Book Central: Pig the Pug

Have you ever wondered if there is a right or wrong way to read to your child? No doubt you’ve heard the message “read books with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what books to read and how to read them.  Did you know it’s actually these two things – the what and how - that make the difference to your child’s development?

We know from research that children who are read to regularly have a greater understanding of language, their vocabularies are larger and their thinking skills are more advanced.  And this means they go on to be confident and skilled readers.  So, reading the right books in the right way to your child is critical for their development.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how of book reading with one fantastic book and our top three tips to make sure the way you’re reading is improving your child’s listening, talking and thinking skills.

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

What’s it about?

This is a story about Pig, a pug who finds it difficult to share with his friend Trevor.  He is quite rude and refuses to share even with Trevor’s repeated polite requests.  He gathers his toys up in a pile until something unexpected happens.  The question is has Pig learned his lesson?

An ability to truly understand this storyline should begin around 4 years of age when children learn that their wants and thoughts are different from others.  We call this ‘theory of mind’.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it with younger children!  It just means you shouldn’t expect them to fully understand the plot as their thinking skills probably isn’t developed enough yet.

Our top 3 tips

If you want your child to develop their listening, talking and thinking skills whilst having loads of fun then try these when you’re reading with them:

1. Add expression when you’re reading.

Adding character voices is a great way of engaging your child in the story.  When Pig flips his wig you do just that when you’re reading what Pig says!  You can also add interest by using a louder voice when words are in capital letters or bold font.

2. Talk about feelings and putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

Questions like “how would you feel if your friend didn’t share with you?” or “how would I feel if you spoke rudely to me?” will increase your child’s emotional knowledge and develop their theory of mind.

3. Point out new words and explain what they mean

If you come across a word you don’t think your child knows, for example in this book they use ‘swine’, take a moment to point it out and explain it by linking it back to words they do know.  You may say “Swine. Well, that’s an interesting word.  Swine is another word for pig.  I could say there is a swine on the farm! Can you use the word swine?”

 

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Successfully Starting the School Year

It's that time of year and your child is transitioning back to school. It’s a time filled with mixed emotions not only for you but for them as well.  In this article, we’ll share our top tips for making the transition to school as smooth as possible.

“Starting school can be an overwhelming time for both children and parents.  It’s a massive life change that needs preparation and ongoing attention and effort to make sure it goes smoothly for everyone”

Without preparation and putting the right strategies in place your child can easily become overwhelmed by the experience of starting school.  This overwhelm is often expressed through behaviour.  Your child may become upset and cry frequently, they may get angry and act out or they withdraw into themselves.  Needless to say, you want to avoid your child becoming overwhelmed.

When you prepare well and put strategies in place that work you can do just that.  Your child will feel more confident, have fewer emotional outbursts (still expect some though!) and the transition will be much smoother for both them and you.

So, read on to find out how you can help not only your child but yourself get through the transition with minimal overwhelm and upset.

#1 Stick to a routine

Routines are super important.  When children have consistency in their life and know what to expect they will be less anxious.  And when they’re less anxious they’re more calm and confident.  Set up a morning, afternoon and evening routine for every day of the week and stick to it. A visual schedule is a great way for school starters to remember their routine.  Get your child involved by having them check off the steps in their schedule as they go through each of them.  You can find out more about visual schedules here https://teachingmama.org/visual-schedule-for-toddlers/.  Routines can also help you get out the door on time without the stress and hustle!  And lastly, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of a consistent bedtime that allows your child to get enough sleep.

#2 Give them downtime

There are so many before and after school activities on offer these days.  It can seem like booking your child into a bunch of these would be good.  You may have a case of FOMO for your child however you need to avoid overscheduling them.  School is incredibly tiring when they’re just starting out on their schooling journey and all those extra activities add to the drain.  If they’re tired they’ll have trouble maintaining their attention and learning new things at school.  What’s more important is to book some downtime into their calendar every day.  They will need time to relax and play quietly and recharge their battery ready for the next day.

#3 Talk to them about school

Start conversations about school right from the start.  Avoid general questions like “how was your day?” or “how are you?” and replace these with specific questions about their day such as “who did you play with at recess?” or “what was the favourite thing in your lunchbox today?”.  Also, talk about how they’re feeling with questions like “how did you feel when…?”.  They may not be able to describe this to you just yet so teach them how by telling them about your feelings in different situations.  And if they do get upset, act out or withdraw, talk to them about it after you’ve helped them calm down and reconnect with you.

