Talking to babies. A key to brain growth.

Communication starts at birth.

My eldest is about to finish high school. I can still recall the moment he was born. This is possibly because the midwife had just said he would be born the next day and I distinctly recall thinking ‘absolutely no way is this going into tomorrow’ and he was born at 11:50pm. Although it may have been the life changing experience of actually having him that makes the recall so very clear!

Even though I knew communication began at birth having him bought it home so strongly.

Communication is not just words but eye contact, turn taking, connection, and shared moments.

Those moments when you look at your baby and smile and they smile back.
Or they make a noise and you copy it back to them.
They do something with their hands and arms and you copy that action.

These moments are connection and conversation.

Research has shown us that brain growth across the first 3 years is the most rapid of any age.
At birth a baby’s brain weighs about 380g.
At 3 years of age it is 1270g.
At adolescence it is 1450g.

We also know that turn taking which researchers call ‘serve and return’ is critical to that growth.

Responding to your babies’ communication is important to their brain growth.

It is fairly instinctual though as we are wired to connect and as such we respond to our baby’s interactions. Know each time you do this you are supporting their brain development (pretty cool I think).

So copy their sounds.
Copy their actions.
You will find they will copy yours.
Add words for the things they are looking at or feeling.
You don’t need anything special or different. Just you and them.

Enjoy these early communication moments.

If you have a young child and finding yourself a little unsure how their communication is developing then I have an ebook (Is this normal? Typical milestones for speech development from birth to four years) that could be useful. You will find it here.

The humble peg can teach us so much!

I wanted to share with you just how powerful the humble peg is.

It is really very impressive.

It can teach your child:

Colour and number: you can talk about the different colours or you can make it a game and to distract them whilst you are hanging out the washing you could ask them to find all the blue ones, or 5 red ones.

Following directions: You can see if they can follow 1 step directions like “Find all the green ones” or you can see if they can follow 2 step instructions – “find me a green peg and a blue peg”, or “put the green peg on the shorts” and for the older child 3 step instructions – “Find me a green peg, red peg and a yellow peg”.

Feelings: I have seen pegs on my ever friendly dog’s ears. So we got to talk about how she might be feeling and what she might be able to do to remove the pegs given she does not have an opposable thumb. If not the dog, I have seen my children attach the peg to their own ear, tongue or lip, so we got to talk about how that felt and what motivated them to do such a thing☺.

Vocabulary: All. The. Clothes.

Ownership: Talk about whose is whose.

Size: Big, little

Parts of the object: You can chat about the shiny bit that holds them together, or how easily the break.

Parents have shared with me that they don’t really like ‘playing’ with their kids and I can totally get that. In our household we just cannot do board games. It brings out the worst in every single one of us. But the truth is we don’t have to be playing with the ‘things’. Having conversations and talking about what we are doing is one of the most powerful ways to grow our children’s language and in turn to grow their brains.

90% of a child’s brain development happens in the first 5 years. Talking to your young child builds the foundations that last a lifetime.

So have fun with the humble peg.

If you are looking for information about what to expect at different ages for your child’s language development then I have pulled together an ebook regarding milestones and how to support their language development. If this is something you are looking for then head here.

Late talkers…. Risk factors and how to help.

I just learnt that Albert Einstein was a late talker. I found this interesting. I am not too sure why, I just did! I think it may be because it highlights that we all follow our own path and they are all awesome. We worry that if our child is not talking, then they won’t do well at school. So on and so forth. We get caught up in our heads (or perhaps that is just me!).

Some parents get really concerned when their young child is late to talk and others are not worried at all. If there is one thing I have learnt over the years of working as a speech pathologist it is that ability is measured in the context within which we exist.

What is a problem for one family, is not for the next.

My opinion as a parent is the more I know the better I can help my child. Also, I like to know I am making things better for them. I am sure sometimes I overthink this waaaaaaay too much.

Even the research for our profession shows that a late talking 2 year old may have perfectly normal language at 4 years of age and the child who seems perfectly normal at 2 may in fact have language concerns at 4 years of age. So my perspective of empowering parents (and all adults who come in contact with kids) to be able to provide rich language learning environments all day, every day remain (in my opinion) valid! You don’t need special toys or games.

So back to late talkers – what constitutes a late talker?

A late talker is a toddler (between 18 and 30 months) who in all ways except their expressive language are developing in a typical pattern. So they understand what is being said to them, they are typically social and their walking and fine motor skills are age appropriate.

Researchers don’t know why some kids are late talkers but they do know about 13% of 2 year olds are late talkers.

A general rule of thumb is by 18 months your babe should have at least 20 words and at 24 months they should use at least 100 words and be beginning to combine words together. Things like “thank you” and bye bye” count as 1 word as these are social words that are seen as 1 word. Two word combinations include “Bye daddy”, “drink milk”.

We actually don’t know who will “just grow out of it” and who will not. What we do know though is that there are risk factors which may influence how likely your child is to have continuing language difficulties.

These risk factors include:
• A history of ear infections,
• Quiet as a baby,
• Limited number of sounds,
• Not using pretend play and linking ideas and actions together in play,
• Not imitating words,
• Using mostly nouns and limited verbs,
• Limited gestures,
• Difficulty playing with others,
• A family history of communication difficulties, and
• Difficulties understanding.

I would encourage you to:
• Get their ears checked;
• Get down to their level (or lift them to yours) and be face to face and talk.

If you want more information on how to support toddlers when the words are not coming then head here.

It is my ebook “What to do when the words are not coming: Essential tools for parents of toddlers.” I hope it helps.

Little moments matter: Building talking and speaking one small moment at a time.

Talking to learn…learning to talk..the value of books

On the weekend a friend of mine gave me a book she has written!  My kids are super impressed that we have a book signed by the author!

It reminded me though of the ‘why’ I love books so much for our kids.

Not only are they a gateway to new vocabulary (and research shows that the more robust our children’s vocabulary the greater success they have when learning at school) but they are also the perfect conversation starter.

They offer you a chance to talk about values and differences. Amy’s book is wonderful for this.

First we learn to talk and then we talk to learn.

As our children start school they need to be able to use language to learn.

Reading books with preschoolers is a great way to introduce them to using language to predict what might happen next. This is a very important skill to have as they go off to school.

Questions like:
• “What might happen next?”
• “How do you think he feels?”
• “What do you think she said?”
• “What could that be?”

These conversations help young kids to use their language skills to talk about the things that are not necessarily in front of them and to get them to think about what might be.

There is no right way to read a book .

Just read it.

Start at the beginning or in the middle.

Read the words or just look at the pictures.

Eat it or not – that depends on age. I highly encourage you to get board or hard plastic books for young children so they can munch as they need.

You can’t go wrong but you can have a lot of fun.