Archive for the 'Child Development' Category

Developing speech and language through routines

While all children develop language at different rates, parents can help stimulate their child’s language long before they even speak their first words. Social routines can be used to target language development in children of all ages.

Daily routines including bath time, dressing, reading books, and singing songs provide opportunities to build upon a child’s language skills. These repetitive routines provide children a structured way to develop language skills within their natural environment.

Below are a few examples of how to target language skills through routine activities.

Singing songs

Hand motions can be incorporated with many children’s songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Wheels on the Bus.” While singing these songs with your child, pair the hand motions with the words. Pause throughout the song and allow your child the opportunity to fill in the missing word or complete the gesture. When singing “Old McDonald,” try slowing down the words “E-I-E-I-O” and see if your child can imitate you. Or try singing “E-I-E-I” and pause to allow your child to fill in “O.”

Getting dressed

Dressing your child provides opportunities to work on a variety of new vocabulary words, including clothing items and body parts, as well as teaching concepts such as “on/off.” While getting your child dressed, describe what you are doing using simple language and short phrases such as “pajamas off” or “shirt on.” Use the opportunity to talk about where each clothing item goes, for example “Hat goes on our head.” Try pausing to see if your child can complete the statement, “Shoes go on our_____.”

Reading books

Reading with your child allows endless opportunities for language stimulation. While reading together, it is important to read the words, but it is equally important to look at and talk about the illustrations. Label objects in pictures or talk about what the characters are doing (e.g., “boy eating apple”). Books with repetitive story lines such as “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” are a great way to target early language development. When reading these types of books, pause to allow your child to fill in the missing word. For example, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you__________?” “I see a yellow duck looking at _____.” Books can also be used to target “wh” questions with older children (e.g., “What are they doing?” “Where is the boy?” “Who is swimming?”).

Delayed responses

During play routines such as racing cars or playing with dolls, use familiar phrases with delayed, emphasized responses such as “Ready. Set. GO!” or “I love……YOU.” After practicing these phrases, pause and allow your child to finish the phrase.

Routine “sabotage”

Throwing off a familiar routine can also be beneficial in promoting language. What would happen if you gave your child an empty cup or placed a favorite bath toy out of reach? These forms of “routine sabotage” allow your child opportunities to correct you or ask for assistance. Encourage your child to use their words to tell you what’s wrong. During snack time, try giving your child only one piece of snack and wait for them to point or request “more” on their own. Screw the lid on a container extra tight before giving it to your child and wait for them to request assistance.

If you have concerns about your child’s language development, discuss them with your pediatrician or contact a speech-language pathologist.

– Candice Smale, M.A. CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology Department, Beaumont Health

Learning while we laugh

child jumping in puddle

Sometimes in this fast-paced world, we parents get caught up in making sure our children have all the skills they need to succeed—to the point where we over-schedule and stress our children and ourselves. From organized sports to lessons in language, art or music, not to mention school and educational apps or games, it can become overwhelming!

Here’s some great news: Good old-fashioned play has a multitude of benefits and involves lots of learning as well. Through play, kids model what they see, work out conflicts, build physical mastery of their environment, generate new ideas, and problem solve.

Sometimes unstructured play is thought of as not being as useful as lessons and classes, but it is actually essential to creativity and building perseverance and tolerance of boredom. When we are bored, we get creative and explore our environment, searching for something of interest. Educational television shows, websites or applications are fine in moderation, especially if you watch together and talk about what you see and learn. However, free-flowing, unstructured time is a must for both parents and kids.

There are lots of ways to make learning fun that don’t necessarily require set-aside time. Beyond the more obvious learning aspects of a toy or game, you can teach your kids to be curious and explore dramatic play or unexpected/silly play. Be creative and see what fits your family.

