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For Crying Out Loud

There are 3 main components to bring forth language skills.

Look, listen, respond.

From the second babies enter this world, they are communicating.  Crying, cooing, body language, eye gaze, pointing, grunts, smiles, and more.  Eventually, those grunts turn into words and the crying turns into “But, Mom!”.  The point is, everything babies do before producing an actual word is communication.  It’s the only way they know how to get attention.

As infants, babies cry because they are hungry, tired, for pain and for comfort.  Parents and caregivers learn their baby’s signs and what they need, when they need it.  Months go by and babies start reaching for what they want, crawling to explore another room, and vocalizing for mom, food, toy, etc.

Throughout your day, recognize the signs your baby is giving you and respond.  This makes baby feel like a good communicator, and he will continue to communicate with you.  As you label items and people, baby will pick up on that too.

A 7 month old clings to his Momma while she makes dinner and he reaches towards a bottle on the counte, grunting.  “Ehhh, ehh, ehhh, ehhhhhh”  Mom turns around to see what he is reaching towards.  “Oh you want your milk?  Say ‘Milk’ ”  Baby responds “ehhhhhh”  Mom: “Good trying!  Mmmmmmilk, milk”  And hands him the bottle.

The baby gives mom a big smile and drinks.  He thinks “I made a noise, I pointed to my bottle, and mom gave it to me.  I’ll have to try that again, mmmmmmm, this milk is good.”

Mom didn’t force him to say milk, and she didn’t ignore him either.  She recognized that her baby was trying to communicate with her, and he was using the language skills he has.  Pointing and grunting.

The next time you are with your child, put something out of reach that he likes and see how he responds.  Respect the skills he currently has and respond to the vocalizations.  Or if you try to help with blocks and he turns away from you, that’s body language saying “I can do it myself!”

In the meantime, model language through books, songs, and everyday conversations.  Your body language is important to them too, so smile and give that baby a hug.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

And traveling with babies!

This task can be daunting whether it’s a day trip to Great-Grandmas or boarding a 6 hour flight for a week long vacation.  A friend of mine who works as a speech-language pathologist lives in the DC area but has family in Chicago and New Jersey, and friends across the country so every other weekend they are planning a trip.  Did I mention she has a 6 month old?  Not only is she an expert in communication but has great tips for traveling with a little one.  Here is what she shared with me:

For starters, take a deep breath.  Traveling with a baby can be scary.  It’s hard!  But there are ways to make it easier.  And if all else fails, turn on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and call for room service.  In all seriousness though, if things get too hectic, baby is overwhelmed and inconsolable, take a break.  Excuse yourself from the party, skip out on going out to breakfast with your in-laws, give baby a little downtime, quiet time, mommy time.  Remember, that’s all they want.  YOU.

Now, let’s get that bag packed.
-blanket for playing on the floor
-a few small toys
-a couple of books (favorites here here and here)
photo album of family members (Shutterfly has free prints via their app!
-songs/finger plays (they don’t take up any space!)

  1.  Keep a small bag of these toys in the trunk of your car for when you end up stuck at a friends house who doesn’t have kids.
  2. Lay the blanket down to establish a play space.  Do not expect baby to sit happily on the blanket for the rest of your trip but make it clear, to play with toys, you have to be on the blanket, or sitting in mom or dad’s lap.  This way, your crawler/climber/runner is somewhat contained and not all over the airport or under the dining room table.
  3. However long you are going, hours or days, give one or two toys at a time and rotate in and out to help maintain interest.  If you dump all of the toys out, within 5 minutes, you are going to be desperately digging in the diaper bag for something, ANYTHING.
  4. Somewhere without toys or baby is over it?  Chances are there are plenty of non-toys within your reach.  Empty water bottles, Tupperware, coasters, deck of cards, plastic cups for stacking/building/knocking down, tinfoil balls, basically anything in the kitchen that isn’t a knife.  (Pro tip – check out the junk drawer)

 

Airplanes:

Keeping a baby/toddler/adult happy and busy on a flight can be the most intimidating task of all.  Have you ever sat still for an entire flight?  NO.  Neither can your baby.  The same activities listed above can work.  In addition, toddlers can be kept occupied for a tad longer but do require some more advanced activities then a simple rattle.  Here are some options when you have SnakesToddlers on a Plane, or anywhere else (doctors office, extended car ride, restaurant).  Maybe you will even be lucky enough to board a plane where the passengers actually cheer on a crying baby.

