Turn-Taking and Language Development

Turn-taking is a foundation for speech and language development. Think of language as a back-and-forth exchange system: one person talks while the other listens, and vice versa. The ability to understand and demonstrate turn-taking is a critical step in building speech and language skills in children. It’s the framework for which children will ultimately use their growing speech and language skills. Here are 7 ways parents can promote turn-taking skills in children:

Ways to promote turn-taking skills

  • Play a turn-taking game. Choose an age-appropriate turn-taking game (e.g. Barn Yarn Bingo), and guide your child while you each take turns. Give your child hand-over-hand assistance as needed, and verbalize whose turn it is (e.g. “Mommy’s turn!” or 2 kids taking turns“Your turn!”). Taking turns might feel very challenging and unfamiliar to young children, so be sure to make it a positive experience, and give your child lots of positive praise as they participate.
  • Pass a ball back and forth. Encourage your child to pass the ball to you, by reaching out your arms and asking for the ball. Encourage your child to get ready as you pass the ball back to them. Rolling a ball back and forth mirrors the reciprocal interaction that occurs during verbal communication.
  • Share a toy. Encourage your child to take turns while playing with their toy. Prompt them to give you a turn (e.g. “Mommy’s turn”), and give your child lots of praise when they share. Try to keep turns short and consistent, so your child sees that they will get their turn again quickly.
  • Imitate your child. Imitation is a critical part of language development, and an excellent context for turn-taking routines. Imitate your child’s actions in a fun and playful way. For example, if your child covers their mouth, cover your mouth too. You might imitate speech sounds, gestures, or actions. Imitation games involve listening, watching, anticipating, and repeating: all of which require turn-taking.
  • Create anticipation. Engage your child in routine games that create anticipation. For example, you might play peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, sing songs, or read familiar books with repetitive phrases. During activities, pause and allow your child to anticipate what comes next.
  • Wait for your child to respond. Show your child that you’re eager to hear their ideas, by actively listening. Lean in close, and give your child attention through eye contact and eager facial expressions. Most importantly, give your child ample time to respond by simply waiting.
  • Talk about “talking-turns”. For older children, introduce the concept of “talking turns”. Encourage your child to let other people have their talking turn, and wait for their own turn to talk. You might even narrate this (e.g. “It’s mom’s talking turn right now” or “Now it’s your talking turn!”).

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Helping Your Child Who Is Not Social | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode below, our Pediatric Neuropsychologist answers a question from a viewer on what to do when a child does not know how to make friends.

In This Video You Will Learn:

  • What to do when your child is not social
  • How to investigate the reasons
  • How to intervene on your child’s behalf

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello. I am Robyn Ackerman with Pediatric Therapy TV. I am standing here today with Dr. Stasi. In today’s segment we will be answering questions from our viewers. Charlie has given us a question from Kansas City. Charlie asks, “My 4-year-old son is having a hard time making friends in school. What can I do to help him?”

Dr. Stasi: Thank you. That’s a great question. What we often think about in school is the child’s academic needs and the child’s behavioral concerns. We often neglect the social emotional concerns of the child. It is just as vital to identify these concerns as the academics and the behavioral functioning. What I really recommend first, if a child is struggling in the social realm, is to make an evaluation to determine why. Is it some underlying construct that this child has, an internal deficit with interacting with another child? Is it anxiety, that they are afraid to approach others? Or is it something else? Already being teased or bullied?

Once you can identify the reason for the behavior, then we can intervene for this child to develop what is going to be appropriate. It has to be individually. We cannot just create a plan for any child to improve his or her social functioning. It has to be based on specific needs. It works as a team, then, working with the school social worker, the school psychologist, the teacher, and also outside advocates that you have, be it a child’s therapist or a neuropsychologist. We really want to intervene for the child to determine what is going on and then where to go from here.

So, I think, Charlie, the answer to your question is that we can’t answer that question. We need to figure out why. We need to determine what’s going on. Then we have the basics to really intervene and make sure that this child succeeds socially.

