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Let's Play: the speech and language way

Speech and language therapy ideas for playing at home

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letsplaythespeechandlanguageway

Where’s the speech in speech therapy?

“It looks like they are just playing.  Is that all they do?”

If you’ve ever watched a speech therapy session with a one- or two- year old, you may have asked yourself this question.  What looks like “just play” actually has a whole bunch of strategy and purpose that goes with it.

How do little ones typically learn to walk?  They explore.  They play.

How do little ones typically learn to talk?  They listen.  They watch.  They play.

Just as we don’t usually pick up a child’s foot and move it into position to teach walking, we also don’t take a child’s mouth and move it into position while simultaneously vibrating her vocal cords to create sound.  That just isn’t possible.

Children learn best through PLAY.  They are interested in play.  Play is motivating.  Play is fun.  They want to play… again and again and again.  Sometimes speech therapy starts with play and sometimes speech therapy starts before play.

I often wish that it was called “communication therapy” and that I was considered a “communication coach” but speech (and language) therapy is the name.  So, we have to explain.

In order to really play with others, the child first must be interested in others.  They have to learn the skills of making eye contact, imitating movements and sounds, taking turns, anticipating actions, smiling when things are funny, checking in with caregivers when things are scary, using gestures like pointing, and understanding that words and sounds have meaning.  When I say “uh-oh”, a child needs to know that something bad or messy just happened.  When I say “get your shoes on”, a child needs to anticipate that we may be leaving the house.  All of these things need to happen BEFORE speech and, sometimes, that’s where speech therapy has to start.  To figure out why a child isn’t yet using words we sometimes need to explore their PLAY skills.

“But my child plays just fine.  When do you teach him to talk?”

Great question!  If all of your child’s “pre-verbal”/play skills are developing on track then a speech therapist uses play to continue to engage your child on their level with a whole bunch of strategies to try and help little ones learn to use their voice.  Strategies might include offering choices, simplifying words, increasing meaningful sounds, reducing commands and questions, increasing visual attention to the speaker’s mouth, playing forgetful games, placing items just slightly out of reach, etc. etc. etc  (that’s a topic for entire textbook or two  – too much for one blog post!)  The point is, yes, we play.  However, we aren’t there to entertain a child.  We expect play to be a two-way street with communication as the ultimate goal.

So, the next time you watch a speech therapy session, look for the strategy behind the fun.  That’s the magic.

Need some ideas of WHAT to play with and HOW to play using speech and language strategies?  Check out:

Top 5 NON-toy Toys

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

POWER words

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

 

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POWER words

BAM!  POW!  ZOOM!  If you were a superhero, those might be your “power words”.  When you’re a toddler, your “power words” are the ones that are:

FAVORITES and FREQUENT

When thinking about words that might be highly motivating for your little one to learn, stick with what their interests are and what they may need to say frequently or what they see frequently.  For many families, teaching their child academic words like letters and colors and shapes and numbers is a high priority.  If your child is interested in these concepts and you teach them to use them functionally “the red car, the ball is a circle, you have two crackers”, etc… then that’s great!  However, when you’re thinking about helping a little one learn to communicate who has no words or very few words, think POWER WORDS.  When you use the right power word at the right moment, you may hear your child attempt to imitate you – and then you know you chose the right word!  It’s a Magical Moment.

  • Start by making a list of your child’s favorite/frequent foods, toys, people, activities.
  • Add some functional/frequent words like “more, no, yes, hi, bye, all done, mine, go, stop, uh-oh (yep, that’s a word)”
  • Make a purposeful effort to use these words throughout the day

Seems simple, right?

When your child is playing with cars, say “car” many ways and many times – not in long, complicated sentences but just the single word.  Make car noises, wave hi/bye to the cars, and when the car successfully makes the jump you celebrate with “YESSSSS!”

When your child is eating, say “eat” many ways and many times.  Personally, I sing songs about eating, but that’s just me.  Give them only a small portion of what you think they will want and give them the opportunity to request “more” or respond “yes” when you ask if they want more.  Purposefully give them the wrong food or utensil and YOU say “oops, NO” (in a playful, mommy made a mistake kind of way).  Teach them words, feed them words.

