Saturday, 23 May 2020

Encouraging Language Development in Babies and Toddlers

Today I was thinking of writing a post about ways in which we can encourage language development in babies and toddlers. This is one of my favourite subjects when it comes to children.

First of all, we can show affection in so many ways, and creating a bond will definitely help motivate our children to communicate with us: giving hugs and kisses, making eye contact, paying attention to our babies, playing with them, or simply being there when they need us.

When babies are blabbering, they are trying to communicate with us, so we should answer back, describe what we think the baby might be saying, and accept this invitation for a conversation. When you look at your baby and she says "boobah" you could think of what your baby might say and put it into words: "Oh. I see. You are looking at my socks. You like my orange socks, don't you?" (and then pause, so your baby gets a second to "reply").

"Children want to learn our language. Avoid baby talk and speak in full sentences so that you are modeling the language you want your child to adopt right from the beginning."

(Janet Lansbury - No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame). Imagine how you'd feel trying to speak a foreign language and instead of getting a reply to what you've just said, hearing something like "bla bla boo ba". You'd probably feel annoyed and would decide to keep your thoughts to yourself next time.

"We can maximize comprehension by making our sentences shorter, slowing down our speech, and pausing after each sentence to give our infant or toddler the time he needs to absorb our words." (Janet Lansbury - No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame)

It's also useful for a baby to hear you describe what you are doing to him, especially when it comes to daily routines. That will help the baby understand why you are doing certain things and also to expect what is going to happen next. Diaper changes are great opportunities to bond with your baby and have meaningful conversations. You could say: "I am taking your socks off. I am pulling your pants. I am opening the diaper. It is wet. Oh, you're smiling. Are you happy that I am changing your diaper? ...". Try to be genuine.

Another way to encourage your baby to talk is by giving them choices: between two pairs of pants, between reading a book together or by themselves, going outside or staying in (if both options are ok for you). That way, they'll feel like their opinions matter and they might not "rebel" against your other decisions.

Even when your child can say some difficult or new words, don't make him perform in front of friends or other family members (I admit I sometimes struggle with this - it's just because we are proud of what our children can do!). Asking them repeatedly "Can you say this to grandma/uncle ...?" might make them feel shy and might keep it them away from more important things.

When teaching a language, it's important not to constantly correct your child. That can make anyone reticent about using that language. Instead, use the correct word in another sentence when you find the appropriate context. For example, your child asks for the "banoon" (which you know means "balloon", you can just bring him the balloon and say "here is the balloon."

Singing is a wonderful way to build vocabulary. When singing songs and nursery rhymes, use gestures to show what the words mean. That will help your child learn by using more senses (hearing and sight). You can also "draw" the words on your child's back or tummy with your fingers - this is one of our favourite activities before bedtime.

Babies enjoy it when they are sung to. I love inventing songs about our daily routines and I sing them while I am doing those actions. For example "now we're washing our hands, our hands, our hands/ Now we're washing our hands with water and soap". Just find a tune that you'll remember and use word repetition. It's important though not to overstimulate your baby - you know your child better, so find moments when your baby seems interested in that and is not focusing on something else.

Reading books is another wonderful way to bond with your children and help develop their vocabulary. When reading books, talk about the pictures, ask yourselves what the characters are going to do next, if they like certain veggies, if you like the things they are doing etc.

Language baskets are easy to set up and they give your child opportunities to learn new vocabulary and explore objects. These can be with realistic toys, real objects, flashcards with pictures, or a combination. They are great for babies and toddlers to explore and match.

Sportscasting also helps develops vocabulary and helps toddlers deal with conflicts on their own. You can read more about sportscasting in one of my previous posts.

Try to be patient, don't compare your child to others. This sounds easy, but I know it's not.

I'm sure I've missed something. What has worked for you and your toddler/baby?


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Music and Sound

Ever since E. was in my tummy, I used to sing to her. I really enjoy singing and it seems that I've passed this on to her (I'm not a good singer, but kids don't really mind).

