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

5 Last Minute Gift Ideas for Toddlers

So, the Christmas countdown is on and I knew I was going to think of things I wanted to get my son last-minute. Even though, I swore I was done shopping for him. This Christmas is exciting for both of us. It’s his first really engageable Christmas and my first Christmas celebrating with a sixteen month old. I’m trying not to go overboard, but it’s hard! Here are a few last-minute Christmas gifts, in addition to my Non-Battery Operated Toy List, that I’m excited about!

5-last-minutegift-ideas-fortoddlers*The links embedded in this post will 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!!

*Juggling scarves: Just ordered these, kiddos love them! I’ve been wanting to get my son some for a long time. He’s really into pulling out baby wipes and tissues from their boxes. Guess what’s going in those boxes?!?!?! Score, no more wasting wipes/Kleenex!

  *Melissa and Doug Magnetic Animals: Just ordered these too, hope they get here! I’ve had my mind on these for a while. My son loves playing with magnets on our refrigerator. He’s also making lots of animal sounds now, so I’m excited to give these to him to play with. I like the relatively realistic look of these animals more so than others.

*Blanket: My son has now become attached to his *Angel Dear Napping Blanket. I’ve always wondered when this happened. I know kiddos develop special attachments, but my son never cared for a blanket or stuffed animal until just recently. Now he request his blanket and carries it around the house. A second loved blanket is necessary. My son is really partial to this one. The napping blanket is a full blanket as opposed to their *Angel Dear Blankies, which are small thumbies. If your little has a treasured blanket, consider getting a second. 

*Melissa and Doug Play House Toys: A nice kitchen set would be ideal, but we just don’t have room for it. Maybe next year. Next best thing, teaching my son to clean. He loves imitating cleaning after me and pushing things around the house. These are great for pretend play. I know he will totally play with this, had to get it!

*Inflatable Bouncer: My little man actually got this *Sea Turtle Ride-On Inflatable Bouncer for his first birthday from my sister-n-law, who has three kids. She said all her kids loved it. My son hasn’t shown much interest in it until just recently and now he loves going “boing, boing, boing” on it. It’s not the safest toy, definitely recommend close supervision, but it’s fun. My son pushes it around the house, stands on it, rolls all over it and bounces on it. It’s the hot toy right now, so I thought I would share! If you’re shopping for a toddler, may want to put one of these under the tree.

Just realized I probably need to get the Christmas stocking tradition going this year too! Hmmm, a stocking for a one year old…..I think I will fill it with scarves! Yes, he’ll love it! Maybe the magnets will fit, a ball, book and a banana. He loves to say “nana” when he sees them. That sounds like a pretty good stocking for a toddler to me! What are you filling your toddler’s stocking with?! Please share and happy last-minute shopping!

Peace & Love,

Molly

15 Non-Battery Operated Toys that Support Toddler Speech and Language Development

I’ve been working on my son’s Christmas list per the request of my family. I was supposed to have it ready to pass out at Thanksgiving, but couldn’t get it together. I put a lot of thought into the toys we use with our son. One, because we live in a town home and have very limited space, so the toys we do have must be worthy. Two, because I want my son to play with toys that support and enhance his cognitive development. Toys that require him to think and do, not just push a button and get immediate gratification. Three, because I look for toys that we can interact with together.

From a Speech-Language Pathologist perspective, I’m not a big fan of toys that use batteries. In my experience, I’ve found that they limit speech, language and socialization opportunities. Often times toys with lots of lights, bells and whistles consume children in their own little worlds, leaving minimal reason for kiddos to have to communicate or engage with others. Also, I want my son and the kiddos I work with to make actions, sounds, noises, music and words themselves, instead of the toy doing it for them. As I’ve been out doing my Christmas shopping I’ve noticed a lot of battery operated toys in carts, so I felt it important to share this post. Not only to help me get my ideas out for my own son, but to spread the speech and language love with littles and parents. Also to save you some money and reduce obnoxious toy and battery replacement headaches. Don’t get me wrong, battery operated toys have their place. I’ve added a few to the list, but not many.

