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Our top 4 tips for helping your child speak more clearly

We hope you had a great Easter!  If you're anything like us, you're still playing with Easter Eggs.  We hope you had a great time trying out our activities with plastic eggs.

Rebecca's little one dying Easter Eggs!

Rebecca's little one dying Easter Eggs!

This week we're sharing four tips for improving your child's speech.  You may be asking:  Are speech and language different?  Why are there speech therapists and speech-language pathologists?  

  • Speech:  How you sound, also known as articulation.  Speech (in the speech therapy world) is known as the sounds or phonemes produced to speak.
  • Language:  The words or vocabulary that make up what you say.  This involves using various types of words to express wants, needs and ideas.
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Today, we want to talk about speech.  We see many questions from parents regarding how to improve their understanding of their child or others' understanding of their child.  Here are four easy techniques to keep in mind to help improve your child's speech (how they sound):

1.  Keep it on their level and forget about manners.  It's OK if your 24-month-old can't say "I want a banana please."  Break it down for them:  "want nana" and model that for them.  The early sounds that parents should be modeling for their children to hear and focusing on include:  B, P, M, W, T, D, and N.  When playing with your child, saying words with these sounds over and over again help them recognize them.  

Additionally, I see a lot of parents push manners from a very early age.  Don't get me wrong, manners are awesome.  We want our child to learn important words like 'please' and 'thank you' but at young ages, the words you teach your child should focus on core words such as food and drink (cracker, banana, milk, etc), people (mama, daddy, grandma, dog-yes, I'm throwing in the dog as a person), familiar items (crib, chair, car, etc) and toys  (ball, baby doll, truck, etc).  As your child begins to expand their vocabulary and master more sounds in words, then you can work the manners back in (especially when your child begins speaking in two to three words:  more milk, please).  

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2.  Don't rely on their ears only.  I like to tell parents that we use all of our systems to process speech.  As much as possible, have your child look at you when speaking so they can pick up on where your lips, tongue, jaw and cheeks are for certain sounds.  Let your child feel your face as you say a word they're having a little bit of trouble with so they can feel how you're producing this.  If your child's hands are on your face, you know they are hearing, seeing and feeling you speak.  Sometimes when our children highly involved in play or another activity, they may not be giving their full attention to how we are making certain sounds in words.

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3.  Repeat, repeat, repeatWe've said it before and we'll say it again.  Children need repetition for learning.  If you're working on incorporating the /t/ and /d/ sounds so your child can hear more of those, grab a toy truck (or any item that could be a pretend truck-toilet paper roll, pen, plastic spoon--a different post for a different day) and start with "drive, drive drive.  I am driving the truck.  I have a blue truck.  Truck, truck, truck goes vrooooom."  

4.  Use singing or a sing-song voice.  You'll hear many Speech-Language Pathologists use singing of normal songs such as nursery rhymes during sessions.  We also like to pair singing or a sing-song voice to phrases when we're working with children.  I find this does several things (my own incidental findings):  1.  Focuses the child more than speaking in a normal tone 2.  Can calm most children if they are upset.  The article cited below explains how researchers in this study found two of the same brain systems process language and music.  This could be related to increased language learning when music and singing are utilized.  It's no surprise that your parents sang to you as a child.  Singing has been passed down over the generations as a way to calm children and possibly, to help them learn new words and vocabulary.  

Example:  While playing with trains on an inclined track, vary your voice increase your pitch while saying "The train is driving up, up up!" several times while moving the train or having the child moving the train.  

We hope you find these strategies helpful while helping your little one develop speech sounds.  Remember, if your parent gut says that your child isn't quite where he or she is supposed to be in speech, language, cognitive or social development, please seek out a speech-language pathologist in your area.  Feel free to contact us at toddlertalkingtt@gmail.com.  Don't forget to follow us on Instagram @toddlers.talking and Facebook for more great information!

4 Simple Speech and Language Activities Using Plastic Eggs

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Happy Spring! The weather is finally starting to warm up here in NC and my kiddos have been so excited for some fun outdoor/spring activities.  Easter is on Sunday and regardless if you celebrate, you can use plastic eggs for several fun activities that target speech and language development.  Just don’t blame us when you find plastic eggs hidden in your hard 6 months later. All of these activities are simple, engaging and most of all, fun! Check them all out below.

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1. Following directions and spatial relationships

Wouldn’t it be nice if our kids would follow our directions all the time? I can’t ensure that this activity will always help with that, but I can guarantee that they will at least have fun and learn about spatial relationships while following directions. You wouldn’t typically give clues on an egg hunt since the point is for kids to find them on their own, but with this type of egg hunt we are focusing on following directions and teaching positional words. All you need for this activity is plastic eggs and a space to hide them.  Outside is great, but you can also use any room in your house. Hide eggs in different spatial positions (on top, under, beside, behind and in front): under the couch, behind the tree, on top of the table, beside the slide. Tell them you’ve hidden some eggs, but that you are going to guide them to the eggs with your words. Make sure they turn on their listening ears to be sure they can follow your commands. Give them clues such as:  "This egg in under the couch."  If they look in the wrong spot, you can model by getting down and looking under the couch yourself.  This will teach them what under means. See if they can follow your commands and if they understand what each spatial relationship means. This game is great for developing receptive language (what your child understands). If you have older kiddos, have them hide the eggs and give you the directions or allow an older child to give the directions to your younger one.