When you are looking at a book, pick a power word and stick with it.  If you want to practice the word “hi” then just say “hi” to every person or animal on every page.  No need to read all the text.  If “ball” is a power word and it’s in the book somewhere then search each page for it asking “baaaalll?”  When you find it, say “BALL”.  That’s it.  No need for long sentences.  Focus on the power word.

In each example above, I wrote what YOU the adult should say.  Speech therapists like to call that “modeling” words.  YOU are saying words, your child is listening.  They are listening to words that are favorites and frequent.  There’s a much better chance they will try to imitate these words.

The same concept applies when working with preschoolers who might be working on saying specific sounds.

Recently I was looking for some words that have the “sh” sound and most of the pre-made materials included words like “sheriff, ocean, chef” – not exactly things this preschooler is going to talk about on a regular basis.  So, we had to make our own pictures for POWER words like “show” (to request a TV show), “shoe” (because he puts them on and takes them off at least 2-3 times per day), “sure” (because that’s how he likes to agree), and “push” (because he frequently needed his mother’s help to push something closed or to connect train tracks/race track pieces).  These words were motivating, interesting, useful, and highly repetitive throughout the day.  No need to carve out artificial “speech” time.  Just work on the words as you go through your daily activities.  The power words will give you plenty of opportunity to practice without needing to have 30 minutes of “speech” time.

What are your child’s power words?


Other posts you may like:

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

Playing with…BOOKS!

Where are the WORDS?

Top 10 ways to practice speech and language skills OUTDOORS

Communication happens everywhere!  If you follow my blog you’ll know that while I love using toys to help little ones learn to talk, I’m equally a fan of using NO toys and taking the strategies (modeling, sound play, offering choices, etc.) you use in play to whatever location or activity is interesting to your child.

Here are 10 ideas for playing OUTDOORS…

  1. Tap two sticks together: “tap, tap, tap”, take turns to practice imitation, play “guess that tune”
  2. Stack rocks into a tower or pile: “big, small, flat, bumpy, round”, “up, up, up” and “uh-oh!”
  3. Throw rocks into a creek: change your voice to reflect BIG splashes “BOOM” and little splashes “plop”
  4. Doodle in the dirt or gravel: grab a stick and make a long line then pick a sound “whee, sssss (snake), weeooooweeeooo (firetruck)”; practice shapes, letters, or “X” marks the spot for treasure hunting
  5. Treasure hunting: fill a bag or container with various nuts, rocks, sticks, petals, leaves, etc. Name what you find and try to find “more”.
  6. Line up rocks/sticks:  make a “roadblock” or a “parade” of rocks – or just call it a line.  Name each rock with a different word or syllable and say it as you touch the rock “ba, ma, da, ga” or “ba, be, bi, bo, bu”.  Then throw them one by one into the creek using their syllable names: “bye bye da, bye bye ga”.
  7. Build a fairy house (or any tiny, imaginary figure house):  collect the sticks then prop them up and count how many you need.  Name your “fairy” and pretend to say “hi, bye, night night” to her/him.
  8. Throw sticks into the creek:  watch them float away and narrate their journey –  “ooo” on the smooth and peaceful stretches and “bump” or “bang” when it runs into a rock.
  9. Stepping stones: whether there are tree stumps or rocks in the water or logs across the pathway, sing a familiar song and step to the beat.  Take the tune of Row, Row, Row your boat and sing “step, step, step on it; careful as you go; step, step, step on it; don’t step on your toe” – or some other award-winning-made-up-on-the-spot kind of song!
  10. Freeze game: If your little one prefers to run instead of take a stroll through the woods, and the word “stop” is not working so well – try “freeze” instead.  When you yell “freeze” he needs to strike a pose or turn into ice or become his favorite superhero or whatever seems fun/meaningful.  The freeze game has been a huge help recently with my own two runners – one freezes into superhero poses and the other freezes into princess poses.  Then I have to guess who they are… endlessly going through my list of possible answers.

 

Here are some other outdoor play-related posts: Playing…outside!, Talking… at the Playground!, After the rain…PUDDLES!

Looking for strategies to use?  Read Where are the WORDS?, Two little words to encourage communication, Magical Moments

You  may also be interested in: Top 5 NON-toy Toys, Playing with…NO toys

 

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So much to talk about when things are THIS interesting!

