Helping your child to talk – take the time

[from 6 mths]

Just like with reading, exposure to words does all add up to the ‘more you put in, the more you get back’. Picture two children at a cafe.  The first child’s parents get on with their coffee, smile at the baby and give it a few toys.  The second child’s parents label what the child is looking at, playing with and even take the time to point out say a dog or a bus going past.

Then take this scenario to the shopping trolley, driving in the car, in the bath, while you’ve got visitors and out in the pram.  It takes more effort but you will be sure to have a child with a larger vocabulary and stronger relationship with you than those little ones who have spent more time by themselves.

Where am I going today Mummy?

[9 months+] Have you started defining the different places your little one goes?  This means saying the word and showing them by pointing or with gestures ‘at the time’.
For example, when you arrive at daycare say at the front gate, ‘daycare’, point, ‘daycare’.  Repetition is good!  Extend this to ‘granny and pop’s’ at the front of their house or ‘play group’, ‘shops’, ‘home’, when you arrive.  Be sure your little one pairs the word with the correct meaning.

Short term goal – Soon you’ll be able to say this word prior to going there and seeing if your little one gives you recognition that they understand.

Longer term goal – You’ll be able to let your little one know every place they are going to before you get in the car or leave the house.

I know I’d want to know where I was going each time I was being taken out of the house and also when I was going home.


The key is to define define define every place you go to first!

Autism inspired me to learn more

Autism is where my interest in child development started.  A child with autism (or ASD) isn’t quite like us, but yet can possess some unbelievably amazing skills.  I have met parents of children with autism who have shown me what it means to ‘do all that it takes’ for their child & then deal with others questioning that.
Children with autism have difficulty communicating, playing, processing sensory information and understanding the social norms the rest of us just ‘get’.  Once you learn about where it can all break down, you realise how intricate our brain is.
I’ll leave you with a little pic that really does sum up how complicated social interaction is for a person with autism.
Happy Autism Awareness Month!
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Sign of the week begins!

Well it’s on for a limited time.  Any parent who is keen to teach their little one some signs (from 6 months +), first get your head around the ins and outs at Do I get on this baby sign bandwagon or not?…..

And if you’re still keen to give your little one a great brain workout (and yourself!!!), here is your first challenge.

Find as many opportunities to sign ‘MORE‘ to your little one as you can.  By clicking on the link, you will see how to do the ‘more’ sign.  This is in Auslan, so if you are not in Australia, you will need to take a look for a similar sign search website for your country’s sign language.
At first, you will just be modelling it (like you’ve been modelling how to talk all this time) and always saying the word.  The aim of spending a whole week just on one sign is to get into the habit of doing it anywhere and everywhere, NOT to get your little one signing it in one week……This will come!
A few examples of where you might sign ‘more’..
  • more bath toys
  • more cereal
  • more (insert favourite song)
  • more blocks up on the tower…..

If your baby lets you, you can take their hand and show them how to do it.  One thing to remember… don’t hold things back from your child because they aren’t attempting the sign.  You would only do this once you have SEEN your little one doing it at least once.
If you have any other questions, please ask away!

🙂 Heidi

What do cucumbers, dummies and cigarettes have in common?

They all provide ‘oral regulation’!!
‘Oral regulation’ means any repetitive chewing/sucking which calms the central nervous system and also improves concentration.  From babies with a dummy/thumb sucking, to kids and adults who suck lollipops, chew gum (think cricketers), chew fingernails and even cigarette smoking.
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Besides the nutritional benefit, these ‘crunchy things’ provide wonderful oral regulation.  I guess you could call them healthy oral regulation?  And it certainly works with Master nearly4!
Do you or your child use any other items for oral regulation? 🙂 Heidi

Introductions to my new teacher..

[When in doubt, say it with a pen]
Today, Master nearly 4 and I sat down to do a drawing.  This happens nearly daily, as our way of working out what is on his mind, helping him to express his strong emotions and having some together time.  Tomorrow, Master nearly 4 meets his new kindy teacher.  He is very excited.  So I asked him, ‘what will you tell her about yourself??’.  He couldn’t come up with a single thing…!
So we did a drawing.  Nothing fancy – I don’t have time for that.  Just a quick cartoon with the first square setting the scene – ‘here you are meeting Tanya’.  And then I gave him FIVE boxes to put something in each, about what he would like her to know about himself.
So I ended up having to give him a list of ideas – name, age, family, interests etc.  After that, he found it easy to list off his top 5 (and I’m jumping up and down that Octonauts didn’t make the list!).
After he talked and I drew, we gave each a title, such as ‘you/your family’, ‘interest’, ‘home’…
I’m sure he could have come up with some of these things by himself in his own good time, however this has helped him to learn a bit more about WHO he is and we had a nice time together too!
🙂 Heidi

You've got 5 boxes to fill...

