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Grocery shopping and kids: Five concepts children learn at the store

Are you a Sunday grocery shopper?  For years, our family routine has been to make a weekly menu/list then grocery shop on Sunday afternoons (when everyone and their brother are at the store too).  I haven't been able to get out of this habit and go on a different day not matter how hard I try.

I also cannot get on the online/app grocery order train (I know-what!?!).  I've done it twice and always end up with produce that I don't like!  I enjoy picking out my produce and other items.  One advantage to online ordering is not having to trek it to the store with your one, two or three+ kiddos.  There are advantages to taking your child to the grocery store too!  (I promise you it doesn't have to be a screaming in the cart because he wants those cookies trip).  What do kids learn about on a trip to the store?  (This post focuses on a typical grocery store but any of these strategies could work in any type of store).

1.  Social language:  Going to the store involves having to speak to others (usually).  You may have to ask for an item, order lunch meat, speak to a cashier or speak to another person in an aisle to get by them.  Your child is watching and hearing you use these various types of social language, eye contact and body language.  Children pick up on these concepts early.  

2.  Colors, shapes, types of food:  Here's the big one: the grocery store involves so many opportunities for great language and vocabulary exposure.  You can talk with your child about the colors of fruits, vegetables and food boxes.  With an older toddler, a parent can say things such as "Show me the big red box of cereal" or "What fruit do we need that is yellow and monkeys like it?".  Children will enjoy looking at the various shapes of fresh food and meats.  Parents can play a guessing game with their child by pointing out two types of food and asking which one is a meat, cereal, fruit, etc.  You can also lead a great game of "I Spy."  "I spy something that is a fruit, grows on a vine and we eat it in the summer:  Watermelon!"

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3.  The use of money/the concept of paying:  The grocery store is a great way to introduce the concept of paying/money.  Children have to learn that certain things cost money.  It is important to have children see you pay and discuss the amount (a little bit or a lot of money).  It is also great to have children see cash but a lot of people don't use cash any more :)  

4.  Introduction to simple numbers in functional setting:  Counting food items is a great way to introduce numbers to small children.  Parents can count the number of fresh vegetables or fruit items they are picking up/bagging.  Parents can also model counting through aisle numbers (i.e. We are going down aisle three to find some cereal, etc). 

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5.   Spatial concept practice:  If your child is old enough to walk or move around the card (or you use one of those driving carts!), handing your child food items and using phrases such as 'put in' and 'drop in' are great for teaching in and out.  You can also point out food items that are beside each other (in the fruit/veggie bins), things that are high on the top of the self or low on the bottom of the shelf.

We hope this provides you with some good tips and strategies for your next grocery store trip.  Happy shopping!

Summer Speech and Language Activities

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It has been a fury of rain here in North Carolina for over a month now.  We have had a few sunny days, but overall it has been one of the rainiest springs that I can remember.  I usually don’t mind the rain, but with two young children, I’ve never prayed more for sunshine. There is only so much splashing in mud puddles that excites them.  Now that we have a glimpse of the sun and warm weather, we are gearing up to spend a lot of time outside. Many people think of speech and language learning as something you would do inside or while sitting down across from one another.  While you can definitely target speech and language indoors, you can stimulate language development anywhere. This is one of the main takeaways that we want parents to understand. Language can be used anywhere and anytime and you don’t have to come up with fancy activities to really engage your children.  Some of the best speech therapy sessions I’ve had have been outside using toys and activities the family already had. Here are some of my favorite and simple ways to target speech and language outdoors.

 

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Nature Walk

This is one of my kids very favorite outdoor activities.  They ask to do it ALL the time. This requires no planning or special toys, just you and your kids on a walk.  Talk about all of the things that you see: trees, squirrel, sun, clouds, leaves, flowers, etc. If you child finds a leaf, talk about the colors, shapes, the texture, what sound it makes when you step on it.  These are hands on ways to target descriptive words and build vocabulary. If you are a planner, you can make a list of things beforehand that you want your child to find: 1 bird, a red flower, a green leaf, a furry animal. This is a fun way to get them engaged and also to target their understanding of vocabulary.  My kids enjoy the spontaneous and the list version. Now that my daughter is 4, she enjoys coming up with the list herself to see if her younger brother (age 2) can find them. This is a great way to work on speech and language as a family and involve older siblings.
 