 

 

Top 5 NON-toy Toys

Children love toys.  Don’t they?  We give them so many colorful, musical, pretty toys… then our toddlers completely ignore those and play with diaper wipes, dog toys and empty shoe boxes.

Sometimes the best toys are not toys at all.  They did not come from a toy store, did not come wrapped in pretty packaging, and did not promise any kind of “educational” benefit to your toddler.  These “non-toys” are sometimes what your child will play with for a much longer period of time, use in more creative ways, and cost you much less money!  These are the toys that allow your child to explore and be curious.  (Read: Toys that do nothing)

Engaging your child using their interests is the best way to teach early communication skills.  The “toy” in the play can be anything – including YOU!  Your child may be interested in blocks, cars, dolls, the ceiling fan, food, sticks, or empty boxes.  Those interests are the objects or activities that we can use to teach things like problem solving, turn taking, imitation, sharing enjoyment with others, watching how others react, requesting objects and actions, learning to communicate…. THOSE ARE THE GOALS of play.

The toy is not the goal.  It’s just the tool we use to teach.

Since the toy can be anything, here is my TOP 5 LIST OF NON-TOY TOYS (in no particular order):

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

*Plastic cups:  20180412_170439Stack it, decorate it, use it for target practice with bean bags, or wear it as a hat… the plastic cup could be your favorite non-toy toy.

  • Use it as a pull toy – Punch a hole in the bottom, pull a string through that hold and tie it up in a big knot so it doesn’t come back out.  For extra noise making fun, fasten a small bell to the knot inside the cup and you have instant pull toy your little one can create noise with all over your house!  Ready, set, GO!
  • Hearing your own voice as an echo is pretty fun and can be motivating for little ones to practice lots of sounds when they hear their own voice – amplified!  Sure, you can buy a microphone, but a plastic cup gives you the same effect and you just had to grab one out of your pantry that was leftover from a birthday party or cookout or your every day casual dining – ha!

*Empty boxes and containers of all sorts:  lp-containersFavorite toys for one and two year olds?  Anything you can push, pull, fill and dump.   Empty boxes and containers fulfill ALL of these requirements.  Think food storage containers, diaper boxes, wipes boxes, tissue boxes, parmesan cheese containers, zippered bags, water bottles and plastic bins of any sort.  If you shop on Amazon you get a box delivered straight to your house every time – BONUS!  What to put in the boxes? Your little one will figure that out!  Try puzzle pieces, toy cars, play food, shoes, socks…the possibilities are endless.  For more ideas go to Playing with…containersPurposeful Packaging, and Mystery Boxes and Sensory Bins.lp-boxes

*Paper towel, toilet paper, and gift wrap tubes:  20180415_135643What might just be items for the recycling bin can FIRST be: binoculars, a megaphone, logs for a campfire, ramps and tunnels for small balls and cars, AND tapping sticks for a marching band.  Attach a few paper towel rolls together for golf clubs, baseball bats, and sticks to knock over the plastic cup towers.  Use them as oars in your empty box boats or attach them to the back of the “boat” and make a sail or flagpole.

*Colorful foam mat: Ok, so this one may not be an everyday kind of item, but it is just SO much more than a mat!  Of course the colored squares are perfect for learning colors but take the mat apart for:

  • Stepping Stones for “hot lava” games
  • Helping little ones follow the path of an obstacle course
  • Sitting spots for a pretend picnic
  • Matching same colored objects
  • Jumping targets
  • Bean bag toss targets
  • Smacking the squares together like cymbals in a marching band
  • Line up matching colors so you can walk down the “red path” and the “blue path” to see what treasure awaits

If you get the colored square mat pictured above and resist the temptation to get the alphabet mats and the mats with edge pieces then you can construct small houses, stack them up and knock them down, build “chairs” for stuffed animals, and have longer trails to walk on!

*Flashlights: 20180412_170505 Turn the lights off, or just dim them, and get out a flashlight!  Make shadow puppets if you are so talented or just shine the light around the room and let your child see their toys and familiar surroundings in a whole new way!  Name what you find and wonder aloud what you might find next.  Tape pictures or flash cards on the wall and play seek-n-find games.  Put the light on the floor and have your toddler try to “stomp” on it or give it a “high five” before the light moves away.