You’ve got 5 boxes to fill…

Turn-taking rules

How do you explain to your child the ‘rules’ around turn-taking?

Here is my turn-taking cartoon strip to get the steps straight in your head but also a great visual tool to explain it to your child from about 3 years of age onwards.  Rather than drawing it ahead of time, I draw box by box and talk while I draw to explain what is happening and who is saying what.  I find it helps to keep children’s attention, rather than them seeing a page of cartoons all at once.  ‘When in doubt, say it with a pen’ includes more information on the benefits and ‘how-to’ of helping to explain situations to your child through drawing.   For the littler ones, it is important to keep your language VERY simple.  ‘Sarah’s turn then Jake’s turn’ or ‘wait’.

So let’s go through each of the pictures…

1. Use your words!  One of the keys to sharing and turn-taking is learning to use your words instead of your hands, which ends up in ‘snatching’ and squabbles.  You will at first need to model the words ‘can I have a turn?’ or for the younger ones ‘mine?’ or ‘my turn?’.  It would be too simple if child 1 (with the toy) would simply hand it over to child 2, but normally this doesn’t happen.  Instead, you get ‘NO!’.  You may not need to step in, but ‘no!’ is usually an alert for a parent/carer to be there if needed.

do you need to step in?

do you need to step in?

2. The warnings.  Once child 2 has used their words, I explain to them that they can step back and wait or otherwise ask for help from an adult.  This is usually to place ‘warning #1’.  Otherwise, child 2 will generally find ‘words haven’t worked for me, so I’ll take it with my hands’… Warning #1 usually goes ‘2 more minutes, Master 2, then Master 4’s turn’, keeping the language as simple as possible.  After a minute, ‘warning #2’ gets issued – ‘nearly Master 4’s turn!!’.

warnings and waiting

warnings and waiting

3. Waiting.  In the meantime, child 2 can choose to wait there in case they get lucky and child 1 decides to hand the toy over OR they can find another toy to play with while they wait.  Occasionally this starts an opportunity to ‘swap’ if child 1 decides they then like the look of that toy!

intervening or independence?

intervening or independence?

4. Intervening.  By this stage, you’ve given your final warning to child 1 and it’s now time to intervene.  Again, warn with words before you take out of their hands (or they could point the finger at you for snatching!!).  Keep the language simple with something like ‘Master 4’s turn now’.  Of course there might be tears and this is where you will need to set the rules for child 1 now, ‘Master 4’s turn, then Master 2’s turn….wait…’ (and stick with 2 minutes).  If the child is struggling to wait, you might try distraction instead and present a different toy or encourage them to leave the area to do something else with you.

And this is all assuming child 1 hasn’t already handed over the toy in which case I encourage ‘thanks’ (with an ‘eye connection’, that is, establishing eye contact) and enforce this for children 3 years and above. Kids have a lot to learn before manners explains when children are ready to learn about manners.

Ready to start?!  Look at the pictures again and see if it makes sense.  It might take practice to remember simple wording or to not step straight in, but a learning parent is an interested one!

You can find I Raise My Kids on Facebook and Google + also 🙂 Heidi

 

10 tips to more peaceful sharing

Come 18 months, your child may be up for the dreaded tantrums and the beginning of ‘mine’.  You see for the first couple of years, a child believes they are an extension of their mother, until through brain development, the little one works out they are actually their own person…..  Bring on Master Independence, Miss No and little Master MINE!  These once innocent children suddenly have their own thoughts, feelings, opinions and honestly believe that everything IS theirs.  It might be hard to believe sometimes, but your child is not trying to cause fights because they want to.  They are not naughty.

So how do you help your child to share and take turns, especially when other children are in the equation?  The first thing to have a think about is the difference between sharing and turn-taking.  There is a difference!  So sharing means that your child may give part of something in their possession whilst they share it with the other child (think ‘here you can have one of my grapes’, ‘you can draw with my pencils with me’).  This can be easier than turn-taking which involves handing treasured items over and spending agonising time waiting for who-knows-how-long.  For this post, I will talk about sharing meaning both sharing and turn-taking.

