Friday, 27 May 2011

Is any activity more fun than blowing bubbles?

Blowing bubbles is my number one favorite toddler activity.  It's such a simple activity, but most toddler's go crazy for bubbles.  I've worked with more toddler's who have said 'more' as one of their first words, while we played with bubbles, than I can count!  When you break out the bubbles, language learning can happen right from the start.  I usually give children the unopened bottle of bubbles so that they can try to open it before handing it back to me for 'help'.  *Note* It's a good idea to have 2 containers of bubbles on hand because most children will shake up the container of bubbles they're given, and good luck blowing a bubble after that! 

I model the word 'open' very slowly as I open the bubbles and tell them I'm going to 'blow.'  Once you blow some bubbles, show children how to 'pop' them and model the word over and over again.  Of course once all the bubbles are gone, they're going to want 'more' so this activity can last a very long time!  When bubble play is over, put the bubbles out of your child's sight, otherwise they're likely to ask for bubbles all the time!

One warning, not all bubbles are created equal, I've test-drove many different brands and haven't yet found one that is consistently good!  Fortunately, bubbles are cheap and can be made at home as well.  If you buy a dud, just replace the bottle the next time you shop.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The joy of play dough!

Play dough is a favorite toddler activity of mine.  It's inexpensive, can be store-bought or homemade and there are so many great ways to add fun sounds and language into play dough play with your child.  Before you even begin playing, your child can choose the color they want to play with and you have the chance to model the word "open" as you get set up to play.  Be sure to grab your own lump of play dough so that you can easily model new sounds and words for your child. 

Here are a few of my favorite things to do with play dough:
  • Roll play dough into a  long snake, model the word "loooong" and make a hissing sound that your child can imitate
  • Model the words "pat pat pat" and "roll roll roll" while you play
  • Show your child how to squish the play dough with a finger and of course model this fun word
  • Roll your play dough into a ball and pretend to make it "bounce bounce bounce"
  • When it's time to clean up, roll little balls of play dough for your child and model the word "in" every time they put a ball of play dough away
There are many homemade recipes available online for play dough and I thought this website looked cute:, but I must admit that with  my busy life, I tend to buy multi-paks of colorful pre-made play dough to save time and energy.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

He's talking...but what's he saying?

Your toddler may learn to talk at a typical time, but can you understand everything they say?  I recall my daughter recently saying "Go fish Jack" over and over again, while we were driving to her dayhome one morning, only to discover that she was telling me she saw a "Garbage truck!" 

By age 2, it would be normal for you to understand only about 1/2 the things your child says and by age 3 you might only understand 75% of what they say.  In fact, it would be normal for a child not to say all speech sounds correctly until kindergarten! 
Here are some common errors for toddlers and preschoolers to make:
  • Saying only one sound in a cluster of 2 or 3 sounds (example: 'spoon' becomes 'poon')
  • Saying W for R and L (example: 'rabbit' becomes 'wabbit', 'love' becomes 'wove')
  • Saying S with their tongue between their teeth (lisping)
  • Saying F for TH (example: 'fumb' for 'thumb')
These errors would all be very normal for a child younger than age 4 to say.  After age 4, there is a much greater expectation for a child to talk clearly and therapy to work on speech sounds is common at this time. 

Of course, parents tend to understand their children better than anyone else, because they're used to their pronunciation.  But there are still those frustrating moments when you just don't know what that child is saying!  At these times, try to help your child find other ways to tell you what they want.  They can 'show' you, or say it in another way to help you understand.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

What should toddler's understand?

Even more important than how your toddler talks, is how your toddler understands language!  That's because language understanding is the foundation for learning many skills, most importantly how to talk well.  We all understand more words than we actually say, and toddler's are no exception.  Although they may not yet say a lot of words, they should understand many.  Here are some milestones to watch for in your toddler, to show that they are learning to understand language well:
  • Around a  year, your child should show understanding of the names of important people (by looking for 'daddy' when his name is mentioned) and important objects (like 'bottle')
  • By 18 months, your toddler should be able to follow simple directions (eg. 'get your book') and might answer a simple question with a nod or shake of the head (eg. 'do you want juice?'), or possibly say  'yes' or 'no'
  • By age 2, your toddler should be following directions with two steps (eg. 'get your boots and go to the door') and understanding some difficult concepts like 'big' and 'small'
  • By age 3, your toddler may not have all the vocabulary of an adult, but they should be able to follow complex directions and answer questions without a problem.
These are just a few very basic milestones to watch for, if you any questions about your child's language understanding, feel free to send me a question!


Monday, 16 May 2011

May is Speech and Hearing Month!

During the month of May, Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists take the opportunity to raise awareness for our professions and the many people, young and old, who struggle with a communication delay and/or hearing loss.  I might be biased, but I do believe that communication is one of the most critical skills for living a satisfying life.  Communication difficulties can be caused by many things: some children are slow to learn to talk, have trouble understanding things that are said to them or have difficulty saying what the want to say clearly.  At any age, communication can be made more challenging by stuttering, hearing loss, voice disorders or a wide variety of behavioral and medical issues. 

Speech-Language Pathologists work hard to improve the quality of life for people with communication challenges and their families, and what a rewarding job this is!  Happy Speech and Hearing Month!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Toddler talk - what's normal?

When it comes to toddler's learning to talk, 'normal' can be very different from one child to another.  What most parents want to know is "Is my child doing alright?"  Here are a few handy milestones that will help you determine how your child is learning language? 
  • By their first birthday, most children say "mama" and/or "dada" meaningfully.  They may also be saying one or two other words.
  • Toddler's often learn new words very quickly between 12 and 18 months.  By 18 months, your toddler might have as many as 25 different words.  Many of these words will likely be labels for favorite things (eg. puppy, milk).
  • By age two, it's typical for toddler's to have at least 50 different words.  Instead of just using labels, your child should now have different types of words (eg. action words like 'eat', descriptive words like 'hot', and position words like 'in').  A bigger variety of words will mean your child should now begin to put two words together (eg. 'more milk', 'eat noodle')
  • Three-year-old's say the darndest things!  They now have a big vocabulary (possibly a few hundred words!) and can put words together into simple (and sometimes not-so-simple) sentences.  Although your three-year-old might be talking up a storm, it's still normal for them to make lots of grammar errors (eg. "him want a sandwich", "Is you going upstairs?").
  • By age four, children should be able to make their wants and needs known pretty easily.  Your four-year-old likely knows a few hundred words and can put together nice sentences that may still have the odd grammar error.
The above points are just a few of the most common milestones at each of the ages, if you have concerns about what your child is doing, feel free to ask me a question by email!