The special power of rhymes

If you’ve ever sang a nursery rhyme to your son like Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, then you’ve unconsciously been preparing your little one for learning to read.

Words that share a common sound, or rhyme, can be used to teach children about phonemes (the individual sound units in words) and spelling. Take for example, the “-at” family: mat, cat and hat. Your little one can learn to identify that they all end with the same sound. Phonological awareness is considered the first step towards learning to read and write because with it a child can discern the differences between individual sounds. The great thing is that rhymes are not only fun, but they train children’s ears to hear the differences and similarities between word’s sound. By identifying different phonemes, they learn how sounds combine and blend together to form a word.

Research has found that children who have been sung nursery rhymes and are familiar with them by the time they enter kindergarten often have an easier time learning to read. This may be because rhyming helps children discover the common patterns that exist within words, making it easier for them to recognize them when they see them in print.

The great thing is that rhymes are actually fun to teach! Consider trying some of these activities with your little one:
• Sing all the time! You can come up with songs for different moments of your day – like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. If they rhyme –even better!
• Get into the rhythm of it. Add rhythmic clapping or specific movements to your songs. This will help your little one remember the words of the song because he will be able to connect the movement with the words.
• Get in the habit of coming up with rhyming words when you’re passing the time. Try it during a car ride or when waiting in line at the supermarket. For example, try the “-og” family: dog, log, and what can come next? Get your child to help you out!
• Finally, don’t forget to add rhyming books to your son’s library. Look for books that are fun to read out loud and are easy to memorize. After you’ve read it a couple of times, your little one will be able to join in on the fun and help you finish sentences from the story.

How to incorporate reading into your toddler’s daily routine

The first years of life of a kid are a time of growth and exponential learning. This is especially true for a preschooler’s language development. Taking a couple of minutes a day to read with your child will be a great way to boost her linguistic development. Plus, it’s a great bonding activity!

Looking to incorporate reading time to your daughter’s daily routine? Consider the following:

Find a time that works best for both of you: Whether it’s when waking up or going to bed, choose a time in which you can both cuddle together and enjoy a good book. Bedtime is often a great idea because it’ll unwind your toddler from a busy day of activities and relax her, prepping her for bed. This can also be useful for naptime. You can even select special books for nap or bedtime; that’ll help cue your little one that it’s time to go to sleep. Continue reading

Helping my kid learn to share

For preschoolers, learning to share is challenging and marks an important developmental moment in their social and emotional growth. During childhood, sharing is a capacity that kids need to have in order to play and learn, but they need your help in building the relationship and emotional intelligence skills required to do so.

Because sharing can be hard for children around 3 or 4 years old, it’s a skill that’s usually developed until a child starts going to childcare, kindergarten or until they start having playmates. According to the Raising Children Network, kids need to learn to share in order to make and keep friendships, because sharing helps them understand fairness and compromise, as well as learning about tolerating frustration, being patient and trusting others.

Here are some ideas on how you can encourage your preschooler to build his relationship skills by learning to share:
• Provide plenty of opportunities to practice sharing. Remember that kids learn by doing things in a manner of trial and error.
• Model sharing and taking turns.
• Help your child notice when someone is sharing.
• Give lots of praise for progress.
• Play games that involve turn-taking.
• Explain sharing and talk about empathy and about how nice it is when someone shares with him, and how other kids like that as well.

Communicating with your preschooler in a nurturing way

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children go through many important communication milestones between their 36 and 48 months of age. This means that what your child can understand and the complexity with which she can express and communicate with you increases greatly around this age. Communication is very important not only for language development, but for your kid’s social and emotional skills. Positive and effective communication sets the base with which to build and mend relationships.

According to the recommendations of the Early Childhood Development Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, parents need to practice positive communication with their young children. They emphasize that developing children benefit greatly from a communication that is open, respectful, honest, straight-forward and kind, no matter the topic at hand.

Here are a couple of practical tips from The Big Book of Parenting, by Doctor in Education Michele Borba:
• Understand the “no” as a way of asserting newly discovered independence. Toddlers live in a world full of big people, feel things they don’t know how to manage, and want to express feelings and ideas without having the language skills to do so, so it’s natural that they crave for some control at times and act defiantly. Try not to take it personally and model the appropriate way of interacting. Explain that it’s not nice to speak rudely and try integrating some choices into their daily routines.
• Don’t expect your daughter to internalize social graces just yet, model behavior instead. Three and four-year-olds are still very young to master their impulses. So, if you find yourself mortified because your little girl is talking very loudly at the movies, know that this is completely normal and take advantage of your child’s inner copycat by whispering “use your quiet voice, like this”. You can even practice this and other alternative behaviors at home, which will make it easier to do so in the library the next time you go there.
• Make talking fun instead of overwhelming. Some kids can get frustrated or inhibited when they’re given many instructions or corrections. So, try not to draw attention to the mistakes she might be making, and simply repeat the words in a clear way when you next have the chance.

If you are interested on more tips about communicating with your young children, you can check out this one-pager by the University of Nebraska:
https://child.unl.edu/4d325c2c-1457-4220-a7d2-ec1a709edc16.pdf

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.

It’s all connected: The link between social interactions and walking skills

When we talk about any aspect of the human experience, we tend to organize it into areas and specific parts according to its features. This is especially true in developmental psychology, but dividing early childhood development into different areas and skills doesn’t mean that they aren’t intertwined, connected or even dependent on one another.

Some of the connections between developmental skills are fairly intuitive, like the link between children’s ability to speak and communicate needs and desires, and their emotional intelligence. Life becomes considerably easier when we have the capacity to express ourselves and connect with others. However, other associations are frankly surprising, like those linking physical skills with the cognitive or social aspects of development.

For example, researchers from Whitman College Department of Psychology have found that independent walking is an important milestone for the social behavior of children. In fact, the effect of a child’s first independent steps is just as important as the onset of crawling a few months before. In 2010, they published their findings in an article titled “Learning to walk changes infant’s social interactions” in the journal Infant Behavior and Development. They directed an experiment where the social behaviors of 2 to 3-year-olds where age-matched and compared. They contrasted the interaction’s frequency and complexity between kids that were walking independently and those that mastered crawling but where walking only with the help of a baby walker. They found that the children that walked independently not only spent more time interacting with their caregivers and the available toys, but also vocalized and gestured more compared to kids in baby walkers. In another experiment, the researchers tracked the kid’s social behavior through time, starting when they learned to crawl and up until they learned to walk without support. The results showed that, regardless of age, independent walking marked both an increase in frequency and sophistication in the interactions with the mothers, like directing their attention towards a particular object in the room.

You might be surprised by the direct link between your kid’s social skills and his motor development, but is any young child anything but a magical box of never-ending surprises?

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 B12, 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