Should I use baby sign with my child?

If you’re deciding whether to sign with your baby then keep reading because that’s just what this article is about. There are a bunch of baby sign programs out there that come with claims that signing will make your child talk sooner, give them bigger vocabularies, better thinking skills and reduce frustration. The problem is that they just don’t have the evidence to back them up. 


Whilst teaching your child some simple signs won’t be detrimental to their development, most children don’t need them. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Whether you choose to use sign or not here are 3 tips that will help your child learn to communicate:


1. Get down to your child’s level

This simple act shows your child that they have your full attention. And they can give you theirs in return because they’re not craning their neck to look at you. It’s also super useful for helping your child look at your face and tune in to your expressions.


2. Keep it simple 

You don’t have to use a formal sign program.  You may find you’re already using a bunch of gestures when you talk to your child. It’s very natural to do this! So, stick with what comes naturally and it’ll help conversation flow smoothly.


3. Say the word with the sign

Whenever you use a sign or gesture make sure you’re saying the word too. This will help your child connect the object or action to the corresponding sign as well as the spoken word. They need to make these connections to learn to talk.


There are times that a child will need a more formal signing program. However, this should only be introduced under the guidance of a paediatric Speech Pathologist.  If your child is having trouble learning to talk, seek help from a profession as soon as possible.  A paediatric Speech Pathologist will be able to do a thorough assessment and work out what help your child needs to communicate effectively. 


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The 3 mistakes you need to avoid if you have a child with unclear speech

If you have a child with unclear speech then keep reading as this article is for you. Unclear speech is part of typical development. Children make mistakes as they’re learning to talk. But if these mistakes persist as they get older it increases the chances of your child having a bunch of difficulties that you don’t want them to experience.  


It’s important to remember that every child does develop at a different rate however there are some key speech milestones they must reach to become a clear and confident talker. If they don’t reach these milestones their speech will be hard for other people to understand and they won’t be able to get their message across successfully. When this happens your child’s likely to get frustrated and act out or lose confidence and avoid talking.


So if your child’s speech is unclear, here are 3 mistakes to avoid making with them:


1. Repeating their mistake

Some of the mistakes children make when they’re learning to talk are super cute and some are just downright hilarious! It can be really tempting to repeat back the way your child says the word because it just sounds so cute. The problem is, when you do this, you’re reinforcing their incorrect pronunciation of the word. By repeating it incorrectly you’re sending them the message that that’s how they should say the word. Then, if your child ends up needing therapy it can take far longer to correct these words. So, if your child mispronounces a word, repeat it back to them using the correct pronunciation no matter how cute it sounded. 


2. Putting it down to laziness

As an adult who’s got clear speech, chances are you take for granted how complex learning to speak clearly is for children. Let’s be honest, all of us are programmed to take the path of least resistance. When it comes to talking, that path is to talk clearly because then we’re easily understood and get our needs met quickly. We don’t have to repeat ourselves, try to fix what we’ve said or show the person what we mean because they’re not getting it. So, when your child is using unclear speech it’s not because they’re being lazy, it’s because they can’t speak clearly yet. 


3. Waiting to get help

Well meaning family and friends may tell you not to worry. They may tell you stories of how their child or another child they know “caught up” or “grew out of it”. Your GP may tell you to wait because they think your child is too young.  Whilst these people mean well, their advice can be detrimental to your child. Speech delays take time to fix and research shows that children who go to school with unclear speech are very likely to have difficulty learning to read and spell. If you’re worried about your child’s speech, get them assessed by a paediatric Speech Pathologist. They’ll be able to tell you whether it’s ok to wait or not. 


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How to use water to get your child talking more

Do you want to know how to get your child talking more and reduce their frustration and tantrums? Then keep reading...

Now, as your baby gets older their thinking skills develop more and have lots of things they want to tell you about. They want to ask you for more milk, they want to tell you about their favourite toy, they want to find out where Mummy is when she leaves the room...normally within the first 3 seconds!  But if they don’t have the words to use can’t do this and that typically leads to massive frustration and tantrums. So if you’ve got a child who isn’t talking yet or only using 1-3 word little sentences when they talk then keep reading because I’m going to give you 3 ways to help them talk more and reduce their frustration using water play.


So, one of the magic ingredients for talking is water. Now stick me and I’ll explain how you can use this super cheap, readily available stuff to get your child talking more. There are a bunch of ways you can use water with your kid and don’t worry it’s not messy. Do the play outside and all you’ll potentially need is a change of clothes for afterwards. Today, I’m going to focus on 1 water play activity you can do with babies through to preschoolers and your school age kids will probably enjoy them too just quietly. Now the activity is 1 part but the most important part of the play is what you do with your child so I’m going to give you 3 strategies that will help your child talk more and reduce their frustration.


For this first water play activity you’ll need to raid your kitchen. Grab a bunch of different sized pots or mixing bowls, funnels, spoons, a sieve. Fill up a jug with water and outside you go with your child. I call this activity ‘mix and pour’. It’s simply pouring and mixing the water using the different containers and utensils you’ve got. But you’ve got to use the strategies otherwise you’re child won’t be learning any new words. So, the strategies.


First, is to create a temptation or a reason for them to communicate with you. Don’t pour the water straight into the bowl. Hold off and look expectantly at child as if you’re waiting for them to tell you what to do with the water. Then if they tell you to pour only pour a little bit in and wait again. It’s a really natural way to encourage your child to use words to get their message across to you.


Second, once you’ve poured the water in, watch what your child is doing and copy them. Kids love it when you copy what they’re doing and they’re then more likely to copy you back including your copying your words. So , if your child is splashing you splash too, if your child is dipping their fingers in you dip too, if your child is stirring you grab another spoon and stir too.


And lastly, you want to make comments as you’re playing together. Not questions but comments. So not what are you doing? But rather pour the water, scoop the water, mix it around. There are so many more words your child will hear, pay attention to and learn when you make comments as they play. Make comments on actions like the ones I just said, make comments about the utensils you’re using oh a big bowl, the spoon is little and also how things feel oh the water is cold, your shirt is wet, a rough sieve.


So those are 3 ways to help your child talk more using mix and pour water play: create temptations to use words, copy what they’re doing and make comments as you play.


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