Vocabulary In The Early Years: Facts And Myths All Parents Should Know

Vocabulary 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.

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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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10 Language Boosting Board Games For The Cottage: Ages 2 – 10

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Summer is in full swing and I love it! It’s the season to take a little time off and enjoy yourself with family and friends. To take a break from the every day and make some special memories with the ones you love the most.

Personally, I remember heading to the cottage and spending lazy afternoons playing board games and cards with my friends and family. For me, these memories bring back wonderful feelings of togetherness and the pleasure of simplicity. In addition, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, playing these games also had the amazing side benefit of helping boost my language skills!

Did you know board games help build:

  • Expressive language skills
  • New vocabulary
  • Social language skills such as turn taking, eye contact and following rules
  • Critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • Pre-literacy and literacy skills
  • Attention, memory and cognitive skills
  • And much more!!!

Whether you are heading out of town or enjoying a stay-cation, consider picking up some of my favourite games for speech and language development (listed below) to bring with you. Not only will you be creating special memories for your child to cherish, but you will be helping to boost their language skills without them even realizing! Remember, the more fun you have, the more fun your child will have! Enjoy!

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How To Keep Kids “Speech & Language Healthy”

Boy and Muscles

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!

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Improve Reading Comprehension In Toddlers and Preschoolers

The importance of reading to young children cannot be overstated. Years and years of research have described the benefits from improving language skills, to developing strong literacy skills, to long-term academic success. But did you know that not all reading is created equal?

In fact, it’s actually the style of reading, more than the frequency, that impacts children’s early language and literacy development. Although this may be a bit surprising to hear, it’s not sufficient to simply read a text aloud to a young child in order to encourage them to learn from it, and since most parents I know are reading to kids to help them with their language and literacy, the question then becomes, “what should I be doing instead?”

I was recently reading a study that stated, “the earlier parents become involved in their children’s literacy practices, the more profound the results and the longer-lasting the effects” (Mullis, Mullis, Cornille et al., 2004). Reflecting on this statement, I felt it was time to do a post that discusses the meaning of the word “involved”.

Books before bedtime are great, but sometimes we all need a few tips on how to really make the most of these moments together. When adults make some simple changes to how they read during story time, which goes beyond just reading the words on the page, this has a major effect on how children engage with books, and ultimately their comprehension of what is being read.

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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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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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5 Places To Go For Language Learning Before the Summer Is Out!

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. Too soon we will be back into sweaters and hearing the school bells ringing. I’ve had an amazing time with my crew this summer, exploring the city and beyond to see what’s new to learn and talk about. I find it so easy to encourage language development with my kids in the summer since all you really need to do is get outside!

Remember, the two most valuable tools needed for learning language are interest and experience. If a child isn’t interested you won’t have their attention to show them anything new, or the motivation to keep them engaged. Children also learn best through hands on experience. In fact most language learning for toddlers and preschoolers are often tied to specific events. For example, a child who has seen a cow at the farm, heard it moo and maybe even felt it’s fur, will likely have a more developed meaning for the word ‘cow’ compared to looking at a toy cow or seeing it in pictures. This experience is also more likely to encourage child-initiated communication.

Since I am feeling nostalgic, I thought in this post I would share some of my favourite places to go in the summer that are great for a wide age range, the majority of kids are interested in going and inspire communication and natural language learning. I also outline a few language learning ideas at each place to get you started!

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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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