#4 Arrange a play date or two

This can be a fantastic way to foster friendships and make your child feel more comfortable at school.  You can always ask their teacher who they seem to be getting along with if you’re not sure.  Just check how the school wants you to communicate with the classroom teacher beforehand.  Playdates are also a nice way for you to connect with other parents at school.  No doubt you’ll need someone to remind you about an excursion permission slip or listen to you talk through your guilt at forgetting about sports uniform day at some stage in your child’s schooling journey!

 

Put these tips in place and you’ll find your child’s transition to school will be so much smoother and you’ll feel calmer.  Found this article useful?  Click the button below to share it with your friends.

 

 


Toy Central: Tummy Ache

Playing Games Together

No doubt you’ve heard the message “play with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what games are good to play and how to play them.  Did you know it’s these two things – the what and how - that makes the difference to your child’s development?

So why take the time to play with your child? Well, research shows us play allows children to use their creativity as they develop their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, social and emotional skills.  Phew! That’s a lot of areas play can influence. Play is also so important for healthy brain development. Most of all play is a fun and simple joy that children love and by playing with your child,  you are giving them time when they feel special.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how for playing with your child by telling you about a game we like to use in clinic and sharing our top three tips on how to play the game to encourage your child’s listening, talking and thinking skills.

 

Name of the Game

Tummy Ache – Orchard Toys

In this game, you take turns turning over cards showing different foods and drinks to put on your placemat. But watch out! There may be some bugs or creepy crawlies hiding in some of the food. The winner is the first person to make a bug-free meal.

3 ways to play

When it comes to games you don’t have to follow the instructions. Modifying the way you play means you can teach your child a whole bunch of new skills using just one game!

So, here are 3 ways to play:

1. Find your favourites and talk about the foods they have chosen

Place the picture cards facing up and ask your child to create their favourite meal and put it on their placemat. Talk about the foods they have chosen and encourage children to describe their meal.

2. Play restaurants

Take turns pretending you are at a restaurant and ‘order’ the meal that you would like to have. Your child will need to listen to your request and follow instructions as well as request what they would like to have. Make it silly by requesting for foods and drinks with bugs!

3. Catergorize food groups

Have all the picture cards face down and take turns turning them over. Ask questions for your child to begin sorting food groups whether it is a drink, side dish, main meal or dessert and put them into catergories and discuss what other foods and drinks might go into those groups.

3 skills your child can learn

  1. Turn-taking and following rule based games
  2. Vocabulary development for foods, drinks and describing words
  3. Social skills and role-play of familiar contexts

 

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Book Central: The Gruffalo

Reading the Right Books the Right Way

No doubt you’ve heard the message “read books with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what books to read and how to read them.  Did you know it’s actually these two things – the what and how - that makes the difference to your child’s development?

We know from research that children who are not read to have poorer understanding of language, their vocabularies are smaller and their thinking skills are less advanced.  And this means they go on to have trouble learning to read themselves.  So, reading the right books in the right way to your child is critical to their development.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how or book reading with one fantastic book and our top three tips to make sure the way you’re reading is improving your child’s listening, talking and thinking skills.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

What’s it about?

This is a story about a little mouse who takes a stroll deep into the woods. On his journey, the mouse comes across a few hungry predators and realises that he might just make a tasty snack for them if he isn’t careful. This mouse, cunning and smart, invents a terrible creature called the Gruffalo to scare off the hungry predators! Or so he thinks…

The Gruffalo is targeted for primary school-aged children who will love the crafty rhymes and humor presented in the story. This story also provides clever ways of describing the creatures in the forest which can help your child build on their descriptive vocabulary. In addition, The Gruffalo provides many opportunities for you and your child to explore and predict what might happen next. Is the Gruffalo real or imagined? Do you think the mouse will get eaten?

Our top 3 tips

1. Try to use gestures when you read.

Gestures are great for helping your child understand what is happening in the story and adds excitement to book-reading time. Pick out a word on the page to gesture along with as you read. To add more excitement, you can also match your reading tone and facial expressions with your gestures.

2. Let your child see the pictures and words in the book.

Letting your child see the pictures and words in a book helps them comprehend the story and build relationships between words and pictures. Letting them see the book when you read also exposes them to what kind of behaviours you need to have when reading a book. For example, they can see when they need to turn the page or where they need to look to read the words.