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Water Table/Baby Pool Play

Kids love playing in water, especially when the weather is nice.  My kids love to break out the water table or baby pool in the backyard.  This is a fun way to target opposites (wet/dry, empty/full, hot/cold) and also water specific vocabulary (boats, whales, fish) and action words (swim, splash, float).  We get their water animal figurines out and have them go for a swim or take their boats and submarines for a race. We talk about the different types of animals and water activities.  I will take an animal and ask them to tell me what they are doing. For example, I may take a whale and make it jump out of the water. Then I ask my son, “What is the whale doing?” There are many basic concepts you can target as well as vocabulary building activities you can do with water play.

 

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Pictionary with Sidewalk Chalk

If your house is anything like my house, all of your outdoor furniture and patio is covered in sidewalk chalk.  We have chalk everywhere. We are always grateful for the rain to give us a nice looking patio again, only for it to be covered with colorful pictures as quickly as it disappeared.  While chalk can be messy and annoying, it is also a great way to build vocabulary and understanding. One of my favorite ways to play with sidewalk chalk is to play a game of Pictionary.  I will draw something and ask the kids to guess. Then we pass around the chalk and give everyone in the family a turn to draw and guess. My youngest usually draws a snake every time, but he still loves to participate.  This activity is great for targeting colors, shapes, receptive vocabulary and expressive vocabulary.

 

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Sandbox

We recently got a sandbox from a friend and my kids have played in it every day since it arrived.  Besides making a huge mess, they have enjoyed digging for “treasure” or other hidden objects. I’ve hidden animal figurines, small cars and other small objects in the sand and then had them dig them up.  We name each object and talk about them. If it’s an animal we would name it, talk about the sound it makes and where it lives. If it was a vehicle or an object, we talk about the color and use of the object.  For example, if they found a key, we would talk about how it was silver, shiny, and used to unlock doors. This is a great activity to target vocabulary, describing words and use of objects. It’s also a great way to encourage multi-word phrases.  If your child says “car” you can expand upon what they said and say, “red car”. Then give them the opportunity to imitate you.

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Bubbles

What kid doesn’t like bubbles?  I know mine are obsessed and I’ve had many clients say their first words to request bubbles.  Words associated with bubbles: “pop”, “more” and “bubble” are perfect for first words because they use bilabial sounds (sounds produced with the lips) and these sounds are usually the easiest for young children to produce.  Blow a few bubbles or turn on your bubble machine for just a minute or two to get them interested. Then stop blowing and wait for them to indicate they want more. They may just grunt or gesture toward them. Model the words “more” and “bubble” and give them plenty of wait time to imitate.  If they don’t imitate you right away, that’s okay. Model the word one more time and then begin blowing again. Then stop blowing or turn off the bubble machine again and repeat the process of waiting for them to indicate they want more and modeling “bubble” or “more”. I also like to say the word “pop” repeatedly as the bubbles pop during the interaction.  Usually they will eventually imitate. Be very exaggerated in your models and REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT. If your child is not yet using verbal language, you can also practice using the sign for “more” during this activity. If your child is already using single word utterances, you can work on multi-word utterances.  For example, you could model, “More bubbles” or “I want bubbles."

 

We hope these ideas have been helpful and given you some ideas that you can use with your own children.  Targeting speech and language development doesn't require fancy activities.  You just need an engaged parent and things you already have around your house or yard.  Hopefully these activities have encouraged you to get outside with your little ones this summer! 

The Do's and Don'ts of playing with your toddler

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Let's take it back to play for a minute.  Yes, we are speech therapists, but in order to even start addressing speech and language (spoken and understanding), we need to talk about play.  Kids learn through play-both with parents/teachers and peers.  Do you want some good tips on how to play with your child?  Read on!

