A friend of mine and I were talking the other day about the amount of toys that young children have at home. The discussion started because she had recently attended a birthday party for a little boy who was turning 1 year old and she was blown away to see that this toddler was given approximately 20 presents from his party attendees. I shared this story with my own mother who found it very amusing. She said “in our day 1 year olds got homemade birthday cake and one present which was meant to be treasured for years to come”.
Since these conversations I have started thinking about how much things have changed between now and then. As a speech-language pathologist in private practice I have entered the homes of many different families and each one always had an abundance of toys available for their young children to play with. My own children also receive a large amount of gifts on their birthdays, which appears to be the norm based on my experience of attending children’s birthday parties over the years. Most of the toys I have seen in different households are generally those that are deemed “educational” and “beneficial” for a child’s growing skills. However, in the conversations I’ve had with parents it seems most people don’t want to add more toys to their children’s home collection. Now we can all speculate as to why homes today are filled with more toys than when we were younger, but I think the more important question is….. are all these toys REALLY necessary to support a child’s development?
Continue reading “Toddler Toy Take Down – What You Really Need For Your 1 Year Old’s Language Development”
As my youngest son prepares to enter school my attention has been brought back to the idea of vocabulary. Truthfully, this topic is never far from my thoughts as a speech and language pathologist, but recently I have been examining my son’s vocabulary more closely. That’s because I know that when he goes to school full-time he will be entering a new phase in his life. He will enter a world where the demand will be higher. More specifically, the demand on his language abilities. He will be required to follow multi-step directions without many cues, learn from a variety of different adults during group and individual contexts, engage in social situations with new peers (some who may be older), as well as prepare to master the academic concepts that are required learning for his year. I know! It seems like a lot for kindergarten! But this is the reality of what is happening in the classroom and having a strong vocabulary is one of the best ways I can prepare him to meet these new challenges.
As I watch my son play with his friends and chat with us at dinner, using diverse and richly descriptive words, I am not worried. He has had the lucky benefit of having a speechy mom who has been preparing him for this day since the moment he was born. However this time in my life brought to my attention the need to share this knowledge with other parents. The critical importance of helping all children develop a wide and rich vocabulary in the early years so each one can take that step into kindergarten with a little more confidence, and set the stage for growing success!
Let’s start off with some basic truths about vocabulary development in the early years that all parents should know and put to rest some common misconceptions.
Continue reading “Vocabulary In The Early Years: Facts And Myths All Parents Should Know”
Can you believe it? Another year has come and past and with the chill in the air you know that the holidays are just around the corner! It is only November and already I have seen many toy lists posted online with suggestions for what to get kids this Christmas season. There are lots of lists out there that look great but I feel like I keep seeing the same ideas over and over again. So this holiday, I am inspired to do a post about all the new, fantastic toys out there that may not be found on the typical Christmas list, but should be!
I love all these items listed below because I have found they are fun for both boys and girls, they stand the test of time so kids will play with them for years to come, and of course, they encourage the development of strong speech, language and literacy skills.
Continue reading “25 New Language Boosting Toy Ideas For Your Christmas List: Birth to 5 Yrs”
Speech and language skills begin to develop right from birth all the way into adulthood. This is an ever maturing and changing part of life as kids grow up and I think sometimes we may take for granted that these skills will just develop properly on their own.
As parents, we make sure kids exercise, sleep and eat well for good health. We make sure they get regular check-ups and we nurse them when they get sick. Speech and language requires similar attention and care to help kids reach their full potential.
In this post I outline some basic things all parents can do to make sure their kids have a healthy speech and language development and get them ready for success!
Continue reading “How To Keep Kids “Speech & Language Healthy””
Let’s face it. It seems like there is never enough time in the day. Lately for me, whether my “to do” list is short or long, I always end up going to bed thinking about the things I did not get done. So with all the every day things that busy parents need to accomplish, how do we fit in time to help our kids develop strong language skills? The good news is you actually don’t need to set aside any extra time (which no one has anyways!). All you need to do is find simple ways to tweak routines you are already doing and make them more language rich!
