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!


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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Book Central - Where is the Green Sheep?

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!

Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek

What’s it about?

This is a fun and colourful book that will have your child hooked from the start! It follows a wildly wonderful adventure in search for the green sheep. Before you find the green sheep, you and your child will be introduced to many other sheep along the way who are doing wild and wonderful things. Each page will leave you wondering when the green sheep will be found.

Our top 3 tips

1. Talk with your child about what is happening on each page.

As this book has limited print, it encourages the reader to be creative and generate their own descriptions and discussions for each page. Ask your child to describe the sheep on each page and why they have been given their name (e.g. “the bed sheep”, “the band sheep”). Your child will learn specific vocabulary related to the text and encourage their use of descriptive language.

2. Point out the different concepts and descriptors on each page (e.g. little, big, high, low, tall, short, etc.).

You can link them to real life examples to help solidify their learning (e.g. “Look this sheep is tall like a giraffe”).

3 Use the text as conversation starters (e.g. “so sheep really go swimming?”).

This will help your child extend their language by using reasoning and higher-level thinking skills.

 

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Book Central - The Very Brave Bear

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 make the difference to your child’s development?

We know from research that children who are not read have a 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!

The Very Brave Bear By Nick Bland

What’s it about?

This book is a part of a series of books that follow The Very Cranky Bear and his adventures. In this book, the bear is back and this time he is facing Boris Buffalo in a battle of bravery. But something surprises them both resulting in them fleeing through the forest in fear. This book is full of vibrant illustrations and a fun, engaging story which children will love to read aloud.

Our top 3 tips

1. Focus on rhyming words

As you’re reading with your child, point out the rhyming words, talk about how/why they rhyme and ask them to try to think of another word that rhymes. This will help strengthen their phonological awareness skills which they must have to learn to read successfully.

2. Spark a conversation

Have a discussion with your child about each thing that the bear and buffalo do on each page. Ask some questions but not too many. Questions like 'Is that scary?', 'what would you do if that happened?', 'how would you feel about that?', 'Is the bear brave or is the buffalo brave?' and 'What does it mean to be brave?' are great for sparking conversation and expanding your child’s emotional vocabulary.

3. Ask your child to retell the story

After you have finished reading the book together, ask your child to tell back the main things that happened in the story. Help them to remember the correct sequence of the activities that the buffalo and bear completed to show how brave they are. Encourage them to use words like first, then and last. This will help them to understand the structure of stories and make up their own.

 

If you found this article helpful click the share button.  One of your friends may just find it useful too!