1.  Do get on their level.  Sit on the floor, get on your knees beside their kiddie table, lie on the floor with them, sit beside their bed...you get the point.  Getting down to their level allows children to fully engage with you.  You have a better chance of getting eye contact allowing children to see and hear your words.

2.  Don't expect children to pick up on play skills or new vocabulary if you're in the other room.  Yes-children can play independently and we will get to that farther below but in order to teach children new skills, you will want to be in the same room as them.

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3.  Do go with your child's lead.  This is just a fancy way of playing with what your child wants to play with OR engaging in your child's idea.  If she wants to use her baby bottle as a gas tank for the car set-go with it!  If he wants to use the car ramp as a grocery conveyor belt, go with it!

4.  Don't always direct your child's play.  Yes-suggest play items or different ideas but play does not have to be rigid.  Letting children explore and have different ideas is how they learn new vocabulary and concepts!

5.  Do repeat key items/words-first in simple terms then in more complex terms.  If you are playing with a car ramp with your toddler, say first "Car goes down" then pause.  Maybe the child takes the same car down again then you could say "Look, there is a green car driving fast down the ramp!"  Children benefit from hearing the same words/concepts several times.

6.  Don't talk too much!  Remember our post about waiting?  Find it here.  Wait 10-30 seconds to let your child have a chance to think of something and form new words.  

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7.  Do put down your cell phone or turn off the TV.  Playing with your child as an adult takes effort.  It does.  We don't always want to play as adults because there are a million more things to do:  laundry, cleaning, work, emails, phone calls, preparing food, etc.  BUT teaching a child new skills requires full engagement.

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8.  Don't expect your child to learn everything from TV or an iPhone app.  There are TV shows that are great and educational for children in small amounts:  Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger are two of our favorites.  There are some great learning applications for your tablet or phone as well.  The important thing is to make sure you are engaging with your child while using these items: Pausing the show to talk about a concept every 5-10 minutes or using the application with your child and explaining colors, shapes, numbers, letters, or whatever the application targets.  There will be more to come from us regarding how to effectively use technology with your little one soon!

9.  Do choose developmentally appropriate toys.  See our gift guides for one year olds, two year olds, three year olds and four year olds here.  We recommend toys that can be used in various ways and don't include a lot of lights and sounds.

10.  Don't make it too complicated!  Lastly, play should not be complicated.  Children often benefit from play that is very simple with one or two parts or concepts that are repetitive or surround the same idea.  Remember when you played with boxes, toilet paper rolls, sticks and rocks!?!  (Don't let your child play with sharp objects that could hurt them-not advocating for that).  It's OK for children to play by themselves at times too.  When a child can sit up safely and independently, let them play independently with safe toys where you can see them.  As they get older, this time can start to stretch longer, depending on your child.

Happy Playing!

 

Does Your Child Understand You? The Importance of Receptive Language

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“How many words should my child be saying?”  “What sounds should she be making?” “When should he put 2 words together?”  When parents ask us about speech and language skills, we primarily get questions about expressive language (what a child says) and articulation (how a child pronounces a word).  We rarely hear parents asking about a vital component of speech and language development: receptive language (what a child understands). So what is receptive language, why is it so important and how can you encourage your child’s development of receptive language skills?

What is receptive language?

According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, Language is the comprehension and use of a spoken, written or other communication symbol system (sign language). (ASHA, 1993). There are two main components of language: expressive language and receptive language. Expressive language refers to what a child says says and receptive language refers to what a child hears and understands.  Receptive language is the foundation of language as a whole. We don’t typically use words and concepts we don’t understand, so understanding is essential to use speech and language appropriately. Children typically understand much more than they say so receptive language development is usually ahead of expressive language.  Babies begin to develop receptive language skills almost immediately. They will hear their mother’s voice and turn towards it and as they grow into an older baby they will be able to respond to “No” and follow simple commands such as “come here” or “hand me the book”. It is important that we stimulate receptive language skills as much or even more than expressive language because children need a strong foundation of receptive language to express themselves effectively.  Children with a receptive language delay may have difficulty following directions, answering questions and identifying vocabulary.

 

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What are some early receptive language skills?

