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September 2015

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Making "Book Time" Fun

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Research tells us that early experiences with books have an incredibly significant impact on a child’s language and learning. Many of us know that books are a great way for children to learn new vocabulary words and begin to learn about letters and words. Furthermore, book-sharing experiences early on can create positive feelings toward books. Think about it: your child is cuddled in your lap, with your full attention, interacting with you, his loving caregiver!  The positive emotional experience promotes a love of book, one that can carry on into the school years and beyond. Here are some tips for making “book time” a fun time for toddlers:     Choose books that are visually simple. Look at the illustrations on the pages. Are they very busy with a lot of details? This might be too much visual information for a young child. I like starting out with board books that have a few pictures on each page, preferably brightly-colored photo-style pictures of objects that are familiar to a child. The “Bright Baby” series is a good example.   Choose books with simple language. Young children respond best to books with few words, and better yet, repetition throughout the book. A favorite of mine is “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?” by Eric Carle.  The beautiful, brightly colored images on each page, combined with the simple, repetitive language, make it a great choice.   Books whose words have a natural cadence or rhythm are enticing to children. For young children who might not be ready to attend to the words in a book, this rhythm or cadence can be an attractive quality. Try to read the book with this quality in your voice.  Another favorite of mine is “Moo Baa La La La” by Sandra Boynton.   There’s no need to ask a lot of questions. For some children, asking questions or trying to have them name pictures or repeat your words can turn the experience into a negative one. This is particularly true for children with delayed speech, language, and/or cognitive skills. It is perfectly okay for your child to remain silent!  It is better to have the child engaged non-verbally than to pressure him/her into talking. How can you do this?  Point out and name pictures.  Instead of asking a question, rephrase it as a comment:  “I wonder where the star is. Oh, I found it!”   Follow your child’s lead. Name the pictures he or she points to.  If your child is not yet pointing, try to attend to his/her eye gaze: What is he/she looking at?  Keep your language simple. You don’t need to do a lot of talking for a successful book-sharing activity!   Make your own books! Children love to look at pictures of people and items they know and love.  The easiest way to do this is to take pictures and place them into a 4×6 photo album.  You can take pictures of family, friends, favorite toys, and familiar objects.  Or, make a photo album with pictures from a fun outing or event your child participated in.   Try books with different textures or other interesting elements, such as mirrors. These can be interesting for children.  However, pay attention to how your child responds. Some children can get so fixated on these elements that it can be very difficult to engage them in other aspects of the book-sharing experience. This is especially true for books with buttons that make sounds. Sometimes the child becomes overly interested in pushing the buttons to hear the sounds.   Remember that the goal is to create a positive, enjoyable experience for your child. This will help prepare your child to be a successful reader later on!

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Communication Through Music

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When music casts is magical spell on us, it can impact our feelings, make us have fun, trigger memories, and it can facilitate language development. The power of music is well-documented and well understood by those who have experienced it.   In my experience as a speech language pathologist, I have seen the positive impacts of music in all aspects of my career. From infancy to elderly, music is powerful.  I have further proof of this having been privileged to work in one of the S June Smith Center of Excentia’s preschool classrooms. We have the great honor of working with Certified Music Therapist, Katie Eshelman, over the past few years.  And because of the obvious benefits of music, I implement it in my therapy and coaching with families daily.  Below I will share a few ideas for how music can be used to support communication development.   1. Fun: One reason why music works for learning, is because it’s fun. There are affordable resources available such as youtube.com or Pandora Radio.  You can have fun with your child by watching videos on youtube.com or listening to music together. This removes you from the demand of teaching your child, and enables you to create fun, silly, dancing, sound-making memories with your little one… who will most likely learn to request or remember parts of the song because they will have so much fun doing the activity with you. Pandora Stations to create for children: Raffi, Toddler, Family Road Trip. Youtube videos to watch together: Laurie Berkner Band, The Wiggles, Barney songs, movie clips from a favorite movie (I have watched the Frozen song video for “Let it Go” with many families!), or any band or song your child seems to like.   2. Repetition: Repetition facilitates learning, and repetition is much more fun in the context of song! Use song to repeat ideas and build vocabulary. Sing the same sound or word repeatedly to the tune of a familiar song. (i.e. To the Tune of B-I-N-G-O sing- “Sarah puts her jacket on, she puts her jacket on, jacket on on on, jacket on on on, jacket on on on and now her jacket’s on!”) Sing repetitive songs (Old McDonald, 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, etc). Make a song up using 1 or 2 words to whatever tune you want!   3. Gestures: Pairing movements with song/sound can often help facilitate sounds more easily, make the use of sounds more fun, and increase the child’s attention to the words/sounds. Use of gestures is also helpful for children already using or learning sign language. Singing songs that incorporate gestures is a great way to develop these skills. Songs that are easily paired with gestures include: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Head Shoulders Knees Toes, Wheels on the Bus.   4. During routines: Singing about what we are doing throughout the day makes learning the narratives and vocabulary of our routines more exciting. Any routine can be made into a song. Bed time, bath time, waking up, potty, washing hands, etc. (Again, use words to the tune of a familiar song, or make a song up!)   5. Sentence Completion: You can help your child increase their independent ability to produce words and sounds by using a “sentence completion” approach with repetitive songs.  The steps for using this approach are as follows: Sing a familiar and enjoyable song with your little one enough times that you become confident that they have learned it. Continue to sing the song with them, but begin to implement an occasional pause at a familiar part that you know your child likes. (I.e. “The Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider __pause___”) Look at the child with an expectant, excited face… and wait. If they do not respond, you can model the correct word “OUT” with over emphasis and exaggeration. And try again. Eventually, your child may learn to complete the sentence on their own!   Hopefully, you will find some of these ideas helpful and maybe even find that you will also have fun in the process of using music to help children with communication development!

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