Language Rich Outdoor Activity Center for Toddlers

Hello Speechbaby friends! It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, for no reason other than my busy, energetic, curious and often naughty speechbaby himself. Raising a toddler is many things, but boring is not one of them. Anyone that has spent time with a toddler would surely understand. It’s non-stop and demanding. I’m not complaining because it’s my dream come true, however it leaves very little time for myself. Anyway, here I am in front of my computer with the clock ticking away at nap time so let’s go.

When I first started blogging, it helped me to have scheduled writing days. I used to do a “Try This at Home” language activity post each Tuesday. As my son has gotten older and requires much more of my undivided attention, this has proved impossible to keep up with. We still do tons of language enriched activities throughout our day, unfortunately I just don’t have time to type it all out in an organized manner. However, this outdoor container full of opportunities for language development is too good not to share. Also, it’s Tuesday, so here’s a fun language rich activity I challenge you to try with a little one.november 20-23, 2019www.speechbaby.netMaterials: large container, lots of dirt, garden tools, faux flowers, weather resistant items, pinwheel, watering can, bucket

What’s more fun than playing in dirt?! I could think of many things, but it’s my toddler’s favorite pastime. As Spring has sprung, I’m slowly rejuvenating my soil and dead plant filled flower pots with new plants. In doing so, I had one over-sized pot full of soil, which of course my son kept going for and slinging dirt everywhere. This got me thinking about how I could turn his desire to do this into more controlled, functional activities. I purchased garden tools (shovels being my son’s favorite-he’s so into shovels at the moment), silk flowers, pinwheels, a small watering can (this was hard to find in little people size-finally found one at TJ Maxx), some buckets (he loves moving things to and from) and small items for hiding. I used rubber ducks, lizards, alphabet letters, shapes, seashells and fish. You can use anything. At first I wanted to do bugs and things naturally found in dirt, but was unable to find any rubber bugs….wtf?!?! I discontinued that mission and ransacked my house for random manipulatives. My little man couldn’t be happier with what I came up with.

You’ve got the materials….now what?!?! Put them all together and add language!

  • Cover the items with dirt-little ones can follow directions to uncover the items (“where’s the duck?” “find the lizard” “give mommy the seashell”) and practice naming them, make sound effects and actions with the items
  • Pick and smell the flowers-talk about colors and scents
  • Have babies follow directions to give the flowers to someone (“give daddy the purple flower”)
  • Plant the flowers-talk about the feel of dirt and the act of planting
  • Water the flowers and talk about what you’re doing, change in feel (wet/dry)
  • Dig and shovel dirt-talk about amounts (that’s a lot of dirt, that’s a little bit of dirt, big scoop/little scoop)
  • Talk about the different garden tools and give directions (rake the dirt, dig a hole with the shovel)
  • Spin the pinwheel while saying “spin, spin.” Blow the pinwheel and talk about the wind.
  • Encourage little ones to use all of their senses and talk about them. They’re going to eat dirt, might as well talk about it!
  • Ask little ones to follow directions for cleaning up when finished playing (“put your tools inside the flower-pot” “sweep off the dirt”).

Tips: Don’t place the container directly over your air conditioning unit below the deck, it will fill with dirt or let your little water while daddy is underneath the deck. Doesn’t end well….I know from experience! Also, play music while playing. 

My son loves to be outside more than anything. Being outside always shakes the grumpiness right out of him. There’s so much to look at and do. There’s always something new to discover. And, I much prefer messes outside than in, so we spend lots of time outdoors. I love flowers and plants, which is why I love Spring. Other than the explosion of pollen, I very much enjoy watching things come alive and grow. In efforts to share this love with my baby boy, I made it my mission to make our back deck (minus the grill) a toddler friendly play space. One where my son can go outside and play freely and safely without having to be told “no” for every move he makes. He spends lots of time at his water table and is really into transferring water and dirt from place to place at nineteen months old. I have flowers for him to smell, pick and water, herbs to smell and taste, chalk for coloring, chimes for listening and bird feeders for bird watching. Of all the fun things to do on our deck, this container activity center provides the most entertainment for good amounts of time-both mommy directed and independent…..yes please! If you have a busy toddler driving you crazy indoors, get outside and give this a try. It’s worth the mess! You may also like to check out my post 8 Reasons to Get Babies Outdoors.