If you are concerned about your child's ability to understand what you say, check out these milestones for birth through four below to see if they are on the right track.    If you still have concerns about your child's understanding we recommend setting up an evaluation with a licensed speech pathologist in your area.  You can also begin using some of the receptive language tips outlined at the end of this post in your daily routines.  

Birth- 3 Months

  • Attend to sounds in their environment
  • Babies will respond to sounds differently.  They may startle at a loud sound or be comforted by a familiar voice

 

4-6 months

  • Begins to respond to the word “No”
  • Recognizes familiar voices
  • Moves eyes to the direction of sound

 

7-12 months

  • Recognizes names of familiar items
  • Follows simple commands such as “come here”
  • Recognizes verbal cues for routines such as “bye bye” or “peek-a-boo”

 

1-2 years

  • Identifies familiar items by pointing to them in books
  • Identifies basic body parts and clothing items (shoes, socks) by pointing
  • Responds to simple questions (Where’s Daddy?)
  • Responds to yes/no questions by shaking head or nodding

 

2-3 years

  • Follows 2 step commands
  • Understands simple spatial relationships (in, out, on)
  • Understands opposite concepts (hot/cold  wet/dry)

 

3-4 years

  • Follows 3 step commands
  • Identifies colors
  • Understands more complex spatial relationships and opposite concepts


 

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How can you encourage receptive language development in your daily routines?

  • Read  

Reading to your child is a great way to promote receptive language skills.  This allows you to introduce them to a variety of vocabulary words and also give them the opportunity to point to familiar items.  Ask them to point to several items on each page. “Can you find the dog?” or “Where is the cow?” This activity keeps them engaged in the book while strengthening their vocabulary and ability to follow commands. Make sure to label all the pictures you see to consistently expose them to new vocabulary.   If you have an older toddler or preschooler, ask them questions throughout the story to be sure they are understanding what they hear. Older preschoolers should be able to answer simple “Who” “What” and “Where” questions. If they are unable to answer the questions independently, go back to the pictures in the story and see if the picture cues can help them answer.

 

  • Simplify your language

We highly recommend using rich language when talking with your child, but very young children or children with a receptive language delay may benefit from using more simplified language in order to understand what they hear.  You could say, “Get your shoes” instead of “Timmy, go into the kitchen and get your shoes by the door.” Children with receptive language delays may not understand the commands you give if you are too detailed.

 

  • Play Hide and Seek

Hide a few favorite things around your house and tell your child you are going to give them clues to find them.  This targets following directions and can also target spatial relationships such as “on”, “under” and “behind”. You could give clues such as “Look under the bed” or “ Open the door and look inside the box.”  This activity can help you gauge how many step commands your child can follow and help you to identify which spatial relationships or positional words that they understand.

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  • Identify body parts and clothing items

Each time you get your child dressed or give them a bath you have the opportunity to expose them to body part and clothing vocabulary.   When they are young, simply label the body parts and clothing items as you go. “I’m washing your feet.” or “This is your shirt.” After they have been exposed to the vocabulary, you can ask them to get involved.  For example, you can ask them to point to various body parts. “Where are your eyes?” or “Hand me your foot to wash.” You can also put out various clothing items and ask them to hand the correct one to you. “Hand me the pants.” or “Where is your shirt?”

 

  • Play Simon Says

This game encourages following commands and can also target spatial relationships, body parts and colors.  Give your child commands and see if they can follow them. “Simon says, pat your head.” “Simon Says, get a green crayon.”  “Simon says look under the couch.” This activity is so fun for little ones, while also encouraging various receptive language skills.

 

I hope you have found this explanation of receptive language helpful and that you can use some of the strategies with your own little ones.  If you have any concerns about your child’s receptive language development, we always recommend getting an evaluation from a speech pathologist.  If you would like more receptive language tips, please visit the resources and downloads tab of our website for a free receptive language tips handout.

References:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (1993). Definitions of communication disorders and variations[Relevant Paper]. Available from www.asha.org/policy.