There may not be a correct answer, but one question I do ask is ‘how much should a parent step in and coordinate sharing?‘ versus stepping back and letting children learn through experience (obviously not to the point of physical aggression).  

Here are 10 points to think about when dealing with children struggling to share.

1. It depends on age.  The way you help your two-year-old to share will be very different to your four-year-old.  You may step in less with the older children and leave them to sort things out of their own accord.  For the younger ones, you will use far less language to help negotiate sharing (think 2 word phrases until you are sure they understand, through repetition, how sharing works).

2. Have a rule on ‘special toys’ that you will always stand up for.  Your child needs to know and understand which toys are their own ‘special toys’ that other children are not allowed free access to (think special present, comforter, favourite book).  The less the better, to avoid extra work for you and your child ‘protecting’ them all.  These are the ones you might pack away when other children come to visit or you will always give back to it’s owner if the sibling manages to get hold!

3. Teach the concept ‘wait’.  Waiting is a very hard concept for a young child to grasp as it happens in many different scenarios (think waiting in line at the post office, waiting for dinner, waiting for a turn on the swing) and it is nearly always for a different length in time.  Sometimes it’s not even clear to the child when waiting has finished (unless you signal ‘finished waiting’).  Learning and defining the sign ‘wait’ (click on hyperlink to see) can be ideal as you will most likely be signing this for a while to come in many scenarios, especially in turn-taking and even when you can’t talk (think mouth full, on the phone).  Signing can also help to distract your child.

4.  Have a rule about ‘no touching’ (snatching) when another child has their hands on a toy and ‘use your words’ instead.  You can reinforce this even for the youngest ones by helping your child to take their hands off the toy being used and model ‘mine?’ (placing their hand on their chest can be a good natural gesture (my/mine) to reinforce the concept).  This is when you sign ‘wait’.  Part 2 of this post will go into more about what to do when the other child says ‘no!’.

5. Ensure a consistent waiting time for each child.  If there are any little ones involved, you might have to stick with ‘two minutes’ for everyone’s turns.  Preschool kids can definitely learn to wait longer such as ‘five minutes’ or ‘until Jack has ridden around the path’ or ‘when Sarah has finished her painting’.

6. Be consistent with the language you use.  Children will share better when they understand how the ‘rules’ work.  Using repetitive language (such as ‘Johnny’s turn, Sarah’s turn next…wait….then Sarah’s turn’) helps to make each sharing scenario more predictable and hence help to keep your child calmer. 

Think about this: The child that can stop and listen to your words about how the sharing scenario will work, and understand that they will have another turn after a short period (say 2 minutes), will be more likely to succeed at sharing than the one that doesn’t understand what is happening and allows their brain to ‘flip it’s lid’ (meaning they get so worked up they then cannot think straight to calm down and understand the situation).  Because of this, it is so important to pick the best words for your child to understand and say them the same way each time.

7. Choose your battles.  Sometimes it is easier just to have two of the same item, when you know it will matter!

8. The more you put in, the more you get back.  It can be hard work negotiating but as I’ve said above, the more consistent you are in setting up the rules, the quicker your children will come around and hopefully transfer this to sharing with others outside the home.  Sometimes you will be just putting in energy not stepping in and seeing how the children learn themselves.

9. Keep in mind personality.  Some children are more easy-going and yes this transfers onto sharing.  They will probably be able to let go of their turn much more easily than the persistent child that digs their heels in and resists transitions (especially without warning!).  Not that you want to treat each child differently, but you will want to give more understanding for these persistent ones ;).

10. Mind the ‘martyrdom’.  This can be a tricky one for some parents.  Does your child really need you to step in and help?

Stay tuned for Part 2 – The ‘sharing’ cartoon strip!

Thanks for visiting I raise my kids! You can also find us on Facebook for more tips as well as posts or on Google+ 🙂 Heidi

Defining the words one by one

Going along with my post about trying your kids out on different foods – also remember…your child’s vocabulary will only ever be as big as the number of words they are exposed to.
This means pointing out words and defining them for your child, no matter how old they are! Never assume they understand every word, phrase or saying 

How many new words can you point out to your child tomorrow?

