Molly Dresner has new and fun ideas to help our kids develop their ability to follow instructions.
Since they are still very young, children need cues and pauses to do the things we ask them to do. Instead of reciting a series of instructions, go slow, be clear, and give the example so that your son or daughter can do a certain task. Take advantage of the music, rhythms, treasure hunts, and imitation games to train your toddler and help him or her to concentrate and finish a task that has several steps.
Practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way to improve behavior and to increase focus. Both of them are critical for boosting our children’s language. Try out these activities to work on mindfulness with your tiny friend!
Belly breathing is an easy way to get your child focused on the here and now. That is, if your child is experiencing big feelings, belly breathing is a great way to calm down. We also need to ensure that our children know how to appropriately belly breathe so they can speak properly. Children who are not able to do this often have higher pitched voices and/or run out of breath when speaking. Luckily, it is a very visual practice! You can either sit or lie down with your hands on your stomach. You want your belly to expand as you inhale, and deflate as you exhale. Some little ones prefer lying down with a beanbag or small stuffed animal on their stomach so that they can watch the object move up and down. This is one of my favorite videos for this activity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mZbzDOpylAContinue reading →
Read in Theme: One of the easiest ways to expose your little one to the winter theme is to read together about it. It’s best to start with touch & feel books, so that it is more interactive for your tiny friend. You can teach your child all about winter weather, winter clothes, winter animals, and winter activities by simply cuddling up with a great book! My favorites are Winter by Bright Baby Touch & Feel and Baby Loves Winter.
Have a Wintry Bath: Bath time is a wonderful time to incorporate the winter theme. You can build an igloo with bubbles, color the water blue with bath drops, bring winter animals into the tub, or even place an ice cube or two inside and chat about cold vs. warm. Kids learn best from multisensory experiences, so take advantage or this!
Color Color Color: Coloring pages are often overlooked in this digital age, but they shouldn’t be! Most kids who are exposed to coloring from a young age find it to be a calming and enriching activity. There are a million winter themed coloring pages that you can print out and work on with your little one. It is a perfect indoor activity for those chilly days when it’s best to just stay inside.
2-3 Year Old Tasks:
Bake: Baking is an awesome winter activity that is sure to boost language! Baking involves following directions, learning new vocabulary, working together, patience, and of course an edible reward. Baking is a great indoor activity for those too-cold days, but you can also bake in theme. You can make winter themed cookies, snowy cupcakes, or hot chocolate brownies.
Bring The Snow Inside: Who says snow has to stay outside? Kids love sensory bins and snow is the perfect medium! You can pack up some snow in a clear container and bring it inside to continue the fun. You can add some color to your snow, make snow cones, bring winter animals into the bin, or grab trucks that can dig in the snow. Your little one will love this task and clean-up will be a breeze for you!
Get Crafty: You can make wintry crafts with your little one using as few as two materials. Luckily the winter aesthetic is as easy as cotton balls and glue! Whether you make snowballs, a snowman, an igloo, or a polar bear, your craft will be equal parts adorable and simple.
3-4 Year Old Tasks:
Talk About Your Snowman: Every winter you make a snowman, but do you ever talk about him? Try expanding this activity by asking your little one why he needs eyes or a nose? What does his scarf do? Are all three snowballs the same size? Building a snowman can be an incredibly speechy activity if you take a few more minutes to chat.
Make Your Own Snow: There are a few different home recipes for faux snow, but my favorite is baking soda and shaving cream. You can play with your fake snow on a tray or in a sensory bin (i.e. clear container) for easy clean up. I like to bring the little ones into the bin and have them ice skate, build snowmen, make snowballs or igloos. Use what is motivating for your little one and follow her lead. Build upon her pretend play and narration of the activity.
Animal Sort: Animal sorting is a fun game for any season! You can use figurines, stickers, or coloring pages depending on what you have on hand. Depending on your child’s level you can sort 2-4 types of animals. You could do winter animals vs. summer animals, or ocean vs. snow vs. grass vs. home animals. Animal activities are great for boosting language because there is so much to talk about (i.e. Where do they live? What do they sound like? What do they feel like? What do they eat? etc.)
Molly Dresner is a Speech Language Pathologist based in New York City.
She recently authored The Speech Teacher’s Handbook, an engaging parent guide that includes practical and easy-to-follow tips and activities to help you help your little one!