Robyn: Thank you, Dr. Stasi, and thank you, Charlie. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at LearnMore.me.

Chicago Family-Friendly Destinations

Winter is right around the corner, and with the cooler weather keeping us indoors, parents are always looking for new destinations to take their

bubbles academy

Bubbles Academy

children. Try some of these “hot spots” around Chicago to keep your child active and engaged during the snowy months ahead:

1. Little Beans Café: An indoor playground and café for parents and kids of all ages to relax, be creative, interact, and have a snack or two! A variety of classes are offered throughout the week as well, including kids yoga!

2. Gymboree Play and Music: Children are able to play and explore with a variety of equipment; and participate in classes such as music, art, sports, and school skills to work on a variety of areas of fine and gross motor development.

3. Bubbles Academy: An open play space for families to run, jump, and climb; including a meadow room, an ocean room, a mountain room, and a tree house! Classes include yoga, cooking classes, and creative movement!

4. Family grounds : A café for all ages, in which the main café and kids playspace are separated to accommodate everyone’s needs. The playspace includes different areas such as a performance stage, arts and crafts, and a trains and cars.

5. Sweet and Sassy: A great place to host a birthday party or to get your child’s hair cut (boys and girls). Other activities include manicures and pedicures and lots of glittery make-up.

6. Pump it Up: Another awesome location for a birthday party or field trip destination, known as “the inflatable party zone”, which is filled with bounce houses, slides, and obstacle courses.

7. Kid’s Table: A place for children, parents, and families of all shapes and sizes to learn about healthy foods. Enjoy classes or the retail store, and begin cooking together at home. Classes include a variety of themes, such as “Kids nite out” and “family class”.

 Please feel free to leave your family fun place suggestions in the comments form below!

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Top 10 Tips to get your Shy Child to Speak

Many children thrive in new environments or situations. They separate quickly from their parents, make friends easily and are eager to participate in the classroom. Not all children are like this, however. Some children are resistant to entering a room full of children and prefer to play alone. They may also be more reserved in circle time or in the classroom. They may have a hard time making new friends and having a conversation. Below are some ways you can encourage your shy child to come out of his/her shell.

 10 Tips To Encourage Your Shy Child To Speak:

1. Encourage play groups with friends – Many children will have an easier time playing or talking when there are less people around. Ask your child’s teacher who your child tends to sit next to or who shares some of the same interests and invite them over for a play date. Start by having the play date at your house. Once your shy girlchild is comfortable playing with his new friend in your house, change the setting and go to the park. When he/she seems ready to go over to the friend’s house, let your child bring some of his/her favorite toys to make the transition easier.

2. Help your child make friends – Making new friends isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. Start by introducing your child to someone his/her own age. Try to find out what the other child likes to do and see if they share any common interests. When you make the introduction, it’s helpful to say, “Scott is your age too! And guess what? He loves dinosaurs!” This will help your child ease into the process of making friends. Once your child becomes more comfortable or at ease, you can then invite the other friend over for a play date.

3. Role play – Use some of your child’s favorite toys to role play what may happen in real life. Let’s say your child has a hard time entering his/her classroom in the morning and saying hi to his/her peers. Use dolls or stuffed animals and act out this situation. Ask your child, “What could bear say to his friends?” If your child has a hard time playing with the other kids during free time, you could act this out as well. The goal here is to get your child thinking about what he/she could say or do. The roles can be reversed as well. You play the shy child and have your child’s bear be the one to help you think it through. Additionally, when you’re out in public, model what you would like your child to be doing in social situations. When you come in contact other people, say hello and ask how they are doing. Smile too!!

4. Don’t force your child – It’s important not to label your child as shy. While it’s okay to be a shy child, if you start labeling him/her or the behavior, it negatively reinforces the problem.