 

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     2.  Color match

Over the years, many parents have told me they get frustrated trying to teach their children colors.  I think this is usually because they are trying to teach them expressively (verbally), before they understand colors receptively.  These activities target receptive language (their understanding) of colors by having them match them rather than name them. Of course you will model the colors verbally so they learn the color names, but most kids will learn to match and identify colors by pointing before they can name them verbally.

Color Match Activity 1: Egg Bin Match

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Materials needed:

-box or plastic bin

-plastic eggs

Take several plastic eggs and separate the tops from the bottom.  Mix them up in the box or bin. Model for your child how to match the bottom and the top of the egg with the same color.  You can say, “I matched blue” or “I put the pink top with the pink bottom.” After you’ve matched a couple, ask them if they can match one.  Hand them a purple top and say, “Can you match the purple top with the bottom?” Continue matching until they’ve done them all and repeat as long as they are interested.  Matching colors is the first step in learning them. If they match the color incorrectly, simply tell them, “You chose yellow, we are looking for purple.” Help them find the correct match if the need assistance. Once they've matched all the eggs, you can ask them to point to the different colors or name each color for them as you point. 

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Color Matching Activity 2: Egg carton match up

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Materials needed:

-plastic eggs

-egg carton

The first step in this activity is coloring the bottom of the egg carton the colors of the plastic eggs. I chose 6 colors, so I used each color twice in the egg carton.  Model how to match the colors first and then give your child the opportunity to match themselves. If they are unable to complete the task themselves, you can help guide them to the correct spot.

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   3.  Counting

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This is definitely the simplest activity and one you may already do when hunting eggs.  Make sure to count the eggs as your children find them or at the end of the hunt. The more that you model counting and one to one correspondence, the faster your child will pick up these concepts.  Children are often very excited about egg hunts and that motivation to find the eggs may also increase their willingness to count. You can also give them a number to work towards. “ Let’s see if we can find 10 eggs.”  Start counting and then pause and let them fill in the remaining numbers. “Let’s see how many eggs you found. One, two, ____.”  Give older children a goal and then ask them how many more they need to find to reach their goal.  “You have 6, how many more do we need to reach 12?”  This activity targets expressive language. 

   4. Sound practice

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I’ve been using sound practice egg hunts as an activity with my speech therapy clients all week.  They have LOVED it. It’s a great way to keep kids moving and engaged in therapy. If your child is struggling with a particular sound, cut out pictures of words with the target sound and hide them in eggs.  Hide some treats or stickers in several of them too to break up the practice a bit and keep them motivated. Next hide the eggs around your yard or house and have your child find them. Once they’ve found all the eggs, have them practice the words with the target sound after opening the eggs.  This is a great way to drill them with word practice but still keep it fun.

 

      HAPPY EGG HUNTING FROM MY TWO FAVORITE BUNNIES!

     HAPPY EGG HUNTING FROM MY TWO FAVORITE BUNNIES!

Two ways to teach new vocabulary simply by talking

Last week, we explored sabotaging your child......no really, we did.  But not in a bad way....in a sweet and kind way to get them to talk.  Check out the post here.  This week, we teach you two ways to teach your toddler new vocabulary simply by talking to them.

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1.  Commenting:  You see your child rolling a ball and you say "roll" then expand that to "roll ball" or "You're rolling the ball."  Commenting on what action your child is doing teaches them to pair a word with an action.  More examples:

  • Use the words "eat, eating, food, drinking, drink, eat crackers, drink milk" during meal times to teach your child to pair these actions words to meal times.
  • Use the words "blow, blow bubbles" while blowing bubbles.
  • Use the word "bounce" while your child bounces a ball.
  • Use the words "drive or roll" when rolling a car on the floor.
  • Use the words "feed, drink and give" when your child is feeding a bottle to a baby doll.
  • Use the words "stack, build and put on" when your child is building a block tower.

It is important to remember that children need to hear new words and vocabulary many times to learn them.  It is not unusual to hear us (Speech-Language Pathologists) using auditory bombardment to get children to learn new words.  When building blocks, we may grab a single block at a time and say "put on," next block, "put on," next block "put on" and so on so the child hears those action words over and over again.  

