Help Your Child Talk; Boxes, Bricks and Play

Welcome to the latest extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.  


In recent weeks, we've been looking at the real importance of play for learning to talk. Play, after all, is the thing that toddlers do best. Learning to pretend in his play is one of your child's ways of understanding symbols, getting ready for the highly complex way he'll be using words and grammar to express his meaning before long. 

Here's one of my favourite toys for helping your child to talk.



Play: stages
Remember that learning to symbolise is a sophisticated skill. Your child needs to go through the full sequence of development, in the right order, to learn about symbols. He needs to see, feel, hear, touch and taste real objects, finding out what they can do, before he plays with miniature people, houses and cars. 

He puts a few objects together in play, finding out that they're still there even when he can't see them and seeing how they relate to each other. Then he gradually advances to play sequences, where he can carry out whole teddy tea parties or pretend bath times. 

He can't skip from the first exploratory stage to complicated play sequences, no matter how many times you show him, until he's ready. 

His nervous system develops gradually. Remember that the pathways between the neurons in his brain are still developing fast in his first three years. He needs to repeat activities many times. At last the pathway becomes permanent through constant use, just like the path a cat wears in the garden from the door to her favourite sleeping quarters.

Play: your role
While your child investigates and experiments, your task is to encourage his play and offer him opportunities to develop to the next stage. Let him take his time. Think of yourself as a facilitator or helper, offering opportunities not lessons, and be guided by the things he enjoys. Be prepared to observe him, provide what he needs and play with him.

Join in with him. Give him opportunities to extend his play. Recognise that he’s constantly learning. As he pours water into a jar, he learns about volume, fluids and size. Use the words “water”, “pour” and “big” or “small” as you play with him.   

When he starts to play with two objects together, at around a year old, you can help by offering boxes to put things in and bricks to build up. Let him bang his spoon on the (plastic) plate and rattle it in the cup. You can clean up the mess later.

Enjoy doll's tea parties together, bath teddy and dress him before putting him to bed. Build up play sequences. Introduce smaller toys and less obvious representations of the real thing, such as Duplo characters. 


Match toys to pictures in books, saying 'Look, shoes like yours,' pointing at the picture, then at your child's shoes.

Play activities: Teddy's tea party
Spend time setting out a tea table. If you can get hold of a table and chairs that are a suitable size for Teddy to sit on, they’re ideal. Otherwise, use the family dining table, or a child - sized table. Include places for Teddy along with one or two other toys. Set the table with plates, spoons, cups, saucers, teapots, milk jugs and play food if you have it, and sit Teddy and his friends on their chairs. 

Let your child play happily with the tea things, and join in with him. Offer Teddy a drink, and suggest your child offers a drink to another toy, or some pretend food. Use simple language, such as “Teddy's hungry”, “Teddy's drinking”, “give Teddy a biscuit”. 

Try making a pretend cup of tea by “pouring” from the teapot and milk jug into the cups, and stirring with a spoon.  As he grows, your child will join with longer sequences.





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Help Your Child Talk by Playing and Pretending

Today, we've reached the 20th extract from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT. 

This week's extract shows how your baby begins to develop his understanding of 'pretending'.  This is important, as we saw last week, because it leads him to discover how to use symbols. Language, both spoken and written, is a complex system of symbols.


Play:infants
Play begins as your baby looks closely at his toys during his first year. He puts things in his mouth, turns them over, pokes them and shakes them. Rattles, soft toys, a mother's earrings: they all come in for the 'see it, feel it, suck it' treatment as he finds out what these strange things are, and what they can do. 

He needs time to understand how each object looks, sounds, tastes, smells and feels before he moves on to the next stage. Throughout his first year, your baby’s play revolves around his five senses and real objects. Towards the end of the year, he uses real objects for their intended purpose. He drinks from his cup and maybe uses a hairbrush on his own hair. 