5. Incorporate their interests – What is your child really interested in? Does he/she love polar bears? Have him/her bring some books, toys or pictures to the classroom. While we just talked about how important it is not to force your child to talk, provide him/her with an opportunity to share what he/she brought in with classmates.

6. Give your child some “go to” lines – Sometimes it’s just the initial communication exchange that can be most challenging. Once they’re over the “hump” engaging with another peer becomes easier. Go over some “go to” lines that your child can use when meeting a new friend or wanting to play with a friend in his/her class.

  • Hi, how are you?
  • What’s your name?
  • Do you want to play?
  • Can I play too?
  • I like your ____.

7. Read books – There are many books that talk about being shy or have a shy character in them. Some book ideas include, “Are You Shy?” “Little Miss Shy” and “Shy Spaghetti and Excited Eggs.”

8. Social stories – Social stories are a great way to talk about difficult situations. Social stories provide a child with information about situations that he/she may find difficult or uncomfortable. You can find stories online or even write one of your own. By making one yourself, you can use pictures of actual people and places to make it more lifelike.

9. Improve your child’s self-esteem – You always want your child to feel good about him/her. Have your child tell you 10 things they like about himself/herself. Provide positive feedback when it’s appropriate (i.e. “You did such a great job saying hi to your friend.”) Teachers can also be helpful in promoting your child’s self-esteem.

10. Seek outside help – if it seems like your child is more than just shy, it may be helpful to seek advice from a professional. Some red flags include being socially withdrawn, avoiding eye contact, having a tantrum or crying before going to a social situation.  Remember to stay positive, be patient and always model good social skill behaviors!

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Gross Motor Exercises for Kids in a Hotel

Staying in a hotel does not leave a lot of room to play which may leave a child bursting with energy! Here are some tips to provide an outlet for kids to have fun during hotel downtime while also improving their gross motor strength, coordination and to help with self-regulation.

11 Hotel Activities Concentrating on Gross Motor, Self Regilation and Coordination:

1. Assist parents in carrying luggage to and from room. This provides heavy work to help with self regulation.

2. Animal walks or races with siblings in hallways. These activities have many benefits, including self-regulation, core strength, endurance, motor planning and bilateral coordination.boy sitting on luggage

3. Crab walks- With body facing upwards, use hands and feet to hold up body weight, while walking on all fours with tummy facing the ceiling and keeping torso held up. This can be done forwards, backwards or even sideways!

4. Bear walks- With body facing downwards and hips bent, walk slowly on all fours with both arms and legs straight.

5. Frog jumps- Begin crouched down in a bent knee position, with knees pointed away from each other. Place both hands on the floor between knees and propel self up with the strength of the legs. Hop forward with both feet together; come down with hands and feet touching the ground at the same time.

6. Be creative! Have your child come up with their own animal walks.

7. Wheelbarrow walks in the hall way. Have your child lie on their stomach while grabbing their feet and raise their feet into the air. The “wheelbarrow” moves by walking on his/her arms while holding their stomach tight. This activity provides heavy work for self regulation, as well as motor planning, bilateral coordination, core strength and upper body strength.

8. Yoga poses- Choose a pose such as tree, plank or boat and see how long your child can hold it for (example: tree, plank, or boat. While holding a sustained contraction as in yoga poses, your child will be increasing their postural control, balance and as well as providing a self-regulation strategy.

9. Jumping Jacks or wall push ups. These easy exercises can be done anywhere to address not only self-regulation, but also bilateral coordination and motor planning.

10. Play “Simon Says”. Show your child a pose and see if they can recreate. This is a great way to increase your child’s motor planning and bilateral coordination. Make sure to incorporate both sides of the body with your poses!

11. Have your child lay on the floor to make numbers or letters with his/her body to address motor planning and bilateral coordination.

