Race and Empathy

There are so many emotions that our country is experiencing right now: anger, fear, frustration, sadness, grief, horror. If you are feeling any of these emotions, your child is feeling it too. Children learn from their parents and feed off their emotional energy. However, it is not easy to put those emotions aside in times of great upheaval and strife. What can help to quell the despair and helplessness, is action. Helping someone in need, calling on friends and family, donating time, money, or goods and using your voice to strengthen the voice of others. We, as parents, have been committed to teaching our children right from wrong, even before they are born. But we now understand that it is our responsibility to teach not just acceptance, but acknowledgement of our differences and the celebration of those differences. We have a responsibility to teach our children not only to be kind, but also empathetic to the feelings and struggles of others. We have a responsibility to teach our children not only about race and racism, but how to stand up and speak up against racism in all its forms.

If you are looking for ways to begin these lessons at home with your child, here are some ideas to get you started.

Start early:
Babies will begin to recognize faces and stare at faces that look familiar, by 6 months. At toddler age, children are recognizing differences in people and can learn simple age appropriate concepts about race. What is important to remember is not to ignore racial differences, but to talk about them in thoughtful and respectful ways.

Acknowledge, Accept, and Celebrate Our Differences:
Pointing out differences in skin tone, hair texture, and other cultural differences helps our children to understand the world around them. Children are looking to their parents to give them insights on how to categorize and process what they are taking in. If your child points out differences in people they see or meet, use it as an opportunity to celebrate those differences (Yes! They look different from us and isn’t it wonderful that we have different colors of skin/hair/eyes etc). When we as parents acknowledge and accept the differences of individuals, we are showing our
children that our differences are not a deterrent to being friends.

Exposure:
The more we expose our children to others of different backgrounds than ours, we are helping them to create a wider world view. Our view of the world is narrow when you look at your own neighborhood, school, playmates etc. Challenge that through exposure. When we are able to socialize again, try out a “new to you” playground once a week. Your child will love the novelty of it and they will also have an opportunity to see and
interact with other children that may look different then them. Also, set up a play date with a new neighbor you’ve been wanting to meet. Until then, add to your home library and choose picture books featuring and written by POC. Make sure the characters are as diverse as their skin tones. It is important that the books you choose depict POC in many different roles, just as in the real world. Also, choose diverse television programs to expose your child to multicultural characters as well. Sesame Street has been creating positive multicultural programming for decades.

Model Kindness and Empathy:
Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling. We are born with the capacity to feel empathy but it is something that needs to be
developed. As parents, we can teach our children how to be empathetic by modeling those behaviors with our kids. Pretend play is one way to do that. By using toys to role play simple age appropriate situations of caring, inclusion, and acceptance you are giving your child powerful tools to help them navigate challenging emotional situations. While reading books together, talk about the character’s expressions and emotions. Asking
simple questions such as, “How does Gerald feel?” and “How could you help Gerald feel happy?” are easy for young children to understand and verbalize. If your child doesn’t have an answer, talk it through for them. They will be learning through your empathetic response. When children can once again socialize together, use play dates and playground meet ups to talk through emotions in the moment. Even if your child doesn’t get it at first, the continued practice of identifying emotions in other people is
part of developing the skills of empathy. Most importantly, your child learns from you. How you treat, react and respond to others, especially POC, what you watch and listen to, what you read, and who you socialize with will give your child the most influential lessons of race and racism of all.

We at Play to Grow are devastated for the BIPOC community and we stand with them as they are crying out for real change. We are listening to understand how to help and are committed to learning about our role in this fight for racial equality. We are at the beginning of our own journey in making antiracism truly part of our family’s, and Play to Grow’s, narrative and will be exploring and sharing more on this topic in the future as we learn and grow in our own education.

Here are some resources you may find interesting. We will be
adding to this list as we come across more information that may
be beneficial:
@theconsciouskid
@barackobama
@rachel.cargle

Multicultural Books for Babies and Toddlers

Books About Activism for Kids

TV Shows with Diverse Character

“Even Babies Discriminate: A NutureShock Excerpt”

Look Who’s Talking!