 Play: experiment
Once he becomes familiar with objects, he notices that some have a relationship to others. He puts a spoon in and out of a cup and makes stirring movements. He tries to put other objects in the cup, and finds that some things fit while others, such as bricks, may not fit so well in a cup, but sit nicely on top of each other. He explores constantly, finding out more about the properties of everything around him.

Soon he starts “pretending”, using toys as though they are the real thing. He pretends to drink from a toy cup, or brushes his own hair with a doll’s size brush. At first, he does these pretend actions to himself, but then he begins to offer a “drink” to teddy or brushes dolly's hair. 


Teddy is like a real person to him now. He might kiss him and wash him. He reproduces aspects of his own life through his play with a teddy or a doll. Let him take teddy everywhere, exploring the world of make believe and expanding his understanding of language. 


Come back next week to find out how you can enjoy this exciting stage with your toddler, and help him learn to talk at the same time. 



 If you're finding these extracts useful, and can't wait to read the rest of the ebook, just download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

Help Your Child Talk: Language and Pretend Play

Here's extract 19 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Language and pretend play
Language is a system of symbols; a mix of sounds, gestures and marks that we put together according to commonly agreed sets of rules, and that we use to encode and decode information. 

You use language labels to describe activities because it helps you to think about them in an organised way. You label things to make sense of life. It takes your child a long time to learn to talk, because language is one of the highest level activities he learns.

Your child gradually learns that language is useful, because it helps him get what he needs, ask for things he wants, complain when he can't have what he wants, tell you when something hurts, and where it hurts. Later, he'll use language to exchange more complex information, even to tell jokes.

Your child spends much of his time playing.

Play is what he does. He enjoys it. He likes finding out new things, discovering how things move, what they feel like, how they smell and sound. The more he enjoys his activities, the better he learns. 


Through his play,from investigating by putting objects in his mouth, through to pretending to give his teddy a drink, he learns the role that toys, pictures, gestures and words have in helping him communicate.

Play: representation
When your toddler offers you a cup of pretend tea from a miniature cup, and you pretend to drink it, nobody’s fooled. He knows as well as you do there is no 'real' tea in the cup. What's more, he knows you know. 


The toy cup represents a real cup of tea, and the situation represents a real-life action he knows well. It represents, or symbolises, one person giving a cup of tea to another.


A picture of a cup, the word 'cup' and a hand sign for 'cup' are all symbols that stands for a real cup, just as his toy cup does. 


Your baby and toddler gradually, over many months, learns to develop his understanding of symbols. He begins with real objects. He uses his five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, to learn everything he can about these. 

Next, he recognises the relationship between a toy and the real thing, before he learns how a picture or a physical sign, such as waving bye-bye, can represent an object or action. 


Finally, he learns the words: the labels that also symbolise the real object.  When he reaches school age, he moves on to recognising letters and numbers, and how they symbolise less concrete, more abstract ideas. Pretend play is part of the process.   

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Help Your Child Talk: Attention, Listening and Understanding Checklists

Here's extract 18 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.
If you'd like to get in touch, maybe with a question on babies, toddlers and language development, or any communication topic, feel free to email me through the Contact Me tab at the top of the blog. Questions you ask may find their way (anonymously) into the new Frequently Asked Questions page. find it by clicking the tap at the top of the page.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

This week is a bit of a recap of some of the things we've looked at over the past few weeks. Here's a very brief set of simple checklists of things to remember with your baby and toddler, covering the first three keys to language skill: attention, listening and understanding. 