HONORABLE MENTIONS: There are so many non-toys that could have made this list, but here are a few more that are not only interesting to many toddlers, but also allow plenty of opportunities for practicing communication skills:

  1. Bucket with a handle – for collecting stuff (any stuff) while you’re at a park or playground and hauling around treasures at a beach or just to the next room.
  2. Couch cushions and pillows – for soft landing zones when your toddler needs to run and jump or for obstacle courses or for fort building.
  3. Blankets, towels – endless hours of Peekaboo or pretend play with stuffed animals.
  4. Junk mail – cut out pictures of interest, cover with contact paper if it is especially interesting, then use as decoration or practice delivering mail or use as flash cards.20180412_170239
  5. Laundry baskets – This may seem like a repeat of the empty boxes and containers, but a laundry basket (or plastic bin) may also serve as a sled!  Wheeee!

DSC03081


Whatever object or “toy” is the interest, keep your child engaged and learning by:

  1. Imitate what THEY do with it
  2. After you imitate their idea, try something a little different to see if they will imitate your idea
  3. Add a sound (or word or short phrase) to what you are doing (read: Where are the WORDS?)
  4. Offer help, but then wait – don’t actually help unless they truly want it (read: Help!)
  5. Take turns with it
  6. Pretend that your object doesn’t quite work like theirs and act confused
  7. Hide it or pretend you can’t find it – then call out to it while searching
  8. Pretend that a stuffed animal or puppet is doing the same thing with the object

Complete the following sentence in the picture below and you’ll find what your child truly wants to play with (and talk about!)

nontoys

Remember when it comes to early communication – YOU are the best toy above all!

Thank you for reading and sharing!


Final note:  While non-toys may be awesome for your own children, others might not think it’s neat to receive paper towel tubes as a gift!  If you need to give a gift to a young child, here are some ideas…Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Traveling with kids: the speech and language way

Road trips and plane rides… with little ones.  It’s a whole new world of travel.  Remember being a child and not having electronics when going on vacation?  What did we do…?

We played car games:  The Alphabet Game, The License Plate Game, I Spy, Auto Bingo, Rhyme Time…and a word spelling game called “ghost” – that I’m not sure if my Grandma made up.

What else?  We sang songs, we created stories out of what the clouds looked like, we ate snacks, we read books, we pretended our siblings were robots and positioned their arms and legs in awkward poses, we got on each other’s nerves, we asked “are we there yet?”… but we TALKED to each other.

Now, I’m no expert on parenting or traveling with little ones but I do know that a travel bag for little ones doesn’t need to require batteries or recharging – especially if the trip isn’t too long.  So, what do you put in a travel bag to help pass the travel time?  This, of course, depends on the ages of your children but here are some non-electronic travel bag ideas: 20180401_131550.jpg

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

When my kids were younger, the travel bag was mostly books, snacks, magnetic doodle boards, a few toy cars and stuffed animals.  One of my favorite stuffed animals was the turtle with a bunch of buckles on it!  This was great on the airplane (not as much in a car) as it did require frequent help to unlatch the buckles.  More opportunities to ask for help = more opportunities to practice communication.

Dropping the toys with no way to retrieve them while driving was definitely an issue so we did LOTS and LOTS of music – music, not videos.  Keeping the playlist familiar but with a few new songs helped tremendously.

Now that my kids can do activities with less adult help, stickers are a huge favorite!  We go through SHEETS and SHEETS of stickers on trips.  Alphabet stickers are great!  I write a list of their favorite words and they cover up the letters with the matching letter sticker.  They will use the letter sticker to write out their names, things they see outside, the first letter of whatever word I call out… or just put the whole alphabet on the piece of paper.  Reusable stickers scenes are great too.

Folders with activities such as mazes, connect the dots, and scavenger hunt type activities (I just printed out a grid of cars and trucks then colored them red, blue, black, gray, green, etc to make car bingo a little easier and not require such a long attention span when you JUST can’t find that railroad crossing sign that is in so many pre-made auto bingo cards – ha!)  One side of my folder has activities for my older son and the other side has mostly blank paper for my younger daughter.