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2.  Narrating:  This is similar to commenting but parents should use longer phrases.  Parents should start narrating their children's actions and play from infancy and on.  Narrating what you and/or your child is doing, seeing and/or playing with with teaches children new vocabulary.  Some examples include:

  • Infants:  "I see you.  I see you chewing on your fingers.  You have one finger in your mouth, now you have two fingers in your mouth!"
  • Older babies who can follow you with their eyes to see what you are doing:  "Mommy is folding the laundry.  First she folds this towel then she puts it in the laundry basket."
  • Young toddlers (while taking a walk):  "We're going on a walk.  Let's walk on the sidewalk.  I see a blue car.  Look at the fence-there is a squirrel sitting on the fence!"
  • Older toddlers (while playing ball):  "I see you have your green, sparkly ball.  Throw the ball soft.  Throw the ball hard."
  • Preschoolers (while reading an age appropriate book with a caregiver):  What's she doing?  Is she making a fort in the living room?  Look-she's using blankets, chairs and the couch to make a fort."
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Disclaimer:  You're going to feel silly.  Teaching children to speak and to develop new vocabulary takes A LOT of talking and input from parents.  We're not inferring that you talk to your child incessantly.  State 1-2 words, phrases or sentences then take a break and let your child process the information, speak back to you or ask you a question.  Waiting is imperative when teaching children the intricacies of how we communicate.   

So there you have it...keep commenting and narrating.  It will pay off!

As always-please contact us with any questions toddlertalkingtt@gmail.com.  Check us out on Facebook @ToddlersTalking and on Instagram:  @toddlers.talking.  If you feel your child needs the help of a professional Speech-Language Pathologist, please contact an SLP in your area.  

This Simple Tip Can Get Your Toddler Talking

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We frequently get questions from parents who are looking for simple strategies that they can use to encourage their children to use verbal language.  We’ve been exploring some of our favorite tips over the last several months including waiting, giving just a little bit, withholding and giving choices.  Today we are going to discuss sabotage, which is one of my favorite tips to get kids talking. Although it sounds bad to use sabotage with your kids, it’s actually a great way to open up communication opportunities during your daily routines and play time. Here are some of our favorite ways to use sabotage to encourage expressive language.

 

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One of the simplest ways to sabotage an activity is to play dumb.  As parents we are so in tune with our kids that we can often anticipate their needs before they communicate them to us.  I am often amazed by a parent’s ability to know that a certain type of grunt means they want a banana or which direction they point means they want a particular toy.   Meeting our children’s needs is great, but when we are already anticipating what they will want or need before they’ve had the chance to tell us, we’ve taken those communication opportunities away. Instead of filling up little Tommy’s milk cup the second it looks empty, just ignore it until he tries to communicate that he wants more.  If he hands you the cup or point to it, play dumb. Do not go get the milk. You can ask, “What do you want?” If he doesn’t respond, start asking if he wants things that you know he does NOT want. “Do you want a sandwich?” “Do you want broccoli?” Play dumb and act as if you have NO clue what he wants. Children will often put in more effort into communicating when they are interacting with someone who doesn’t understand them/anticiapte their needs.  They are so used to their parents knowing what they want, that many toddlers won’t go out of their way to communicate unless the opportunities are given to them.  

This strategy is great for pointers.  You may have a little one who directs you by pointing.  If you ask them what they want, they may take you to it or point to it.  Play dumb when they point. If your toddler takes you to the pantry and points towards a cereal bar, hand them other items instead.  If you hand them an apple instead of the cereal bar, chances are they will say “no”, hand it back or if they are like my toddler, chuck it at you in anger.  Continue to play dumb. “Oh you don’t want an apple, what do you want? A banana.” Ask them if they want a few more items that you know they do NOT want. This is providing your child with multiple opportunities to tell you what they want.  They may say “bar” after your third time of getting it wrong because they think that you have lost your touch and don’t know what they want for once. Your child may not verbally imitate you, but you’ve still given them various opportunities to communicate and modeled appropriate language skills.  This will just prepare them for when they are able to use verbal language. If they haven’t told you what they want after a few times of getting it wrong, you can then model it for them. “Oh you want a bar.” Wait several seconds and see if they imitate you after you’ve provided them with a verbal model of what they want. If they don’t, model the word again to reinforce that vocabulary.  You can also target sign language this way by playing dumb until they use a sign to communicate with you.

 

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Another great way to sabotage your children during play is to give them something broken or incomplete during play.  If you are playing with a puzzle only give them a few of the pieces, that way they can tell you which pieces are missing.  If they are coloring, give them a broken crayon that’s too small to draw with. You can read a book upside down or give them a musical toy that’s turned off or has the batteries taken out.  All of these scenarios give your child the opportunity to tell you what has broken and what they need to make it work. Sometimes the verbalization may be as simple as “uh oh” or they may use the sign/word for “help”.  Make sure to play dumb until they indicate that the toy or activity isn’t working. If they begin to grunt or gesture that something’s wrong, ask them “What’s wrong?” Give them plenty of wait time to respond. If they don’t respond with a verbalization or sign, play dumb again and then model what you think they are trying to tell you.  Sabotaging toys and activities by giving kids broken or incomplete pieces ensures they will have the chance to communicate and problem solve with you.

