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3 Tips for Promoting Speech and Language Development in Children: Ages 0-3

Ages 0-3 are critical for learning and mastering speech and language. Some babies and toddlers initiate talking earlier speech and language developmentthan others.  If you are looking to encourage speech and language in your little one, read on for easy guidelines to help promote speech and language for young children.

3 Tips for promoting Speech and Language Development in children 0-3 years of age:

1. Use Simple Language:

  • Short sentences are easier to understand and allow your child to pick up the important pieces of the message.
  • Talk about what you are doing as you go about your day. It is easier for a child to pick up new language if he can see or hear the object or action as he is exposed to the vocabulary. Read more

Reading: It Comes in Stages

Child reading

Reading can sometimes appear to be an overnight skill, and there are even children who “teach themselves” to read before they reach the first grade. Often, it is a wonder that kids enter one grade with minimal letter knowledge and leave reading books on their own. It has been my experience that the skill of reading is often taken for granted. I was a quick reader (one of those annoying overnight type learners), but my sister struggled every step of the way. Now, as I work with children in early elementary school who are having difficulty with this skill, I have learned more and more to appreciate how tricky it is and how many skills go into the act of reading.

To better understand the process of learning to read, and to appreciate the lengths we’re pushing children every time we sit down with a story, I have listed the multiple steps of reading below:

  • First, kids see symbols and associate a symbol with an item- in simple terms, it’s like all of us recognizing those “golden arches” as a potential snack, drink, or rest break while driving on the highway.
  • Next, letters are identified.
  • Then, not only are  letters  identified, but they are also associated with the sounds they create in words (if we’re talking vowels, that list is LONG, whereas for consonants it’s typically only two or so- the hard and soft ‘g’ for example). Children at this stage are called “decoders.” That means they’re taking every letter and painstakingly identifying it, associating a sound, and blending one to the next and so on. I imagine the inner monologue of a six year old learning the skill to be something like this: “oh, that’s a B, b makes buh, ok and next is u, u can be you or uh….let’s see what comes next, g, ok g can say jee or guh, let’s put it together, boooj…no, buuug, no BUG, that’s it.” It’s no wonder that kids at this stage can sometimes get through a whole page, without a clue as to the meaning of the words. Their full attention was on decoding, not comprehending.
  • Some kids are wonderful decoders from the beginning; they have great sound and letter awareness and quickly make the leap to the next step, which involves “chunking” sounds together. Most importantly, kids must learn to chunk vowels which commonly occur together (like the ‘oa’ in boat and the ‘oo’ in boot). They also learn to recognize common words on sight, rather than expending effort fully decoding every word. At this stage, children sound much more fluent and less halting, and their intonation begins to match the meaning of sentences. This is because they are able to spend less energy on decoding and more energy on comprehension.
  • Even beyond this stage of an apparently competent reader, demands are increased – most notably in third grade. Children in third grade are expected to make the switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” That is often why children who fared well in early grades bump into difficulty in third and fourth grade “out of nowhere.” It is likely that their reading skills just have not developed to the point where they are now a tool to support learning, as opposed to a developing skill.

Support your kids’ reading skills- practice makes perfect and support makes practice bearable! Seek out assistance or evaluation if you feel your child could benefit. I feel (and I hope many agree) that it’s better to be proactive than reactive in literacy learning, so that reading can be a pleasurable pastime rather than a dreaded task.

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Engaging Your Newborn Baby: 5 Simple Tips for Interacting with Your Baby

As a new parent, chances are that you have spent countless hours just gazing into your newborn’s eyes. However, between nonstop feedings, washing copious amounts of laundry, all of those diaper changes , and trying to sneak in a nap, some new parents may feel left in the dark when it comes to play time.  As your baby starts to become more interactive daily, you may quietly think to yourself, “Well, now what?”.

mom and infant playing

Here are some simple activities you can do with your baby throughout the day to help lay the appropriate foundation for language development:

Never underestimate the power of a smile

Babies love to look at faces. Even at an early age, they are able to be easily engaged and will focus on exaggerated facial expressions for a brief period of time. Therefore, take moments throughout the day to block off some face-to-face time. You will be amazed at how attentive your baby is during these times, and you will see him/her start to attempt to imitate the facial movements you make (especially with your tongue). They’ll get a kick out of seeing you smile, and how can you resist staring back at that adorable little toothless grin?

Turn bath time into play time

Bath time provides many opportunities for sensory exploration, so help maximize this time as much as you can by offering various textures of objects (washcloth, bubbles, water toys etc.) that contain different sensory properties. Talk about how the items look and feel, and even sing to your child during this time as well. Your baby will be calmed by the warmth of the water and soothed by the sound of your voice. Also, try to time bath time immediately before putting your child to bed in order to establish a nighttime routine.

Introduce books

You will help to facilitate a lifelong love of reading and literature when you introduce books at an early age. Provide your child with plenty of soft books and board books, which contain many bright and colorful pictures. Touch and feel books are perfect for this age, as they allow your child to be more interactive as well. Also, keep the books brief, as your little one is not exactly ready for a novel anyway. Short and simple books containing repetition are perfect for infants.

The importance of exercise

Any PT will tell you about the importance of tummy time, so help make this activity more fun and interactive for your child by providing various toys and objects for them to interact with. Try placing a child-friendly mirror directly in front of them, as your baby will love looking that the “other” baby staring back. Also, help encourage babies to follow your voice by moving to either side of them. Even at a young age, children are able to identify their parent’s voices, so by simply changing your position in relation to your baby, you will be enhancing this skill. You can also play simple games, such as peek-a-boo when facing your child, in order to keep them engaged.

Talk, talk, talk

Talk to your child throughout the day, especially when completing familiar activities such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and cooking dinner. Doing so will help to expose your child to the language associated with these activities. Though the “conversations” with your baby will seem very one-sided at first, over time you will notice that your baby will attempt to chime in when you are speaking. You will be able to quickly observe the give-and-take, as your child will quiet when you begin talking, then “comment” after you speak.

As a new parent, it can be completely overwhelming trying to juggle all of your responsibilities, so just remember to breathe! Don’t feel as though you have to do everything right off the bat. As you and your baby settle into a routine, you will notice that you are able to find some extra time to sneak in these activities.  By introducing just a couple of these ideas throughout the day, you will quickly notice that your child becomes more engaged during these times and will start to anticipate the activities as well.  Congratulations and welcome to the exciting world of parenthood!

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