It’s not all about coloring and books.  Remember to sing lots of songs!  Play those interactive car games from your childhood, and of course, snack away as needed.  Those are all great opportunities to practice sounds and words!  Think about how many opportunities there are to point out passing cars or airplanes overhead, request help, request more, request pit stops, request a break, request food and activities and objects… Remember to offer choices to help with speech and also reduce frustration.  When you arrive at your destination “Hooray!”

Here is a visual list of ideas (although your local Dollar Store is also a great option):
    

 

Traveling with little ones isn’t easy, I get it, but it can also be an opportunity to teach them how to travel and not just how to survive it.  Lots of concepts to think about with traveling – independent play, imagination, maps/directions, the concept of “one minute”, and patience.  Yes, lots of patience!

What’s in your travel bag?

Thank you for reading and sharing!  I’d love to hear what works for you.


Other articles you may be interested in:

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

Playing with…BOOKS!

Where are the WORDS?

 

 

 

Empower older siblings to teach

Your toddler doesn’t use many words.  If he has an older, very talkative sibling in the house you may have been told that this could be the problem…she is doing all of the talking for him.  So, you try to tell her to please let her brother have a turn to say a word.  She can’t seem to do that.  She wants to help.  She wants him to talk.  She wants to give him what she knows he needs and wants.  She’s his lifeline to the world of communication!

I love that.  Let’s use that.  She just needs some tools, some strategies…a game plan.

I often ask older siblings for their ideas about how to help their little brother say stuff or even just make sounds.  Their little brothers love to watch them, imitate them, be like them.  That’s hugely motivating!

In my experience, I’ve seen older siblings help little ones learn to use sign language, make meaningful sounds, say names of TV show characters that I never would’ve even known to try, produce new sounds accurately, and can sometimes even get their younger sibling to say a new word just by saying “say ______“.  This never works for anyone else.  Ever.

Older siblings who are learning about letter sounds or are beginning to read are even great helpers when it comes to identifying the sounds that the little one might be leaving out or saying incorrectly.  Encouraging the older sibling to identify and emphasize those sounds can help BOTH siblings learn.  Example:  Did you hear how your little brother said “doh” instead of “go”?  What sound do you think he needs to change?  Right.  The “g”.  That’s the sound that G makes.  

Rather than telling an older sibling to stop talking and give the little one a chance, empower that older sibling to help.  ASK THEM what they think might work to help their little brother make more noise or say more words.  They might tell you that their little brother always makes farting noises whenever they do!  Well, it’s a start.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with an older brother, let’s call him Jack.  He was his little brother’s favorite playmate.  Let’s call the little brother Max.  During the session I spent a lot of time with Jack talking about how he could simplify words into sounds so that Max might be able to say things just like him.  Jack was able to figure out that instead of saying train he could say “choo choo” and instead of saying dinosaur he could  “ROAR!”  Then we spent time chasing Max around with his shopping cart and saying “ready, set….” Jack easily figured out that he should let Max finish the phrase with “GO!”  Jack was so on board with everything that we were doing he even took the lead for the next 5-10 minutes.  Mom and I were an afterthought at best.  Speech “therapy” was happening without the therapist.  Yes!

Near the end of my time at their house, I asked Jack what he thought worked well and what he would like to keep doing with Max in order to help him talk more.  I was expecting him to say “use sounds” or “let Max finish phrases we say all the time”.  Instead, here was his response:

“Magic tricks”

Yep.  That’s what he said.  I was slightly confused and a little disappointed that my strategies weren’t immediately embraced.

I responded, “You want to practice magic tricks to help Max talk more?”

Jack:  “Yep, it’s just like magic.

Me:  “What do you mean?”

Jack:  “Well, when we were running around with the shopping cart we were like saying the things he should find.  Then I kind of took things away, hid them again, and he had to say something if he wanted it back.  Like magic.”

I started to get it.

Me:  “I think I understand.  You want to make things disappear and Max can make them reappear when he uses a sound or a word?”

Jack:  “Yep.  Like magic.”

Makes perfect sense.  Why didn’t I describe it this way to begin with?  Jack loved magic.  He made sense of what I was trying to help him learn by associating it with his favorite hobby!  When they were searching for objects to put in the shopping cart Jack would call out (in a sing song voice) “ba-aall” and “do-ggy”.  Max would imitate, not with an exact word, but definitely using that same sing song voice.  He was trying.  That’s what was important.  He wanted to be like his brother.  He wanted to make that object appear.  He wanted to see the magic trick!  Give an older sibling the right tools and they can be a powerful and motivating teacher for the younger sibling.