3. Find a quiet time to read with your child and limit possible distractions.

Choosing a quiet time to read books with your child shows them that you are interested in reading books with them. Limiting distractions also helps both you and your child focus on the words and the pictures, and makes for a more relaxing and positive book-reading experience.

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Christmas Gift Guide to Grow Your Child's Language Skills

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it's that time of year to find gifts for the children in your world. There are so many options available so we thought we'd put together a list of the best toys to engage your child's language skills - after all learning through play is one of the greatest ways to help your child develop their communication and have fun!

Looking for some last-minute stocking fillers or a Christmas present for under the tree?  The masses of toys you find in the stores can be rather overwhelming.  You may find yourself asking which ones will they enjoy and will also help with their development? To help you choose, we’ve put together of few of our top suggestions for some great presents this Christmas that everyone will love and won’t send you rushing out for more batteries on Boxing Day.

1. An experience voucher

Not every gift has to be a toy. An experience voucher is a great way to explore the world around us together. Whether it is a voucher for the zoo, movie tickets, an interactive play centre, a wildlife park, adventure park, water park, aquarium or science centre.  There are so many fabulous places for children of different ages.  Your child will love spending time with you and seeing something new.  And, of course, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to learn new things too!

2. Books

The benefits of books are enormous and a great gift for any age!  For younger children, colourful picture books and books with lots of repetition and rhythmical language are perfect.  Some wonderful authors include Mem Fox, Pamela Allen, Eric Carle and Julia Donaldson. For older children, you’ll probably know what they’re interested in reading.  Some great series include the Treehouse series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Bad Guys and Captain Underpants. All of these chapter books have images and text to be able to engage your child in a love for reading.

3. Construction Toys

Think soft or plastic blocks for babies, wooden blocks or Mega Blocks for toddlers, Duplo or LEGO for preschoolers and Technic LEGO for school children.  They will spend hours constructing whilst using their imagination and motor skills. When playing together construction type toys give the opportunity to talk through steps and further develop vocabulary and an understanding of prepositions (i.e. in/on/top/under) which can be explored at any age.

4. Board and Card Games

Games are a great way to explore communicating within a fun framework. They encourage children to take turns, read and process information, express themselves and develop strategies for communicating. When finding games for preschool seek out ones that are simple and encourage taking turns like Snap, Match-Ups, Memory games or Snakes and Ladders. As they get older children can further explore multiple-step instructions and turn-taking along with other literacy skills in a fun way with games like Top Trumps, UNO, Scrabble - Kids Edition, Kids Know Best or Monopoly to develop these skills.

There are lots more specific and detailed suggestions out there. One of the things you’ll notice about these lists is the toys do not need batteries! Studies have found that toys with lights, sounds and automatic actions actually reduce the number of ways a child will play with it and reduce the amount of talking that happens during their play.

We hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and you find a gift that’s your child loves.

Happy Christmas shopping!


Becoming a Skilled Reader

What does your child do when they’re reading and they come across a word they don’t know?  Do they look at the picture or the first letter and guess what the word might be?  Then keep reading to find out the most important tool they must have in their reading toolbox to become a skilled reader…it’s not guessing.

Children are not wired to learn to read the multitude of different spellings for the sounds in the English language.  They need EFFECTIVE literacy instruction in their early schooling years to become skilled readers.

Without the literacy instruction that research has proven to work children can struggle to learn to read.  Combine this with the “let’s give them some more time” recommendation that is suggested all too often and it’s a recipe for disaster.  It creates a child who not only struggles to read but also lacks self confidence and motivation and is at risk for lifelong social and economic difficulties.

When children are taught to read the right way they are set up for success!  They go on to become skilled and fluent readers bursting with confidence in their abilities and they have far greater learning, employment and earning opportunities.

We are fed up with children being taught to read in a way that creates struggling readers.  Teaching children to use pictures, other words in the sentence or the first letter to guess an unknown word will NOT make them a skilled reader.

What happens when they’re expected to read more challenging books? The ones with no pictures and with more complex words and sentences.  Suddenly they have no tools left and their building has a shaky foundation.

So, here’s the one tool your child must have to become a skilled reader who is able to tackle unknown words with ease.

They must be able to decode words.

