Friday, 3 February 2012

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

I once had a professor who always said "Repetition is the branding iron of knowledge".  This always made me think of us students as cattle, and our professors as ranchers, searing their most important lessons to our skin.  I don't use that quote with the families I work with, but I do teach this principal all the time.  When children are having a hard time learning to say words, one of the critical things parents and caregivers can do is frequently repeat the important words in that child's environment in a natural way, and without putting pressure on the child to say the word.

When  my daughter was just over a year old, she wasn't yet walking and would frequently pull at the bottom of our pants and lift her arms up to get us to pick her up.  We decided 'up' was an important word for her to learn to say, so whenever she tried to get us to pick her up using her non-verbal communication (pulling on our pant legs and lifting her arms up) we would say "oh up, you want to come up"while reaching down to pick her up.  Eventually, with enough repetition and emphasizing, she started to crawl to our feet and say "uh, uh" which eventually became "up, up."  We didn't cause frustration in her by not giving her what she wanted, but just took the opportunity to model the word she needed over and over again.  Pick a word and give this strategy a try.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Place mats – who knew?

Like many of you, I consider meal times to be social times. I try very hard to always be at the table with my kids while they have snacks and meals. Even as young newlyweds, my husband and I made this a priority and we splurged on a beautiful dining room table. But with a toddler eating on this table several times a day it was starting to look pretty banged up and worn out. One day while wandering the aisles of the local dollar store I picked up a couple of placemats that I hoped would solve the problem. They did indeed solve the problem, but I got a lot more than I bargained for!

The length of our mealtimes has now doubled, while my daughter makes up elaborate stories about the characters on the placemats while feeding them bites of her meal. She assigns roles to each of us (daddy is Cindrella, mommy is Snow White) and we have a grand time playing our roles while enjoying our meals together. The Disney princess's placemat is my daughter's favourite, but we also have a zoo animal's placemat that we pull out once in awhile. What I've noticed is that my daughter is learning vocabulary like 'tiara' and 'jewelry' but I'm also watching her creativity shine while she creates stories from the pictures she sees. For $2.00 I opened up a whole new world of learning, without even trying. I'd say it's worth picking up a few children's placemats while you're shopping the dollar store.


Apps. and toddler language development

I must confess, I don't own an fact, I recently checked out an iPad app. that was recommended to me and I had to borrow a friend's iPad to do this!  We recently got a Blackberry Playbook and although there are thousands of apps. for the Playbook versus hundreds of thousands of apps. for the iPad, we find it serves our purposes just fine.

I've downloaded a few apps. for my 2-year-old daughter to check out.  The first was a very simple game where we popped bubbles on the screen.  She loved it, but it would have been more useful in helping her learn language back when she was about 18-months-old and needed to learn to say the word 'pop'.  Could I have got out a bottle of bubbles instead? Absolutely!  But let's face it, our kids are fascinated by those smartphones and tablets that us parents are constantly swiping away at!  Phones and tablets are certainly not meant to replace the fun activities that you do with your child, but there's no harm in letting them do a little playing with you.  They key is that it happens with you.  Just like with any activity - puzzles, bubbles or apps. for your device - if the goal is helping your child develop language, your interaction with them is critical!  Your enthusiasm and expression as well as the words you use are going to be the key elements to your child learning language during any activity.

Why why why? - Toddlers ask questions

Let me share with you a conversation I had with my daughter during a recent trip out of town:
E - What's that?
Me - Irrigation.
E - Why?
Me - To water the crops.
E - Why?
Me - So they can grow well.
E - Why?
Me - Because we live in a dry climate.
E - Why?
Me - (long pause) I don't know.

If you have a toddler at this stage, no doubt at some point during the question asking you've ran out of answers...and possibly patience!  Although the questions can drive you up the wall occasionally, they are an exciting sign of language development.  The ability to ask questions develops along with the develoment of that amazing little toddler brain - as your child learns more about the world, she develops more ability to ask questions about it. 

Some questions are of course easier to ask and understand than others.  Likely, the first question you heard from your child was a simple "What's that?" usually somewhere after 12 months. 'Where' questions are usually learned early as well but are used in a concrete way (eg. "Where's ball?" versus "Where do you want to go?"  "Who" questions often come next followed by "why" questions and finally "when" questions which are the most complicated and abstract questions for a toddler to understand.

Try your best to answer the barrage of questions your toddler asks and model appropriate question-asking for your child so that they learn the correct way to use questions.