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Journey To the Finish Line

PR's, 4 children, hopes and dreams; I'm always running after something

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language development

The Dammit Diamond

I’ve been saying that I’m impressed with the twins vocabulary. There are days (like today when Miles correctly labeled an octagon) that they identify and label things I had no idea they knew. 

I, too, have a decent vocabulary. Anyone who knows me,though, knows it isn’t always clean. 

Monday morning we are driving to daycare. I make a right turn, accelerate and then hear Miles say:

“Dammit.”

Ugh. This one, unlike the time I swear he uttered the f-word when he accidentally turned the TV off, was completely out of context. Great, so not only is my toddler swearing, he’s doing it for no apparent reason. I ignore it hoping it’s a fluke.  Soon though: 

“Dammit.”

Yup. Mom of the year right here in the front seat. My award is rescinded for all time. I’m just about (silently) curse myself for not watching my more colorful language more closely when Abby says: 

“Diamond.”

Wait. 

Dammit. Diamond! They are talking about the road work sign! He is saying diamond! 

Phew. Mom of the year lives to see another day. 

What’s Your Name?

You gotta know your name, so we have been practicing with the twins.

Miles caught on first, and responded with the cute playful nick name Bryan uses: Mi Mi’s (pronounced my my’s). We thought it was so cute that we asked him constantly so we could hear him say his name. Eventually, Abby caught on too. Except since Miles’ name was the only one heard, she too thought the answer to “what is your name?” was “Mi mi’s”.

Well there’s one “complication” with twins that you don’t necessarily think about.

Our solution to the problem was to re-direct. So when we asked Abby what her name is and she responded with Miles’ name, we’d consistently say one of two things:

1) “No (nicely, of course), ABBY!”

2) “What? Abby!”

Then she’d repeat “AAAABBYYY” and we figured we were on our way.

Turns out, she took us literally.

(Translation: Mi Mi’s. No. What? Abby!)

Well, crap.

Talk to Me Baby: The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Ball Pit

If I thought three months was bad before, now its been FOUR.

For those who are new to following this and simply because it has been so long, I’m creating a series of posts on popular baby/toddler toys and how you can use them to facilitate Speech and Language Development. My original post can be seen here

As with the last toys, an intro:

Receptive Language (what we understand) – this is the ability to listen and understand what is communicated by another person. In the Early Intervention age range (birth to 3) some examples would include: following simple directions, the ability to identify objects from a group, the ability to point to objects in pictures etc. In infants an example can be as simple as turning to the source of sound or responding to his/her name.

Expressive Language (the use of language) – this is the ability to communicate wants and needs. Usually we mean verbally but depending on the circumstances it can mean sign language or the use of a communication device. Some examples of this include: the ability to request objects using words, the ability to name objects (real objects or in pictures). In infants this includes grunting, cooing and babbling – all which sounds meaningless at first but are important stepping stones to using words in more functional ways.

Social Skills/Pragmatic Language – these are the more subtle aspects of language and in young children some examples include eye contact, joint attention (the ability to look at a toy, then to you, then back to the toy etc) and turn taking.

Of course these lists are nowhere near all inclusive and are simply meant to help clarify the definitions.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Ball Pit

We received this toy as a belated birthday gift.

Age Range: 2 years plus. Let me just say right now that is baloney (bologna?). The twins were about 16 months old when we got it and they LOVE IT. I cannot stress how much they love this thing!

What it does: This one is pretty self explanatory. I mean, it’s a ball pit. It is a little different in that it has a big hole in the top, two big entryways on two sides and then an area where you can push balls in or out.

Likes: Um, everything. They love to climb in it, kick their feet, throw balls out the sides and through the holes (much to my dismay). Once, Miles watched an entire episode of Pocoyo in it.

I see better this way
I see better this way

Dislikes:  Two words: balls.everywhere. And it only comes with 20 balls.  Definitely invest in an extra bag of balls. For inflatable plastic, its a bit on the pricey side, depending on where you look.

Since I really think this toy could be enjoyable earlier than stated…..