Attention skills: babies
  • Make eye contact.
  • Speak gently.
  • Notice which sense your baby is using.
  • Play peep-bo and sing nursery rhymes.
  • Limit the number of toys around him.
  • Let him sleep and be quiet.
Attention skills: toddlers
  • Alternate quiet times with activity.
  • Limit TV and encourage his own activities.
  • Watch for overstimulation and let him relax quietly.
  • Call his name and wait for him to look at you.
  • Get down to his level so he can see you.
  • Keep calm when he gets frustrated.
  • Consider signing with him.
  • Tell bedtime stories.
  • Sing nursery rhymes.
Listening: babies
  • Babble and play cooing games, encouraging your baby to enjoy babbling.
  • Say his name or touch his hand to gain his attention.
  • Make eye contact and smile at your baby when you talk.
  • Turn off the TV and radio for a time every day while you play.
  • Sing nursery rhymes together.
Listening: toddlers
  • Keep to a routine, with quiet times for stories, games and puzzles 
  • Include times for noisy play and letting off steam. 
  • Tidy his toys occasionally so he attends to one thing at a time. 
  • Smile when your child talks to you. 
  • Turn off the TV and radio for a time every day while you play. 
  • Make a quiet corner with somewhere to sit and draw, colour or look at books.
Understanding
  • Repeat simple words in many different contexts.
  • Broaden your toddler's understanding of the world by taking him out to different places.
  • Talk to him about the things he sees.
  • Keep the language you use simple: one or two words in his first year.
  • Emphasise important “key” words in a sentence.
  • Place a new word at the end of a sentence. 
 If you're finding these extracts useful, and can't wait to read the rest of the ebook, just BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).
Here's extract 17 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.
If you'd like to get in touch, maybe with a question on babies, toddlers and language development, or any communication topic, feel free to email me through the Contact Me tab at the top of the blog. Questions you ask may find their way (anonymously) into the new Frequently Asked Questions page. find it by clicking the tap at the top of the page.

If you're a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week's post you'll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

Here are two more games to play with your child, to help him understand language. These are both sorting games. They help him explore the relationship between different objects, their similarities adn differences. They also your child move from recognising real objects and toys to pictures, an important step in learning about symbols. Understanding symbols underpins his languge skills, and also, later, his ability to learn to read.

Understanding activities: sorting
Help him sort things into boxes. Collect a wide range of toys and pictures. Make sure you include things that look different but have the same name. Include a red sock, a short sock, a long sock, a picture of a sock and a dirty sock, to go in one box, for example. Different kinds of pencils, or brushes, or books will go in the other boxes.

Sort them into the boxes with him, using the objects’ names and discussing how they are the same and how they are different.  Point out that all the socks have a toe and a heel, but that one sock is longer, or cleaner, or a different colour than the other one.

Understanding activities: post box
When you’ve played many times with real objects or small toys, start to introduce pictures for some of your games. Here’s a game to boost his understanding of different objects and their word labels.

Many words fit into pairs of opposites. “Hot” is the opposite of “cold” and “high” is the opposite of “low”. Learning to recognise the contrasts between these characteristics helps your child establish important ideas such as size, shape, number and volume. 
 
This simple sorting game helps him learn about 'big' and  'small', 'fat' and 'thin', 'high' and 'low'. 
Make two post boxes out of old cardboard boxes by cutting holes in the front.  

Collect pictures that show opposites, using the concepts of size and height. Make sure you have several pictures of each kind of item and that the big items are very clearly much bigger than the small ones. Big things should fill the whole page, while small things should sit right in the middle with plenty of plain space around them.

Select two pictures, for example, a big face and a small face. Play a posting game, by putting the big face in one box and the small face in the other. 

Move on to pictures of fat things and thin things, open things and closed things, and play the game again.

Avoid introducing more than one concept at a time: spend several sessions on big and small, and then wait a while before moving on to fat and thin.

Later, you can begin to introduce the idea of some big things being even bigger than other big things. Point things out in the street and keep the conversation going. 

Your child learns to understand big and very big, before he can manage big and bigger.

If you're finding these extracts useful, and can't wait to read the rest of the ebook, just BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).

I write this Communication Blog

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Frances Evesham: on the run around Europe for years, with only a husband, three children and a succession of opinionated cats to keep me out of trouble. Somerset stopped me in my tracks. Now I walk in the country and breathe sea air. I will get around to cleaning the house soon.

I've been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper. I sometimes work in the criminal courts to uphold fair questioning of people with special needs.

I smell the roses, lavender and rosemary as I cook with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. Writing historical romances and books on communication leaves enough time to enjoy bad jokes and puns and wish I’d kept on with the piano lessons.