Sure, it might start with just imitation of farting noises or dinosaur roars, but older siblings understand silly.  Sometimes silly is what gets the magic started.

IMG_20160919_095549

Tips for empowering the older sibling who wants to help:

  1. Ask what she does that the little one always try to do just like her
  2. Ask what she does that make the little one laugh
  3. Ask if she knows what some of the little one’s sounds or gestures mean
  4. Show her how to use a single word to confirm the meaning of that sound or gesture
  5. Encourage her to sing and teach her little sibling the songs she knows
  6. Praise her efforts to encourage imitation and not just provide interpretation

Want to know more about a toddler’s speech?

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

Looking for strategies to use at home?

Two little words to encourage communication

Where are the WORDS?

Toy recommendations?

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Toys that do nothing


Be sure to follow my blog or “like” my page on Facebook for all of my play and language learning tips!

Thank you for reading and sharing.

 

Playing with…pound-a-ball

This is one of my go to toys for speech therapy with little ones.  First off, I’m actually encouraging him to HIT something… hard!  Yes, little ones GET to bang, bang, bang (with purpose!)  That usually gets their attention.  Then the ball rolls and bounces all the way down the various obstacles… just so that you can grab it at the bottom and do it all again – these are amazing toys for interaction and communication if used the right way!

There are many different versions of this toy and most come with a hammer or mallet.  I tend to put those away until baby is older because 1) it may be too hard for little ones to pound the balls with the hammer and 2) that hammer has a magical way of banging someone in the face every time.

This is a great toy that does nothing and lets your little one do all the work.  No batteries required!

(Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.)

The basic idea is to put the balls in the matching circles on top and then bang them down.  Now, let’s add some adult interaction and language play…

1)  Babies may need some assistance as it requires some strength to push the balls through the top.  That’s a great time to model “help?” and “PUUUSSSSHHH”.

2)  A pencil bag is a great way to store the balls when not in use and it allows for practice with zipping skills “zzzzzzzzzip”.  Model “more” and “open” as well.

3)  When placing the ball on top, slide it slowly up the side of the tower and say “up” “up”… “top!”

4)  Choose your exciting catch phrase for the big event and make sure you pause a second before you push the ball down…”ready, set…go” or “1..2….3” or “push the….ball”.

5)  Slightly tip/elevate the bottom of the toy so that the balls DON’T just slide right out. “uh-oh!”  Model how to call “baaaall”  “OUT!”  Your voice suddenly becomes the way to get the ball to appear (as you position the toy level again).  This is a great way to teach that words/voices have power!

6)  Try a basic imitation game by tapping two balls together then giving your baby the other two. Invite her to try it.  If she does then tap on your knee, your nose, your foot, etc. “tap, tap, tap”

7)  Wave to the baby in the mirror (the inside wall of the toy is reflective) “hi baby” then turn it around so the baby disappears! “uh-oh, where’s baby?”  Then knock on the tower “knock, knock” (turn it around again) “there she is!”

Children like to hit the balls and watch them roll down the ramps, but the toy can be so much more!

      


Be sure to “like” and follow my Facebook page for all the latest play ideas and for information regarding my toddler play class “Let’s Play” as well as my parent workshop “Sounds to Sentences.”


Other posts you may like:

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

Purposeful Packaging

Playing with…containers

The spatula challenge…

Say it how you say it

Silent letters, “rules” that have more exceptions than the norm, and letters that make different sounds when combined with others… Ah, yes, the English language is a mess when it comes to spelling.  Why IS there an “e” at the end of so many words that makes no sound at all?  Who in the world decided that “I before E” was a rule or that I’s and E’s together were even necessary as they sometimes make the “ay” sound like “neighbor” – ugh.  Trying to help my kindergartner understand some of these AND that “ph” is actually an “f” sound (our most recent discussion)… whew, this is complicated.

BUT, this article isn’t about writing or spelling – thankfully.  This is about helping our little ones learn to talk.  As adults we often think of a word as it is spelled.  I want my little one to say my name so I think MOMMY in my head.  I want her to say “car” so I see this spelling in my head.  I don’t have to worry yet that sometimes it could be a “k” that makes that sound.   Visualizing the word in our minds is usually ok when we are helping little ones with talking, but I often find it creates confusion with the letter T.