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Teaching Children To Follow Directions

Here are some easy tips to help your child follow directions:

Yes and No Directions Simplify instructions:

  • Use short, simple phrases, with episodes of repetition when necessary.
  • When possible, break down multi-step instructions into distinct component parts. Say “sit down, put shoes on” rather than “Go to the table, sit down, and put your shoes on.”
  • Be specific “please put your socks in the hamper” rather than “clean up your room.”
  • Phrase directions as a statement rather than as a question (i.e. “please put the book on the shelf” rather than “will you put the book on the shelf?”)

 Check for understanding:

  • After hearing instructions, encourage your child to repeat them back to you.

Using pictures and schedules:

  • Implement pictures to provide visual representation and establish routine. For example, use sequential pictures to show the sequencing of washing hands or brushing teeth.  These can be placed on the mirror in the bathroom.
  • Use daily or task specific picture schedules to provide visual representation of language, assist in transitions, and establish routines.

 Multi-step instructions:

  • Apply a “first, then” model (i.e., first work, then play).
  • Pair related instructions together (i.e., Get your shoes, then put your shoes on).  As consistency and accuracy of following related multi-step directions increases, begin to incorporate unrelated directions (i.e., Take off your shoes, then sit at the table).

 Use positive rather than negatives:

  • Phrase directions positively and tell your child what you want him/her to do rather than what you want him/her not to do. For example, say “please walk” rather than “don’t run.” The same specific and descriptive language should be used when praising. For example, instead of saying “You are being helpful, ” it would be better to say exactly what you want/like about his/her behavior, such as “thank you for taking out the garbage without us having to remind you.”

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10 Ways to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

Vocabulary development is a critical component in your child’s ability to interact with the world around them.  Children need the right words to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas to others.  Strong vocabulary development also impacts listening and reading comprehension.  The more vocabulary words your child knows, the more likely they will comprehend what they are hearing or reading.  So how can parents help?

Here are 10 ways to help build your child’s vocabulary.

1. Create language-rich environments to encourage new vocabulary.  This might include a trip to the zoo, a seasonal craft, or a fun picture-book.  Introduce age-appropriate vocabulary to your child through a fun and memorable experience.
2. Use kid-friendly terms to explain new words.  For example, if you are boy with yellow ballteaching your child what  “zebra” means, avoid a dictionary definition such as: a horse-like African mammal of the genus Equus .  Instead, try a simple explanation: a zebra is an animal. It looks like a horse.  Zebras have black and white stripes.
3. Encourage your child to brainstorm their own examples of new vocabulary words.  For example, if the new word is “little”, you might encourage your child by saying “Can you think of a little animal?”
4. Practice sorting new vocabulary.  Encourage your child to describe, sort and categorize vocabulary based on various features.  You might think of “3 cold things”, “3 animals” or “3 things that take you places.”
5. Think of synonyms and antonyms.  Encourage your child to think of substitute words (e.g. “can you think of another word for enormous?… big!”) or opposite words (e.g. “What is the opposite of hot?… cold!”).
6. Give your child opportunities to practice their new vocabulary words.  If you recently enjoyed an outing at the zoo, you might print out digital pictures from the trip.  Throughout the following week, enjoy looking at the pictures with your child and remembering what animals you saw.  You might also read a picture-book about animals or zoos (“What is this animal called?” or “Can you find a tiger in this picture?”).
7. Introduce new vocabulary words ahead of time.  Holidays, seasons, and special outings are all excellent occasions to introduce new words.  For example, as Fall approaches you might choose 10 new words about Fall (e.g. pumpkin, Autumn, cool, leaves, apples, jacket, etc).  Plan a fun craft that incorporates those new words.  You might make play-doh shapes using vocabulary words, draw new words with sidewalk chalk, or search for words in a picture book or magazine.
8. Tap into other senses.  Children learn best when information is presented through multiple senses (e.g. touch, sight, sound, smell).  To tap into the various, you might have your child stomp to each syllable of new vocabulary words (el-a-phant), draw a picture of the word, or act out the meaning.
9. Encourage older kids to use strategies to remember new vocabulary.  They might keep a “vocabulary flashcard box” that includes challenging words from chapter-books, their school curriculum, or new concepts encountered in their environment.  Encourage your child to define vocabulary in their own words, and draw a picture to represent it.  You might also brainstorm root words or word derivations (e.g. run, running).
10. Avoid vocabulary over-load.  Try not to teach too many new words at one time.  For example, if you are reading a book with your child, avoid explaining every unfamiliar vocabulary word.  Instead, just stick with a few important words.   As much as possible, learning should be motivating and stimulate curiosity.   Follow your child’s lead, and explore concepts or words that they find interesting.  Look for cues that they might feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