The toys on this list are ones I recommend to support speech and language development and I hope my son gets for Christmas! I’ve broken this list up in to four groups: toys my son is getting from Santa, toys on his wish list for friends and family, toys he already has/loves, which I recommend for toddlers and a couple of battery operated toys that I use in speech and language therapy and am giving my son.

proudly-announcing

Note: This post contains affiliate links to items I personally find useful. I have not been compensated by the manufacturers for purchasing or promoting any of these products. I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using my link at no cost to you. If you do, thank you!!

What Santa is bringing my son, Shhhh don’t tell:

Little Tikes Basketball Set (Essential toddler toy! Lots of turn taking and following directions to be done with this.)

Melissa and Doug Hand Puppets (Yes, hand puppets! Had to sell my husband on these, but I know my son will love them. Get ready to make animal sounds!)

Edushape Sensory Balls (Can’t have enough balls, love the extra sensory input of these. Check out my post on The Benefits of Rolling Balls with Babies.)

Lego Duplo Building Blocks (My son loves putting things together and taking them apart. Big blocks are great for little hands and minds. You can work on on/off, naming, colors, following directions etc. These were daddy’s idea.)

Melissa and Doug Table and Chairs (These just arrived and I want to give them to him now! Toddlers quickly learn and wish to sit by themselves. I highly recommend a table and chair set for this age. It’s a great place to sit down, chat and do fun things with your little.)

Toys on his Christmas Wish List that I hope he gets AND my husband cut me off from buying:

Melissa and Doug Latch Puzzle (Any puzzle with latches and doors is great for this age. You can work on “open/close,” “knock knock,” naming and counting.)

Anywhere Chair (My parents ordered this from The Land of Nod. So excited, my son loves sitting in big boy chairs now and reading his books.)

Toddler Shopping Cart (My son loves playing with these at friends houses. I have him “go shopping” for the things I name. 

Toddler Slide (I want my son to have this! It’s so developmentally appropriate right now! He LOVES to climb and slide, but we have nowhere to put it. It’s a great toy to work on saying “ready, set, go.”)

Squigz (Awesome, awesome little suckers that kiddos just love! Talk about and choose colors, together/apart, take turns and just be silly-they stick to your face!)

Toddler Stepping Stool (My little loves going up and down on steps, plus I want him to start having access to wash his hands more independently.)

Toys my son has and loves that are developmentally appropriate for young toddlers:

Fisher-Price Corn Popper (Not sure what the attraction is, but he plays with it daily. We say “pop pop pop” as he goes goes goes!)

Melissa and Doug Nesting and Stacking Blocks (I use these in therapy tons and my son loves stacking and knocking them down while saying “up” and “down.” Any toy that stacks is good for this age.)

Water Table (We gave our son one for his first birthday and he loves it. Now that it’s cold out we don’t have water in it, but he still plays with the toys. You can also use other fillers such as sand.)

Board Books (You can’t go wrong with board books! My son is really into lift-the-flap and touch and feel books. Please make sure at least one book is under the tree for your little!)

Battery Operated Toys:

When it comes to battery operated toys, I choose ones that require communication to be turned on or have parts such as balls that have to be asked for. I look for ones that encourage engagement with others, turn-taking and reciprocal communication. Below are the toys my son is getting for Christmas. I generally stay away from battery operated toys that he can operate independently.

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Piggy Bank (This is a great toy to work with littles on requesting “more” or “money.” I use it in therapy quite a bit and I think my son will enjoy it. I usually don’t turn it on, kiddos just love to put the coins in and take them out.)
Toy Vacuum (Any push and pull toy is great for toddlers. I’m not sure how my son will respond to this toy Dyson vacuum, but he loves our vacuum and oddly enough it was one of his first words. We will work on asking to turn it on and pretend play with it.)