Today we are sharing five favorite toys to promote language development as well as development in all areas (cognitive, motor, social emotional) for babies from 0-12 months. This post is in addition to our original post, which also lists five perfectly easy
and fun toys/activities for your baby: you can read that one here. Play is how our children learn, grow, and develop. As your baby grows, so too will their interest and skills in various activities. By using simple, open-ended, child led toys and games you are
helping your baby to understand the world around them. Your child will be delighted when you play in these simple ways over and over again. That’s because repetition is part of the learning process. Play again and again; as long as your baby is interested
he/she is making important brain connections.
Listening to words encourages receptive and expressive
language understanding
Watching creates memory, thinking, and problem solving skills
Participation uses large and small muscles
Interaction encourages social and emotional connections with
you!

Blocks and Stacking Cups
Two of the most fun, interactive, and open ended toys ever! Babies are in the early stage of block play. They are exploring, holding, and carrying the blocks. For little babies, begin by using soft sensory blocks that they can explore with all their senses. Add different textures, weights, materials, and colors as they grow. Show them how the cups and blocks stack up and then allow the baby to knock them all down!  You can read more about block play here.

Toy Cars
So much fun can be had with simple toys! Babies can watch as the cars move and roll. Add sound effects so babies can hear the engine roar and the horn beep! Roll the wheels gently on baby’s hands or feet. While baby is playing on the floor, place a toy car close enough for baby to touch so they can make it move. Baby will be excited for the cause and effect reaction.

Toy Animals
Children love animals! Soft stuffed animals as well as smaller baby safe animals, such as the Little People brand, are wonderful for exploring different sizes, shapes, and characteristics. Show baby how the animals move and what sounds they make. Talk and show your baby how the monkey swings and the elephant stomps and then help baby to move like the animals too!

Boxes and Baskets
Boxes and baskets are perfect for sparking interest and provide opportunities for babies to explore items inside, outside, and under! Use smaller boxes or baskets to create a bin to explore items of various textures or colors. Use baskets to play fill-and-dump games and boxes to reach inside and pull surprise toys out. Big boxes can become a sensory bin big enough for baby! You can read more about cardboard box play here.

Edible Sensory Play
As your child begins to taste foods you can begin to explore sensory play with them. Edible sensory play is easier because baby inevitably wants to taste everything he/she sees! To start, set up a safe place for baby to play: sitting up is best when food is involved so a high chair would be ideal. You can use applesauce and other pureed foods and oatmeal, pudding, and cereal as they begin to eat more types and textures of foods. Water play is also fun at the table or during tummy time. Place a clean cookie sheet with a small amount of water in front of baby as they sit in their chair or lay on their tummy. Let them explore the water (warm water is more inviting) by swishing, splashing, and tasting.

Lastly, and most importantly, YOU are your child’s favorite toy! Play, talk, read, sing, dance, tickle, cuddle, and enjoy the time spent together!

Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele

Play it Again!

Welcome back to our “Play it Again” blog series. If you missed the
first post you can check it out here.
This series is about sharing multiple ways to play with one simple toy or
object to encourage and enhance cognitive, communication, social/
emotional, and motor skills for your baby, toddler, and preschooler. We
hope sharing a few simple ideas will make play time more fun and may
spark your own creativity!

Today, we are talking about blocks. Blocks are the most perfect toy!
They are open ended, versatile, adaptable, creative, and come in many
different varieties. Blocks can be played with in so many different ways to
further all areas of development from the baby stage to older children.
Playing with blocks provides opportunities for learning science, math,
problem solving, gross and fine motor, language, creativity, imagination,
and social emotional skills like self esteem and cooperation. Not only that,
when parents get down on the floor to play with their child they are also
learning ways to enhance development by using specific language (up, on
top, build, balance), sharing, building together, and celebrating success.
It’s fun for everyone! Before you begin, make sure you have blocks
available and accessible for your child. That way they can grab the blocks
anytime and start playing in their own way. We use baskets to corral
similar blocks on our toy shelf, but stacking blocks on a shelf to be easily
seen is a great option too.