Do this tomorrow: Easy ways to improve your child's receptive/expressive language while getting dressed

Getting a toddler dressed is always fun, am I right?  First, it is typically in the morning when we're all rushed.  You've got this little wiggly person who needs clothes and they're singing, trying to play and you're trying to wrangle them into a shirt and pants.  The next thing you know (at least at my house), you have a naked baby running through the house!

Why not work on speech and language in between chasing your naked kid around the house?  Here are five easy ways to incorporate important concepts into your daily dressing routine!

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1.  Work on understanding (also known as comprehension) by asking your child to go get certain items of clothing.

Make sure his shirt, pants, socks and shoes are in an easy to find location then ask him to go get one item at a time.  This teaches children that certain words match to various clothing items.  You can make this more complex as your child develops into a preschooler:  Please bring the one that keeps your arms warm.

2.  Work on speaking (also known as expression) by letting your child verbally choose an piece of clothing to wear. 

We all know toddlers and preschoolers thrive off of making their own decisions.  The night before daycare, preschool or the next day, lay out 2-3 outfits for your child.  Let them choose by stating "this one" or "the red shirt."

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3.  Work on understanding of location (also known as spatial comprehension) by talking about where clothing items are located in your home. 

Are your child's pants stored in a drawer?  Make sure you highlight IN and OUT as your remove the pants to put on your child.  Are the child's shirts hanging in the closet? Make sure you highlight UP on the rack and IN/OUT as you select a shirt.  Are your child's shoes by the front door?  Make sure you highlight BESIDE or NEXT TO the front door when asking your child to find these items.  For more learning opportunities (if you have extra time), you can hide the items (not too hard) around your home and give your child hints to find them.

4.  Work on understanding of body parts (also known as comprehension) during dressing. 

Dressing (and bathing-see post here) are great times to work on understanding of body parts.  At younger ages, highlighting arms, legs, head, feet, hands, etc are great.  As the child matures into an older toddler and preschooler, they can learn more complex body parts including knee, elbow, chest, ankles, wrists, etc.

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5.  Discuss seasons and weather.

As you're dressing in the morning and putting on various clothes depending on the season, talk to your child about what season it is, what the weather is like and why we wear certain types of clothing depending on the season.  Your conversation can go something like this:  Today it is going to be cold and it is raining.  Let's put on this long-sleeved warmed shirt so you stay warm.

Working these five items into your daily dressing can improve your child's receptive and expressive language skills.  They may even reduce your stress level in the morning-just kidding, only coffee can do that!  

Is Your Child a "Late Talker" or Do They Need Speech Therapy?

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Have you ever wondered if your child needs speech therapy?  If you have wondered this, has someone you know told you that your child was probably fine or a “late talker”? We hear it time and time again, “ My brother didn’t talk until he was three, and he’s just fine now.” or “Boys talk later than girls, he’s probably just a “late talker.”  This notion of the “late talker” and people writing off a mother’s concerns about their child’s development are becoming more and more prevalent. Many of our clients say that they had a gut feeling that their child was behind, but a well meaning grandparent of friend assured them that their child would be fine or was simply just a “late talker”. We’d like to address this issue and help put the “late talker” theory to rest.

 

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We have developmental norms for a reason:

Child development is an area that we are continuously learning about.  Each child is unique and children at the exact same age can display very different skills and abilities.  Although development can vary, there is a set of norms that is considered typical or age appropriate. We do not have to strictly adhere to a list of child development norms; however, it does give us a good idea what skills our children should be working towards.  Speech is no different from any other area of development. There are skills that children should acquire at certain ages. For example, most children will be able to use approximately 50 words by age 2. This is a recommendation. If your child is using 40 words by 2 but learning new words pretty regularly, you probably don’t have a reason to be worried.  If your child is using 3 words by age 2, then you may need to consider an evaluation with a speech pathologist. These norms give us a look into typical speech development and can alert us when something is off.