Cheers to playing outside!

Molly

Making the Home Improvement Store a Toddler Language Experience

Most every weekend I find myself in a home improvement store (usually multiple times a weekend) with my toddler and husband. My husband is like a kid in a candy store in home improvement stores and I typically follow him around like a lost puppy. Oober bored. Flowers and the gardening section are pretty much my only attraction to these type stores. Knowing that my husband would much rather meander about the store and stare at tools for days without me staring at him or our toddler doing whatever he can to get attention, lately we’ve been telling daddy “bye-bye” and going off on our own adventures. There is actually a lot of fun and learning to be had in home improvement stores. The opportunities for supporting language skills in babies and toddlers are endless. Every single aisle has something cool for little ones to look at and explore and for caregivers to talk with them about. Whether I’m playing with my son or other kiddos, when introducing new concepts my philosophy is “I do, we do, you do.” Below are examples of my son and I doing and talking together. Have a look at how I’ve been making the most out of otherwise boring visits to the home improvement store.

Making the Home Improvement Store a Toddler Language Experience(1).pngBlinds/Windows/Doors: “Open” and “Close”

Cabinets: “In” and “Out”

Switches: “Up” and “Down”

Lighting: “On” and “Off”

Tile/Floor/Wall Coverings: “Shiny” and “Dull,” “Bumpy” and “Smooth”

Flooring: “Soft Carpet” and  “Look at the picture. Where’s the doggy?” “What’s the kitty cat say?”

Mirrors: Look in mirrors together! Make silly faces, do different actions (wave, clap, jump) and name each other, body parts and articles of clothing.

Gardening: Smell flowers and talk about scents, colors and sizes. We worked on using our nose to smell, not our tongues :)!

Animals: Take your dog along (I know at Lowe’s Home Improvement you can), talk about other dogs you will likely see and of course make doggy sounds.

Paint: Lastly, don’t forget to stop by the paint section and talk about colors. Grab some paint strips and make a color book! My son loves this color book I made him. I simply wrote the color names on the back of the paint strips, laminated them and put them on a notebook ring. I love that it shows the various shades of a color, which helps with color recognition.

If you find yourself in a home improvement store with a lingering man and rambunctious toddler(s), put on your hard hats and go on a language excursion! Doing so stimulates language development and makes for a happy husband and baby…yes please! I actually kind of look forward to going now and we all know…if mama’s happy, everybody’s happy :)! Hope you found this helpful.

Peace & Love,

Molly

Respect, kindness and love begin with babies…we must show them the way!

Crispy Kale Chips Healthy Toddler Snack

I haven’t shared any toddler approved recipes lately, not for failure of trying, but for failure of pleasing my seventeen month old son. I continue to test out new foods with my son to maximize his exposure and tempt his interests in hopes of achieving a win. This is tough! It’s a challenge figuring out what he will eat or throw. And throw he will. Veggies are by far the hardest to sneak past my son, which leaves me constantly thinking about ways to mask them. He loves Veggie Straws, crackers and other crunchy things, so I thought I would give kale chips a try. I’ve had some fails with soggy kale chips in the past. Crispness is key to making kale chips delish! I tweaked my recipe a bit, which resulted in perfectly crisp kale chips that my son actually ate. I still can’t believe it! Have a look at what I did to make a yummy and healthy snack that my whole family enjoyed.

Crispy Kale Chips.pngIngredients: 1 bunch Kale, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F and bring in your kitchen helper. Washing, tearing and transferring kale are great tasks to involve little ones in. My son loves helping in the kitchen and I let him do so as much as possible.

2. Tear the kale leaves into large pieces away from the stems and rinse.

3. Thoroughly dry the kale. I placed kale on a towel and blotted it dry with a paper towel. I’ve found that carefully drying the kale is an important step to getting crispy kale chips.

4. Toss kale in olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. I prefer using sea-salt. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper for an extra kick.