-Notebook, stickers, crayons
Use an old wipes container as a travel art case.
Glue a dry erase or chalk board to the inside of the lid if you are crafty.
Pro tip – triangle crayons.  No rolling.
-Window clings if you are lucky enough to have a window seat.
Or stick them on the tray table.
-Play dough
-Toy cars/trucks and masking tape to make a road map across the tray table
-Snacks.  Snacks.  Snacks.  Snacks.  Snacks. Aren’t we all happier when we are eating?
-If you are lucky to be flying with a companion, and both of you are feeling brave,  choose seats away from one another.  This way you can trade off.  One person can get some quiet, and the surrounding passengers get a break as well.

Last but not least, you can do it.  There is always an end in sight.  Just like labor.  And if your child cries, so what!  Just remember, you set the tone.  If you are stressed, everyone else will feel it.  So try to have fun wherever you are.  It’s a vacation!  And don’t pass up the time for relatives to pitch in and help!

Happy Traveling!

Art for the Ages

You talked, we listened!  Here are some easy art activities to do with the wee ones.  They also carry over to simple art activities for toddlers.  Remember, just because they are capable of more, doesn’t mean its going to be any easier for you.  Keep all of your activities simple, no matter the age, and everyone will be a lot happier.  Try a project with 18 steps where it has to dry and then you peel it off and then add glue to the corner aaaaaannnnddd the two year old is eating a googly eye.  Simplify with these easy activities:

 

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  1. Ball Painting: Get the smock out.  Roll a ball through paint.
  2. Shake Paint: Place paper in any container/box with a lid.  Add a few drops of paint, any small objects (marbles, golf balls etc).  Put the lid on and shake it up!
  3. Paper and Plastic: Similar to above, squeeze a few drops of paint on a piece of paper.  Carefully place paper in a large ziplock bag.  Seal and seal again with packaging tape.  If you are afraid of baby biting plastic, double bag.  Tape to the floor for tummy time, to the wall for those learning to pull themselves up.
  4. Sensory Bags:  Fill a ziplock bag with oil (baby, veggie, canola, etc) and a few drops of food coloring.  Double bag and seal with packaging tape.  Let baby squeeze and poke away.
  5. Mess Free Baby Bubble Wrap: Drops of paint on paper.  Tape bubble wrap over top.  Again, place on the floor for tummy timers, on the wall for walkers.

 

These too!
Picasso: Place a few drops of paint on a canvas.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Let baby create a masterpiece for the museum.

Car paint:  Cars or plastic animals, let baby drive cars through paint blobs on  black paper.

Animals in mud:  Sprinkle hot chocolate powder on paper.  Spritz with water to make a paste.  Use plastic animals to “get dirty”!

Edible Fingerpaint:
yogurt
cocoa powder + water
strawberry preserves
squashed blueberries
pureed baby food ( orange- carrots, green-peas, etc)

Have the wipes ready, and have fun!

Now, go play!

An Adele song IRL.

We all know toddlers have feelings.  Strong feelings.  And they are not afraid to show you just how they are feeling.  But did you know infants experience anger, fear, hopelessness, and happiness too?  New research shows babies as young as just a few months old have feelings that most adults still have a hard time dealing with.  Talking about these feelings and teaching ways to manage them can help to reduce breakdowns, tantrums, and resentment.

Think about it – if someone takes your phone in them middle of a call, your cable stops working in the middle of the Bachelor finale, your mom questions your parenting, a friend ditches plans last minute, you are on your way to a root canal, your significant other received a promotion at work, all of these scenarios elicit feelings.  Which, as an adult, you react to.  Or you don’t.  You decide based on the circumstance and the repercussions.   Babies and toddlers just react.  And that’s okay.  The important thing to do is  acknowledge their feelings and teach an appropriate reaction.

A newborn is hungry and mom is in the shower.
A 4 month old is stuck on her belly and wants to roll over.
A toddler: “BUT I WANTED THE RED BOWL!”.
If what your child wants is out of the question ie. the bottle is warming or the red bowl is non existent, explain that, even to a newborn!  YOU are their rock, they trust you.

