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Is Biting Normal?

Parents often ask if it’s normal for their toddler to bite.  It can feel both concerning and upsetting for parents to find out that their child is biting others. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone.  Here are a few guidelines and tips to consider when navigating your toddler’s biting habit.

Consider Your Child’s Age

  1. Biting is more common for children under 3 years of age.  In determining whether or not your child’s biting habits are normal, consider their age and toddler biting another toddlerdevelopmental level.
  2. Under 1 year, mouthing objects is an important part of feeding and speech development.  This is how children develop oral-sensory awareness in their mouth, as they explore various objects.
  3. Between 1 and 1½ years, children may bite others when they are excited.  It’s important to convey to children that biting is not okay
  4. Between 1½ and 3 years, children might bite more out of frustration.  Frustration often arises when children cannot convey their intents, or feel powerless against limits.  It’s still important to convey that biting is not acceptable.
  5. After 3 years, biting is considered to be less typical, and is likely a behavioral response to frustration or fear.  Children might feel frustrated or fearful when they don’t have control over a situation, when they can’t effectively communicate, or when they don’t like the limits set by others.

Consider Possible Triggers:

Understanding why your child bites is a critical step in determining how to intervene.

Here are a few questions parents can ask themselves to identify causes behind their child’s biting habit:

  • Is there a particular environment when biting occurs more frequently?
  • Is there a time of day when biting occurs more frequently?
  • What is your child’s emotional state when they bite?
  • What tends to trigger biting?  For example, does your child bite when you tell them “no”?  Do they bite when they can’t communicate their thought/ideas?
  • Who does your child tend to bite the most?

What Can Parents Do?

  • Respond quickly, and let your child know that biting is not okay.  Use a firm voice, and tell them “No.  It is not okay to bite”.
  • Help your child understand that biting hurts other people.  Believe it or not, this may be a surprise to your child.
  • If your child is struggling to use words, help them by giving them words to express their feelings.  For example, if your child is upset because a peer took their truck, then model “You can say: ‘It’s my turn’ or ‘I want the truck'”.
  • Talk to your child ahead of time about appropriate social rules.  You might say “It’s not okay to bite people” or “You can use words, but you cannot bite.”
  • Talk to your child about things that they can bite.  You might say “We can’t bite people, but we can bite apples!  What else can we bite?”
  • Be proactive about situations that frequently result in biting.  Be ready to intervene and respond, or if necessary, limit situations that result in extreme frustration and biting.

Finally, don’t battle this alone!  Seek help from a licensed professional who can guide you through the process.  Your child’s therapist can help you uncover why your child is biting, and strategies to help your child find better ways to resolve their frustration.

10 Ways to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

Vocabulary development is a critical component in your child’s ability to interact with the world around them.  Children need the right words to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas to others.  Strong vocabulary development also impacts listening and reading comprehension.  The more vocabulary words your child knows, the more likely they will comprehend what they are hearing or reading.  So how can parents help?

Here are 10 ways to help build your child’s vocabulary.

1. Create language-rich environments to encourage new vocabulary.  This might include a trip to the zoo, a seasonal craft, or a fun picture-book.  Introduce age-appropriate vocabulary to your child through a fun and memorable experience.
2. Use kid-friendly terms to explain new words.  For example, if you are boy with yellow ballteaching your child what  “zebra” means, avoid a dictionary definition such as: a horse-like African mammal of the genus Equus .  Instead, try a simple explanation: a zebra is an animal. It looks like a horse.  Zebras have black and white stripes.
3. Encourage your child to brainstorm their own examples of new vocabulary words.  For example, if the new word is “little”, you might encourage your child by saying “Can you think of a little animal?”
4. Practice sorting new vocabulary.  Encourage your child to describe, sort and categorize vocabulary based on various features.  You might think of “3 cold things”, “3 animals” or “3 things that take you places.”
5. Think of synonyms and antonyms.  Encourage your child to think of substitute words (e.g. “can you think of another word for enormous?… big!”) or opposite words (e.g. “What is the opposite of hot?… cold!”).
6. Give your child opportunities to practice their new vocabulary words.  If you recently enjoyed an outing at the zoo, you might print out digital pictures from the trip.  Throughout the following week, enjoy looking at the pictures with your child and remembering what animals you saw.  You might also read a picture-book about animals or zoos (“What is this animal called?” or “Can you find a tiger in this picture?”).
7. Introduce new vocabulary words ahead of time.  Holidays, seasons, and special outings are all excellent occasions to introduce new words.  For example, as Fall approaches you might choose 10 new words about Fall (e.g. pumpkin, Autumn, cool, leaves, apples, jacket, etc).  Plan a fun craft that incorporates those new words.  You might make play-doh shapes using vocabulary words, draw new words with sidewalk chalk, or search for words in a picture book or magazine.
8. Tap into other senses.  Children learn best when information is presented through multiple senses (e.g. touch, sight, sound, smell).  To tap into the various, you might have your child stomp to each syllable of new vocabulary words (el-a-phant), draw a picture of the word, or act out the meaning.
9. Encourage older kids to use strategies to remember new vocabulary.  They might keep a “vocabulary flashcard box” that includes challenging words from chapter-books, their school curriculum, or new concepts encountered in their environment.  Encourage your child to define vocabulary in their own words, and draw a picture to represent it.  You might also brainstorm root words or word derivations (e.g. run, running).
10. Avoid vocabulary over-load.  Try not to teach too many new words at one time.  For example, if you are reading a book with your child, avoid explaining every unfamiliar vocabulary word.  Instead, just stick with a few important words.   As much as possible, learning should be motivating and stimulate curiosity.   Follow your child’s lead, and explore concepts or words that they find interesting.  Look for cues that they might feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