5. Spread kale in a single layer on a baking sheet. Make sure the kale is not overlapping or crammed onto the baking sheet. It’s better to spread the kale leaves out onto two baking sheets or cook it in batches than to pack it onto one tray.

6. Cook kale for fifteen minutes then rotate the pan and cook another fifteen minutes. Let cool.

7. Bon Appe’tit baby!

Verdict: Win and time to do it again! It’s all about trial and error in my kitchen. My son is totally into eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches these days, which are my default. They are so easy to make and I know he will eat them. PBJ + kale chips = win! Kale chips are a good way to get some veggies in my little man’s diet and are a great alternative to potato chips. They really are delicious, very light and flavorful and best of all nutritious. They won’t be around long, can’t eat just one. It took my son awhile to warm up to them, but now he grabs them by the handful. Give crispy kale chips a try and let me know what your little one thinks. Find more toddler friendly recipes here. Do you have any tricks to get veggies in little ones?! Please share!

Cheers to getting veggies in littles!

Molly

Respect, kindness and love begin with babies…we must show them the way!

Toddler Made Valentines

Have you taken your little one to a public library yet?! I certainly understand if you haven’t. When you have an infant that can begin screaming without warning or a toddler that will likely run from you, stand in chairs, shout or fall and bust their lip (personal experiences) tagging along with you, it can be intimidating. At least it was for me. I’ve finally gotten over my shyness of going to libraries with my unpredictable son. I’m glad I have because it’s a great place to take him. It’s an awesome sensory experience. I see moms of multiples rocking it in libraries all the time. Libraries are actually very welcoming and accommodating to little people. Most of them offer fun, educational and free activities for kiddos of all ages with lots of different days and times to choose from. They typically have nice kiddo friendly reading areas that are appropriate for all ages.

We started going to baby story time at the library when my son was 6 months old (our first visit was nerve-racking but fun) and now we’ve graduated to toddler story time. Toddler story time is really quite comical. After story time, I’ve just started engaging my son in picking out board books and putting them in his “library bag” to check out. He doesn’t fully get it just yet, but the foundation is being laid and that’s what is important! He’s also learning how we do and do not behave in a quiet, respectable setting. This is a tough lesson for a toddler to learn, no doubt. But in the long run, it’s well worth it. We want babies, books and libraries to be friends and starting early helps to build positive relationships. That being said, what about those valentines?!?!

I credit my hometown’s county library system for this idea AND it’s a GOOD one! Wake County Public Libraries have collaborated with the Durham VA Medical Center to deliver Valentines to Veterans in time for Valentine’s Day. When I took my little man to the library for story time, they had a table set up for kiddos to make Valentines for Veterans. Just seeing this warmed my heart. What an awesome and thoughtful activity for all involved?! I had the privilege of working with many Veterans during my time providing speech-language-swallowing services in skilled nursing and assisted living homes. Seeing their faces light up when receiving simple items that show care and love and when having visitors is priceless! So I thought, how can I involve my baby boy?! I got nervous at the thought of him at the valentines making table. There was no way that would end well. I asked the librarian if we could make valentines at home and bring them in and they said of course. So that’s what we did. Here’s what we’ve been working on.

Hand and Foot Made.png

Materials: 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper, fingerpaint, markers, stickers

I already had finger paints and paper. I bought a book of valentines stickers for $1 from Target’s dollar section. It always gets me! First, I folded the paper in half the long way. I like to call this the “hotdog” fold. I cut the paper along the fold using my beloved paper-cutter. Next, I folded the paper in half the short way, what I call the “hamburger” fold. Then, we got messy dipping hands and feet in paint and stamping the paper. For the footprint hearts, I found it best to print one foot and let it dry before doing the other foot to complete the heart. Once the paint dried, I wrote a valentines message inside the cards and helped my son add stickers. He enjoyed placing the stickers and was so cute saying “ticker.” One dollar and some special bonding time with my son is all this activity cost me. And, there’s nothing better than a hand (foot) made valentine!

We also made some for our friends and family.