Ball Popper (I think putting the balls in, wondering where they will come out, then putting them back in will be fun for my little man. Of course, I plan to work on using the words “ball please” and choosing which color ball he wants.)

Most all toys have the ability to support speech and language development. It’s the person that sits down with the child that unlocks their potential and makes the magic happen! I hope you found this list helpful and that it makes your Christmas shopping a little easier! If you have a toddler on your Christmas list, you may wish to consider these toys. They are developmentally appropriate and support speech and language skills. Happy shopping!

Cheers,

Molly

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

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Toys to Pack when Traveling with a One Year Old

On the road again. This weekend we are headed to the NC coast to celebrate my husband’s birthday. He wants to go boating and fishing to celebrate. My husband loves to fish more than anyone I know, hence our son’s name ‘Fisher.’ So off we go! I pack our family to go while my husband works. Packing with a one year old is tricky, especially packing his toys. As soon as I put a toy in he takes it out (as pictured below). I have to be selective in what toys I pack to bring with us. I must make sure to pack his most entertaining toys that will help keep him busy and out of trouble. Notice I said “help.” He will still get into plenty of trouble I a sure you. As I began packing our things, I watched my son play with some of his favorite toys and those are the ones I chose to bring with us. I thought I would share to help out others braving travel with young toddlers.

Toys I recommend packing for a one year old road trip:

That’s it. I try to fit all of his travel toys in one bag. This way clean up is easy. Once baby is asleep, we throw all his toys back in the bag and store it out of the way. I love my son’s extra-large L.L. Bean bag. It’s perfect for traveling. I also throw in a baby quilt to lay out on the floor, this becomes our designated play area. What toys do you pack to entertain your toddler for a weekend away?!

Thanks for taking your time to read my blog! Hope you have a good weekend!

Cheers,

Molly

Birthday Gift Ideas for a One Year Old

As my son’s first birthday approached, my friends and family began asking me what was on his birthday wish list. As a first time mom, I was unsure. My speech-language pathologist instincts told me he would enjoy books, things that roll and puzzles. All of these items are fantastic to support language development but not tremendously exciting. I also asked for pajamas. My son needed 12-18 mos sized pjs. I’m slightly obsessed with baby pjs. Now looking back reflecting upon the birthday gifts he received and the ones he continues to show interest in and play with, I now know what to recommend. Here’s a list of birthday gifts you can’t go wrong with when buying for a one year old.

Birthday Gift Ideas for a One Year Old:

Note: This post contains affiliate links to items I personally find useful. I have not been compensated by the manufacturers for purchasing or promoting any of these products. I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase using my link at no cost to you. If you do, thank you!!

Ride along- Ride alongs are great for developing gross motor skills in preparation for walking. This Vtech 2 in 1 Learn and Zoom Motor Bike is one of my son’s favorite birthday gifts and it is a good one. I’ve watched him progress from learning to get on it by crossing his leg over it to sit, learning to balance on it, to now scooting it wherever he wishes to go. This was an unexpected but very entertaining birthday gift. We are thankful to our friends for it.

Activity walker Definitely recommend this if your little has not taken off on two yet. My son was given this Vtech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker. It has lots of lights and music. He’s a big fan of it.

Shape sorter- I bought this for him. I use shape sorters in my speech therapy sessions all the time, they are always a hit. My son seeks his Fisher-Price Baby’s First Blocks out daily and plays with it independently. It’s also great for joint play, turn-taking, visuospatial skills and shape learning. Babies love putting things inside of containers. This is a great toy for one year olds.

Chunky puzzles- Chunky and knob puzzles are very age-appropriate for one year olds. My son received several for his birthday and he plays with them throughout the day. I prefer Melissa and Doug Puzzles. I use them in therapy and they hold up well. Check out my tip for keeping up with puzzle pieces here.

Pots & pans/kitchen tools- My son’s grandparents gave him these Melissa and Doug Pots and Pans. What a great idea! Yes they are loud and noisy, but dearly loved and frequently played with. They will grow with him as he begins pretend play as well. I give the grandparents kudos for these!

