental skills for every child.

Finally, we conducted a survey to validate our research-based assessment and the way we clustered them into skills. We gathered over 2,000 responses and were able to measure each skill and milestone individually, obtaining an age of acquisition for each one. We understand the role variability plays in early child development, which is why we’ll now present progress resulpfts with percentiles for every skill. Percentiles can help our users gain a better understanding of how their child is doing compared to other children his or her age. With this new data, we can now present our users with more exact and detailed information on their baby’s progress.

This comprehensive revision of our milestones will lead to a better user experience, provide more accurate data for analysis, and therefore give us the tools we need to be able to offer a more detailed, evidence-based report on each baby’s progress. This has been something we’ve been planning and working on for some time now – so we’re extremely excited to be able to release it soon. We hope you enjoy our product re-design: it’s been two years in the making, and we hope it drives our collective understanding of early childhood further.

The science behind deferred imitation.

Deferred imitation is typically defined as a modelled action or series of actions that are reproduced after a certain delay.

The beauty behind deferred imitation, is that it can give us a tremendous amount of insight into our little one’s development. It symbolizes an underlying complex cognitive process. It has been theorized, that imitation may also be an important channel for early social learning. It seems that observation has a great effect on skill acquisition and in some cases even more so than conditioning or trial and error.

For your baby to be able to imitate a day or a week after he sees you do something, your baby has acquired the ability to retain the information, recall it and reproduce it without a guide later on. Simple acts such as closing a flap, pushing a button or shaking an object after seeing an adult doing it a while ago are already a sign of a cognitive task as well as physical. Deferred imitation taps more into “recalling” abilities than recognition per se. Your baby must do something more than simply discriminate between a familiar and an unknown object, he must use his motor skills to reproduce the act he saw earlier.

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Finger dexterity: developing the pincer grasp

Since birth, your baby began developing and fulfilling an incredible amount of skills that allow him to interact with his surroundings. As a parent, it is amazing to see how our babies meet these challenges with eagerness and joy!

One of the great milestones that your baby will fulfill during his first year of age is the pincer grasp. This milestone is fundamental for his development and involves grabbing small objects with the index finger and thumb. Achieving this skill is not easy, it requires a lot of practice. This finger dexterity milestone will begin to develop around the eighth or ninth month of your baby’s life. At first, you’ll see him begin to use this type of grasp clumsily but little by little the movement will become more precise.

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