IMG_1866.JPG

A few lessons learned…

  • When it comes to hand/foot prints, less paint is more
  • Diaper only baby is best
  • Have a clear path to a sink for washing painted hands and feet
  • Tackle this project in stages
  • Let your little one place the stickers before you write the message inside the card

I just LOVE everything about this activity. I was able to get my little dude messy with some fun, sensory finger paint play and hopefully our valentines will put a smile on well-deserving faces. If you live in or near Wake County, NC, I encourage you to take your little ones into any county public library between now and Feb. 5, 2017, where you can make or drop off Valentines for Veterans. Don’t forget to read a few books while you’re there…check out some Valentine’s Books. If you don’t have this opportunity, make some valentines to share with a nursing facility, your local community helpers or send snail mail to your friends and family. These valentines turned out so cute. They are bound to make the receiver happy and happiness is contagious! Give them a go and let me know what you think. Have you done anything fun with hand or footprints?! Please share!

Peace & Love,

Molly

Valentine’s Day Books for Babies

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I figure it’s a good time to start introducing my son to this tradition. To my surprise, Valentine’s Day books were hard to find in stores. Target was the only store I found some in. However, Amazon’s book prices were considerably cheaper, so I ordered ours and they have arrived! My husband fussed at me because I ordered “too many.” I couldn’t help myself. Besides, our book collection is getting a bit stale. We have hundreds of books, but it seems like we read the same ones over and over. So, adding a little spice to our library is a good thing!

If you follow my blog, you know that I love children’s literature and doing themed activities with kiddos. Reading books about the activities you do together helps children to make connections. It also helps children to make connections with the seasonal changes they see in their environments. You know, the red and pink hearts, lips and flowers that you started seeing all around the day after New Year’s. When babies are out and about and see things that they have read about they make connections, which builds on their cognitive skills. They will very likely begin to talk about the things they are seeing.

When seeking out books that are developmentally appropriate for my toddler, I look for simple, short, large print text, one scene per page, bright, colorful illustrations with high contrast and opportunities for naming, rhyming, counting, sound effects and interaction. Board books are optimal, but some board books are too busy and long with too much text. Books for babies and toddlers need to be short, quick reads. Little ones have lots of big, important things to do, so they can’t dedicate a lot of time to any one thing!

I do understand that actual Valentine’s Day will have little meaning to my almost seventeen months old son. But…I’m very excited to teach and talk to him about hearts, flowers, colors, friends and LOVE! Reading these books with my son daily for the next several weeks is going to help me do just that. Have a look at what we are reading.

How to throw a fabulous oscar party.pngLOVE by Eric Carle: By Eric Carle, need I say more?!?! This book features his classic illustrations, lots of opportunities for naming and my son’s favorite…finding the caterpillar on each page. Only negative, it’s hardcover but the pages are paper. You’ll want to be ready to teach babies about being careful with books when reading this one.

Llama Llama I Love You by Anna Dewdney: Short, simple and sweet rhyming board book about making valentines for friends and mama. My son loves all Llama Llama books. They are fun, quick reads with colorful and relatable illustrations.

Snuggle Puppy! by Sandra Boynton: Get ready to sing your heart out. Snuggle puppy’s mama sings him a rhyming song that’s so cute and catchy (“Snuggle puppy of mine! Everything about you is especially fine!). This board book gains and keeps babies’ attention with simple text and familiar illustrations about why Snuggle puppy is loved.

Where is Love, Biscuit? by Alyssa Satin Capucilli: Love this one! It’s an interactive touch-and-feel board book all about love. Biscuit finds a cuddly blanket, crunchy cookies, woolly sweaters and soft pajamas on his adventures to find love. My son enjoys finding “the doggy” on each page. I’ve found my son reading this book independently several times and I LOVE IT!

Where is Baby’s Valentine? by Karen Katz: I would say this one is my son’s favorite. He loves lifting the flaps and saying “baby” in all of Karen Katz’s books. We also find the kitty on each page and make “meow” sounds. This is a great board book for developing vocabulary and spatial concepts of behind, under and in as baby looks for her valentine.