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There are always exceptions to the rule:

“My cousin didn’t talk until he was 4 and he’s a neurosurgeon now.”  We have heard a variety of these types of stories. There are the so called “late-talkers”, the kids who started talking later than usual, but didn’t require speech therapy services.  I’m sure there are children who started speaking later and didn’t need speech therapy, but there is no way to determine which children will be “late talkers” and which children will have a speech disorder.  It would be wonderful if we had a crystal ball that could determine which children will need speech therapy and which would just talk later, but since that isn’t possible we have to treat all children the same.  It’s better to treat a child who may have ended up developing speech and language skills on their own than it is to not treat a child with a speech or language disorder. We often hear parents who are upset with themselves that they didn’t seek out services sooner because they were just assuming their child was a late talker.   Your neighbor’s daughter may have waited until 4 to talk and ended speaking age appropriately, but that is the exception to the rule. Many “late talkers” end up with speech and language delays that do require speech therapy. We recommend to always err on the side of caution and get an evaluation if you are concerned.

 

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An evaluation can only help

I know that many parents are hesitant to start therapy or even get an evaluation when their children are young.  They don’t want to be jump the gun so soon, but since working in early intervention I have learned there isn’t such a thing as too soon.  The sooner the better as far as child development is concerned. If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, or any area of development, it never hurts to begin with an evaluation. You may get an evaluation and find out that your child’s speech is age appropriate or slightly delayed, but not enough to warrant therapy.  You will still get a full picture of your child’s skills as well as some tips and techniques that can help you continue to facilitate a language rich environment. If an evaluation does show your child has a delay, they can begin receiving speech therapy services right away. There is no con to pursuing an evaluation. You will receive valuable information and peace of mind either way.

 

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Late talkers are often frustrated

Let’s say you do have a child who is a “late talker” and ends up speaking at an age appropriate level at age 3.  Although they ended up eventually speaking, that’s several years of ineffective communication during the toddlerhood years. This is certainly going to result in frustration for both the child and his caregivers between ages 1-3. Toddlers and preschoolers can be frustrated easily even with the most advanced speech and language development because they are figuring out the world in which they live.  If you add on a speech delay to an already frustrating time, that is going to make your child even more exasperated. Why go through such a difficult and frustrating time for everyone waiting on your child to talk, when you can get help from a professional and make everyone’s lives easier? As humans, it is in our nature to communicate. This is no different for young children. They want to be able to communicate their thoughts and ideas just like the rest of us. Speech therapy can really lessen the frustration for children and their families as they are given the tools to communicate effectively.

 

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Things to look for

If you think your child may be a “late talker”, look for these signs to see if an evaluation may be warranted.

  • Is your child making progress?  Some children may be slower to develop speech, but still make continuous progress.  If your child appears stagnant in their development, seek out an evaluation by a speech language pathologist.

  • Is your child frustrated by not being able to effectively communicate with you?  Are you frustrated by not being able to understand your child? If you answered yes to either one of those questions on a regular basis, seek out an evaluation.  

  • Does your child talk, but you have difficulty understanding most of what they are saying?  Do they have difficulty imitating speech sounds even with cues and when watching your mouth? If you answered yes to these questions, It is recommended they get an evaluation.

  • Is your child motivated to communicate?  If you don’t feel your child is making an effort to communicate with you or those around them, get an evaluation.  

  • Do your child’s speech and language skills meet the developmental norms for their age?  If they seem off from what is typical, consider an evaluation.

 

I hope this information is helpful and clears up why speech therapists often recommend getting an evaluation instead of waiting to see if your child will eventually talk.  Since there is no way to tell which children will end up having a speech delay and need therapy, it is best to be proactive. We hear so many parents express regret in waiting to start speech therapy and hope that these tips can help your determine if a speech evaluation is warranted.  

How to entertain your toddler on a summer road trip (while also working on speech and language)

Ahhhhh, summer!  It's right around the corner.  If you're like us, you're extremely glad winter is seeing it's way out and signs of spring are appearing.  Less time in the house, more time outside!  It's a win-win for everyone's sanity.  

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Summer seems to be the time for road trips.  Sure, you may travel for the holidays too but summer may be when you get the in the car and drive a few hours to the mountains or the beach (we do!).  And let me tell you, there is NOTHING worse than a screaming/bored/tired toddler on a long drive.  You know what I am talking about, your child is tired of being strapped in the car seat, you've given them every pack of applesauce and fruit snacks you can find in the car and guess what?  They're still back there wriggling around and crying because they're bored.  Today we are giving recommendations on a few activities (some of which don't require a purchase!) for activities for car trips.  A bonus-none of these involve screen time!