  • Take a walk together and explore a local park or even your neighborhood. It can be an open-ended exploration or set up like a scavenger hunt or I Spy. Really look around and see what you notice. Interesting flowers, scampering squirrels, crunchy leaves underfoot, piles of snow to climb, puddles to stomp in—all year round, there are things to appreciate and learn about, right outside your door.
  • Cook or bake something together and talk about all the ingredients (their different tastes, smells and textures) and how they combine to make the meal taste good. Practice using different units of measurement. You can even make cleanup fun with lots of bubbles, fun music, and good-smelling soap. Kids love to help and will have a sense of mastery and enjoyment over doing something we may take for granted. As they get older, they can help more and more, and can even cook (and clean up) the whole meal when they are old enough. Now that is a joyful moment!
  • Use sidewalk chalk and draw outlines of each family member on the pavement. Measure heights as well as hand and foot sizes. You can even make silly pictures out of the outlines.
  • Have races and use a stopwatch or timer to see how fast everyone can hop on one foot, run, walk, crab walk, crawl, walk backwards. Chart the times on a graph to teach graphing and comparison skills.
  • In the store, play I Spy for items you need. Have your children help find items in reach. Have them guess how much something costs and see who is closest to the actual price. Let them check items off your list. At the grocery store, have them help you pick one new healthy food to bring home and try; pretend you are curious scientists learning about the new food, and sampling its taste.

– Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, Center for Human Development and Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s

Making writing fun!

young boy writing with marker

Did you know that the stronger a child is in reading, the better writer they will be?  Also the more children write, the better they become in reading.

Writing is a challenging skill, but one that we need in our daily lives. While you might think writing is something that a child begins in school, fostering the development of these skills at a young age before that can help your child’s success in school. It also helps develop skills as a writer, too.

Writing doesn’t need to be a chore or another huge task that you do each day. Instead make writing fun! If your child wants to do more, provide those opportunities. If your child gets discouraged, back off for a day or so. Take the lead from them.

Here are ways that will both encourage and develop writing skills.

  • Writing Corner. Find in a place in your home to set up a table and chair for your child. Make a “writing bin” and fill it with things like:
    • fat and thin pencils
    • pens and markers of different sizes and colors
    • different paper (e.g., plain, lined, construction, newsprint-size, index cards, etc.)
    • dry erase board, marker and eraser
    • scissors and glue
    • ribbon and yarn
  • Be a role model. Let your child see you write, whether it’s a grocery list, a thank you card or to-do list. While you are writing, tell them what you are doing.
  • Make a book. This can be done with children of all ages. Children can design a book cover, write a story (or you take their dictation) and illustrate it. The book can be bound in soft or hard cover at places like Shutterfly.
  • Make writing authentic.
    • Write notes. Offer your child assistance he needs to thank someone for a gift or something special. For the very young child, he can dictate the note to you and sign it at the bottom. Or surprise your child with a sweet note in his lunch box. Don’t be surprised when he sends a note back to you.
    • Make the grocery list. Get your child involved by asking her what she would like on your shopping trip and have her write it down. If your child is younger and can’t write words, ask her to draw a picture instead and you can write the word underneath it. For older children, they may be able to write the sounds they hear in the word. Tip: If your child takes the time to write something for the list, it is important that you purchas some or all of what she writes.

For younger children

  • Name writing. Children love to write their names! For the very young child, write her name in big letters and have her decorate it with markers, ribbon, or something else you choose. As the child gets older, have her write her name in as many ways and colors as they can. Elementary school children can practice their name in printing, cursive, large and small letters.
  • Window painting. Don’t worry parents, it’s fun and easy to clean up. You can either buy window crayons (Crayola makes them) or make your own paint. In a plastic cup, mix two parts washable tempera paint and one part dish soap. Put a drop cloth on the floor or do this activity outside. Children can practice letters, numbers, their name, words or illustrations. Clean up with water.
  • Glue tracing. This is an excellent pre-writing activity. Using a bold marker, write letters or your child’s name on a sheet of construction paper. Use larger letters for younger children, decreasing size as they get older. Have the child trace the letter with colored glue. When it dries, children will see their writing in that color; it will also be raised so children use their fingers to trace over to feel the letter and how it is formed.
  • Letter rubber stamps. Purchase letter stamps and stamp pads. Have your child stamp the letters, their name or a message to someone they love.
  • Shaving cream. Forming letters and numbers is extra special with shaving cream.
  • Salt/sand trays. Place salt or sand on a tray or cookie sheet and encourage your child to correctly form their letters and numbers. You can get colored sand to make it more fun. The best part about salt and sand: A little shake of the tray makes it ready to start again.