My Fuzzy Valentine by Naomi Kleinberg: My son is totally into “Melmo” right now so I had to get this book. It’s a board book with a fuzzy Elmo on each page that asks common Sesame Street characters if they sent him a valentine. It’s basically a scene from the show in a book. It has more text on a page than I typically recommend, so I leave some words out. It’s great fun reading aloud to your baby in the Sesame Street characters (Elmo, Grover, Cookie Monster) voices. You can’t help but do it. My husband and I roll over laughing at each other reading this book to our son. If you have an Elmo lover, may want to give this one a try!

So there you go, six fun and interactive Valentine’s books for babies and toddlers. Reading aloud to babies has unlimited benefits. Check out my posts on Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies and The Benefits of Reading to Babies. Are there any Valentine’s Day books your little ones are sweet on?! Please share!

Tip: Keep books within babies’ reach at all times, read with them everyday and take them to the public library! 

Cheers to reading with littles!

Molly

Respect, kindness and love begin with babies…we must show them the way!

Note: I purchased each of these books and did not receive any discounts or free products for my review of them. The links embedded in this post may take you directly to Amazon for which I am an affiliate. If you make a purchase through one of those links, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. If you do, thank you!!

Using Sound Effects To Engage Babies in Communication

Speech and Language Tip: Use lots of sound effects in everyday communication with babies!

Using Sound Effects(1).pngI often work on helping kiddos make environmental and animal sounds in my speech-language therapy sessions. Sounds make activities more entertaining and fun. Making sound effects grabs babies attention and interest. Both of which are needed for learning. Sound effects also help babies to remember. This is called auditory memory. Auditory memory is our ability to take in information that is presented out loud, process the information, store it in our memory bank then recall it. It’s good to offer babies lots of sounds to process. You also want to repeat the sounds many times to help babies remember, recall and connect them. For example, when my son sees an automobile, he says “vroom vroom.” Same with a cat and cow. When he sees them, he makes “meow” and “moo moo” sounds. He learned these sounds by hearing them produced when being around the things. Once babies build an association between the sound and the object, then they can focus on making the sound. Another example is sneezing. I’ve always made a big deal out of sneezing by saying “achoo achoo.” Now my son says “choo choo” when I sneeze. Pretend sneezing is a great way to get crying and upset babies out of a funk too. Give it a try! A good time to add some sound effects is when strapping babies into their car seats. You can say “snap and click click.” This will help distract babies a bit if they are not fans of being strapped in, like my son. Also, when dressing little ones say “snap snap snap” or “zzzziiiiiipp” to keep things light and fun all the while you’re working on language development.

Environmental and animal sounds are often some of babies’ first words, because they are easy to make as far as speech muscles and coordination go. Most sound effects have stretched out, open vowels in them. My son started with the “vroom vroom” car sound by rolling his lips and blowing raspberries. When he did it, we responded with lots of praise and he began to associate the sound with automobiles. He started this around nine months of age. Now at sixteen months, he has narrowed it down and only does it when he sees big trucks, motorcycles or bikes. He also likes to say “nuh nuh…nuh nuh…nuh nuh” while pretending to swim his shark. He learned this by hearing and watching us do it. We are currently working on all animal, transportation and letter sounds as the opportunities present themselves, saying “mmmm” when smelling things and “mwah” when giving kisses. We are going to an airport observation park today and I’m super excited to make plane sounds. It’s important to offer lots of opportunities for littles to hear and make various sounds. Animal and letter magnets on our fridge get my son going several times a day.

“Wee, woo woo, stomp stomp, crunch crunch, quack quack”

Reading books together is a great time to make sound effects. You can incorporate sounds into most any book, but ones with animals and modes of transportation are particularly good. The following is a list of my son’s favorite sound effect books in our collection.

Llama Llama Zippity-Zoom

 Mr. Brown Can MOO! Can You? by Dr. Seuss

 The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

 Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle

 Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle

 Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia

 Moo, Baa, LaLaLa by Sandra Boynton

 Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

 Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

It’s never to early to add sounds and noises when you are communicating with babies. They are remembering every new sound they hear right from the very beginning. Auditory memory plays a huge role in developing communication skills. I challenge you to work babies’ auditory memories by giving them lots of different sounds to process, remember and make! Are there any sound books you recommend? Please share!