Babies (6-12 months)
Babies are in the early stage of block play. They are exploring, holding,
and carrying the blocks.
Use a bin with low sides and toss blocks of various textures, weights,
colors, and sizes to explore.
Use soft blocks to play fill and dump games. Use a basket or cardboard
box to fill up with blocks then dump it out to start again. This is your baby’s
way of exploring early concepts of science and math.
Babies also love to tap objects and hear the sounds they make. Use
wooden and plastic blocks to tap together and tap on metal pots or bowls.
Add some drum music in the background to play along with.
Use the soft blocks to make a tower for your baby to knock down. Practice
saying “go” and “more” and giving your baby time to respond.
Place blocks along the couch so your baby can cruise toward each one and
practice those steps!

Toddlers (1-3 years)
Try the baby activities and also…
Build simple structures with blocks and knock them down!
Build blocks up and also horizontally on the floor. Challenge your child to
see how long or tall their structure can go. Also, create two structures side
by side and explore which one is bigger, taller, or longer.
Trace different shaped blocks on paper and have your child find the match.
Also, use various shapes, sizes, and colors of blocks and make matching
towers.
Use muffin tins to practice one-to-one correspondence with small alphabet
blocks then use the alphabet blocks to identify the pictures on the sides for
an early math and language activity.
Make block structures and incorporate a favorite character or stuffed
animal. Place the toy on top of, under, in, out, in front of, behind to practice
positional words.
Play block bowling by making small block towers then knocking them down
with a ball.
Begin to use blocks in pretend play. For example make a fence for the
barnyard animals, make a tree for the monkey to climb, or a train track for
Thomas to ride.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)
Try the toddler activities and also…
Make bridges and enclosures with blocks to explore the concepts of
balance.
Preschoolers are at the stage of using blocks for more pretend play by
making advanced structures for their play world. Allow them the freedom to
“take over” the living room rug for a bit as their creativity soars!
Use a spring scale and measure the weight of blocks.
Use blocks to measure things around the house. How long is the couch?
How tall is the desk? How tall am I?
Have a building contest with mom, dad or a sibling and see who can stack
and balance the blocks the tallest.
Use colorful blocks to make simple patterns.
Use blocks as dice and tape pictures to the sides.
Use action pictures to play a movement game, letters and a bingo board to practice reading skills, and familiar or even unusual pictures to practice language skills by making up a story. Each roll of the dice is a new line of the story. Your child may
just want to listen at first but will soon play along.

Last, but not least, follow the child’s lead as they build and play with blocks
Let them figure out what will and will not work according to the laws of
gravity! 😉

Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele

Screentime IRL

As we enter our fifth week of quarantine (so surreal) we wanted to talk about
creating a balance of using media in our homes. We understand that under these
extraordinary circumstances, many families are using media in their homes in a different way then they normally would. It is a difficult time for parents and children and often we fall into the habit of looking at our phones and the television to escape and relax.  However, limited screen time is important for children’s overall healthy development.  Children need to play in all sorts of ways for important brain development in  communication, cognitive skills, social/emotional connections, as well as fine and gross motor skills.
We would like to share some simple tips and activities for creating a media
balance at home. First, watch quality, educational programs when possible (like
Sesame Street and PBS kids) and watch together. Talk about what is happening and
engage with your child instead of allowing television viewing to be a passive activity.
Make a schedule or follow a simple routine (wake up, breakfast, tv, play, lunch, nap,
snack, play, books, movement, dinner etc….) of when and where television, computer,
or iPad viewing will occur. Try to keep screens out of the bedroom and away from
mealtimes and before bedtime. Be consistent and let your child know when it is time for
screens and when it is over. Your child will quickly learn and get used to the routine
which will make turning off the television screen a piece of cake. Turning off the tv can
be problematic for some children. Try using a timer they can see so your child will know
when tv time is over and let them be in charge of setting and turning it off. Change the
scenery if possible by moving out of the room where the television is and schedule
something exciting after tv time like movement activities, outside adventures, or sensory
play. Lastly, make time for play. Play is the most important part of your child’s day. We
always say that it is your child’s work and how they learn about their world and you are
your child’s favorite toy! What they really want and need is interaction with you so enjoy
those extra cuddles during tv time and then play! We suggest planning a fun family
activity inspired by a favorite show or movie. It’s the perfect transition from media time
to play time. Your child will have fun and you will be helping them to make real life
connections to the shows they enjoy.

