Toddler Toy Take Down – What You Really Need For Your 1 Year Old’s Language Development

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?

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25 New Language Boosting Toy Ideas For Your Christmas List: Birth to 5 Yrs

language-toys-for-christmas

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.

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“Helping”: My Favourite Real Life Language Boosting Activity

28849066 - young father with his little son washing car

Picture this. You are playing happily with your child, enjoying each other’s company. You look at the clock and realize you need to… (fill in your chore of choice here) so you tell your child “You keep playing. I’ll be back in a minute”. You have barely started into whatever task requires your attention (dinner, dishes, laundry, etc.) and you turn to find your kiddie still glued to your side; either pawing to get picked up or asking you to do something for them that requires your immediate attention. Then for the remainder of the evening you ping-pong back and forth between your child and all the other tasks you need to get done until you fall into bed.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Well, it happens to me EVERY SINGLE DAY! There are countless comic strips out there about the perils of trying to get things done with kids around (which can be maddening!), but what I’ve come to realize is that if you take a step back you begin to see that most of the tasks you are trying to accomplish can actually be very child-friendly if given a few tweaks. This is great because with child-friendly tasks kids can be included as “helpers” and in doing so a parent can achieve 3 important goals:

1) Give kids the attention they are seeking at that moment

2) Accomplish the task that needs to get done

3) Help develop a child’s vocabulary and language comprehension skills

It may seem so basic, and some of you may already be letting your kids help out every now and then.  But if you can include your kiddies as “helpers” during basic activities of daily living, at least once a day for 10-15 minutes, you will be offering a major language boosting opportunity for them. Studies have shown that young children develop language in the back-and-forth interactions they have with adults during daily activities. Of course this includes when we play with our kids, but mostly it involves the language they are exposed to during the common, repetitious daily living activities we do all the time.

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How To Get All Kids Talking in 2016

The mission statement for my private speech and language practice is “to get ALL kids talking to the best of their abilities so they can reach their full potential”.  I take this statement to heart with every child I work with and with my own kids at home. That’s because, research shows that young children with strong speech and language skills are more likely to have strong reading skills and to do well in school. Longitudinal research also shows that these kids are more successful as adults.

Modern day parents are involved with their kids’ lives like never before and this is great to see! Now, as a professional in the field of speech and language pathology, it is my responsibility to give parents the proper tools they need to help their children’s language skills become as strong as they can be. Whether or not a child has a speech and language delay, special needs, or they are talking more than any other child, there is always a next step to help them achieve in language development and toward becoming their best selves.

Since engaging kids in conversation is the best way to help develop their language skills, in this post I want to share a basic strategy to get ALL kids talking more no matter what their skill level. Enjoy!

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The Best Tech Toys For Language Development: 0-5 yrs

Well here we are in the holiday season again! Seems to me every December kind of sneaks up on parents and before we know it we are crowding the streets and malls looking for the perfect presents for our kiddies. As I began my own Christmas hunt this year, I was blown away at what my kids were asking for! At 4 and 2 years old, I couldn’t believe how many electronic and tech items were their most favourite.

As a speech-language pathologist I always try to find toys that sneak a little language learning into the fun. That’s because I know that the first 5 years are a critical period for language development and children do so much language learning in play!

Research tells us that:

  • Children learn language through the back and forth interactions with adults
  • Young children learn more efficiently through active, multi-sensory exploration of the three-dimensional world

Tech toys (e.g., tablets, gaming systems, electronic toys) typically don’t offer a lot of these properties, making them one of my least favourite language learning items for young kids. However, technology is here to stay and even I will put tech toys under our tree this year. Firstly, because there are finally some companies out there making truly fun and educational tech toys for kids. Secondly, because I believe it is my job to help my kids navigate a healthy balance of technology in their lives, not hide them from it. Therefore after much research regarding technology and language development, here is what I will be looking for in tech toys for my kids under 5.

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Did You Say Something? Understanding First Words!

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.

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To Baby Talk Or Not To Baby Talk? That Is The Question!

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’.

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Learning Language With Bubbles: 6 Months – 5 Years

All parents will tell you there is nothing more heart warming than watching the joy on their child’s face as they play happily. As a professional who has worked with children for over a decade, and a mother of two, I can tell you that it is always the simplest things that young children love the most, and what could be more simple than bubbles!

Both in my speech therapy sessions and at home, I use bubbles CONSTANTLY.  We always keep bubbles on-hand in the house, there are large bubble wands for outdoor play and I even keep small bubbles in my purse! I don’t know one child (or adult for that matter) who doesn’t love bubbles.

You usually don’t need a lot of bells and whistles in regards to toys, even toys for learning.  All you really need is a child’s interest and you have a language learning opportunity.  As many speech-language pathologists will tell you, there are hundreds of ways to use bubbles to teach language skills.  I have chosen a few that I think would be pretty easy for parents to do at home with their little-ones. However, before I get into the actual activity ideas, here are a few basic definitions of some ‘clinical terms’ just so we are all on the same page.

Expressive Language – This is the use of gestures, sounds, words and sentences to communicate.

Receptive Language – This is the ability to understand language, including words and grammar.  Babies start learning vocabulary as early as 7 months of age. Vocabulary grows consistently as children get older.

Joint Attention – This is a pre-linguistic skill that is critical to language development.  Joint attention means to have two people looking at the same object, at the same time, and being aware that the other person is looking too.

Pragmatics (Social Language) – This is understanding and using verbal, but also non-verbal forms, to communicate effectively. For example using tone of voice, facial expressions and body language to convey different meanings, making eye contact and turn taking.  It also includes using language to behave appropriately in different situations.

Now for the activities!

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How To Read To Busy Babies And Toddlers

As a speech-language pathologist working with families of young children I am constantly asked about book reading.  We have all heard that reading to babies is very important but sometimes it can be challenging to read to those squirmy little ones!  I can relate to these challenges as a professional, having read to hundreds of different children, and as a parent of two very active kids!

It can be frustrating for even the most well-intentioned parent to keep reading to their child when they seem to be ‘uninterested’ in staying put for the story. Let me begin by saying I understand these frustrations, but I would like to share a few things that highlight why it’s important to keep reading!

• Early language and literacy development begins in the first few years of life

• A child’s early literacy skills develop through regular daily positive interactions with literacy materials and the adults in their lives

• Strong early literacy skills are related to later literacy skills in school

As a professional in speech and language development I have lots of tips and tricks up my sleeve to make book reading enjoyable for ALL kids.  Today I will share my top 5 to hopefully help you inspire a love of literacy in your child at home.

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Helping Your Child Learn Language From Birth

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!

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