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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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Kids & Vocal Nodules: What Parents Should Know

Approximately 4-6 out of every 100 children have a voice disorder.  Of the various disorders, vocal nodules is the most commonly cited in children.  By building healthy habits from the start, you can help keep your child’s voice healthy.  Read on to learn more about vocal nodules and how to keep your child’s voice healthy. 

What are vocal nodules?

Vocal cord nodules are small (noncancerous) growths that develop on the vocal cords as a result of vocal abuse.  “Vocal abuse” refers to boy with megaphoneany behaviors that overwork or harm the vocal cords, such as yelling, dehydration, or frequent coughing.  An isolated instance of vocal abuse might result in a soft swollen spot on the vocal cords, which can impact the sound quality of your voice.  For example, you might have a horse voice after an afternoon of cheering at a football game.  However, excessive and repeated instances of vocal abuse can eventually cause the swelling to become callous-like growths called nodules. 

How do I know if my child has vocal nodules?

There are several indicators that your child may have vocal nodules.  Vocal nodules will likely impact the sound of your child’s voice.  Indicators might include:

  • Voice may sound hoarse, harsh or scratchy
  • Child may have frequent voice breaks, or difficulty sustaining notes
  • Child may have pitch breaks during speech or singing
  • Voice may sound effortful or strained
  • Child may use an excessively loud voice
  • Child may strain their neck and shoulder muscles during speech
  • Child may experience pain in their neck or throat

What causes vocal nodules?

Vocal cord nodules are typically caused by behaviors that are harmful to the voice, such as:

  • Using an excessively loud voice
  • Emotional outbursts that include loud laughing, yelling, or crying
  • Frequent yelling, cheering or shouting
  • Dehydration or reduced fluid intake
  • Dryness, which may result from certain medications
  • Coughing, loud forceful sneezing, or throat clearing
  • Loud busts of voice or strained sounds.  This might occur when children make sound effects (e.g. explosion, bear growl, dinosaur roar, etc)
  • Insufficient breathing patterns

6 Tips to Promote a Healthy Voice

If you suspect that your child has vocal nodules, seek help from a license professional as soon as possible.  An evaluation will likely include an otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat doctor) and a speech-language pathologist.   Whether or not your child has vocal nodules, it’s important to promote a healthy voice from the start.  Here are 5 ways to encourage a healthy voice:

  1. Encourage your child to stay hydrated and drink lots of water.  Avoid caffeinated beverages as much as possible.
  2. Talk to your child about appropriate speaking volume.  Discuss appropriate times to use a loud voice, and appropriate times to use a quiet voice.  Give your child feedback and praise about their own speaking volume (“Wow, I like the way you used your inside voice when you told me that story.”)
  3. Encourage your child to find constructive ways to express their emotions.  For example, your child can clap their hands instead of yelling at a ballgame.  Or your child can verbalize how they feel, instead of screaming or shouting. 
  4. Build in daily quiet time for your child to rest their voice.  Especially if your child is engaging in prolonged periods of talking or singing, encourage them to rest their voice. 
  5. Avoid excessive whispering, coughing or throat-clearing.  Sometimes throat-clearing can become habitual, and may result from the throat feeling dry and sticky.  If this is the case, encourage your child to take sips of water.  Whispering can tire and dry out the vocal cords, so it’s best to limit whispering. 
  6. Finally, be a role-model.  Children learn by watching others around them.  Model the behaviors you want your child to exhibit, such as appropriate speaking volume and expressing emotions in a constructive way. 

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