Here are some simple ideas to bring a few favorite television shows and movies to life:

Paw Patrol, Doc McStuffins – Shows of this nature allow for loads of pretend play
opportunities. Set up a soapy tub to give your plastic animals a bath, a vet hospital with
cotton balls and bandaids, or play hide and seek with your stuffy’s. Your child will enjoy
the adventure and it will encourage their own imagination.

Curious George – Be like George; always curious! Setting up a simple science
experiment to explore will engage your child’s mind and curiosity. Try color mixing by
using empty water bottles and food coloring or ziplock bags and paint. Let your child
pour the two colors together or squeeze the paint in the bags to create a new color. If
you use the paints, you can play with the bag or squeeze some out onto paper for
painting. If you use the colored water you can add some glitter and seal the top to
create a sensory bottle!

Sesame Street – Children love those colorful characters, so plan a color scavenger hunt
in your own neighborhood! Google images of your fav characters and print them on a
sheet of paper. Then take that along as a guide through a walk or wagon ride. You will
be creating a wonderful learning activity as well as a building a social/emotional
connection with your child as you explore and find something yellow like Big Bird on
your journey.

Frozen – Do you want to build a snowman? Save some cardboard boxes and wrap them
in white paper (the underside of wrapping paper works) or just let the littles decorate
them any way they wish. Then stack them up to make a snowman! Stacking items is a
great cognitive play tool for learning. Then let the play continue by encouraging your
child to find other (safe) objects around the house to stack.

Ratatouille – After the movie make a soup together. It can be just for play with colored
water and plastic foods or pom poms. Add ladles and cups to practice scooping and
pouring. You can also make real soup or any other yummy food together. Cooking in
the kitchen with children is a terrific learning and sensory experience that encourages all areas of development. Set up your recipe and tools ahead and then let your child help
to scoop and pour, smell the ingredients, shake the spices, and taste along the way.

Trolls – Once the movie is over turn on the soundtrack for a dance party! Make it special
by dressing up in fun and silly outfits then dance and move to your favorite tunes. This
can work for any soundtrack you like. Encouraging your child to move their bodies is an
important part of development not only for building gross motor strength but for making
strong connections in their brains.

We hope these tips will help your family to balance media in your home and enjoy more
activities together. If you would like information on The Academy of Pediatrics screen
time recommendations for infants, toddlers, and older children as well as access to an
online family media plan tool, you can check it out here: https://www.aap.org/en-us/
advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx
Now, go play!
Chelsie and Michele

Talking the Talk

Social distancing in 2020 does NOT mean a lack of communication, that’s for
sure! With Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Twitter, Snapchat, and even a return to snail mail, technology allows us to stay safe and still work if possible,
visit with friends, catch up with family, educate our school age kiddos, and most
importantly keep close and connect with the ones we love.

Researchers have reported that on average we spend 80% of our day
communicating verbally and we hear about 20,000 to 30,000 words a day. But if you
think about communication in all of its forms, we are actually communicating all of our
waking hours through verbal dialogue, non-verbal communication such as body
language, gestures (you know which ones you use ; )) and facial expressions, as well
as just listening. What we say is just as important as what we hear and how we
respond to it.

Our children are learning to communicate throughout their day and it’s up to us to
teach them. Sounds daunting? It’s not. You are already doing it each and everyday!
Babies are communicating as soon as they are born and are learning from us how to be
an effective communicator from day one; I’m hungry. I cry. Mommy feeds me!
Whenever you respond to your baby’s needs, narrate what you are making your toddler
for lunch, or discussing the best ice cream flavors with your preschooler, you are
teaching your child essential communication skills.