Encouraging Speech & Language Development in Infants and Toddlers

Mom reading to babyInfants immediately begin to learn from the environment around them after entering into our unfamiliar yet exciting world. The experiences they are exposed to and the people they encounter will ultimately help to shape them into the intelligent and independent children their parents hoped for. The importance of facilitating speech and language in young children is significant, and research has shown that early exposure is crucial to their development. Many parents therefore wonder what they can do to help elicit speech and language development at home, in order to help give their children every advantage possible.

Below are some simple suggestions and activities that can be easily incorporated throughout the day to help focus on these areas:

Reinforce communication by looking directly at your child when speaking and imitating them when they communicate, even if it is jargon!

• Teach animal and environmental sounds using motivating toys such as farm sets and cars.

• Talk about an activity while you are engaged in it (e.g. When cooking, talk about all of the steps and describe the ingredients).

• Point out everyday objects in the environment by expanding upon your language (e.g. When walking through the neighborhood, explain what is around you: “I see a tree. The tree is tall. The tree has green leaves.”, etc).

• Be a role model by using simple but grammatically correct speech for your child’s age.

• Associate sounds with objects around the house, as this is a precursor to phonics (e.g. The vacuum says “vvvvvv”.)

• Expand on your child’s speech and reiterate what they’ve said by modeling more complex sentences (e.g. If your child says “red car”, respond to them by saying, “You’re right, there is a big red car outside”.)

• Read books to increase comprehension and point to objects when named.

• Use preferred items to help promote language (e.g. If they have a favorite stuffed animal, use it to demonstrate brushing, dressing, bedtime routine etc).

• Use picture schedules and songs to facilitate smooth transitions (e.g. The “clean-up” song).

• Find time to communicate with your child without using technology.

• Provide choices throughout the day and reinforce successful communication.

• Have your older child expand on their utterances by having them tell you about their day (e.g. “Tell me what you did at camp today.” or “Tell me 3 things you saw at the park.”).

• Stay away from using only yes or no questions, as they do not always allow your child to formulate more descriptive sentences. Ask more specific questions when you can.

• Show your child that you are interested by listening attentively and engaging them during structured activities.

• Model appropriate behavior in social situations.

• Reinforce pretend play (e.g. cooking/kitchen sets, etc.).

• Participate in sensory-motor play (e.g. musical instruments).

• Supervise your child during play groups and encourage play-dates.

• Encourage sharing and turn taking during games and other structured activities.

• Allow your child to lead during motivating activities to give them a sense of independence.

• Expand social communication and story telling by participating in dramatic or symbolic play by “acting out” scenarios (e.g. feeding their dolls).

 

While the initial task may appear daunting and you may feel overwhelmed with trying to incorporate all of the activities into your daily routine, remember to start out slowly. Keep in mind that you may already be doing many of these activities without formally addressing them, so it may be simple to quickly add a few new behaviors to your routine. The key is to make these activities fun, so remember to expose your child to as much communicative interaction as possible throughout the day.

While parents know their children best, if something does not seem quite right, it may be advantageous to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist about more specific activities that can further help your child. Just remember that every child is unique, and many variables may impact their own speech and language development. Follow typical developmental norms and milestones, and seek help if your child does not seem to be progressing at an appropriate rate.