Nature walks are the perfect fall activity! Every tiny friend needs to get those wiggles out from time to time and it is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. As you wander around your neighborhood, a park, or a trail, chat about all of the things that you may see (leaves, a deer, sticks, rocks, a creek, a squirrel, etc.). If you have time to plan ahead of it, you can even make a list of potential things you might encounter and make a scavenger hunt out of the walk. If you don’t have time to prep, ‘I spy’ is just as speechy (“I spy something falling”, “I spy something green”, “I spy an animal with wings”, etc.)
Have an Apple Day
Apples and fall just seem to go together! I love having apple days with little ones once fall rolls around. Whether you go apple picking or to the market, you can talk about all of the different types of apples you find (red, green, yellow, hard, bruised, small, stem less, etc.) Once you get back home you will have the perfect bounty to bake with! Baking is a go-to speechy activity because there are directions to follow and a rich plethora of vocabulary words (pour, mix, scoop, stir, bake, blend, etc.). Go big with an apple pie or start small with applesauce –either way you will boost a ton of language, have fun, and enjoy a yummy treat with your kid!
Drooling is one of those wonderful stages that all children trek through. However, sometimes our tiny friends drool too much or for too long. If your child is drooling excessively, it’s time to check in on this behavior. It is best to visit your ENT doctor first so that they examine closely all of the physical structures. In the meantime, here are my favorite tips & tricks for our drooly loves!
Close It Up
If our mouth is closed, we are less likely to drool! I call this a “closed mouth posture”. This means that your child has closed lips and is breathing through his nose. Our noses are wonderfully designed for filtering (thank you, nose hairs), warming, moisturizing, and smelling the air we breathe. The nose is also equipped with mucus that captures and kills germs. Nose breathing ensures proper balance of oxygen and CO2 levels in our bodies (mouth breathing usually leads to hyperventilation). The little ones that breathe through their mouth often snore at night, get more colds, feel fatigued, and are at risk for crooked teeth. Research has also linked mouth breathing with behavioral difficulties, learning deficits, and speech errors. Once you consult with the ENT and ensure that there are no physical factors interfering with your child’s ability to use a closed mouth posture, it is simply a matter of building a better habit!
Heading back to school can be an exciting, yet an anxious time for parents and little ones alike. Books are the best way to get us prepared! They teach beautiful lessons and open the communication gates, so that your tiny friend has a chance to ask questions and share feelings. Here are my top 5 favorites for this school year.
The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School
This book truly gives me all the feels! Our little pout-pout fish is feeling nervous about his first day of school and is sure that he doesn’t have the know-how to get through the day. After heading into a few wrong classrooms, our brave pout-pout fish finally ends up with the “brand new fish” and learns some brilliant facts! His new teacher tells the class: “Fact 1: You are smart, Fact 2: You can get it, Fact 3: You belong, so 4: Don’t forget it!”. I just love this mantra so very much! And just like the other pout-pout series books, the singsong pattern will have your child immediately enthralled.
Traveling with our tiny friends can seem daunting, but proper preparation will make for a smooth ride! Whether it’s a long road trip, a train ride, or even a flight, these tricks and tips have you covered!
I know it is so much easier to keep your little one occupied with a tablet or device. However, screens really do promote self-direction and hyper-focused attention. That is, your child may direct all of his attention onto the tablet and forget that the rest of the world exists. We often also see a change in behavior following a significant amount of screen time. For children 2-5 years of age screen time should be limited to a maximum of 1 hour per day. (Okay, PSA on screen time complete!)
Pack The Right Entertainment
I am all about packing smart, speechy activities to keep your tiny friend endlessly entertained! First, the Melissa and Doug Memory Travel Game comes with an easy to hold flip board and 7 game cards to switch out –it is also interactive if you are traveling with 2 or more friends. Next, I love the Crayola Travel Kit –coloring is a calming and grounding experience. You can make it interactive and play Pictionary or send letters back and forth to each other. Lastly, there are tons of Reusable Sticker Books that are great for travel since you can’t ruin the stickers and you can play over and over again. You’ll want to pack games without pieces that may get lost, quiet options since repetitive noises are the pits, and most importantly activities that motivate your little one. Continue reading →
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!
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 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 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!
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. But 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 he wants 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.
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.
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!
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. Continue reading →