“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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When Saying “Wabbit” Is Not Ok

Few things are as fantastic as hearing your child say their first word. You never know what it’s going to be or which day it will be said, and sometimes it might even be hard to know for sure if what comes out is an actual word! That’s because even though the child knows the adult word, (e.g., “car”), their speech sound system still needs to mature, so it might come out sounding close to the adult word but not the exact pronunciation (e.g., “ta” for “car”).

Children’s speech sound systems develop from birth until kids are around 8 years old. By this age it is expected that children say each sound in their native language with correct pronunciation. Until this time speech sound errors occur and this is normal. When they are little these errors can be so cute! My 2 year old son tells me he needs a “nuggle” (he means “snuggle”) and my 4 year old likes to give “sums up” (she means “thumbs up”). Yet, as adorable as these words are, as a speech-language pathologist I expect my kids to say these words correctly at certain ages.

In this post I want to share a bit of information about typical speech development to help families understand what is normal and when to seek help.

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Pretend Play & Language Development: A ‘How To’ Guide For 1-6yrs

With Halloween right around the corner my kiddos are already in extreme dress-up mode! There are clothes, hats, toy food and trucks all over my floors….and I love it! It is priceless to watch their imaginations flourish as they create their own unique play scenarios or recreate something they have watched me do at home.

As a speech-language pathologist, I know that pretend play goes with language development like peanut butter goes with jam! I also know that pretend play is a skill that develops, just like gross or fine motor skills, and children need the opportunity to ‘practice’ this skill each day.

Although it is wonderful (and healthy even) to let kids pretend on their own, allowing us parents a chance to get a few things done, it is very important that we engage in these pretend play schemes with them too.

Research tells us that:

  • There is a relationship between play skills and word use in young children
  • Play skills typically lag behind in children with language disorders
  • Play contains a variety of elements that stimulate the kinds of conditions that grow language
  • Children who engage in play with attentive and responsive adults will improve their language skills
  • Children become more able to take advantage of opportunities to learn through play as they become more advanced learners and social partners

Most parents I meet are really eager to engage in pretend play with their kids, however in my practice I have heard many express that they don’t know exactly how or what to do.

So let’s begin with the ‘what’ and learn the developmental milestones your child should be meeting for pretend play from ages 1-6 years.

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How To Create A Positive Home Literacy Environment

As a speech-language pathologist working with young children I get more questions about book reading than any other topic. Today’s parents are not satisfied to sit on the sidelines when it comes to their children’s development.  There is a desire to be involved and help their children grow and reach their full potential, right from birth.

Although it may seem strange to think about literacy before your child is in school, research tells us that the early experiences children have with books has a major impact on their later reading abilities.  It is with this in mind that I write this article to help families learn how to set the stage for literacy at home and foster a love of book reading from an early age.

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Let’s Get Talking!

Hi! As a speech-language pathologist, and a mom of two, I know first-hand how important it is to get a child’s language development off to a good start!  I decided to start writing this blog in response to the many questions I get from families I speak to every day. The purpose is to provide parents with education on typical early language and literacy development, and offer ideas and activities to help support their child’s language at home in fun,easy ways! 

Enjoy!