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.

Baking and learning

We love this banana bread!  In fact, we bake it twice a week and use it for any meal (except for dinner..).  It is gluten, dairy, sugar and nut free and even better, it has no preservatives and uses healthy coconut flour and tahini.  The best thing that I would pick about this recipe, is that it is perfect for little ones to help in the preparation.

Being a Speech Pathologist, I will always take an opportunity to throw some language out there.  Here are some of the language-learning opportunities:

  • counting out 8 dates (and the other child can count them as they place them in the bowl)
  • talking about cup or spoon measures – ‘one over two means half a cup’ or ‘see TBL means tablespoon
  • elicit the cooking actions by asking ‘what do we do with this one?’.  You might expect terms such as scoop, measure, peel, grind, pour.
  • and the fun one… make sure you put the bicarb soda in first, then put the lemon juice (or we substitute a good dash of Apple Cider Vinegar when organic lemons aren’t in season) in – ‘FIZZ, BUBBLE….It’s a science experiment!!!’


And here is the link to the recipe Wholefood Simply Banana Bread.  We substitute cinnamon for carob, for a change and also use Apple Cider Vinegar (with ‘mother’ – healthier) instead of lemon juice when organic lemons are out of season.

And then!!!  We add a banana and some almond milk to the leftover batter in our Thermomix and blend for a banana bread shake!


Let me know what you think!  ps – we use the 5 egg recipe (one of the reasons we have now got chooks!).

🙂 Heidi

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

Leaves give great adjectives!

[Using leaves for learning]
Today, we tried to identify what was unique about each leaf and use a word to DESCRIBE this. I modelled most for Master nearly 2. We came up with: stripey, thin, twisted, frilly, crumpled, holey, matching… plus many colours. Not only was this a language exercise but also a sensory task sitting on grass and feeling each leaf. We were also nourishing our spiritual body by sitting out in nature and appreciating what was happening around us. All you have to do is go and sit on some grass (where there are leaves!)….and enjoy!

frilly, crumpled, holey.. Master 22mths took one as I took the photo!

frilly, crumpled, holey.. Master 22mths took one as I took the photo!

🙂 I Raise My Kids is also over at Facebook! 🙂

Defining words to your child helps to grow their vocabulary

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 words like ‘new year’s eve’, ‘calendar’ and ‘humid/muggy’!
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’!

Man…diving – his vocab is growing!

Despite awesome renovations at Underwater World here at the Sunshine Coast, Master coming-up-2 STILL has only one interest…’man…diving’. Knowing that language-learning occurs best when the child is interested, I worked his receptive vocab! He now knows ‘wetsuit’, ‘regulator’, ‘bootees’, ‘mask’, ‘tank’, ‘breathing’ and ‘weight belt’. (We were staring that long)

I explained ‘regulator’ by putting my hand to my mouth and doing some diving breathing, paired ‘bootees’ with ‘shoes for swimming’ and ‘weight belt’ with ‘stay down..don’t float on top (with hand gestures)’ etc.
And sure enough, he is telling me these words back like I just taught him simpler words like ‘fish’ or ‘swimming’.
He doesn’t know these aren’t everyday words as to him they are of complete interest!!
I then follow this up with ‘you LIKE the man, you LIKE watching the diving’ to help him understand this is his interest.  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 🙂


[18 mths+] Give your child single words as they are learning vocabulary around an activity. With a puzzle, the words you might use are:
– ‘turn’
– ‘slide’ (less frustration teaching to ‘slide’ at first over ‘push’)
– ‘push’
– ‘help’
– ‘more’ (pieces)
– ‘finished’
– and of course naming what’s on the pieces!
** Remember to use your hands to define what you mean by ‘turn’ (like a turning tap action), ‘slide’, ‘push’..

And don’t forget using signs with little ones can give your child a visual reference to help them understand and remember this word.  You can find out more about ‘baby sign’ from my post ‘Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ bandwagon or not?…’.



My second vocab list – moving to 12 months

[6 months +]

After you have been through My first vocab list , start taking a look at this next list.  Has your baby shown interest in any of these items or actions?  If they have, then definitely get onto naming them and of course, using your hands to help them understand which word you are talking about.  For example, do the natural gesture for ‘phone’ or ‘spoon’.  If you haven’t already, take a look at Do I get on this ‘baby sign’ band wagon or not? which will hopefully inspire you to use natural gesture and maybe even look up a sign or two at

Remember, understanding comes before talking or signing.  So the words on this list are there for YOU to be saying to your child without any expectation for them to copy you back for a fair while.  Particularly if you are starting to model these words when your baby is just starting to take notice of these things.  Once you can safely say yes they definitely know what a particular word means, only then would you start wondering if they might say it/sign it.

Okay, so here is the next vocabulary list to think about!