 

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If your children are anything like mine, they like familiarity or routine.  Most kids pick up on subtle differences and will notice any changes to the status quo.  So imagine if you put their socks on their hands instead of their feet or gave them their breakfast plate with nothing on it.  That would probably get their attention, wouldn’t it? Doing a familiar routine incorrectly or sabotaging it is a great way to open up a communication opportunity.  You are giving your child the opportunity to tell you that you are doing it wrong. You child could point to their feet or say “feet” when you put the sock on their hands.  They could name their favorite breakfast item when you hand them the empty plate. If you go along with the routine as if it is normal, you are putting the ball in their court for them to explain that you are doing it incorrectly.  “Oh the socks aren’t supposed to go on your hands, where do they go?” “Oh no your plate is empty, what do you want to eat?” You can be creative and do any number of familiar routines incorrectly to give your little one various communication opportunities.  My kids LOVE to take the lead, so they get a kick out of telling me how to do the routine correctly.

 

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We hope that our suggestions of waiting, withholding, giving just a little bit, giving choices and sabotage have been helpful when targeting speech and language development with your own children.  Give these tips a try and let us know which suggestions have been most helpful for your family.

Speech and Language Development Approved books from Usborne Books

Last week we collaborated with Emmy and Elle to talk about Discovery Toys and how they can be used for speech and language in toddlers.  This week we are talking about Usborne books.  Both Rebecca and Lindsey both own Usborne books and we use them with our own children. 

From Jessica:  I felt like it was fate when I saw on Facebook a former colleague had become an Usborne Books & More consultant. I have always loved Usborne Books because they are not only beautiful but hold up exceptionally well in the hands of toddlers and school-aged children alike. I was about to contact my friend about hosting a party when it occurred to me I should consider becoming an independent consultant for Usborne since I had started to create emmyandelle.com. I want to make a site known as a one-stop-shop to find quality books AND toys for children. I wanted to expand our family library and I am amazed by their vast selections of titles, collections, and interactive books for all age ranges. This company definitely makes my teacher heart very happy. 

An idea I believe connects Discovery Toys and Usborne Books & More is children need more time being "unplugged" from screens and electronics. Don't get me wrong, I will never preach to you the importance of being "Unplugged" when Emmy and Elle could basically be co-pastors for the Church of Daniel Tiger. Everything in moderation, right? Right. But it is also important to me that not all their make-believe play comes from scenes they saw in the, "Neighborhood of Make Believe." (Ding, ding.) I want to introduce you to toys and books which will enhance your child's imagination and I hope to be able to do that with the help of discovery toys and Usborne Books & More.

Today I want to focus on books for the age groups of 1-3 years old which will help enhance your child’s communication skills. I have listed a book for each age group below which I believe can help increase their speech and language development. I am using these books  daily to increase communication with my own girls and I hope they can help with your children too. The awesome ladies behind ToddlersTalking will then chime in from a SLP standpoint about the toys and books too.

Don’t forget we are doing a giveaway for an Usborne book! All you need to do is follow @toddlers.talking and @emmyandelle on Instagram and comment on the picture posted about this blog post which book you think would be the perfect fit for your child to help enhance their speech and language development! The winner a book they commented about for their child!  Thanks for reading!

Usborne Books Pick for One-Year-Olds:

Any of the selections from the, “That’s Not My…” series. This delightful series of board books is aimed at very young children. The bright pictures with their patches of different textures, are designed to develop sensory awareness and language awareness. Babies and toddlers will love turning the pages and touching the feely patches.

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Toddlers Talking perspective:

We love these books!  The sentences are simple and when you are reading with your child, the words allow you to vary your voice a lot which keeps your child’s attention.  The pictures are bright, and parents can talk about not just what the words are saying but the different aspects of the pictures as well (above:  the mermaid has a mirror, she is looking at herself, the fish is jumping, see the star?).  At younger ages, children are engaged by feeling the various patches of textures and parents can use descriptive words such as smooth, rough, bumpy, shiny, etc to describe the patches. 

Usborne Books Pick for Two-Year-Olds:

All Better! By Henning Löhlein

Dog hurt his foot, Sheep scratched her tummy and Bear sat on a splinter! What will make everything all better? Clean it, kiss it and put a bandage on it! Young readers will delight in the five animal friends’ misadventures and be eager to help make things “all better” with the five reusable and repositionable stickers. This is the number one bestselling book for Usborne and it is an absolute favorite of Emmy and Elle. We read this story almost every day and it really helps enhance their conversation skills.