Board books with flaps- No they don’t stand up well to a one year old’s wrath, but they love them. My son looks at his Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell and Karen Katz’s lift-the-flap books multiple times a day. You can’t go wrong giving books. Sign and give a book instead of a card!!

Balls, trucks and cars- Anything that rolls is attractive to most one year olds and makes for a good gift. Sensory balls with different surface textures are fun. I was excited that my son got this School Bus with students. We sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ most everyday while playing with it.

Bubbles- Who doesn’t love bubbles?!?!

Stacking cups/blocks- My son loves stacking and knocking down things which is very typical of one year olds. Most any toy that stacks is going to be fun for this age. I bought my son these Melissa and Doug Nesting and Stacking Blocks. You can often find them at TJ Maxx.

Musical instruments- Yes, I said it. One year olds love movers, bangers and shakers. My son enjoys playing with this Melissa and Doug Band in a Box that he received. You can usually find these at TJ Maxx as well.

Jack-in-the-box- If you can get your hands on a Jack-In-The-Box get one. My son was given one and the element of suspense keeps his attention and him coming back for more.

Ball popper- Not sure why, but my son is a big fan of his Fisher-Price Corn Popper. It is a fun gift that I wouldn’t have bought myself.

There you have it. These gifts are developmentally appropriate, tried-and-true and one year old approved. Do you have any other gift ideas that you recommend for celebrating the big ONE? I hope you found this helpful, please share if you know someone who may benefit.

Peace & Love,

Molly

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

 

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12 Muffin Tin Activities to Stimulate Language

Break out the muffin tin!

Sorry, I got a little carried away with the pictures, but my son was so cute doing this activity that I couldn’t help myself. I incorporate a muffin tin into many of my speech-language therapy sessions. There’s so much you can do with them to develop and support language skills. You can use most any kind of tangible to go inside the muffin tin. I use alphabet letters, rubber ducks, ping-pong balls, ball pit balls, bouncy balls, bugs, dinosaurs, most anything that is of interest to the little I’m working with. In thinking of fall activities to do with my one year old son, I decided to go with pumpkins! I found these gems at Target. They open up and have candy in them like Easter eggs. Luckily my son hasn’t figured that out yet, so they make nice shakers instead. I was stoked when I found these pumpkins because I needed ones small enough to fit in my muffin tin and baby friendly. With older toddlers, a nice variation of this activity is to use real, small pumpkins and gourds to add an extra sensory element. Real pumpkins were going to get a bit expensive and my baby would have bitten chunks out of them anyway, so these plastic pumpkins do the trick. Ok, you have the muffin tin and things to go in it, now what?!?!

12 Muffin Tin Activities to Stimulate Language:

  1. Independent play– When you first introduce muffin tin activities, let baby explore and discover the items without a lot of parent direction, just oversight
  2. Joint play– Simply sit down on the floor with baby and play with the items, put them in and out, bang them, shake them, name items and colors- just play together, laugh and smile
  3. Imitative play– Let baby watch and learn, they will likely imitate what you do, place the items in one at a time, bounce, drop, roll, hop or jump the items in, stir the items, then change roles and parent imitates what baby does, name aloud the items and actions as you do these things
  4. Take turns– The muffin tin is great for taking turns, “my turn, your turn,” this works best with older toddlers, taking turns builds the foundation for the natural turn taking that we do in communicating with others- it’s a very important skill to focus on, taking turns also works on self-control, consideration, memory and concentration
  5. Follow Directions– Give baby simple directions such as, “put your pumpkin in,” “take your pumpkin out,” or “give mommy your pumpkin,” with older toddlers you may say, “put the pig in,” “take out the red ball,” or “put in the animal that quacks”
  6. Requesting– Older toddlers can begin to work on requesting what they want via word, sign, or gesture, for example you may say, “do you want the blue ball or pink ball?”
  7. Scavenger Hunt– Tell baby familiar items to seek out, bring back to the muffin tin and place in the muffin cup
  8. I Spy– Fill the muffin tin with different items your baby enjoys (farm animals, letters/numbers, colors) and play a game of I Spy, have baby find what you name/describe
  9. Hide and Seek– Place a variety of objects in the muffin cups and cover them with paper cups or muffin liners, ask baby to find an object you name/describe
  10. Sorting– You can do lots with sorting, you can put colored muffin liners in and sort items by color, sort colors of pom-poms/crayons/Fruit Loops/M&Ms, sort letters/numbers, types of animals, types of foods
  11. Counting– Rote count items, sequence numbered wooden blocks, or use muffin liners with numbers marked on them and have your little match the number of items to the number (beans, Cheerios)
  12. Clean up– Make sure to reinforce task completion with a friendly game of clean up together.