This means they use the letters in the word to work out what it says.  To do this they will:

  1. Pay close attention to the sequence of letters in a word

AND

  1. Know the letters and letter combinations and their corresponding sounds

AND

  1. Apply the ‘rules’ such as what ‘e’ at the end of the word does to the other sounds

Sounds fairly simple right?  But did you know there are about 250 different ways to spell all the sounds in English?  Not so simple after all.  Children must be explicitly taught them…all.  They learn this complex alphabetic code we use to read through an approach called systematic phonics.  It’s a structured way of explicitly teaching children the letters and sounds that words are made of and how to blend them together to read the words.

So, if your child is struggling to learn to read you need to get help from a qualified professional who lives and breaths systematic phonics on a daily basis.  The Speech Pathologists at Talk Play Grow certainly do.  Call us on 9653 9955 or email info@talkplaygrow.com.au to find out more about how we can help your child become a skilled and fluent reader.

 

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Toy Central – Pizza, Pizza!

Playing Games Together

No doubt you’ve heard the message “play with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what games are good to play and how to play them.  Did you know it’s these two things – the what and how - that makes the difference to your child’s development?

So why take the time to play with your child? Well, research shows us play allows children to use their creativity as they develop their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and social and emotional skills.  Phew! That’s a lot of areas play can influence. Play is also so important for healthy brain development. Most of all play is fun and simple joy that children love and by playing with your child,  you are giving them time when they feel special.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how for playing with your child by telling you about a game we like to use in clinic and sharing our top three tips on how to play the game to encourage your child’s listening, talking and thinking skills.

Name of game

PIZZA, PIZZA! by Orchard Toys

What’s it about?

This is a fun and interactive game in which players take turns spinning both spinner and choosing a pizza slice card from the table that matcher either the colour or the shape shown on one of the spinners and place it on the correct space on their pizza board. However, if the pizza slice shows bug/insect toppings, all players shout “in the bin” and the slice is put onto the bin on the Head Chef board. The first person who makes a delicious bug/insect free pizza wins!

3 ways to play

When it comes to games you don’t have to follow the instructions. Modifying the way you play means you can teach your child a whole bunch of new skills using just one game! So, here are 3 ways to play:

1. Ask your child to describe the pizza slice and the toppings on it.

Have the pizza slices faced down on the table and ask your child to spin the spinners and pick up the corresponding slice.

2. Take turns asking for a slice of pizza from each other's board

Have different slices of pizza on your boards and take turns asking for a slice of pizza from each other’s board by describing and using simple phrases, for example, “can I please have the x”. Your child will need to listen carefully to your descriptions to choose the correct pizza slice. Make it fun and pretend to pay for each pizza slice and add in some funny characters and phrases, for example, “that will be $2 please sir”.

3. Create your own pizza's

Have fun choosing all the slices with the same colour on the back and then once your pizza is complete flip the slices over and share with each other the types of pizza slices you have and whether they would be delicious or disgusting (depending on whether they have bugs/insects on them).

3 skills your child can learn:

  1. Taking turns, waiting, and following instructions
  2. Using descriptive language and extending their vocabulary by targeting specific words or groups of words (e.g. pronouns, adjectives, etc)
  3. Roleplay and conversation skills (e.g. turn-taking, topic maintenance, asking questions, making comments)

 

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Book Central: Cat and Dog Go Bananas

No doubt you’ve heard the message “read books with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what books to read and how to read them.  Did you know it’s actually these two things – the what and how - that makes the difference to your child’s development?

We know from research that children who are not read to have poorer understanding of language, their vocabularies are smaller and their thinking skills are less advanced.  And this means they go on to have trouble learning to read themselves.  So, reading the right books in the right way to your child is critical to their development.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how or book reading with one fantastic book and our top three tips to make sure the way you’re reading is helping your child communicate, connect and succeed!

One of our favourites is Cat and Dog Go Bananas by Jonathan Bentley

What’s it about?

This is an exciting rhyming book about Cat and Dog who have found out there are a number of wild animals trapped in their apartment block. Cat and Dog decide they need to set them free! Whatever could go wrong?

Our top 3 tips

1. Find a quiet time to read together.

When you and your child sit down together to read through the book find a quiet space without distractions. This encourages the maximum potential for your child to listen and take part in the storytelling.

2. Look at the pictures before reading

Take some time before reading the book to flick through the pages and look at the pictures together discussing what you can see in them and what might be happening in the story. This can be fun as you chat together about what you can see and what might happen next.

3. Encourage your child to join in the reading of the book.

This can be done easily by using a simple strategy that does not involve reading. Sentence completion along with pointing to the picture will encourage your child’s confidence with book sharing. e.g. then they saw the…….

