Archive for the 'Child Development' Category

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.

A simple guide to torticollis

baby with torticollis

image credit: spinewave.co.nz

You’ve just given birth to a beautiful child. You’re so caught up in joy and awe that you can’t help but take tons of pictures of the little one. But as you scroll through your pictures you may notice a common trend between 1 and 12 months old: your baby is always looking in one direction.

No, your baby isn’t giving the camera his good side. Your baby may have torticollis.

What is torticollis?

Don’t panic. Torticollis is common and a result of muscle tightness and weakness on one side of the neck. Any diagnosis sounds scary, but caught early enough, torticollis is an easy fix. As a physical therapist, I frequently treat patients with this diagnosis. The key is proactive treatment.

Torticollis occurs when the shoulder muscle, sternocleidomastoid, becomes tight. This can happen due to your baby’s position in the womb or from sleeping position. Twins and large babies are more likely to have torticollis from the reduced womb space. Also, babies’ heads are heavy and tend to rotate to one side when they sleep on their backs. The sternocleidomastoid’s action is lateral flexion (tilting) to one side and rotation (turning) to the other side.

So what can you do?

Start with these two stretches

  • Rotate your child’s head in the opposite direction your child usually looks. Do this hold for 15 to 20 seconds with light pressure every time you change your baby’s diaper (which let’s be real, is 10+ times per day). This improves range of motion and reminds the baby that there is another half of the world to see.
  • The other is the football carry. Place the baby facing out toward the world and turned on his side. Position so that the side of the neck the baby typically tilts is facing down. Put one hand on the side of their head and the other between their legs for support. Use your hand on the side of their head to lightly stretch the baby’s neck. This addresses the tilt component to the muscle tightness.

If you can’t visualize these stretches, I recommend an appointment with a physical therapist. You will see the stretches in person and applied to the specific direction of your child’s rotation and lateral flexion, as well as to learn other exercises for neck strengthening.

Lifestyle tips

  • Feed your child to the direction he doesn’t like to look in order to facilitate active rotation.
  • Adjust crib position so that your child has to turn his head to see what’s happening outside.
  • At playtime, put toys on the opposite side of baby’s head.
  • Have family members stand on the side your child looks to least often when they interact with them.
  • Encourage increased tummy time if your baby has a flat spot on the back of their head so he isn’t falling into that pattern of rotation when on his back.
  • Every adjustment helps!

If torticollis is left untreated, it can lead to a child favoring one arm during sitting and reaching activities, having one-sided weakness, and having an altered crawling or walking pattern. Although it’s an easily treated and often mild condition, ignoring it is the worst thing you can do. Allow your child to see the world from the proper angle and prevent future complications; treat torticollis early!

– Amanda Kirk, DPT, is a physical therapist with Beaumont Macomb Pediatric Rehabilitation.

Pediatric speech and language: Frequently asked questions

baby boy reaching for man's face

Cropped image. Harsha K R, Flickr. CC license.

Pediatric speech-language pathologists get asked a lot of questions about childhood development. After all, we work with children every day! Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions about speech and language development.

Q: What are important early speech and language milestones for young children?

A: Children are developing skills constantly, and at different rates, but here are a few basics to look for at various ages.

  • 0 to 3 months: Cooing, smiling at familiar faces, crying differently for different needs, calming or smiling when spoken to, and recognition of your voice.
  • 4 to 6 months: Babbling with different consonant sounds (e.g., /p/, /b/, /m/), laughing, vocalizing excitement and displeasure, moving eyes in the direction of sounds, paying attention to music, and responding to changes in the tone of your voice.
  • 7 months to 1 year: Babbling long and short groups of sounds, using speech to get and keep your attention, using gestures to communicate (e.g., waving, holding arms to be picked up), imitating different speech sounds, using one or two words around first birthday, enjoying simple games like peek-a-boo, turning and looking in the direction of sounds, listening when spoken to, recognizing some common words, and beginning to respond to requests.
  • 1 year to 18 months: Shaking head “no;” may use between 5 and 25 words; begin making animal sounds; communicating needs by using single words, pointing, grunting, gesturing, facial expressions, or eye contact; imitating common actions (e.g., brushing hair, feeding, talking on phone); pointing to objects when named; and following simple one- and two-step commands.
  • 18 to 24 months: Using 50 to 200 words, responding to “yes/no” questions, attending to books, following multiple step directions, pointing to pictures, and attending to activities for 10 to 15 minute stretches.

Q: What are the best ways to stimulate my young child’s speech and language skills?

A: For children from the age of 0 to 1 year old, the best ways to stimulate their language include:

  • Responding to your child’s coos, gurgles, and babbling
  • Staying simple and consistent with your vocabulary and using the words repetitively
  • Matching language with your activities (e.g., “Shoes on,” “Mommy driving”)
  • Looking at simple picture books. Label the pictures, take your child’s hand and point to the objects.
  • Telling nursery rhymes, singing songs, and playing simple games together such as peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Encouraging simple directions (e.g., “Give me the cup,” “Kiss the baby,” etc.)
  • Teaching your child the names of everyday items and familiar people
  • Taking your child with you to new places and situations

For children from the age of 1 to 2 years old, the best ways to stimulate their language include:

  • Rewarding and encouraging early efforts at saying new words. Asking your child to “show me” if something is unclear.
  • Talking to your baby about everything you’re doing while you’re with them
  • Having your child imitate new words and ideas
  • Talking simply, clearly and slowly to your child
  • Describing what your child is doing, feeling, and hearing
  • Going on trips and adventures (e.g., visit the zoo, plant flowers)

Q: What are the best toys for young children working on improving their speech and language skills?

A: As a speech-language pathologist, one of the questions I’m asked most often is, “What toys should I buy to help my child talk?” The toys listed below include those that I often use with children working on increasing their speech and language skills, as well as those that I would generally recommend to parents of young children. The best toys to promote speech and language development for your child are the simplest toys. Items that allow children to get creative with play and allow them to use the toy in a variety of ways are great for promoting language development. These toys include:

  • Blocks
  • Cars/trucks/trains
  • Play kitchen and food
  • Farm set
  • Baby doll and accessories
  • Doll house
  • Dress up clothes
  • Tool set
  • Tea set
  • Mr. Potato Head

Q: What is the best way to introduce a second language? Is there a “window” of time that is best?

A: It’s never too early or too late to introduce a second language, but research shows that for the most part, earlier is better. Children learn language by listening to people who speak that language, whether it is their parents, family members, teachers, friends or others. The best models for language are native speakers, but when that’s not available, there are classes, apps, games and high-quality television programming that teach other languages to children.

Children who are bilingual experience benefits that reach into adulthood, including higher academic achievement, better problem solving, increased executive control, and overall better communication skills!

Q: What should I do if I think my child is falling behind in his speech and language development?

A: If you suspect any kind of difficulty or delay in development, talk to your pediatrician. She may recommend a speech and language evaluation by a certified, licensed speech and language pathologist, who can help determine if intervention is needed.

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


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