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One-year-olds

Hide-and-seek board books/soft books

Hand your child a book with flaps and they will enjoy opening the flaps to see what is underneath (maybe keeping them entertained for a longer period of time)!  A bonus is if you sit in the back and read it to them.  As we've talked about in a previous post, books are great for receptive language (e.g. point to the dog or make it harder for an older child-point to the one that is brown).  Of course books also help a child learn new words and match those words to pictures as well.

Singing

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When my child was still under one, I downloaded a $3.99 album to my phone called '30 Toddler Songs.'  It has been a LIFESAVER.  There is not a road trip that we take that we don;t listen to songs off of this album.  Due to continued exposure, my daughter knows all the words to the songs now.  Don't forget-there are studies that state singing and language use the same brain connections.

Two-year-olds

Magna-doodle/Water Wow books

Any type of art/writing utensil that does not make a mess is ideal for the car!  A magnadoodle can be used and then erased again for continued fun.  You can work on verbs such as color, draw, and write.  You can take turns with your child requesting each other to draw things (animals, shapes, letters, etc).  

We're huge fans of Water Wow books around here.  It's another art item that DOES NOT make a mess and is reusable!  These books are like built-in speech-language pathologists.  After you use the water pen to color on the page, the opposite page shows the items the child has to find after they paint and make them appear (e.g. on the ocean scene the child has to find two sea stars, three sharks, etc).  Again, this encourages receptive language/vocabulary knowledge as the child is connecting words to pictures of items.  It also works on counting and various other verbs/spatial words (e.g. sharks are swimming near the rocks, the octopus is floating above the fish).

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What's in the bag?

Grab a non-see through bag and put random small items (think small stuffed animals, happy meal toys, safe for your child small items from the dollar store) in the bag.  Every 15 or 30 minutes, have your child pull a new item out of the bag.  The unknown aspect of items in the bag will excite your child.  Language concepts such as "finding, looking, grabbing, pulling, in the bag, out of the bag" can all be worked on with this surprise bag.  

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Window markers

All my type A mamas go ahead and cringe. Grab a pack of Crayola window markers and let your child draw on the car window (if they can reach) or a white board!  Kids will love doing something different in the car.  Their creativity can flow free and many, many language and vocabulary concepts will emerge.

Three-year-olds

Sing-a-longs with a twist

Trying singing the initial portion of a song "There was a dog who lived on a farm and ____ was his name-0, B I N _ _ and let your three-year-old fill in some of the words.  Doing this challenges your child to pay attention and retrieve the correct word to fill in the song.  Kids love a good challenge!  Also try giving them the wrong word in the song-you'll definitely get some giggles and then they have to correct you!

Name that animal/thing game

This naming task works on both comprehension and expression!  First, the adult describes something:  I am thinking of something that has four legs and says 'woof woof' then your child has to guess what you're thinking.  Switch it up and let the child be the 'teacher' and describe something for the parent.  Tasks such as these work on a child's ability to listen closely, evaluate information given and retrieve the word to describe the item!

Stickers!

Pick up some of those dollar section stickers (Thanks, Target!) and a pad of paper.  Work on verbs such as 'pull off, stick on' while your child makes choices about which ones they want.  The child can learn spatial words 'Put the sticker on the top of the paper' while playing.  As long as the stickers make it on the paper, clean up is easy!

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Happy road tripping!  We hope these tips help you to choose activities for your little one in the car.  Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for even more creative ideas on how to improve your child's speech and language.

 

5 Simple Ways to Encourage Speech and Language During Bath Time.

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Bath time is a favorite routine in our house. The kids will race to the tub and beg to stay in “just one more minute.”  Since bath time occurs so often and is usually fun for little ones, it is also a great place to encourage speech and language skills.  Here are five simple ways you can encourage speech and language skills while bathing your little ones.