She learnt some of her first words from silly songs I invented for her (about washing and swinging). And not a day passes by without us singing or exploring sounds, and talking about them.

We started our day with some songs. E. turned on the music from her book, took some musical instruments and invited me to join her. We danced with scarves while playing instruments and singing.

Then, we went outside and listened to birds and the wind. There's something so relaxing about it...just being quiet and listening to nature.

Here are some other ways in which we incorporate music in our daily rhythm:
🎶 We read sing-a-long books
🎶 We have songs for routines and transitions (washing hands, brushing teeth, getting dressed)
🎶 Sometimes I ask her to do something on a well-known tune (something like "please, bring me the blue boots, the blue boots, the blue boots, please bring me the blue boots, so we can go outside" - on the tune of "This is the Way We Wash Our Hands")
🎶 I join in on the fun whenever she invites me to dance or sing
🎶 I rotate musical instruments, just as I do with toys
🎶 I will create a song bag with flashcards - I used to have one for the kids at work, and I think that E. would enjoy it too. I'll write a post once it's ready
🎶 I involve her in making her own musical instruments (from containers and beans, chickpeas, lentils, salt, corn, etc.)
🎶 She has drumming sessions with wooden spoons on pots
🎶 We explores sounds in nature and on our walks (cars, excavators, birds, waves, twigs breaking, banging rocks together)

Do you have any other good ideas? I'd love to read them! 🙂


Sunday, 17 May 2020

Flash Freebie - Number Mats for Play dough and Dry-erase Markers

I've been quite busy lately with my daughter and fun challenges on Instagram, so I barely had time to work on new resources. But here it is, a flash freebie to say sorry: Number Mats for Play dough and Dry-erase Markers (click on the title or the picture to go to this product in my TPT store).

Enjoy!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Romanian-and-English-Number-Mats-with-Fruit-and-Berries-Flash-Freebie-5587583

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Kitchen Utensils for Young Toddlers (12-18 m.o.)

My daughter and I both enjoy doing things in the kitchen together. She loves eating flour and uncooked dough and I enjoy tasting the muffins as soon as they're done.

She isn't yet at that point where she bakes things on her own, but I am following the child and letting her get involved as much as she wants. Some days, she just wants to watch me chop veggies, and others she wants to knead dough.

I made a list of tools that we've been using in the kitchen. This list is for 12-18 month-olds, but of course every child is different. You are the one who observes your child daily, so you know better when it is the right time to introduce a certain tool. It's also important to supervise your children while in the kitchen.

Most of the things in the list can be found on Amazon, at thrift stores, IKEA, or your local supermarket. I am trying nor to but too much stuff that only has a purpose (like a nutcracker), because I'm TRYING hard to keep the kitchen minimalist.

So, here's the list:

A small whisk

A wooden butter knife (to spread hummus, guacamole, or any spread on bread)

Tongs (she uses adult tongs, with both hands, because I still haven't found good ones)

Small Wooden Spoons

A small silicone spatula

Scoops

Pastry brush

Vegetable brush

Tiny brush or sponge for washing dishes

Small bowls

Pitcher

Egg slicer (we use it for strawberries, bananas, and other soft foods)

Silicone muffin tins

Shot glasses (she used to drink from these until 9 months, but now we use them to pre-measure spices)

Chopping Board

Apron (we use our large bib from #khadinedeco as an apron)

I haven't introduced a crinkle cutter yet, because I think they might be too sharp and she sometimes is not as careful as she should be.

What would you add to this list?


Sunday, 10 May 2020

Encouraging Toddler Independence at Mealtimes

Here are some things that E. helped me with this morning, during breakfast:
- pouring oat milk on her cereal (I would have let her put the cereal, seeds, and berries in the bowl, but I didn't want to wake my partner up, so we prepared breakfast in her room);
- peeling banana slices;
- peeling a satsuma;
- pouring water in her glass;
- choosing between a large spoon and a teaspoon;
- wiping the table;
- taking her bib off;
- putting the bowl on the tray for me to take away.