Encouraging Crawling in Babies

There is nothing as heart warming as watching your child crawl across the room to try to pull your grandparents wedding china onto the floor.

baby crawling

Crawling is an important form of movement for infants.  It helps to build a stronger core and begins to introduce weight through the bones of the upper leg to increase bone density.  Crawling is singular in its ability to promote strength and stability of the shoulder and the surrounding muscles (which become important postural muscles once the child is standing) using the child’s own weight.  From a visual standpoint, they begin to hone their ability to maintain a smooth visual field while the head is in motion as well as work on their objects per minutes. Reciprocal crawling also develops the ability to coordinate their right and left sides (bilateral integration).

It is typical for babies to progress from scooting backwards on their belly, “swimming ” (where arms and legs are both moving up off the floor), belly crawling (“army/military crawling”), and then reciprocally crawling on hands and knees.  This sequence cannot begin if they are never on their tummies to play, so the foundation is tons and tons and tons of tummy time.

Attempting to change the movement habits that you little one has, or challenging them to build new habits is not easy.  Yeah, very not easy.  I would encourage you to understand their frustration, empathize with them, but stay the course.  Remind yourself of your own tears every time you try to give up coffee.  Remember how tough it was to begin something you wanted to challenge yourself with, but how rewarding it was when you accomplished your goal.  So there may be some tears (some from the baby), but there should also be plenty of cheers and hugs and kisses.

Try these activities at home to encourage crawling:

1. Strong foundations – Tummy time, tummy time, tummy time. I know I said this above, but it is worth  repeating.
2. Get down and get busy – Lay, roll, and crawl around with your child.  You can make a lot of eye contact, and if you are on the floor your face can still be seen if they need to put their head down to rest, so they may enjoy being on their tummy longer.
3. Get low – If laying next to them is not enough, lay on your back, and place your child on your chest.  This is great for bonding and
4. Born free– Take them out of the exerscaucer or bouncy seat – When children do not have to move to get a toy or look at something new they won’t, which leads me to……
5. Move a toy just out of their reach – Yes, I said that you needed to be mean, and this may lead to screaming. They may just surprise you and themselves by moving towards it.
6. Try a different toy- perhaps with lights and/or music.
7. Try using your phone to motivate them -I have seen this work, just don’t let them put it in their mouth.  Ew!
8. Try changing what they are wearing- Layers of clothing can impede sensory input and get in the way of movement.
9. You are the local expert – If these things do not work, you know what motivates your child, mix it up, and then let me know, I’m running out of ideas.
10. Tummy time -which means getting them out of the bouncy chair/bumbo seat.  Learn more about the importance of Tummy Time from this 2 minute video

Choosing the Right Toys to Promote Your Child’s Language Development: Part 2

With the holiday’s approaching, you may be looking for gift ideas for your little ones, or it may just be time to revamp the toy shelves.  Parents often askwhich toys will help their child’s speech and language skills develop.  Flash cards?… Baby Einstein?…Wi?

boy playing on pretend phone

In Part 1 of this blog, we talked about principles to consider when choosing the right toys for your child.  In Part 2, I’m excited to share 5 favorite “go-to” toys to encourage speech and language skills in toddlers.  Keep in mind that every child is unique, including their developmental level and personal interests. And no matter which toy you choose, the most important contributor to promoting your child’s speech and language, is one-on-one time with caregivers and loved ones!

