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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Christmas Gift Ideas

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 they 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.  It may the the zoo, 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. 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.
  3. Books.  The benefits of books are enormous!  For younger children, colourful picture books and books with lots of repetition and rhythmical language are great.  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 Billy B Brown, the Treehouse series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Bad Guys and Captain Underpants.

There are lots of more specific and detailed suggestions out there.  Here's one link we particularly like if you're needing a bit more inspiration...

One of the things you'll notice about these lists is that 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 reduces that 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!

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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The 3 biggest myths that parents must know about their child’s hearing

Does your child have a delay in their talking or pronunciation?  Then you need to read on to make sure that you’re getting them the right help.


Your child’s ability to hear well is absolutely essential for them to develop age appropriate speech and language skills


Without adequate hearing levels your child will fall behind in their talking, their speech will be unclear and they may experience social isolation and behavioural challenges.

Every day we see children with delays in their communication and social skills and behavioural challenges.  One of the most important thing parents must do when their child is having these difficulties is to get their hearing checked.  Now many parents ask us why this needs to happen. The following three myths are the most common ones parents believe that make them question why a hearing test is needed.


Myth #1 They had their hearing checked at birth and it was fine

Granted, the screening that children in Australia have at birth is a fantastic initiative for identifying early the 1 in 1000 children who have are born with a hearing loss.  The problem is children’s hearing can change over time.  They can get fluid in their middle ear that can affect their hearing.  They can have a progressive hearing loss that leads to their hearing deteriorating over time. By the time children are at school 3 in 1000 children will have a hearing loss. That’s a big jump in numbers from birth!


Myth #2 They hear when the TV's turned on in another room

Children with milder hearing losses will hear sounds around them.  They’ll hear a bunch of speech sounds too.  These children are the ones who sometimes “go under the radar” because they will follow your instructions, they might answer your questions.  But they don’t hear the sounds with the same quality as a person with typical hearing levels.  And as they get older, difficulties will emerge.  Their speech will be unclear and they will have trouble listening and understanding language in more complex listening environments where distance and noise is involved, such as, a classroom.


Myth #3 There’s no history of hearing loss in my family

A family history of hearing loss is definitely a risk factor for a child having a hearing loss.  But did you know 9 out of 10 children born with a hearing loss have parents with no hearing loss?  There are a wide range of causes of hearing loss and only around 40-50% of congenital sensorineural hearing loss (hearing loss present at birth and affecting the inner ear) can be attributed to genetics.  This means there are plenty of families with no history of hearing loss who have children with a hearing loss.


So, if your child is having trouble learning to use words to communicate or their speech is hard to understand it is important to seek help from the right health professionals.  You need to find a qualified, passionate Speech Pathologist who will be able to assess your child’s strength and areas for improvement.  And if your child does have a delay in their talking or pronunciation they should be recommending a hearing test. If they don’t, find another Speech Pathologist.

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Three of the biggest mistakes parents make with their late talkers and how to avoid them

Do you ever just wish your child would talk more?  Then this is an important article that could make the world of difference to you.


As a parent you have an enormous influence on your child’s talking in those critical first 5 years.  You need to be aware of the mistakes you can make that can reduce your child’s talking skills.


Let’s start by looking at how many words your child should be saying…


Age Number of words used
12 months 2-6
18 months 20-100
2 years 200-300
3 years 900+
4 years 1500+
5 years 2500+


That is some massive growth happening in a very short amount of time!  If your child doesn’t hear the right amount and type of talking during these critical early years they can have trouble learning to talk, the gap between them and their peers can widen super quickly and you will spend more time in therapy trying to close that gap.

By learning to talk to your child in the right way with the right amount of words you can help them develop their talking skills at the right rate.  They will keep up with their peers and you can avoid expensive long term therapy.


“We hear so many parents being told to just ‘wait and see’ by people who are not qualified Speech Pathologists.  Do NOT wait and see.  There is a huge amount of evidence that shows getting help early leads to the best results and NO evidence that the ‘wait and see’ approach does.”


So, if you want your child to talk more then read on and find out three of the biggest mistakes you could be making when talking to your child.


Mistake #1 Asking lots of questions

This teaches your child a very limited range of words and does not teach your child the different ways we can use words. Asking ‘what’s this?’ when you know they know the answer is pointless! Watch the video below to find out what you should be doing instead.

Mistake #2 Saying “say”

We see this one all the time!  You may hear yourself come out with “say dog”. Prompting your child to “say” something can often have the opposite effect and their lips will shut tight.  Instead, model the word or sentence you want them to try to say and wait while looking expectantly at them.