For older children

  • Let’s pretend. On a piece of cardboard, have your child paint a sign for the name of a restaurant. On a folded sheet of large paper, have your child design a menu cover. Inside, write a list of the items that they will sell in the restaurant. To push it farther, give the items a price that they would see it for. You can even give your child a notepad and have them take orders from anyone willing to play along.
  • Sentence formation. Start with five or six words. Write one word a piece on a small piece of paper, 3″ x 5″ card, or popsicle stick. Have your child read the words and use the words to make a sentence. You can increase the amount of words as their skills increase.
  • Write from photos. Young writers are most comfortable writing about themselves and things that they’ve done. Print some of your vacation, holiday or special pictures and have them available for your child to write about. A young child can dictate their story and as they get older, they can write for themselves. Start with a sentence and as time goes by, encourage your children to add another. Little do they know, as children get better, they have more to say.
  • Write a comic. Use dialog bubbles for the characters to speak. Comics are fun as the child writes a limited amount and gets to illustrate, too.
  • Write a play or TV show. Starting with two characters, write a short script with a beginning, middle and end. This can be a difficult thing to ask of a child. One way to make it easier is to have your child write one sentence and you write the next. You can also do a family journal: Keep a spiral notebook out and have someone write in it each day. Starting at the beginning of a notebook and going to the next page each day is fun, but you and your child will see their progress in letter and size formation, as well as length and complexity of his writing.

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

Helping your child through difficult times

sad girl holding teddy bear

Life happens!

Life events (whether good, bad, or ugly) are sometimes difficult to deal with and often stressful to children. Why? Our children try to make sense of what is happening to them or around them and can have difficulty understanding and adapting.

Stressful times

Even as adults, there are times when we seek understanding and reassurance that what has happened to us is something that others have also experienced. However, children may not have the life experiences and knowledge of events such as death, or divorce. They may be unaware that other children their age have experience with these events.

Other times, people in our lives who we consider friends may be mean to us and cause us to be anxious or afraid. Being the target of a bully or watching a bully incite fear in another is not a pleasant thing to see and can be confusing to a child.

Then there are also the occasions that children need to learn from their mistakes. Learning to share, be a friend, and self-awareness are also characteristics that we hope to instill in our children.

Helping make sense of difficult situations

As parents we take pride in taking care of our children. We often think we are helping them with their problems by our daily talks at the dinner table or at bedtime just before tucking them in with that last good night kiss.

We try to explain things to our children. We talk to their teachers or care givers and do what we can to make the situation better for them. Innately, we don’t like to see our children struggle with things that we may perceive as a natural part of growing up.

A child’s behavior speaks volumes. When a child struggles with something, we often see acting out, crying more often, or even withdrawal. To a child, his problem is very real and he is seeking ways to deal with his feelings. Oftentimes, a child will feel alone or like he is the only one who has had these experiences. But knowing that others their age have experienced the same issues can help a child get through these difficult events in their life. Like adults, children need tools to help them understand what is happening in their world.

Books as tools

As adults, we seek out books and resources to help us when we need a better understanding of what we’re facing. We need to remember that books are valuable tools for people of all ages.

Books can be a key to unlock those feelings of fear, isolation or sadness to a child. They can validate a child’s feelings and empower him to handle issues that come his way.

There are many developmentally appropriate books to help our children over the hurdles to gain insight and understanding. The spectrum of books ranges from simple picture books to chapter books with characters solving their problem.

Below is a list of challenges that occur in all of our lives, along with selected books that may be helpful to your child.

Death of a loved one

Death of a pet

Toileting

Perseverance

Sharing

Bullying

Hope

Individual uniqueness

Kindness/respect 

 Overcoming Challenges

Divorce

Feelings

Coping with a disability 

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

 

Selecting age-appropriate books for your newborn to 18-month old

toddler looking at book

Reading is something that always came naturally to my family. When my children were in the womb, I read and sang to them. Books were in every room in our home —whether in a bin, on a shelf, on the coffee table, or in the bookcase.

I truly believe that in order to raise your child to be a reader, reading to them is essential. However, I take it one step further. Children model what they see. Making time for you to read daily is another key in developing our children as readers.

As my children grew up, they discovered that my favorite book is “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. We read that book until the pages were taped, smudged and missing. When I retired from teaching, they gave me the most precious gifts that I have ever received: My son hand-painted a scene from the book and the kids wrote a most touching message. They also had someone craft a necklace of the tree; the tree was made of wire and the apple was a beautiful, shiny red bead. How touched I was that my gift incorporated our love of books and reading! I will forever treasure those gifts.