Check out this video of my son and I playing. I love using themed items because when you’re out and about and see decorations and such, baby will recognize and make associations. And, they will likely come out with a word or two!

I challenge you to give the muffin tin a go. It certainly won’t hold your baby’s attention for long, but there is a lot of learning to be had. Keep these activities short and sweet (you may wish to start with a six cup muffin tin especially for young toddlers) and you and your little will have fun together! Let me know how it goes.

Peace & Love,

Molly

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

 

Wine Down and Review

The condition is right, baby is fast asleep and daddy is watching football, time to sit back, relax, unwine and review. I hope you’ll have a glass with me. Having red wine tonight, nothing like it with the feel of Fall in the air.

My son will be thirteen months old in two days. He is very close to walking, just lacks a bit of confidence. He is learning to use his arms to help balance himself. He’s getting better with each step. Take a look…..

We are so, so proud of our little man! He’s working very hard! He is also busy practicing communication, both non-verbal and verbal. He has started consistently using some baby signs to suggest his wants. This is simply awesome, I will post more about it this week. He is signing “more and milk” independently and is working on “eat, bubbles & all done.” Fisher loves saying “uhoh,” especially when he drops something. This has been good and bad. He says it when he accidentally drops something, which makes us aware so this is good. But he also says it when he throws something, which happens a lot! My husband has tried to reason with baby about not saying “uhoh” when he throws something, however I recommended otherwise. Babies, especially one year olds, are going to throw things. It’s fun, it’s what they do. So I asked my husband not to discourage him from verbalizing. I would much rather him verbalize than not. I suggest that we start to say “oh no” when our son throws and “uhoh” when it’s an accident. I recommend introducing “oh no” because my son has gotten really good at saying “uhoh,” so now we want to scaffold and practice something different but similar and attainable. Fisher is demonstrating appropriate use of objects, which is quite cute. He holds phones up to his ear, attempts to use a brush to brush his hair and plays with plates and utensils together outside of the meal environment. He has learned this by watching! He is also currently into fitting things together, putting things in/out and chunky puzzles, which brings me to my baby product review: Melissa and Doug First Shapes Puzzle.

Melissa and Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle:

Puzzles are one of my favorite toys for littles. I use them in almost all of my speech-language therapy sessions. I was pleased when my son received puzzles for his birthday. He got this Melissa and Doug First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle. He chooses it out of his other toys and plays with it daily. This puzzle has large knobs that are perfect for tiny hands. Its simple and colorful design is attractive to littles. It is well-constructed and sturdy. I love this puzzle because you can work on so many skills with it. I have trouble narrowing down what skill to work on. You can focus on shapes, colors and parts of a home, all very functional tasks. Puzzles are great learning tools for littles. They practice hand-eye coordination, fine-motor skills, problem solving, shape recognition, matching, visuospatial skills, patience and self-control. Lots of good skills to work on, so make sure baby has the opportunity to explore and play with puzzles. The First Shapes Jumbo Knob Puzzle is a good first puzzle, great for young toddlers. I give it two thumbs up!

Thanks for reading and wining down with me. I hope you have a good week ahead! Until next time….

Cheers,

Molly

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