Asking for more

“More” is one of my favorite words to teach kids because it can be used for so many different activities.  Bath time is no exception. Your kids can request more bubbles, more toys, more singing, more stories, more tickles etc.  The possibilities are endless.  I like to put in just a small amount of bubbles in a low filled tub. This usually gets my kids to request more bubbles and more water.  I will also begin singing a song and then stop and wait for them to request more. I may start tickling them, only to stop and wait for them to request more from me.  I also give just a toy or two and then have a bucket of bath toys beside me. This encourages them to ask for more. I still only give them a couple at a time so they can continue to ask for more throughout our bath routine.  If you see your little one indicating they want more bubbles, toys, water, singing etc, but they aren’t verbally requesting, model the word for them and give them plenty of time to imitate you. If they do not imitate verbally, model the sign for “more” and give them the opportunity to try the sign as well.  You may need to use hand over hand assistance to help them use the sign if they are new to signing and verbal language. Make sure to give them lots of opportunities to use the sign for more throughout bath time. Practice and opportunity are your best tools for encouraging verbal language.

 

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Descriptive words and opposites

Bath time is great for teaching various descriptive words. Many of these words apply to teaching opposites as well. Your little ones can learn many different descriptive words including cold, hot, warm, wet, dry, clean, dirty, full and empty.  Talk to your kids about the description of the bath. “The water feels cold, lets add more hot water.” "You are wet now, but when we use the towel you will be dry." "Your feet were dirty, but now they are clean.” The more they are exposed to these words and are able to visualize and experience them, the more likely they will be to understand the meaning of the words.  The word cold will have a much greater meaning to them if they are feeling cold water, rather than simply hearing the word. You can assess your child’s understanding of opposites and descriptive words using what speech therapists call cloze sentences. This is when certain words are left out of a sentence and your child is given the opportunity to fill in the blank. For example, “The tub was empty before but now it is ______.”  or “You were wet in the water, but now you are ______.” If they don’t fill in the blank after you’ve given them plenty of wait time, you can fill it in for them.
 

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Spatial relationships/positional words

Bath time play takes many forms.  Your kids may play with sea animals, toy boats, foam letters, bubbles or fill and spill cups.  As your child is playing, be sure to use positional words such as on top, under, beside, in front, and behind.  You could say, “Your whale is under the water.” or “The boat is behind you.” As with descriptive words, the exposure to positional words and spatial language will be more meaningful to your child through experiences.  If they can see and move the whale under the water, the word under carries more meaning than if he just simply heard the word. Remember, children usually need to understand a word before using it verbally.

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Narrate their play

I’m not much of a sports enthusiast, but we have ESPN on at my house ALL the time. My husband is the sports lover in the family, but I do occasionally throw him a bone and watch with him.  I mostly hear commentators describing exactly what they see players doing. “ Lebron is running to the basket. He shoots and scores 3 points.” Think of yourself as a play commentator. Narrate what you see.  “You are pushing your boat.” “Your whale is swimming.” “You are making a big splash.” “I’m adding more bubbles.” I can’t say this enough: The more they hear and experience language, the more likely they will be to use it themselves.  You may feel silly being a play commentator, but your child will be exposed to wonderful and rich language modeling.

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Teach Body Parts

During all the bath play, there’s also one main aspect of bath time: washing. This is the perfect opportunity to teach and discuss body parts.  “I’m washing your toes and now your legs.” You can also involve them in the process. You can ask them to show you the body part you need to wash.  “Lift up your arm so I can wash it.” If they give you their arm, you know they understand where their arm is. If they give you their leg instead, simply say, “That’s your leg, here’s your arm.” You can also ask them to wash something themselves.  Hand them a washcloth and ask them to wash their face or wash their stomach. If they are able to follow your commands, you will know they have a good understanding of body parts. You can use hand over hand assistance to help them wash the correct body parts if they are not yet able to locate them independently.  Name their body parts throughout the bath and encourage them to imitate you.

 

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I hope you have found these tips helpful and are able to add them into your child’s bath time routine.  It’s time to get out your rubber duck and create a fun environment for language learning in the bath.  Let us know which tips work best for your family and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @toddlers.talking for more helpful tips each week.