12-18 months

Receptive Language

  • Appropriate play: does your baby pick up the balls and throw them? Will he push them through the holes? Put them in his mouth? (hey, that’s appropriate too)
  • Simple one step directions: There aren’t too many choices here as far as a “give me a ___” command, but you can ask her to give you a ball, push the ball through the hole, throw the ball etc, all with a gesture to help.
  • While baby plays say “stop” and “wait” and see if baby responds (not necessarily listens, but at least responds)
  • Begin identification of body parts using the balls. It sounds like a stretch but you can always take one and say “got your nose/ear/leg!” with it.
  • Object identification: have some simple objects lying around? (ball, shoe, spoon, etc). Throw them in the ball pit and ask your child to find one.

Expressive Language

  • Encourage imitation: If you’re like me and already feel like you say ball a bajilion times a day, be prepared to do it some more. Try to get your child to imitate ball, push, throw, go, anything that would be appropriate (or you could make appropriate). Play peek a boo or work on hi and bye.
  • Encourage independent word use: pick up a ball and ask “what is this?”. Again, choices are more limited here since it is a big pit of nothing but balls, but you can also encourage words like the ones listed above.

Social Skills

  • Poke your head through and say “hi!” and see if your child says hi back.
  • Talk to her about the balls or colors. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. Responses don’t have to be real words and don’t have to make sense – you are just looking for the social aspect or the start of back and forth conversation

18-24 months

Receptive Language

  • Picture identification: throw some puzzle pieces with basic pictures in and ask your child to find them.
  • Simple verbs: you may have to be a little more creative here but you can still do it. Roll, throw, kick, push would all be easy ones to use.
  • Simple direction following with and without help – you can try without first, and if he doesn’t seem to understand you can provide help (see 12-18 months).
  • Continue with identification of body parts – ask him to point to Mickey’s eyes or Pluto’s nose.

Expressive Language

  • Put two words together. You can pair things like “ ball in” or “throw/kick/roll ball”. You can also begin to label colors, like “red ball”.
  • Encourage independent word use: see above.
  • Begin practicing verb use (and 2 word combinations). See above.

Social Skills

  • While your baby is playing, comment on what he/she is doing or play along to encourage some joint attention, or the ability to look between you and the toy with eye contact.
  • Begin to encourage turn taking. Push a ball out of a hole and say “your turn!”
  • Talk to her about the ball. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. It doesn’t have to be sentences. Even if you say “Look at this pretty red ball” and he looks at you and responds “ball”, you are still practicing  social skills.

24 to 36 months

Receptive Language

  • Following directions without help. (see above)
  • Simple verbs like the ones described in 18-24 months. You can use these with your direction following
  • Begin color identification. With the multicolored balls this one is easy!
  • Pronouns me, my, you, your. Get a couple of cups/bowls and ask your child to put a ball in “my” or “your” bowl. Take the ball and touch “your” or “my” nose.
  • Begin spatial concepts such as in/out. You’ll probably get more out than in, though 🙂
  • You can use some simple adjectives such as smooth, squishy, shiny, soft.

Expressive Language

  • Encourage further expansion of sentences from 1-2 words to 2-3 or more words. Some examples include “ball go in”, “want ball please”. You can use these when requesting as well: “want house please” “more puzzle please” “want frog in” etc. Or try to throw some colors in: “want blue ball”.
  • Yes/no questions. Ask “do you want a ball?”
  • Continue with verb use – “roll ball” “kick ball” etc.

Social Skills

  • While your baby is playing, throw some balls out and exclaim “uh oh!” to encourage some joint attention, or the ability to look between you and the toy with eye contact.
  • Continue to practice turn taking.
  • Talk to her about the balls/colors. Pause like you would in a conversation and see if she responds. It doesn’t have to be sentences. Even if you say “Look at this pretty red ball” and he looks at you and responds “red ball”, you are still practicing  social skills. At this age though we like to see responses of at least 2-3 words.

Keep in mind that many of the ideas for older toddlers can be introduced earlier. For example, it never hurts to introduce spatial concepts (in/out), adjectives (rough, smooth) or verbs earlier. You aren’t likely to come across a 12 month old who will say or even point to something smooth, but he is always learning and more exposure is never a bad thing. You can also engage a preschooler by making a game of hide and seek, for example. Have him/her find objects mixed in the balls and ask him/her what you do with it. Or work on identifying colors, using adjectives, etc.