No matter where your child is in their communication development there is a
place to meet them at their level and help them grow, and we want to share some
simple tips and activities to encourage language at any age.

Tips
1. Respond. Respond to your child at any age from baby cries and babbling to sign
language gestures and eventually words and phrases. Your response to their
communication attempts lets them know that they are an effective and successful
communicator.

2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect what your child is telling you. Even though these are
busy and stressful times, take time to stop and really listen to your child and give
them your full attention in that moment. It lets them know that what they have to
say is important.

3. Model. Model language for your child to hear. Even if it’s language that they can’t
yet produce, the repetition of hearing you talk will teach them. Make sure to model,
but don’t expect your child repeat the correct way to speak. For example: Child:
“Ca go!” Parent: “Yes, the car goes fast! Ready set go!”

4. Read. Read to your child everyday. We can’t stress this enough. Reading is a way
to model language, expand vocabulary and process feelings. It is also a simple
activity that creates moments for attentive and purposeful communication between
you and your child.

Simple Activities to Try
1. Choose a word of the week! The repetition is great for the little ones and helps to
get the whole family involved. We are choosing the word GO this week because it’s
fun and motivational and lends itself to loads of easy activities that children of all
ages love and can participate in.

2. Cars and Truck race! Make a ramp with couch cushions and pillows, tubing or
cardboard. Older children can help assemble the ramp. Discuss how tall it should
be and how fast the cars will go. At any age, children can touch or hold the toys
and watch as they roll. As the child grows they can push, roll, and make “vroom”
“beep” or “honk” sounds.

3. Ball Bonanza! We saw this idea recently on @learningwithhazel. Set up some
baskets or boxes on the floor then let your child GO! Have them toss the balls and
try to make it in the baskets. Practice saying GO or “Ready set GO!”. Toddlers can
identify the red ball or the big ball. “Red ball is in!” Older children can count the
balls inside the baskets and out. “How many balls are in the white basket?” Let
them dump them out and start again. You can set a timer and practice STOP as
well. You could also toss balled up socks or paper. Choose different colors if you
have it. For babies, place different textured balls or soft toys in the basket and let
them explore. Let them listen and watch as you say “Go!’ and dump the balls out.

4. Try and use GO throughout the week for repetition and practice. When taking a
walk, stop the stroller then say, “Ready set go” before walking again. Say “Go”
before jumping into the tub at bath time. Make clean up time a game by saying
“Go” before putting the toys away. Respond to your child’s attempts at saying “go”
in any form. You’ll be amazed how quickly your child will pick up on it!

5. You can use songs and finger plays to practice all kinds of communication skills.
For “Go” we will be singing The Wheels on the Bus, Little Red Wagon, Row Row
Row Your Boat, and Zoom Zoom Zoom We’re Going to the Moon.

Most of all have fun and remember, your child is learning and developing at his/
her own pace. Communication skills are no different then learning to walk. It will
happen and develop as the child is ready. If you have a concern however, it is always
a good idea to check in with your pediatrician.

Ready, set…go play!

Little Home Library

Right now, we all need some simple things to make life easier with our little ones
(and our older children too). We need to feel comforted and to relax. We need to take a
break from the news, laugh at something silly and get away from it all – if only in our
minds. The solution? Read! Read everyday and read often.

Reading is the single most beneficial thing you can do for you and your child.
Not only does it aide in your child’s cognitive and communicative development, but it
also helps your child to grow socially and emotionally. Reading to your child helps them
to learn about the world around them. It also expands their vocabulary, teaches them
phonemic skills, helps them focus and process feelings, reduces stress, aggression,
and inattention. Reading also creates a bonding experience unlike anything else. From
infancy and beyond, reading will benefit you, your child, and your relationship.