Mistake #3 Talking too much

You may find yourself talking constantly or using long sentences thinking ‘the more the better’. But actually this doesn’t work.  They’ll put getting a word in or imitating you in the too hard basket.  So, try saying a short sentence that is 1 or 2 words longer than what your child uses and leave silences so your child can say something if they wish (count to 10 in your head before talking again).



If you want to know more about how we can help get your child talking send us an email and one of our friendly staff will be in touch.


pencils in pencil case

Our top tips to make your child’s transition to school smooth

So your child is starting 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 less 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, afternoonboy sleeping and evening routine for every day of the week and stick to it. A visual schedule is a great way for school starters to be 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  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 adds 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 down time 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

boys swimmingThis 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.  Play dates 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- Slug in a Jug

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.



Slug in a Jug by Orchard Toys

What’s it about?

Slug in a Jug is a colourful and fun game for matching pictures of things that rhyme. Players take turns to choose which pictures rhyme. Better yet, Slug in a Jug has made teaching rhymes a lot easier by highlighting the sounds at the end of the words. In this way, children are able to match the letters as well as the sounds when learning about rhymes.

Rhyme awareness is a phonological awareness skill. Phonological awareness refers to the ability to recognise patterns of letter sounds (such as rhyme and alliteration), know how many syllables and sounds there are within words, and being able to recognise how these sounds can be changed or manipulated. Phonological awareness is strongly linked to our children’s ability to read and spell during their school years.



Our top 3 tips

  1. Children in preschool or kindergarten are encouraged to increase their awareness of rhyme. One way to do this is to choose three pictures: two that rhyme, and one that does not. Then ask your child which two rhyme. For example, “I have a king. Which one rhymes with king?Ring or cup?”
  2. For older kids, you can take matching pairs of rhyming words and sort them into a game of Have all cards faced down. Take turns flipping over two cards, and if they rhyme, you get to keep them. If not, you must put them back. This way, both you and your child get a mental workout with your memory skills whilst targeting your child’s ability to recognise rhyme.
  3. Get your child to come up with another word that rhymes that is not on any of the Slug in a Jug It can be a real or made up word! This way, children can use their imagination and demonstrate how well they understand the concept of rhyme.



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Do people have trouble understanding what your child says?

If people have difficulty understanding what your child says to them then this article is for you. You probably find yourself asking a bunch of questions about their pronunciation (aka speech).  Is it ok for their age?  Should they be able to say that sound? I can understand them so why can’t others? When do I need to get help? These are all really important questions so keep reading to find out the answers.

Whilst every child develops differently there are some key milestones when it comes to your child’s speech development. If your child doesn’t meet these milestones you or other less familiar people can be find it difficult to understand them.  This can cause your child to become frustrated, they may become withdrawn and their confidence can drop.


Research has found that persistent speech sound disorders, in other words those that are present at school entry and beyond, can negatively impact on a child’s literacy development.


It’s clear that early intervention is the key to success when it comes to speech. But the question is when should you seek help from a Speech Pathologist?  Family and friends may tell you not to worry explaining how their child “caught up” or “grew out of it”. GPs may tell you to wait because your child is too young.  These people mean well by their advice however they’re not qualified Speech Pathologists and don’t actually know whether or not you should be seeking help for your child.  Waiting can be incredibly detrimental to your child. Getting help at the right time will improve your child’s speech, make them easier to understand, build their confidence and prevent them from going on to have literacy difficulties due to ongoing speech difficulties.


So, here are the two main ways for you to work it if your child may need help.

  1. Intelligibility

Although it sounds related, intelligibility has nothing to do with your child’s intelligence. Intelligibility is a general measure of well people can understand your child when they’re talking.  Here’s what to expect...












  1. Speech sounds

Your child should develop certain speech sounds by a certain age.  This is what increases their intelligibility over time. As your child gets older their speech should become more accurate.  Here are the different sounds and when you should expect to hear your child using them when talking











If you’re worried about your child’s speech, trust your gut and reach out to a qualified paediatric Speech Pathologist (one who works solely with children). Our Speech Pathologists see children who have speech difficulties every day.  We can implement treatment to improve your child’s speech so they can be understood by everyone, reduce their frustration and build their confidence and prevent literacy difficulties due to ongoing speech difficulties.  Click here to send us an email or call us on 9653 9955.


Toy Central- Shopping List

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.



SHOPPING LIST by 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

It is good for children ages 3-7.

Our top 3 tips

  1. 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. 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. Talking about the items, you can give 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.


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