All posts by Molly Dresner

Making Spring Cleaning Speechy

New research suggests that children who take part in household cleaning are more empathetic, make better connections, and are more willing to help others! Most little ones actually love to clean, especially if they have their very own tools. Plus, there’s an added bonus! It is super simple and fun to make cleaning speechy. It is the perfect opportunity to allow your child to follow directions, identify objects, sort, find items you describe, and so much more! Since spring is finally here, let’s chat about some ways that you can involve your toddler in the spring cleaning!

  1. Follow the Cleaner

Have you ever noticed that your toddler loves to wipe up spills or sweep up a mess? This is actually a wonderful developmental milestone that we see as early as 18-months. Kids love to participate in daily routines –think: toddler see, toddler do! It’s best to set up your little one with his or her own tools and assign a job. Maybe they get to wipe the kitchen table with their special sponge and spray bottle (*with kid-safe cleaning solution of course). You can also take turns sweeping –mommy can sweep with the big broom and your tiny friend can use his or her own mini broom. You can make it even speechier by providing a challenge! You can sweep from the rug to the door; sweep to the left; spray 3 times and then wipe; and so on!

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How to Help Your Little One Love Story Time

We all have the same picture-perfect image of reading to our tiny friends. We are sitting cuddled up with a beautifully drawn story that’s chalk-full of life lessons and our children are hanging on to every word. The reality of story time is not always so movie-esque. Perhaps your little one does not like to sit still for a story; maybe they want to hold the book and only turn the pages; or your child may feel that books are for coloring and/or ripping rather than reading. It’s okay; we can make it better! Here are my tips to help your child love story time.

  1. Start Small

This first header has a double meaning. First, you can start reading to your baby right away. Initiating story time with your newborn is a great way to get yourself into a reading routine. Additionally, their movement is limited and their focus is only on you! Secondly, start by reading short & simple books. My favorite books to start with are those that have one picture per page (and are preferably touch & feel). Starting with one picture per page allows your baby to focus on one concept at a time. You may open the book and say, “dog”, point to the picture, pet the dog’s fur and elaborate with a “woof”. Your baby will be completely tuned in to the picture, the word dog and the sound “woof”. It is important to keep your language simple in this stage because we want to match the baby’s level. Using 1-2 words or sounds per page when you start is plenty. This stage is all about teaching.

  1. Buy Built-Ins

Books with built-in features are your best friends! Look for books that have touch & feel, Velcro patches, felt flaps, moving pieces, pop-ups or peek-a-boos. These books have done a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of engaging your child. Motivation during story time is important because it promotes joint attention, which is necessary for learning. Joint attention occurs when your child is focused on the task (i.e. the book) and you. It is as simple as your baby looking at the book, then looking at you, and then back at the book. Interactive books do a ton of the work in keeping your child engaged in the task. I also love that they are full of directions for kids to follow (e.g. “Find the…” “Look under the…” “Put on the…”). They are also wonderful for promoting expressive language. Since your tiny friend will be so very engaged and demonstrating joint attention, it is way more likely that you will hear new sounds and words!

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Molly’s Favorite Feeding Facts!

I love sharing my favorite feeding facts! There are so many old wives’ tales about food that are outdated or untrue. The more you know as a parent, the better prepared you will be to help your little one succeed! Some of the facts that I am going to share are part of the SOS Approach to Feeding, developed by Dr. Kay Toomey, PhD. It is important to note that if you believe that your child is having difficulties during mealtime, you should reach out to your pediatrician for suggestions or referrals.

FACT: Kids Need To Play With Their Food!

Kids learn best through play! Play is a multisensory and enjoyable experience that will lead to greater acceptance of new foods. It is important for children to feel, see, hear and smell foods before tasting them. When we introduce food through play, our tiny friends feel safe, confident and excited! You should continue to expose your child to food during play, even if they are not ready to taste it yet. I love cooking together and pretend play.
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Oops, I Reinforced it Again

We all do it on a daily basis –we accidentally reinforce behaviors that we don’t like. The good news is that it is not too late to do something about it! With our little ones, especially those under 5 years of age, actions really do speak louder than words. Your child will respond to what you do 1000 times more than what you say (*see graphic above). So yes, you may say “we don’t throw”, but those words mean nothing if your actions don’t correspond. If your child’s unwanted behavior was effective in getting his or her needs met, then it will continue. So, in the example above, instead of throwing the bowl to get more food, he or she should pass you the bowl, say “more” or point to the wanted food, for example. We should not refill the bowl, until the child imitates the new, positive behavior that we model.

Let’s take a look at some real-life examples. Continue reading

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.