You can purchase this toy on Amazon. (this is about the best price I’ve found). Disney Mickey Having a Ball with 20 Balls.*

As always, requests are welcomed (and encouraged!) if you have a toy your child loves and you’d like some ideas on how to make it more functional for speech development. And please remember this is not meant to be an all encompassing list, just something you can use to help.

In case you missed the first three posts of this series:

Talk to Me Baby: The Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza

Talk to me Baby: Puppy and Friends Learning Table

Talk to Me Baby: Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Activity Puzzle.

*This post does contain an affiliate link. Typically though, Amazon has the best prices and I do a lot of shopping on there anyway. If you buy one through my link I’ll earn a few cents. Nothing big.

Talk To Me Baby – Puppy and Friends Learning Table

More time went by between these posts than I intended, but hey, life happens.

To recap/remind:

Receptive Language (what we understand) – this is the ability to listen and understand what is communicated by another person. In the Early Intervention age range (birth to 3) some examples would include: following simple directions, the ability to identify objects from a group, the ability to point to objects in pictures etc. In infants an example can be as simple as turning to the source of sound or responding to his/her name.

Expressive Language (the use of language) – this is the ability to communicate wants and needs. Usually we mean verbally but depending on the circumstances it can mean sign language or the use of a communication device. Some examples of this include: the ability to request objects using words, the ability to name objects (real objects or in pictures). In infants this includes grunting, cooing and babbling – all which sounds meaningless at first but are important stepping stones to using words in more functional ways.

Social Skills/Pragmatic Language – these are the more subtle aspects of language and in young children some examples include eye contact, joint attention (the ability to look at a toy, then to you, then back to the toy etc) and turn taking.

Of course these lists are nowhere near all inclusive and are simply meant to help clarify the definitions.

Fisher Price Puppy and Friends Learning Table

This was another toy I requested for Christmas mostly so they would have a fun way to practice standing and possibly cruising.

Age Range: 6 months – 2 years

What it does: There are 4 “stations” at this table: a computer, a piano, a book and a phone. Each interacts in a different way depending on the setting. The first setting is “English”. This setting is more educational and does things like label the colors on the piano, the objects in the book and the letters in the computer. The second is “Spanish”, which is the same as English, only in Spanish. The third is “music”. Here you get a snippet of a classical song on the piano or computer with a couple of full blown songs on the phone. In then book you get examples of the noise each object makes. The fourth is “play”, where each item is presented more functionally, i.e. the keys on the piano play a note, the computer makes computer like sounds, the book pages flip and the phone dials. Oh, and then of course there is “off”, for when you’ve had enough of hearing the book flip of the 8 millionth time. 🙂

It also comes with 4 legs, which are removable. I like this feature because it gives the babies the opportunity to play with it while sitting or standing. They really seemed to enjoy this from the earliest age given (6 months), and I have no doubt they will continue to enjoy it for awhile. I find the songs to be entertaining enough. On a scale from 1-5 (1 being least annoying and 5 most) I’d say I’d give this an “if I hear this song one more time I will scream” rating of 2.5 – depending on my mood.

Likes: the different settings, catchy music, lights, labels things (colors, object) in learning mode.

Dislikes: the legs are wobbly and lightweight so if baby is at ALL unsteady while standing its likely the table will slide.

The table :)
The table – missing the phone that I assume is under a couch somewhere

6 months – 1 year

Receptive Language

  • Begin teaching object identification- book, phone, or any of the objects located within the book
  • Press a button or activate the toy somehow. Wait and see if your baby “anticipates” that you will press the button again.
  • While your baby is playing, call his or her name and see if he/she stops playing to look at you
  • You can use this for lots of language exposure – be very verbal during play and describe things. Your baby is always listening. Tell him/her the colors or objects. Pick up the phone and say “hello”. Label the shapes, etc.