“I know you really want your milk but it’s heating up, we have to wait.  Look, see it in the hot water.  Feel the cup, it’s warm.”

“I don’t have a red bowl, I have this blue bowl or the white one, let’s look in the cabinet to see if we can find a red one…nope I don’t see one.  Maybe we can draw a picture with a red crayon.”

It may seem silly but labeling the feeling in the early months will help a child to recognize it later on and  he will be better equipped with strategies to deal with the feeling in a positive way.  Never ignore anger, or punish a child for expressing emotions.  By embracing feelings and providing skills to manage expression creates healthy habits over time.

 

Surprise!

Whatcha got there mom?

Here is an easy activity to promote language, motor skills, turn taking, imagination, and sensory skills.

Pull out a large box, container, bowl, or brown bag.  Take a walk around the house and gather random items/toys.  You can do this with or without baby.

Bring the box back to the family room and dump the contents on the floor.  Make a big deal: Hold it up high and count down, “Ready? Here it comes!  3….2….1!!!!!”

Take turns putting items back into the box.  Now take turns pulling items out.  Allow baby to explore each item.  Name it.  If its a spoon, stir.  If its a car, zoom it around the floor.

Pull out an item and place it on your head, your child’s foot, the couch, on the dog, etc.
“The cup is on the dog, the cup is on the dog, hi ho cherry oh, the cup is on the dog”

For infants to crawlers, pull out items one at a time and let baby explore.  Use the above song with different body parts to awaken their body awareness.

As baby grows use categories:
“Let’s find all blue things/animals/soft things/cold things”
Or name specific items to make an indoor scavenger hunt:
“Can you find something you eat with?”  “Find a ball” “Let’s put a book in the bag”

You can also do this on a walk and find “nature things”  Use them to create a nature wreath!
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Move it!

Music and movement go hand in hand with child development.  This Valentine’s Day, sing a song to your sweetheart and dance a little dance.

Lullabies – Singing a song to your sleepy newborn helps to develop a positive bond that soothes and comforts.  As this song becomes familiar it can come in handy when your child is upset or scared.

Finger plays – Songs that incorporate simple words and repetition support language development.  Wheels on the bus, Old McDonald, 5 Little Monkeys, all provide opportunities for children to anticipate or choose what comes next.  When singing these songs, pause at the end of the verse to allow your child to finish the rhyme.
“Old McDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-………..o!
“And on that farm he had a……..”
“The wheels on the bus go round and round all through the…….”
When your child responds by vocalizing, whether clearly stating “Cow!” or just “Ga”, take it!  Accept any attempt at communication to instill confidence in your child.

Movement Songs – Let’s dance!  Fast or slow, your child can follow directions to get their bodies moving and practice body awareness.  Songs can provide directions or simply spark freestyle based on the genre and style such as Latin, Bluegrass, Classical, or New-Age.
Try incorporating these into your daily morning routine to wake up the body:
“Head, shoulders, knees, and toes”
“Row, row, row, your boat”
“Cha Cha Slide”
“Hokey Pokey”

Now, get up, get moving, and go play!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Future

Preach girl, preach.

Children really are the future.  The 3 month old rolling over, the 12 month old having pretend tea, the 2 year old putting blocks together – these are our future doctors, teachers, electricians, artists, athletes, lawyers, and veterinarians.  And these are the people who will be responsible for our country.  There will be 16 million babies born during this new White House Administration.  Decisions made by the new Presidency will directly effect the future of our country, through tiny fingers and tiny toes.  This is why child development is so important.  AND, this is why creating an environment that supports child development is even more important.

When you provide shelter, food, and love for a baby, he grows.  When you provide a relationship for a baby, he learns.  He learns trust, confidence, and that he is valued.  He is on his way to becoming a tiny adult.  Playing with your child is the easiest way to build a positive relationship and it WILL shape who they will become.

Now is the time to invest in the little things.  Endorse programs that provide support for parents, communities, and access to affordable child care and medical services.  No matter what side of the line you fall on, red or blue, children have neither right or left wing stance.  All they know is, they want to play.  And they want to play with you.

Sit down.  Turn off your phone.  Have a tea party.  Read a book.  Drive a toy car across your leg.  Now, go play.