She really enjoys doing all these tasks, especially pouring. She's even better with her large pitcher, than with the tiny sauce pitcher that she had in the beginning. 

It's wonderful to be able to watch those tiny hands in action! Just a few months ago she needed my help with some of these tasks, but not anymore. It's important to let our children do age-appropriate things on their own, in order to master them and learn. 

Here are some of the things that I try to do when it comes to my daughter:
💕 I try not to do things for her that she can already do;
💕 Whenever possible, I give her options - I provide healthy food for her, but it's up to her whether or not she will eat it (I don't try to bribe her to eat,or trick her into eating). I let her choose what to eat or not to eat from her plate. (although at times it's really frustrating when she doesn't eat well, but these are phases that come and go)
💕 I give her age appropriate tasks: follow your child and you will know what she can do.
💕 I usually choose small tasks to involve her in cooking
💕 We made our kitchen accessible (a stool, a kitchen helper, small plates, cups, cutlery, a safe environment that she can explore)
💕 We involve her in cooking, even if sometimes it doesn't turn out perfect or the kitchen is a mess - we enjoy the process!
💕 I try to give her one task at a time, not to overwhelm her with too many instructions to remember.

How do you encourage your children's independence? I'd love to hear your ideas.


Saturday, 25 April 2020

A Short Guide to Respectful Potty Learning

I prefer the term "potty learning" instead of "potty training" for an important reason: it places the focus on the child, rather than the adult. We don't need to train children, we need to provide them the proper environment and support, so they learn to use the potty when they are ready. Rushing a child to do anything never works.

Potty learning “is a natural process that is best led completely by the child with our support.” (Janet Lansbury - Elevating Child Care: A Guide To Respectful Parenting)

Readiness is extremely important when it comes to learning to use the potty: kids need to have bladder control (physical readiness usually happens after 1), they need to know how to hold it until they sit on the potty (cognitive readiness), and they need to be in the right place emotionally (no major changes happening at the same time, like a new sibling, moving houses, starting daycare). When a child is ready, he will show us, first by telling us he has urinated in the diaper, later by telling us before it happens. We just need to trust that he will. And I bet you'll be so proud (as your child will be, also) of the first poo or pee in the potty - no need for bribes or rewards.

“We can create resistance, distrust, even shame when we coax a child to the potty one moment before he’s ready.” (Janet Lansbury - Elevating Child Care: A Guide To Respectful Parenting)

There are some things we can do to help with the process:

- make sure that all adults in the household are on the same page about potty learning, and noone tries to force the child to use the potty or bribes her with rewards
- create a nice and cozy corner in the bathroom, with some books (you could even add some books about using the potty). Recently, we bought a potty for E.'s favourite baby doll and she loves putting it on the potty next to her.
- expose the child to the potty and its function through books and by having one in the bathroom
- read books about how children use the potty. Do this in a relaxed environment, without the stress of "having to" go to the potty
- be patient with the process and know that it's not going to end in a few days, but when your child is ready and comfortable
- you can use the toilet at certain times/as part of your daily routine (after waking up, before going outside) and ask your child if she wants to use the potty too. If she says "no", leave it at that. Don't put pressure.
- cloth diapers might help your child know better when she is wet vs. dry. They absorb the pee, but in a different way compared to the standard diapers

E. started indicating that she wants to use the potty a few weeks after turning one. We had the potty in the bathroom for her to explore, and one day she said "poo", sat on it (with her diaper and clothes still on) and pooped. Since then, she goes regularly, sometimes indicates that she has peed/pooped, sometimes she tells me before and goes and sits down on the potty. She has had some nights when her diaper was dry, but most of the times it's not. I am planning on writing an update on the situation in a few months.

Do you have any other advice? What has worked for you?