 

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Is Your Child Stuttering?

What is stuttering?

Stuttering is a communication disorder in which there are interruptions to speech.   The types of stuttering that may be present are:

  • Sound repetitions (e.g. t-t-t-teddy)
  • Word repetitions (e.g. my-my-my-my turn please)
  • Phrase repetitions (e.g. I want-I want a banana)
  • Blocking (i.e. getting stuck before the word)
  • Prolongation (i.e. stretching out the word)

Signs of tension or effort may also accompany these interruptions.  Stuttering can range from mild to severe and its onset may be gradual or sudden.  The severity of stuttering can also fluctuate over time.

How common is it?

Stuttering is common.  In their study, Reilly et al (2013) found that 11.2% of children were stuttering by 4 years of age.  Stuttering is more common in boys than girls however it is not known why this is the case.

What causes it?

The cause of stuttering is not known.  Current thinking is that it is most likely due to some difficulties in the brain activity involved in speech production.  It is not caused by anxiety, though feeling anxious can make stuttering worse.

It is known, however, that stuttering tends to run in families and therefore there may be a hereditary component.  There is no evidence to suggest that the way parents interact with their children leads to a child stuttering.

Will it go away by itself?

Some children will naturally recover from stuttering without any treatment.  Currently, it is not possible to predict which children will recover naturally.

When it comes to when to start treatment individual circumstances must always be taken into account.  There are certain characteristics that indicate immediate treatment is required.  As such, it is recommended to seek advice from a speech language pathologist if your child begins stuttering.

There are programs that have been proven to be very effective in the treatment of childhood stuttering.  The most widely used in Australia is a program developed by Sydney University’s Australian Stuttering Research Centre called The Lidcombe Program.  It is recommended that stuttering treatment begins during the preschool years.

If you are concerned your child is stuttering please feel free to contact the team at Talk Play Grow on (02) 9653 9955.

Our speech language pathologists are experienced in working with children who stutter and can provide you with advice and guidance.

References
Australian Stuttering Research Centre (2012).  What is Stuttering?  Retrieved 22 March, 2014, from http://sydney.edu.au/health-sciences/asrc/what_is/index.shtml

Reilly, S. et al (2013).  Natural history of stuttering to 4 years of age: A prospective Community-Based Study.  Pediatrics, 132(2), 460-467.  Doi: 10.1542/peds.2012.3076

Stuttering (2011).  Retrieved 21 March, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Stuttering?open

 


Toy Central - Shopping List

Playing Games Together

No doubt you’ve heard the message “play with your child” but what they don’t tell you is what games are good to play and how to play them.  Did you know it’s these two things – the what and how - that makes the difference to your child’s development?

So why take the time to play with your child? Well research shows us play allows children to use their creativity as they develop their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and social and emotional skills.  Phew! That’s a lot of areas play can influence. Play is also so important for healthy brain development. Most of all play is fun and a simple joy that children love and by playing with your child,  you are giving them time when they feel special.

To help you out we’re going to answer the what and how for playing with your child by telling you about a game we like to use in clinic and sharing our top three tips on how to play the game to encourage your child’s listening, talking and thinking skills.

Name of game

SHOPPING LIST by Orchard Toys

Image Credit: Orchard Toys

What’s it about?

The Shopping List lotto game is a colourful and simple vocabulary game which holds children's attention! Players take it in turns to turn over cards showing everyday items, from tomatoes to washing powder to pizza. If they match the pictures on their shopping list, they are encouraged to put them in their trolley. The winner is the first player to collect all the items on their list and fill their trolley or basket

This game is good for children ages 3-7.

Our top 3 tips

1. Take turns to fill the trolley

With younger children place the pictures face down and take turns to choose one, then see whose shopping trolley it should go in and help each other fill the trolleys. This is nice for encouraging social skills such as sharing, turn-taking and helping others.

2. Take turns being the shopkeeper

With older children, it can be fun to take turns to be the shopkeeper and encourage questioning and requesting skills. E.g. in response to ‘Hello what do you need today?’ – ‘I need tomatoes please’.

3. Talk about the items with additional information

This helps extend your child’s vocabulary and concept knowledge e.g. I’ve got carrots…do you have any vegetables in your trolley? My carrots are orange? Can you tell me something about the things in your trolley? This is fantastic for encouraging categorising and describing skills.

Remember the most important thing is to have fun!

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