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Toddlers Talking Perspective:  Around two is when kids really start to get into pretend play.  Pretend cooking, taking care of baby dolls and pretending with figurines/cars/trucks all start to happen around this age.  Kids also start to use words and recognize that they may be hurt.  Children start to play doctor and give others band aids and checkups.  If you have a toddler, you probably already keep a stock of colorful band aids around your home for ‘boo boos.’  This book allows you to move the band aids so from a speech and language perspective, you can work on verbs such as ‘put on’ and ‘take off’ as well as body parts where you are putting the band-aids. 

Usborne Books Pick for Three-Year-Olds:

Shine-A-Light Series

The Shine-A-Light Series is one of the most popular series from Usborne because it is so interactive. Toddlers will love to shine their flashlights behind each page to uncover the hidden picture. This series is non-fiction, so children will be learning a lot of valuable information. There are multiple books in this series as well so children can decide on which book fits their current interests. Emmy and Elle highly recommend the shine-a-light series!

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Toddlers Talking Perspective:  Another book we already own!  These are so fun.  Using the light to shine to find each picture allows parents to work on verbs and action words with their little ones:  find, shine, move, etc as well as the actual items in the book.  There are words to read with questions asking little ones to find items in the book (i.e. What’s inside the heart?  Or Can you find the person inside of the crane?).  Once you shine the light, there are so many more items to talk to your toddler about which includes a lot of verbs, nouns and adjectives.  Using these books can teach receptive language (naming items) and gets your child describing and using many different types of words.

Make sure you go like @emmyandelle and @toddlers.talking on Instagram and leave a comment on which book you'd like to win for your child!  

(Information about each book and toy was written from personal experience as well as the Usborne Books and Discovery Toys websites. All pictures which did not feature Emmy and Elle were also taken from the Usborne Books and Discovery toys websites.)

Speech and Language Development Approved toys from Discovery Toys

This week we are collaborating with Jessica Norton Williams from the overwhelmed blog at www.emmyandelle.com.  Jessica is introducing us to Discovery toys which can be used for developing speech and language skills. 

Jessica writes:  

This past summer my mom kept introducing various toys for my girls to play with while we were visiting our family. Some of the toys I could vividly remember playing with as a child and I was shocked at how well they held up over the years. I asked my mom where these toys came from and she kept repeating, "Oh that's from Discovery Toys." I told her I wished we had a Discovery Toys store close by and that is when she told me Discovery Toys was a company she was introduced to before I was born at a home party. She said it was the coolest concept because this was when Tupperware parties were all the rage and then one of her friends hosted a toy party. My mom fell in love with the high quality toys and even signed up to be an independent consultant. She never started selling because shortly after she found out she was pregnant with me and they were moving to Columbia, South Carolina since my dad had been promoted at work. She kept all of the toys for us to play with and I am so happy she did because it led me to research Discovery Toys and see they are still a vibrant company whose passion is child play.

I decided I was going to sign up as an independent consultant because I wanted the discount to buy toys for my girls, Emmy and Elle. With my background in education I know it's important to have high quality toys that are kid-powered. "Kid powered" means the majority of Discovery Toys are made without batteries and children use their own imaginations to decide how they are going to use the toy. I wanted to start our own collection of kid-powered toys and I thought signing up as a consultant was the best way to afford this investment for my daughters.

A week later my kit arrived and I was blown away by the information I read in the, "Crisis in Play" notecards. To sum up the purpose of the cards, our society is faced with a growing crisis in our children's ability to think and learn today. Kids need unstructured play time to foster creativity and promote crucial 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Play helps children express and process emotions as well as enhance their social skills and build upon their cognitive skills. Also, play that is active is critical for kids' physical development. I knew I wanted to do more than just build our own stash of great toys once I read through these cards and explored the products that were sent along with my kit. I decided I would try my hand at selling after talking with a few friends who were also in direct sales. I have never considered myself a sales person but I believe in the importance of child play and I believe discovery toys truly cares about children and their futures. I decided to add my shopping pages to emmyandelle.com because I had already planned on starting a blog and figured I could create a place for people to come and not just read my posts but also explore the world of discovery toys and Usborne Books & More. 

Discovery Toys has been in business for almost 40 years and they continue to make amazing toys, games, and books for children. One of my Principals would always say, "education is constantly evolving and teachers need to make sure they are changing to meet the needs of all their students." I believe Discovery Toys does the exact same with their products by changing and enhancing them over the years. Toys are like education, always evolving to keep children engaged by building upon their basics. An example of this is with one of their products that I played with as a child and Emmy and Elle were introduced to this summer. The Giant Pegboard is one of the first toys which were made by Discovery Toys. I have posted pictures below of Emmy and Elle enjoying the new version and the old version of these toys. Discovery Toys is always coming out with new toys but they never stray far from their central theme of being kid-powered. 