5 Great Picks To Promote Speech in Children

1. Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm This activity encourages “make-believe” play as children bring each animal to life.  Imitating animal sounds (e.g. moo-moo, neigh-neigh) is a great way to develop speech sounds while having fun.  This activity also lends itself to following directions, playing with others, and learning about location concepts (e.g. in, on, under).
2. Barn Yard Bingo Barn Yard Bingo is an excellent way to encourage turn-taking skills.  This activity also promotes labeling animals and colors, matching, and speech sound development.  You can facilitate and encourage turn-taking (e.g. “It’s your turn!… my turn!”) while naming animals or imitating animal sounds (e.g. “cow says moo!”).
3. Basic Vocabulary Picture Books, such as Baby Einstein’s “First Words”  Books are a great way to build your child’s vocabulary and develop early literacy skills.  For infants and toddlers, choose books with large and simple pictures, and avoid books that are too visually distracting.  Practice identifying and labeling pictures (e.g. “Where’s ball?… there it is!”), and answering questions about each picture.
4. Melissa & Doug Pretend Food  Pretend picnic foods are a great way to encourage pretend-play and social interactions.  Your child can build vocabulary and learn basic categories while they plan a picnic with family members or friends.
5. Play-Doh Play-doh (or any molding clay) is an excellent activity to foster creativity and ideation.  There are many ways to enjoy play-doh, whether it’s making different shapes, or creating a pretend-picnic.   This activity encourages interactions with others, cooperation, pretend play, and vocabulary building.  **Children should be carefully monitored while playing with play-doh, as many children enjoy mouthing/swallowing it.

Choosing the Right Toys to Promote Your Child’s Language Development

Parents often ask which toys to purchase for their child. There are so many factors to consider: learning, development, socialization, entertainment,boy playing on pretend phone and of course, fun! So how do you know which toys are best? Here are a few basic principles to consider when choosing the right toy for your child:

How do I choose the right toys to promote speech for my child?

1. Be simple. When it comes to toys, less is often more. Toys should stimulate exploration and creativity, which is often best accomplished through simple toys such as building blocks, play-doh, and pretend play.

2. Avoid toys that do all the work for your child. Even though electronic toys can be engaging and exciting, they leave little room for creativity and expanding on ideas, which can lead to passivity. I often encourage parents to limit their child’s use of video games and electronic toys, and stick with toys that require more creativity or social interaction.

3. Make-believe. Language is a symbol system that requires representational thought. For example, the word “ball” is a symbol that represents an actual object. Representational thought can be developed through pretend-play and make-believe. Additionally, pretend-play also promotes creativity, ideation, language use, and social interaction.

4. Think social. Look for toys that promote interactions with others. This might include a make-believe picnic, a fun game to share with friends, a ball to pass back-and-forth, or pretend toys such as a dollhouse or farm.

5. Create music. Musical instruments are a wonderful addition to your child collection. Pretending to play an instrument not only promotes make-believe, but it also encourages your child’s interest in music. Singing helps children learn various patterns of language, as well as learn to distinguish between different speech sounds.

6. Keep the bookshelves stocked! Books are always an excellent choice for kids of all ages. They promote vocabulary, speech development, listening, language, attention, and of course, literacy. For younger children, choose books that have large and simple pictures. Other great choices including repetitive books (e.g. Brown bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?), or rhyming books (e.g. Llama Llama).

7. Foster creativity. Consider art supplies to foster your child’s creativity. Art supplies such as crayons, sidewalk-chalk and moldable clay are excellent activities to encourage creativity in children.

8. Finally, consider safety. Be sure to read labels and age-requirements of all toys. Choose toys with nontoxic materials, and consider the developmental skills of your child. If your child is younger or enjoys mouthing things, then stay away from small objects that can be easily swallowed or choked on.

 Click Here to Read Part 2 of This Blog: 5 Great Toys To Encourage Speech