Lately we’ve been defining the Aussie 12 days of Christmas with words – snags, cheeky+chooks, meat tray (!!), rusty+utes (we found rust on our bells!), footy fans etc etc.
And by defining, you might need to actually go and point something out in real life, find something similar, Google it or even say ‘let me have a think about that one’!

I Raise My Kids is also at Facebook 🙂

Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ bandwagon or not?…

Baby sign has become quite popular lately and is certain to be a topic at mother’s groups.

The trouble is, you don’t have to be qualified in early language development or signing to teach it.  Hence, ‘baby sign’ can thus vary and be very expensive to learn.

What is key concept signing?

The ‘real’ baby sign is called ‘key concept signing’.  Here are some features:

  • it uses individual signs from Auslan (Australian sign language) along with gestures, pointing and facial expression
  • just the key concepts (or words) are signed, not the whole sentence – for example, ‘come get your hat or ‘more or finished?
  • words are always spoken as you sign
  • you might find key concept signing at childcare centres (if they use any)and also by Sofya, the hearing impaired Play School presenter

What are the benefits of signing?

Research indicates that all babies, not just those with hearing difficulties or language delays, benefit from being signed to.  Whilst many parents can only dream of teaching their baby a second language, signing allows your child to experience the same language opportunities of learning an extra language. These benefits include increased neural pathways in the brain and thus enhancing the language areas of your child’s brain.

Just like teaching another language, teaching your baby a sign for a word is teaching it that we can give more than one symbol to the same meaning (eg. flower), that is, a spoken word (‘flower’ or even a hand movement (the sign for ‘flower’).  This develops ‘symbolic thought’, which is the crux of language.

On top of having a ‘second language’, signing to your child gives more information than just saying a word verbally, which teaches them more about that concept.  For example:

  • the sign for ‘cow’, showing horns above your head, teaches the child a feature of a cow
  • the sign for ‘duck’, showing the duck’s bill with your hand, also teaches a feature of that animal
  • the sign for ‘book’, opening two palms outwards, shows that a book is something to be opened
  • the sign for ‘bath’, rubbing fists up and down in front of body, teaches your child the action that takes place in the bath

This all sounds very simple, but is literally building pathways in your baby’s brain and helping them to remember the word for next time, as it would be easier for you to learn a word in another language with someone reminding you with natural gestures (think ‘hat’, ‘come’, ‘stop’).  The sooner your child starts communicating to you, the sooner they get more interaction which is like a snowball effect for their development.

Keyword signing has been shown to promote quicker language development and definitely not hinder speech!  Here are a few reasons:

  • The adult is forced to speak slower and use simpler phrases, whilst they learn the signs.  This allows extra processing time for the child to understand the message.
  • Signing encourages establishing more eye contact and using more hand movements and facial expression.
  • A sign lasts in the child’s visual field until you take it away, whereas a verbal word comes and goes.  Think about someone talking to you in another language.  You would stay ‘with’ someone longer if they were using some gestures, rather than someone just talking.
  • You virtually only need to know a handful of signs at first, and repeat them.  This repetition of early words/concepts, thus helps your baby to learn language much quicker.
  • A baby starts to understand words well before they begin to speak.  They also start to use their hands before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Hence a child can start to use their hands for signs, before their lips and tongue can produce speech.   Giving them signs is a way to help them express what they want to say much sooner.
  • Signing can help to decrease frustration not only now but also down the track when your one or even two-year-old hasn’t developed clear speech.
  • An example would be being at the shops  and with no context, your child says ‘doo’.  It could be ‘two’, ‘do’, ‘zoo’ – but then they sign ‘zoo’ … Some children develop clear speech quickly, others do not.  Some children don’t mind if you don’t understand them, others do.  Having signs is a good back up, just in case!

Remember, the early years count.  The sooner you get your child understanding and then expressing their thoughts, the more they can interact with you, which builds up the social and language areas of the brain and of course the cognitive areas.

So can you see the benefits of signing to your child?  It is quite easy and quick to get started.  See post Getting Started With Signs for more information.

🙂 Heidi

Declan working out his hands! Signing 'finished' using both!

Declan working out his hands! Signing ‘finished’ using both (his brain hadn’t yet worked out how to only use one)!

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old.

My sister and I signing the alphabet song to Hayden when he was about 7 months old. Fun!