Now that we are in a shelter-in-place situation where we live, we can’t get out to
browse the library stacks, or grab a coffee and a new book at the shop. So we wanted
give you some simple tips to bring a new twist to your book collection. First, shop your
home library. The simple act of rearranging your child’s book shelf to place “new to
them” books within their reach will feel like you just went on a shopping spree – but
without the germs! Win win! Second, creating a themed selection of books and
showing them in a new way will bring novelty and curiosity to those forgotten books.
Stand the books up with their covers out or in a different room. Then add a stuffed
animal, a few toys, or even a simple sensory bin to extend the learning and you may
create an opportunity for independent play as well. Third, don’t ignore a book you’ve
set aside for when they are older. It just may be the right time to explore that new story.
Even though they may need some time to “grow into” a book geared for a few years
ahead, your child will still get the benefits of you reading it to them and, who knows, it
just may become their new favorite and surprise you. Happy surprises we like…and
need! Lastly, enjoy the experience. Sit in a comfy chair or your favorite spot on the
couch and cuddle up together. Let your child choose the book. Even as an infant, they
can gaze at two different book covers and you choose the one they linger on. Don’t
forget to take time to look at pictures, talk about what they see, use funny voices, and
pause to enjoy the reactions, smiles, and shared adventure of getting lost in a good
book.

In our homes, we have shopped our shelves and created a Spring theme of
books about colors, bunnies, and plants. We also have access to our favorite toy bunny
to hold, cuddle and of course hop around and a very simple sensory bin to practice
color sorting pom poms. When the weather is nice, we will be out for a walk looking for
bunnies in the neighborhood. Or in the garden, pulling weeds, digging for worms, and
getting messy. We hope you have fun too!

Chelsie and Michele

Here are the books we are reading:
The Carrot Seed – Ruth Krauss
The Tiny Seed – Eric Carle
Spring is Here – Will Hillenbrand
Colors a First Art Book – Lucy Micklethwait
Runaway Bunny – Margaret Wise Brown
I Am a Bunny – Richard Scarry
Brown Bear What Do You See? – Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
Inch by Inch – Leo Lionni
The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
The Little Mouse the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear – Don and Audrey
Wood

Let us know in the comments what you are reading and don’t forget to check in
on our Instagram stories every Wednesday at 11:00am EDT for LIVE story time with Chelsie!

Now, go play!

Bubbles!

Bubbles are a baby staple. Every baby, child, and adult enjoys good bubbles. Think about it, isn’t it satisfying to blow through a bubble wand? And isn’t it disappointing when they’re just not good bubbles?

Bubbles are an inexpensive toy that can provide endless activities. Here are ways to use bubbles and activate each area of development.

Cognitive: Babies are in awe of bubbles. “What are these shimmering balls floating above my head?” Blow bubbles to extend tummy time and encourage those eco muscles to look ALL around. For toddlers, they are using problem solving skills as they learn how to shape their mouth and how hard to blow, trial and error at its finest!

Language: “Where should we blow the bubbles? On your head or toes?” “Look! The bubbles are going up, up, up!” Bubbles make room for lots of language. Babies will communicate with you through smiles and reaching while toddlers use their words or hand gestures for “more”.

Social and Emotional: Who wants a turn? Everyone. Always. Practice turn taking with your toddler every time the wand needs reapplication. For babies, they are expressing their feelings of joy when the bubbles pop on their nose (or dislike) and it’s your job to respect their emotions. “It looks like you don’t like when the bubbles pop on you, I’ll blow them farther away,”

Motor Skills: Pointing, teaching, clapping, stomping, running, how many ways can you think to pop a bubble? Get moving!

The best part is bubbles are inexpensive, available almost anywhere including the dollar store, and last forever!

Dollar Store Haul

Wander the aisles of your local dollar store and fill up on goodies that are sure to entertain your kiddos.  Below are a few activities you can throw together with simple materials available from the dollar store, although you may already have most of them at home.  Keep them in a bin and store away when not in use.  Pull out in times of need, ie: prepping dinner, making doctor appointments, checking email, writing a blog post, etc.