Expressive Language

  • Babies this age usually aren’t saying words yet but you can use the toy to encourage some babbling. They should start to have some simple cause and effect and the ability to imitate some so you can use that to your advantage. “Talk” on the phone in babble and see if your baby will “respond”. Play the piano and say “mi (me) mi mi”, push the computer keys and say “pa pa pa (push)”. Any of the early developing sounds work too, which include /b/, /d/, /m/, /n/, /p/.
  • You can start to introduce baby sign. It isn’t likely they will use it yet but as stated above, exposure is never going to hurt. You can take your baby’s hands and give hand over hand cues to sign for “book”, or ” play”. You can also activate the toy and then cue baby to ask for “more”.
  • If baby is beginning to pull up but still hasn’t mastered it yet, you can use this opportunity to introduce the word “up” as you help him/her stand up, and “down” when he/she wants to sit back down.
  • Again, you can use this for lots of language exposure – be very verbal during play and describe things. Your baby is always listening. Tell him/her the colors or objects. Pick up the phone and say “hello”. Label the shapes, etc.

12-18 months

Receptive Language

  • Object identification: ask your baby where the book or phone is and see if he/she will reach for that part of the table.
  • Appropriate play: does your baby flip the book pages, open/close the computer lid, pretend to dial the phone?
  • Simple one step directions: point to a button and see if he/she will push it. Gesture to the book or computer and ask baby to turn the page or open the lid.
  • While baby plays say “stop” and “wait” and see if baby responds (not necessarily listens, but at least responds)

Expressive Language

  • Encourage imitation: you can label any object/shape/color to encourage this. Baby doesn’t have to say the whole word correctly – “ba” for ball or “ca” or even “da” for car is ok at this age. Pick up the phone and say “hello” and hand baby the phone while prompting “say hello”. Turn the toy off and encourage imitation of “on”, “more” or “please”.
  • Encourage independent word use: point to the book and ask “what is this?” You can also do this with the objects in the book. Pick up the phone and say “hello” and then hand baby the phone – wait and see if baby will say hello. Turn the toy off and see if baby will ask for “on”, “more”, “please”, etc.

Social Skills

  • See if baby will hand you the phone or use some other method to initiate interaction with you. You can practice this by picking up the phone, having a “conversation” and handing it to him or her.

18-24 months

Receptive Language

  • Picture identification: ask baby to point to any of the objects in the 4 pages of the book that you name.
  • Simple verbs: push, dance, open, play. Demonstrate as needed and then after awhile see if baby can demonstrate on his/her own.
  • Simple direction following (with and without help).

Expressive Language

  • Put two words together. You can pair things like “open book”, “go up” (mouse or computer lid), “more ___”, “____ please”, “push button”, “red circle”, “on please” etc. You can use this for labeling or requesting.
  • Encourage independent word use: point to the book and ask “what is this?” You can also do this with the objects in the book. Pick up the phone and say “hello” and then hand baby the phone – wait and see if baby will say hello. Turn the toy off and see if baby will ask for “on”, “more”, “please”, etc.

Social Skills

  • While your baby is playing, comment on what he/she is doing or play along to encourage some joint attention, or the ability to look between you and the toy with eye contact.
  • Begin to encourage turn taking. Press a button and tell baby “your turn” . Wait and see if he/she will push a bottom in response.

Although the toys’ recommended age range is 6 months – 2 years, it seems to me that there are many opportunities to use it over the age of 2. Perhaps your 2-3 year old isn’t as interested as he/she once was, but particularly if you have a toddler and infant you can engage your toddler to play as well by doing some of the following:

  • ID common verbs: use the book to ask your toddler “who is playing/throwing etc”?
  • ID/name colors
  • ID/name shapes
  • Simple two step directions (related) such as “open the computer and push a button” or “pick up the phone and call grandma”
  • Name some simple verbs such as play, spin, read, push
  • Answer yes/no questions such as “is this a monkey?, is this red?” etc. Ensure he/she is familiar with the objects you are asking about. You can prompt them to respond yes or no at first.

If you’re interested in purchasing it, you can find it on Amazon. Fisher-Price Puppy and Friends Learning Table.

And if you missed the first post on my so far all time favorite, the Cruise and Groove Ballapalooza, you can find the post here.

Questions or toy suggestions welcome!

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