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 or her 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 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: your 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/her 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. It is suggested that 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 travelling 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 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!
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.
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 →
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!”.
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.
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