  • stop/go – these are almost always ideal to be taught together. For example, stop/go tickles, swing, spinning in your arms, cause effect toys.  Natural gesture or look at for ‘go’ sign
  • keys/door handle/remote control/door – all of these can be attractive to little ones, especially those that like to ‘figure things out’.  They might not be meant for them, but still give them the word anyway.  We shortened ‘remote control’ to ‘remote’
  • phone – a natural gesture could be your baby’s first ‘sign’
  • bird/dog/cat – the family pet.  Although it might be strange, it is good to teach your child the animal name first, before confusing them with the pet’s name.  Once they have seen say other ‘dogs’, then you could start defining your pet’s real name.
  • hello/bye bye – ‘bye bye’ gets taught without thinking, but do you always remember to model ‘hello/hi’?
  • hug/kiss –  A fun game – ‘hug’ (hug them), ‘kiss’ (kiss them’, ‘hug’, ‘hug’, ‘kiss’, ‘hug’
  • significant others, including daycare staff – you will need to name each person whilst the person is standing there
  • no – use this when the ‘testing’ behaviours come in! ‘yes’ doesn’t really factor for a little bit longer
  • clap – use your hands to show!
  • sit – each time you put your child into sitting, you can name this action
  • lie down – another early action – at nappy change time or sleep time or just playing then say before floating in swimming
  • walk – does your child know what on earth they are doing when they take steps? Say ‘walk’ to give them a word for it!
  • help – when your baby looks to you for ‘help’, give them a word (and even a sign)
  • more – at mealtimes, cause effect toys, bubbles, swing etc – don’t give more without the word!
  • cup/bottle/spoon/high chair – it’s easy to use these day in day out and forget to give your child a word for these (they might not be as interested in the bowl for awhile but why not label that too?)
  • pram/stroller – again, one you can forget easily but is used regularly
  • play – define play as say when you put your baby onto the floor and use a few toys to show them ‘play’. This can then be used ‘eat then play’, ‘home then play’.  You could alternatively use the phrase ‘time for play’
  • sleep – define when you put them into the cot or even in preparation as ‘time for sleep’
  • poo – recognised before ‘wee’, mostly because we don’t notice them weeing
  • cereal – why not name their breakfast – a generic term is good at first
  • milk – breastfeed, formula or even if they take notice of it in their cereal
  • sandwich/toast – easier to learn a specific food before ‘lunch’/’breakfast’ etc
  • yoghurt – or other main snack
  • swimming – remember to name at the pool and also in the pool
  • kick/paddle – you should be saying the word as you show them the action
  • find the wall/get out – hopefully you are using these terms as you help your little one to the side so if something ever happened, they would understand someone saying these words to them
  • rain – on the windscreen and take them out to experience a few drops and to link in ‘incy wincy spider’
  • come – do as many natural gestures as you need!
sit! play!

sit! play!

Once your child understands all of the words from these first two vocabulary lists, you will realise pretty much every main part of their day you will now be able to talk to them about.  And all of this talking helps them to understand what is happening in their day (say when you’re waiting in line at Medicare), gives you a way to distract them (look bird!) or keep them in the loop with the next activity in the day.  All before they are 12 months old!  And this leads to the snowball effect of communication development where the more you interact with them, the more they learn and interact with you, which causes you to interact with them more!  And the brain develops plenty of fantastic neural pathways 🙂

For example:

– cereal.. finished cereal.. bye bye

– high chair then eat

– wait!! mummy change nappy… then finished…look fan..and light

– say byebye nanna….kiss

– hello bird!

– hat on.. then swing

– mummy and Jake wait.. look clock!

– go in car… to shops

– Daddy come home… in car… broom broom

– car..take Lisa daycare

One idea is to print these two vocab lists and pin them to your fridge to remind everyone in the house the words to focus on and to then use them to your advantage when your little one does understand them.  Try not to use too many words in between the vocabulary words at first.  It’s better to leave a pause than to add more words (for example, ‘go in car…to shops’, instead of ‘we’re going in the car to the shops’).  Talking like this takes practice so the sooner you start the better you will get at doing it!

If you are reading this and realising your baby has already learnt most of these, you will realise how quickly this period of learning these words can come and go.  All babies will learn to understand and then use these words, even without your specific help.  But remember, when learning a second language, it is always MUCH easier to learn new words when:

  • someone takes the time to teach you single words, whilst using their hands to convey more meaning
  • repeats the words often to save your brain doing all the work
  • acknowledges you when you have looked at/pointed to/found the item they just said
  • acknowledges you when you have said the correct word in the correct situation

For more information on the concept of teaching words to a baby is like learning another language, take a look at Getting thrown into a new language is not easy.

Otherwise, please pass this onto anyone you know that has a child under 12 months!

🙂 Remember to check out I raise my kids on facebook where many more posts are put up there! 🙂

Can you stomach Spot?

[9mths +] Ahhhh Spot, you can drive me to drink, BUT you do provide some valuable moments to teach language! If you have any Spot books on your shelf, here are some good reasons to use them:
– they have flaps-this will get a young or anti-books child interested a bit more
– the pictures include many everyday objects for you to point and name (it’s not always easy to find books that have this, short of the single picture baby books)
– it is based around everyday activities your little one is bound to know or will soon experience
– it is easy to re tell the story in words your little one understands and avoid the bigger words in the story (eg ‘spoil’, ‘overboard’)
– you can always use the story to extend your child’s vocab when they are ready
– seeing the same characters in the next book will entice your little one a bit more

Note: to begin with, I first defined the word ‘dog’ by only using this word in place of the dog names, then started saying ‘dog, Spot’, ‘daddy dog’, to introduce the names.
And by the time your child is 2.5/3 yrs, there are MUCH better books to be pulling off the shelf!

Spot, Spot, Spot

Spot, Spot, Spot