I felt like it was fate when I saw on Facebook a former colleague had become an Usborne Books & More consultant. I have always loved Usborne Books because they are not only beautiful but hold up exceptionally well in the hands of toddlers and school-aged children alike. I was about to contact my friend about hosting a party when it occurred to me I should consider becoming an independent consultant for Usborne since I had started to create emmyandelle.com. I want to make a site known as a one-stop-shop to find quality books AND toys for children. I wanted to expand our family library and I am amazed by their vast selections of titles, collections, and interactive books for all age ranges. This company definitely makes my teacher heart very happy. 

An idea I believe connects Discovery Toys is children need more time being "unplugged" from screens and electronics. Don't get me wrong, I will never preach to you the importance of being "Unplugged" when emmy and elle could basically be co-pastors for the Church of Daniel Tiger. Everything in moderation, right? Right. But it is also important to me that not all of their make believe play comes from scenes they saw in the, "Neighborhood of Make Believe." (Ding, ding.) I want to introduce you to toys and books which will enhance your child's imagination and I hope to be able to do that with the help of discovery toys and Usborne Books & More.

Today I want to focus on toys for the age groups of 1-3 years old which will help enhance your child’s communication skills. I have listed toys for each age group below which I believe can help increase their speech and language development. I am using these toys daily to increase communication with my own girls and I hope they can help with your children too. The awesome ladies behind ToddlersTalking will then chime in from a SLP standpoint about the toys and books too.

Don’t forget we are doing a giveaway for a toy! All you need to do is follow @toddlers.talking and @emmyandelle on Instagram and comment on the picture posted about this blog post which to you think would be the perfect fit for your child to help enhance their speech and language development! The winner will receive the book they commented about for their child!  Thanks for reading!

Discovery Toys Picks and my go-to first birthday gifts for One-Year-Olds:

Color Wheels

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A unique "fold and stack" wooden pull-along toy. Includes 12 wheels reinforcing the "color wheel", teaching primary, secondary and complementary colors. The foldable design can easily lift and transform into a variety of fun configurations. Children can place their favorite toys on top for a fun ride. In its triangle configuration, Color Wheels teaches basic color mixing. Children learn that yellow + red = orange, yellow + blue = green, and red + blue = purple.

Toddlers Talking perspective:  This toy is great for teaching colors. You can ask your child to point to the “red” wheel to assess their receptive color knowledge or ask them, “What color is that?” to assess their knowledge of colors expressively.  Most children learn their colors receptively first.  The wheels can morph into different shapes which gives you the opportunity to teach shapes.  You can also teach the concepts of “stop” and “go” since it is a pull along toy.

Stack, Roll & Jingle

This 2-in-1 toddler activity toy builds gross motor skills AND early logical thinking.

The five large textured shape rings can be stacked on the pole in any order without frustration. The translucent topper has a jingle ball for multi-sensory play. Attach the clear topper on top and shake the stack for jingle sound. The base is rounded so you can also spin for a jingle. The topper stays secured to the pole, so your little one can even roll the stack on its side. Experiment with different shape rings on top, observing how it impacts the rolling direction.

For more advanced stacking play, you can unscrew the pole from the base and challenge your child to stack the shapes without the pole. And when playtime is finished, reattach the topper to secure the stack inside the toy box.

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Toddlers Talking perspective: A ring stacker is a great toy for any young child.  It’s not only great for fine motor development, but can also be used for language development.  You can discuss colors, shapes, sizes and positional words such as “top” and “bottom”.  You can also group the rings from biggest to smallest or vice versa.  Teaching your child to follow simple commands is also a fun way to use this toy.  You can ask them to, “Put the purple ring on top” or increase the commands to 2 steps as they begin to understand and follow one step commands.  The ball on top jingles which gives you the opportunity to talk about different types of sounds and introduce the concepts of “loud” and “quiet”.

Discovery Toys Picks for Two-Year-Olds:

Giant Pegboard!

This is a favorite of my daughters, Emmy and Elle. It is a toy you can start to use as early as 19-months-old and continue use into kindergarten and beyond due to the layers of learning. It’s a classic, two-sided and award-winning pre-math and pre-reading toy that just got better! Side one features a pegboard for sorting, stacking, counting, and matching the 25 easy-to-grasp pegs of various sizes and colors; the flip side features a raised peg geoboard for creating geometric designs. Updated set includes 12 two-sided pattern cards, with activities for both sides of the board! I have the original set from 30-years-ago when I was a child and the new set for my girls!

Toddlers Talking Perspective:  This is a great multi-functional tool.  To improve comprehension, we would use this to choose colors (i.e. line up four shapes then say “Show me the green one” or line up shapes and say “Show me the triangle.”)  The patterns would be great for sequencing and planning (i.e. “What comes next?” or “What came first?”).  For expression, these shapes would be great for describing, colors, stacking (big/small/short/tall), naming the shapes themselves and requesting shapes/colors (i.e. “Can I have ___?”).

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Farm Fun Sorting Cube

This durable, versatile wood activity box exercises fine motor skills, visualization, association, and early thinking skills. Learn Shapes, Colors, Numbers, Farm Animals and more!