It’s perfectly normal for a little one to say “wawa” when they want water.  Naturally we try to help her say it more clearly and repeat back “wa-TER”.  This is the problem.

Do YOU naturally say “waTer” with a “t” sound in the middle of that word?  Most Americans don’t.  We say something like “wadder”.  Most of the time we make middle “t” sounds like a “d” when there are vowel sounds surrounding it.  Examples (read aloud): little, better, bottle, batter, hotter, later, fighter, butter, cheetah, spaghetti, computer.  Did you use a “t” sound or a “d” sound?

Here’s another issue with T in the middle – sometimes we don’t say it at all!  Read these examples aloud: kitten, mitten, button, football, wanted, mountain, interview.  Did you say “t” in those words?

What’s my point?  Well, if we want to help our little ones say “water” correctly then don’t overemphasize the “t” if you normally wouldn’t say it.  If you wouldn’t normally say “t” when looking at the cuddly kitten in the book, then don’t emphasize “kiTTen” when you model it for your child.  If you want your child to say words the same way you do, sometimes we have to forget about how we spell and just say it how we say it!

Here are some other thoughts about letters and sounds and speaking and writing…

If your older child needs to correct the “s” sound be sure to include the word “ceiling” but not the word “shoe”.

If you’re practicing T words then include the word “toy” but not “train” as we usually say “tr” with more of a “ch” sound.

Lastly, if focusing on W words be sure to include the number “one”.  Yep, O-N-E starts with a “w” sound!

Gotta love the English language.  It’s a wonder anyone learns how to spell or speak! Ha!


For more information about a toddler’s speech development, you may want to read:

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

For toys to help with talking, you may want to check out:

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!

 

 

 

Station! Station!

It’s a rainy day.  What do you do with your kids?  When I was a child, we played “Station!  Station!”  It was quite possibly the best game ever invented.

Here I go dating myself but… when I was in elementary school we didn’t have cable TV, Ipads, Netflix, cell phones (smart or dumb), electronic toys that spoke to us in other languages, or places called play cafes.  We played outside – even in the rain!  We were fortunate that the neighbors across the street were also similar-aged kids so we all played together.  We would send smoke signals when we wanted to get together.  Ok, not really smoke signals but what did people do before texting?  Well, we actually knocked on each other’s doors or would play charades in our front windows to figure out if we were going to play together outside at that moment.

Once it started raining (not storming – our mothers did impose some limits) we all put on boots and raincoats, collected our buckets and got to WORK (I mean, play, but we took this game seriously).  This was when houses had downspouts that did not go into the ground but just gushed out the water from your roof right on the ground by the side of your house.  Why is this important?  Because in “Station! Station!” the ENTIRE point of the game was to put a bucket at the bottom of each downspout (the “station”) to collect the water.  Then you would take the full bucket and run as fast as you could (without spilling) so you could dump it into the centrally located empty trash can in the center of the driveway.  Yep, this was basically a strategic game of FILL and DUMP – and it was amazing.  When the small buckets at the bottom of the downspouts filled up you would yell “STATION STATION” while you transported your bucket to the trash can so that someone else would replace that bucket you had just taken away.  It was critical that no one let a downspout be without a bucket for even a minute as you would lose precious water.  This is the entire game.  Run around with buckets, collecting rainwater from the downspouts, pouring that water into a trash can.  The big moment came when the trash can was finally filled with water and everyone worked together to push the heavy trash can over and dump the water into the street!

Yep.  That was the whole point.  Fill and dump.  Repeat.

We made up lots of games outside but this rainy day game was special.  We had strategy, we had teamwork, we had messy clothing, we had laughter… WE HAD FUN!

While I can’t exactly recreate Station Station with my own kids due to our downspouts now going into the ground, we can still go outside in the rain and play.  Most kids love splashing in puddles!DSC_0098

I get that playing in the rain isn’t for everyone, but you can also wait until the rain stops and go puddle hunting… After the rain…PUDDLES!

Still aren’t into the idea?  That’s ok.  Here are some INDOOR activities as well…

Playing with…egg hunts!

Indoor play with an active toddler

 


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