Animal Bath: Fill a bin with an inch or two of water, add some plastic animals and a sponge.  Use a plastic table cloth as a catch-all and for easy clean up.  Let your little ones give their animals a “bath”.  Add some dish soap for some bubbles, or not if you have someone who eats everything.

Push and Pull Garden: Poke artificial flowers through a colander, let your little one “pick” flowers for you!  For a toddler, show them how to weave pipe cleaners in and out of the holes then let them work it themselves.

Stainless Steel Fridge Fix: Baking Sheets double as a magnetic refrigerator.   Add magnetic letters for spelling fun.

Tummy Time: mirrors, paper cups, bubbles, masking tape sticky balls, balloons, and items of various textures (cleaning cloths, hairbrush, gift bows, measuring cups, flashlights, practically anything.

Dollar Store Shopping List (all materials noted above plus some extra)
Bins/Containers
Plastic Animals
Sponges
Dish Soap
Colander
Artificial Flowers
Pipe Cleaners
Baking Sheet
Magnetic Letters
Mirror
Paper Cups
Bubbles
Masking Tape
Balloons
Flashlights
Velcro Hair Rollers
Toy Cars
Baby Doll
Kitchen Utensils (spoon, spatula, tongs)
Gift Bows
Tissue Paper
Streamers
Paper Plates
Coffee Filters
Spray Bottle

Want more?  Drop a comment with a random dollar store item and we will make an activity out of it!

Now, go play!

Sign it to me, baby!

Children are constantly absorbing language.  That’s why when your child does begin to talk, the words will come out like the flood gates are opening.  A trickle at first, then full blown word flood. Children hear anywhere from 13-45 MILLION words in the first four years, depending on how much parents talk and read to them.   So as the saying goes, the more you read, the more you know.  

However, before the word vomit, it can be hard to understand your child’s wants and needs.  And it can be frustrating for your child.  It’s not a temper tantrum or a meltdown.  It’s a roadblock in communication.  Instead of getting equally frustrated, try to figure out what your child needs or let him know that you understand his frustration.

How can I help my child communicate?  Simply by exposing him to those 45 million words.  Talk, sing, narrate your day, read, read, and read.  And one more thing – use sign language.  Think about it.  When you hear the chicken dance, does your body automatically turn you into a wing flapping chicken.  When you’re at a noisy restaurant do you pretend sign your name to signal to the server you would like your check?  And when baby wants to be picked up does she raise her arms to you?  All of these are uses of body language, gestures, and sign language!

WHY BABY SIGN LANGUAGE WORKS

  1. Signing builds on your baby’s natural abilities.

ALL babies gesture. As your baby gains more control over his arms and begins interacting with you more, he will start to clap, wave & point.  Exposing your baby to sign language provides a tool that builds beautifully on his existing natural abilities.

  1. Signing highlights key words for your baby.

Your baby is exposed to hundreds of words each day and her amazing brain is busy trying to differentiate all of these sounds AND figure out what they mean. Adding signs to what you are saying highlights key vocabulary AND gives your baby a visual clue to what the word means as many ASL signs look like the word they represent.

3. Signing engages more areas of the brain
Exposing your baby to both auditory language (speech) and visual language (signing) you stimulate multiple areas of your baby’s brain, building more neural connections and ultimately improving intelligence.

The Bump has a great article of 25 signs for baby.  These are signs that you and your baby most likely use on a daily basis and can help identify baby’s wants and needs before she can use words.  Start using one or two on a daily basis and your baby will pick up on the words and hand sign that goes with it.  If every day you sign “potty” when you are changing her diaper, soon she will be able to tell you she needs her diaper changed or eventually, **exciting!**,  when she has to use the potty!  If every day you sign milk when you are getting ready to feed your baby, she will understand that not only does a bottle or breast mean food, but that she can convey to you that she is hungry instead of crying.

When using sign language, not only should you sign to your baby, but at times, make her hand do the same.  This will help create muscle memory and strengthen the bond between the word and the action.

Now,

go
Go

play
Play!