Recently our schedule has been so busy that I have been spending a lot more time in the car with my kids, which was the inspiration for this post. However these activities can be done while walking, pushing little ones in the stroller or pulling them in the wagon. Whatever works for you!
Adding just one of these games into your routine, for 10 mins/day, goes a long way to enriching a child’s language skills. Just remember, the more fun you have with the game, the more fun your child will have!
Continue reading “15 Ways To Improve Kids’ Language In The Car”
I find infant language development fascinating! It’s remarkable to think about the complexities involved in learning a language, yet these little bundles do this at such a rapid rate and seemingly with such ease! In addition, although it may seem like your infant is a passive agent in the language learning process, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Their little brains are actively integrating information from the moment they are born and by the time they hit around 6-9 months old they are expected to have reached a critical language milestone known as babbling.
Continue reading “Why Babbling Is A Critical Language Milestone”
One of the most exciting changes in language development is when babies start using words to communicate. I have to admit; I too experienced the anticipation as my children approached word use age. I couldn’t wait to hear their little voices and find out what they were going to say as their first words!
In my profession as a speech-language pathologist, I speak to many parents of young infants. When I ask at what age they should expect their baby’s first words many are unsure. In addition, I have been asked by almost every first time parent “what do you mean by first words”. Since this type of information is common knowledge to me because of my education and training, I sometimes forget that it may not be to the general population, which is a concern for me as a clinician.
It is very important that parents have a basic understanding of their child’s speech and language development for two reasons. First, if parents aren’t aware of the age at which their children are suppose to be hitting their speech and language milestones, they won’t be aware if their children have missed a milestone and how late they actually are. Second, if parents don’t know what to expect their children to do at each speech and language milestone they are less likely to be able to help them along. For example, babies will take first steps when they are developmentally ready, but when you know what to look for (e.g., pulling themselves to standing, cruising) you can be there to help them along. The same is true for first words.
With this post I would like to set the record straight about what a first word is and when to expect it in typical language development.
Continue reading “Did You Say Something? Understanding First Words!”
As soon as babies are born they begin to learn language. They do this mainly through the back and forth interactions they have with adults. During these interactions some adults naturally use a type of ‘baby talk’ and some prefer to speak to babies in a more natural, adult-like manner. As a speech-language pathologist I’m often asked, which method is best for language development?
As part of an evidence-based profession my answer comes from understanding the research. This is a big topic, with many different studies dedicated to determining whether ‘baby talk’ is actually beneficial and with whom. In this article I am going to focus my answer on English speaking babies, whose speech and hearing are developing typically, using a small sample of articles to describe some of the research findings.
First, we should begin with a basic definition. Professionals in the field of language development generally use the term ‘infant-directed speech’ (IDS) to describe what the general population calls ‘baby talk’. Other terms used are ‘motherese’ or ‘parentese’. IDS is a specific way of speaking to babies characterized by a higher pitched voice, exaggerated pitch contours, vowel sounds being stretched out, a slower rate of speech, shorter phrases, longer pauses and repetition of words and phrases. In general this type of speech sounds very ‘sing-songy’.
Continue reading “To Baby Talk Or Not To Baby Talk? That Is The Question!”
The holidays are officially over and 2015 is here! The new year is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings, especially for those new little babies who have been welcomed into the world.
As a professional in speech and language development, and a mother of two, I am constantly trying to spread the message of why it is critical for parents to take the lead role in their child’s language development from the start. I try and do this by sharing three important truths all parents should know:
• Babies start learning language right from birth
• First words occur around 12mths and there is a HUGE amount of language learning infants need to do before they can talk
• Babies spend most of their time in daily routines with their parents and the majority of their language learning will occur in these interactions.
So with that in mind here are five simple, but powerful things to do with your baby to make sure they get a strong start in their language development!
Continue reading “Helping Your Child Learn Language From Birth”