Many parents stop reading to their children once they know how to read themselves. However, something magical happens when you continue to share that bond. Through the years, my son and I found authors that we both enjoy. Even now, across the miles and states, we still decide to start a book together and read our favorite parts to each other. This leads to rich discussions on books that we share.

Here are some suggestions for selecting age-appropriate books for your child.

0 to 6 months

Babies enjoy books to relax. Snuggling with you and hearing your voice is calming to your child.

Tips

  • Baby’s vision isn’t fully developed, so choose books with larger pictures and contrasting, bold colors, with little or no text.
  • Older babies in this age range enjoy interactive books that use mirrors and puppets.
  • The sound and rhythm of speech is crucial for developing baby’s oral language skills.
  • Most importantly, uninterrupted time with your baby is what’s most important. Turn off the tv and phone.

Book Suggestions

7 to 12 months

Babies are beginning to understand vocabulary and illustrations from everyday life and will put together the word “dog” with a picture they see in a book.

Tips

  • Choose books to stimulate baby’s senses. Books with varying textures, scents, or sounds are perfect for this stage of development.
  • Oral language is emerging and baby may babble back to you. Books with a single word and picture help develop language skills.
  • Read books with sound patterns to further develop language.
  • Nursery rhymes and books with simple sentences are great choices.
  • A book’s durability is important at this stage!
    • Look for books that are waterproof, resistant to drops and throws, tear-resistant, and chew-proof.
    • Fabric books are always good as they can be thrown into the washing machine and dryer.

Book Suggestions

13 to 18 months

Have fun and be silly with books!

Tips

  • Early toddlers love looking at pictures of animals and making the animal noise with you.
  • Books with a few sentences on a page is appropriate.
  • Interact with rhyme and rhythm of words and sounds.
  • A 15- or 16-month-old child is beginning to use speech. Books can be used to help develop and expand expressive language skills.
    • Point to a picture and ask your child what the picture is of.
    • For example, let’s say the picture is of a cat, and your child replies, “Cat.” You can tell them, “That’s a big, fat cat.”
    • Offer many opportunities to practice this while reading.

Book Suggestions

– Lori Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer. She’s a former teacher of children with severe disabilities in reading, a consultant with a leading educational book publisher, and a mother of two adult children.

My top 10 Thanksgiving books to share with a child

grandma reading to toddler

  • The Itsy Bitsy Pilgrim by Jeffrey Burton
    • A Thanksgiving spin on a classic nursery rhyme.
  • Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anne Dewdney
    • Spend Thanksgiving with Llama Llama Red Pajama and his family.
  • Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon
    • A Thanksgiving-themed countdown book
  • Thankful by Eileen Spinelli
    • This read-aloud book teaches children how to be thankful every day.
  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
    • Part of the popular Bear series for Pre-K and young elementary children, this story highlights friendship, gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Happy Thanksgiving (Bright Baby) by St. Martins Press LLC
    • Pictures and word labels introduce Thanksgiving concepts to some of the youngest family members.
  • Baby’s First Thanksgiving by DK Publishing
    • Cute photographs and simple sentences make this a good starter book for the holiday.
  • My First Thanksgiving by Tomie dePaola
    • Another short and simple option to share together.
  • First Thanksgiving by Nancy Davis
    • A lift-the-flap book
  • The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
    • A fun way to teach gratitude for the little things in a child’s life.

– Lori A Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer.

Fall into autumn books

child reading book on blankets

Cropped image. Image credit: babyccinokids.

Autumn is the time of year that tickles our senses, and it’s the perfect season to enjoy with your baby. The once-green leaves come alive with rich and vivid color. The red, orange, yellow, and purple leaves hanging in the trees, fly past us in the fresh air and crunch under our feet as we walk. The brisk and chilly air makes it a perfect time to spend outdoors gathering leaves. Cider, cinnamon doughnuts, pumpkin pie, and crisp, red and green apples tantalize our taste buds like no other time of year. Bright orange pumpkins dot the fields begging to be chosen by the right child; a pumpkin’s bumps and crevices are fun for children to run their hands over. Celebrate the colors of fall, the time for gathering and giving thanks.

Of course, whether reading under a tree bursting with color or under your favorite quilt next to the fireplace, there’s nothing better than cozying up with books and reading with your child. Here are some recommended books for sharing with your baby during this special time of year.

– Lori A Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer.


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