The cube includes 12 different shape blocks in 6 basic colors. The numerals 0-9 and a “plus” sign appear on one side of the shapes. The other side features 6 different familiar farm animals, matching the animal figures included with our Busy Farm learning set.

With extra guidance from a loving adult, the Farm Fun Sorting Cube offers a treasure trove of additional learning for school readiness, highlighted in the included activity guide. (side note: all discovery toys products come with a parent activity guide. The guides are awesome!)

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Toddlers Talking Perspective:   A shape sorter is a great addition to any toddler’s playroom.  They can begin learning their shapes, while also learning visual/motor and problem-solving skills. This is a great toy to introduce shapes and colors.  Shapes sorters are also great for yes or no.  We will put the shape somewhere that it doesn’t fit and say, “No”. Repeat that a few times with other shapes that don’t fit and then find the correct spot.  "Does it go here? Yes.” You can then push it through the correct slot.

Discovery Toys Picks for Three-Year-Olds:

Connectix

This open-ended, kid-powered magnetic construction set inspires the imagination, fosters experimentation, sharpens logical reasoning, and strengthens fine motor skills.

Includes 12 magnetic triangles and 18 magnetic squares in 6 colors. The magnetic shapes are easy to connect and can be used to create 2D and 3D configurations. The possibilities are endless! Included guide features 13 configurations to get you started. Connectix is Emmy’s absolute favorite toy. She can sit and play with it for an extended amount of time. We have lots of great conversations centered around what she is building.

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Any of the “Busy Sets” from Discovery Toys

I cannot say enough great things about the four “Busy” sets from Discovery Toys. Each set is perfect for a three-year-old and above because they are centered around pre-math and pre-reading skills. The colorful sets are fun for kids to play with and parents can guide their children through each activity. The possibilities are endless! If I was a preschool teacher, then I would have each “busy” set in my classroom to use as stations. Busy Bugs and Boomerings Activity sets focus on pre-math skills. Busy Farm and Busy Letters focus on pre-reading skills.

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Toddlers Talking Perspective:   This is a cute way to target pre-reading and pre-math skills for your three or four-year-old.  The shapes are so cute and this is a great way to work on requesting items, naming animals, and colors.  Children start to associate sounds with letters in the later preschool years which aids in pre-reading and pre-literacy skills.  

Don’t forget we are doing a giveaway for a toy! All you need to do is follow @toddlers.talking and @emmyandelle on Instagram and comment on the picture posted about this blog post which toy you think would be the perfect fit for your child to help enhance their speech and language development! The winner will receive the book they commented about for their child!   You can also find Jessica on Facebook at Emmy and Elle.

(Information about each book and toy was written from personal experience as well as the Usborne Books and Discovery Toys websites. All pictures which did not feature Emmy and Elle were also taken from the Usborne Books and Discovery toys websites.)

The power of giving choices

Choices:  As adults, we have many choices to make each day:  Get up when the alarm goes off or hit snooze? Wear the striped shirt or the solid shirt? Eat a doughnut or a smoothie for breakfast?  Our entire lives are based off of making choices.  Children also thrive off of making choices.  Making choices helps to aid in communication as well.

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During the last few weeks, our blog posts have focused on giving wait time during communication and withholding/giving a little bit of something at a time.  Today we introduce the third technique in our series:  giving choices.  

We often see parents offer one item to the child:  "Do you want a granola bar?" not wait for the child to gesture or say yes or no then immediately give the child the granola bar.  Slowing down and having the child make a choice is imperative for attention, learning and overall communication. 

When a child is offered two items ("Do you want the granola bar or the banana?") while the items are in plain view, many concepts are being learned by your child.  First, they are able to link the words you are using to an item which teaches them vocabulary.  The wait time between being offered the items then making choice, holds their attention for a small amount of time teaching the concept of waiting for items (which comes in handy later in life and all across life).  Then if the child is able to vocalize, he or she can practice using speech to make a choice (even if it is not perfect and they're only able to say 'ba' for banana-it's still an attempt at speech).  If they cannot speak or vocalize yet, pointing to the preferred item or signing for it are great ways to continue the communication.

Once the child makes their choice, saying it over again is a great way to continue to expose the child to a new vocabulary word or concept.  "Do you want a banana?  Yum, bananas are so yummy.  They are sweet and yellow."  This expansion further defines what a banana is and is not to a child and gives them more words to associate with a banana and further expand their vocabulary.

The Hanen Program (a program that trains speech therapists and parents how to take advantage of everyday situations to build a child's communication), places the following two items in 'taking a child's lead':

1.  Giving just a little bit.....then waiting

2.   Giving choices....then waiting

Waiting is a huge deal in both of these circumstances.  Your child has to have time to process that you may be only giving them a little bit so they have to find the sign or words to ask for more of whatever the item is and when you give a choice, your child has to process that there are two or three items, what those items are and the names of those items.