Cheers,

Molly

Of note…The links embedded in this post will take you directly to Amazon for which I am an affiliate. If you make a purchase through these links, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. If you do, thank you!

Teaching Articles of Clothing to Improve Communication Skills

Language Tip: Teach babies about clothing!

Teaching Articles of Clothing.png

Dressing babies is a big part of their lives. It’s done multiple times a day, so it’s a great time to incorporate the language of dressing. Incorporating language with the task of dressing helps babies make connections between the words and the items. This is how they learn that a shoe is a shoe and pants are pants, because we tell them. They begin to develop an understanding, which helps prepare them for what’s happening when they are being dressed. This improves compliance and communication with babies.

There has been lots of talk about the things we wear in our home this week. At least twice a day for the last several days, I’ve bundled my son up in his winter clothing to go outside and explore the snow that we got this past weekend. In doing this, I’ve made sure to name the articles of clothing as I put them on him. I do this because each time I say and place my son’s socks, boots, hat, mittens and jacket on him, he forms a better understanding of what they are. The more he hears it, the more he learns about clothing’s characteristics, purposes and functions. He also learns how the words are said. Once he has a good understanding about clothing, he will be able to practice verbally saying the words. He is now saying “boos” for boots, “ha” for hat, and “mimi” for mittens.

Teaching littles about the things we wear helps with communication at bath time, when diapering, dressing and going outdoors. Talking clothing lets babies know what to expect. For example, in my son’s case, when I change his diaper and he’s throwing a fit I say, “we have to put on your pants, then we’re all done.” This helps to comfort him. At bath time I may say, “we need to take off your pants and shirt before we can take a bath.” My son loves baths, so this gets him going. Before going to bed I may say, “we have to put on your pajamas, then brush your teeth.” My son looks forward to brushing his teeth, so this helps with getting his pjs on. 

My son also loves going outside and while I know what he wants, he has difficulty communicating it, resulting in frustration and meltdowns. When this happens, I take it as an opportunity to develop his communication skills. I give him simple directions to process and follow such as, “Go get your jacket and shoes, then we can go outside.” This works on his receptive language skills. He has to understand what I’m saying and do it before he is rewarded. He now goes and gets his shoes (most of the time) while saying “toos.” So cute!

Having a good understanding about articles of clothing allows children to be successful at the directions we give them related to clothing/dressing, if that makes sense. When we are successful at things, they are more enjoyable and we repeat them. This helps to develop compliance with dressing and effective communication. My son has certainly become more compliant with keeping his hat and mittens on, thank goodness!

Tips for Teaching Articles of Clothing:

-Name clothing as you put it on and take it off babies: “socks,” “pants,” “shirt,” “diaper”

-Name clothing as you put it on yourself: “mommy’s hat, daddy’s boots”

-Tell where the clothing goes: “hat on head,” “mittens on hands”

-Ask babies to find clothing on you, in books, on stuffed animals or in pictures: “Where’s mommy’s socks?” “Where’s the baby’s hat?” “Show me daddy’s pants.”

-Tell babies what the clothing does: “Socks keep our feet warm.,” “jacket keeps us dry,” “Mittens keep our hands warm,” “Shoes protect our feet outside.”

-Ask babies to follow simple directions with clothing: “Go get your jacket.,” “Put your hat on.,” “Bring mommy her boots.,” “Where’s daddy’s hat?”

-Name an article of clothing and have babies find it when mixed with others: For example, when my son’s hat, boots and gloves were laid out on the floor to dry, I said “Where are your mittens? Go get your mittens.” This practices listening, following directions and object identification.

-Let babies assist with doing laundry: Name the items as babies pull them out or put them in.

It’s never to early to begin naming articles of clothing with babies. You know I’ve been saying them to my son since the day he popped out. All words you say to babies helps to develop their understanding of language and how it works. I like to load babies up with common words that are in their everyday, things they see and interact with a lot. This way they remember and make connections. Around 12-18 months of age is a great time to place increased emphasis on the things we wear. This is when babies can really grasp what they are and actively engage in dressing themselves. Teaching about articles of clothing opens up a world of communication for toddlers. I challenge you to talk clothing with littles! Let me know if you have any questions.

Peace & Love,

Molly