Not only does giving choices aid in communicating with your child, it can relieve some of the stress of daily parenting and make the child think they in control/independent while the parent still maintains control of the situation.  This video below is a quick one minute explanation of using choices in parenting.

The next time you're in a situation with your child asking open ended questions and not getting anywhere, use choices!  The benefits are astounding:  Your child will be communicating with you and it will reduce your stress as a parent!

Withholding and Giving Just a Little Bit-2 Tips to Increase Expressive Language

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Many parents ask us what they can do to help their children start talking more consistently.  We will be discussing some of our favorite strategies over the next several weeks which should give you the tools and resources to execute them with your own children .  Last week, Rebecca explained the importance of giving your child plenty of wait time.  Today we are going to discuss two of my favorite and easiest to implement expressive language strategies: withholding and giving just a little bit.

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Withholding gets a bad rap because many people imagine a parent holding something over their child’s head and forcing them to ask before getting it.  If they don’t ask, they don’t get it. This usually results in a toddler meltdown and a power struggle of sorts.  While you can certainly do it that way, I would like to offer my advice on how to use withholding in a more gentle and effective way.  First, instead of thinking of this strategy as keep away until they request verbally, think of it as only a temporary withholding.  We do not want our children to think of language negatively or as a punishment, but rather as a way to effectively communicate their wants and needs.  If we get into a power struggle they can develop negative feelings about speech and language.  When we withhold things from children, we are simply giving them the chance to request.  Basically, this is another form of waiting and opens up a communication opportunity that wasn't previously there. 

For example, let’s say your child points to an apple on the counter and grunts.  You know they want the apple, but instead of just handing it to them, you ask them what they want.  If they don’t respond, you can point to various things on the counter and ask them if that is what they want.  If they are unable to respond verbally, then get the apple and say, “Do you want the apple?”  They will probably respond with a head nod or reach enthusiastically towards it.  Do not hand it to them right away.  Instead, model the word “apple” and wait.  Give them plenty of wait time to respond or imitate.  They may start to get upset and whine or scream for it.  If they start to become upset, hand them the apple and model the word again, “apple”.  They may not attempt the word at all, and that’s okay because you gave them the opportunity to say the word and you modeled it various times.  They are still learning and taking in the language regardless if they are imitating you verbally.  You are setting the stage for them to imitate you next time.  One of the easiest ways to set up withholding without a power struggle is to put items within sight, but out of reach.  If they have a sippy cup, put it up on the counter where they can see it, but can’t reach it themselves.  If they have a favorite toy or book, put it up on a dresser or shelf.  This will create consistent communication opportunities. They will have to request and get your attention to get the item.  Make sure to briefly withhold giving it to them while modeling the word and giving them plenty of wait time to respond or imitate you. 

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The next tip, and one of the most effective in my opinion, is to give just a little bit at a time.  You can use this with toys, food, and activities.  As parents, we often give our kids an entire bowl of goldfish or all the puzzle pieces at once to keep them happy.  This is great for happy kids, but not so great for communication.  If you give them an entire bowl of goldfish, they have no opportunities to ask for more.  If you give them all the pieces to a puzzle, they have no need to ask for the others.  This is why it is important to piecemeal items out to your kids.  Each time they need more, they have another opportunity to communicate that to you.  Give just a few goldfish and wait for them to request more.  If they start shaking their bowl at you or whining, you can model the word “more” and give them the opportunity to imitate you.  Give them a few more goldfish and repeat the process  They may not imitate you or request at first, but after many models and opportunities, they will be more likely to request.  I like to use the puzzle example, because it’s an easy way to stimulate speech and language skills while playing with your child.  Let's say you have a farm animal puzzle.  Take all the pieces and give them to our child one at a time.  You can also offer them choices, “Do you want the pig or the cow?” Wait for them to respond with a verbal response or point.  If they point, you can use withholding for a bit to model the word and wait for a response. You could also model animal sounds if that would be easier for your child to imitate.  Do this with each puzzle piece.  Do you see how giving each piece one at a time opens up many communication opportunities?  Watch the video below and see how I only give one piece of the puzzle at a time in order to prompt more verbal language from my son.  We would have missed the opportunity for him to label the animals, make animal sounds, request more and make choices if I would have let him have all the pieces to himself. 

 

The best thing you can do as a caregiver to facilitate speech and language skills in your child is give them opportunities to communicate with you. Our goal in the next couple weeks is to give you tips that increase the amount of communication opportunities your child has each day.  Plenty of wait time, withholding, and giving just a little bit at a time all provide more opportunities for your child to communicate with you.  Stay tuned for our next installment on the importance of giving choices and for our Facebook Live Q/A on Feb 22nd at 8pm.  Make sure your like and follow our page for updates during the week. Join us live to ask us any questions that you may have and pick our brains about speech and language development.