Letting Wait Time Happen

By Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

Kathy plays with a toddler during class.

Kathy plays with a toddler during class.

As an OT, I have gained much wisdom from the co-treatments I get to have with my friends, the TLC speech therapists. By working as a team with the speech therapists, I have learned more about the kiddos I work with as well as myself. In one area in particular, the growth has not only been tremendously beneficial for me but also challenging.  

Let’s start with the fact that I can be a little bit of a talker. I love to encourage, give praise, give direction (and sometimes re-direction) and can do so in a highly animated way. All great, but sometimes overwhelming for the listener. I have realized that sometimes I am so busy filling quiet spaces that I am not giving the child ample time and space to process and react to what is being said. So one thing that I have had to learn and practice is the art of WAIT TIME.  

Some kiddos can process all of the information and flurry of activity that we give them more quickly, while others need some time to take in the information, process it, and then do something with it. Innately, I know this; I talk about the importance of processing time frequently. Putting it into practice can be a little harder. The bottom line is that we all benefit from having some space and time to act.

“Go get your shoes,” or “I wonder what color that is?” or “Let me see you jump!” or “ready, set…….”  The recommended wait time before encouraging a response is around five seconds.  Five seconds? That doesn’t sound like much. However, when really giving wait time to a child (or adult), it can feel like an ETERNITY of quiet when you're waiting for a response. The response you're waiting on could be following a direction, answering a question, making a comment, or making a choice.  

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five….

What I have found is that the challenge with wait time is my own challenge, and that if I do not choose to fill in the spaces with more information or by rephrasing the direction I just gave, it allows time for the response I am looking for as well as other productive and creative things to emerge. My advice, then, is to try to remember to always count to five when waiting for a response from a child you're interacting with. Sometimes, if we give them the space to think and process, they'll surprise you with the wonderful thoughts and ideas that go through their minds ...if we give them space and quiet to let those thoughts form.
 

Putting Toys Away: Tips for Fostering Language While Keeping Your House Clean(ish)

By Grace LeVasseur, TLC Speech Language Pathologist

TLC student Daphne has fun with a combination of toys and cardboard boxes at home.

TLC student Daphne has fun with a combination of toys and cardboard boxes at home.

I love picking out the perfect toy for a play session. Finding a motivating toy for a child can spark engagement to help best instruct specific speech and language skills. However, as a mom of a toddler, I know the reality of caring for these toys and the constant picking up and putting away of books, dolls, puzzles, play food, and more. Is there a way to balance exposing your child to developmentally appropriate toys/play while also keeping a clean house?

Maybe not all the time. However, given the steps below, language skills like attention, following directions, categorization, requesting, and pretend play can be fostered even during clean up. 

Step 1: Dump toys on the floor (pick a corner!) and sort. Why? Embrace the mess! What is your child drawn to out of all those toys? Which ones need to go? 

Language learning opportunity: categorization/following directions: Have your child assist you in the sorting/organizing their toys. You can do this simply and increase difficulty. 

•    "Find a book!"
•    "Grab all the books!"
•    "Put the books on the shelf"
•    "Put the books on the shelf and the animals in the basket"
•    "Put the big books on the shelf and the little books in the box"

 
 

Step 2: Put those toys in containers or reclosable bags. Why? Putting toys in their assigned groups helps a child make associations. For example, if a child pulls out "pretend foods," their experience with each fruit and vegetable reaffirms the multitude of specific "foods" within that category. 

Language learning opportunity: requesting: Is your child showing interest in the zipped up bag full of blocks? Let him/her ask to open the bag! You can do this simply and increase difficulty.

•    "I see you want to play with the blocks!"
•    "You are <insert here the action your child is taking to show you she is requesting such as reaching, pointing, nodding head, or even saying "open!">"
•    Incorporate a "script" to repeatedly use every time you open an item
o    "Knock knock, open!"
o    "zzziiiippppppp, open!"
o    "Is it stuck? Oh, you need help, 'help please! Open!'"
•    Additionally, while having a clear container creates an opportunity to label the contents inside, a colored/blocked container allows for a child to guess what's inside. 

 
 

Step 3: Put half of those containers away in another room. Why? This helps your child focus on the toys available, removes clutter (less cleaning for you), and makes for a more interesting toy after they've been out of sight for a while. 

Language learning opportunity: Attention/following directions. Is your child all done playing blocks? Using "first, then" language can help transition between activities and/or increase the time spent on the activity. 
•    "Are you all done playing blocks?"
•    (no)
•    "Oh, you still want to play with blocks! Let's stack up up up" <Voila 2 more minutes of play!>
•    "Are you all done playing blocks?"
•    (yes)
•    "Oh! First, we put the blocks in the box, then we can eat our snack!"

Step 4: Use what you've got around and outside the house. Why? This is a free and functional way to optimize vocabulary development with household items and role play of daily routines. 

Language learning opportunity: pretend play. Not using that cardboard box lying next to the recycling? Can it be transformed into a house? A kitchen?
•    Play Peek a boo! around the pretend house going in and out, flapping the doors open and shut
•    Act out daily routines: pretend to eat, sleep, wipe the floor, etc.
•    Extend these routines to include other toys: feed the doll, put the teddy bear to sleep, clean up the kitty's spilled milk, etc. 

I'll confess, I'm actually not a neat freak. To be honest, my living room is usually messy... However, considering from time to time that cleaning can also be an opportunity for play and interaction, making "putting toys away" that much more fun and meaningful for you and your child. 

July Speech & Language Activities

By Fawn Gold, TLC Speech and Language Pathologist

TLC Speech Therapist Fawn Gold has created a calendar of activities to engage your child in speech and language development this summer. Try any of the activities below to help your child build conversational skills and verbal communication while you enjoy the long days together.

Responsive Language

By Amy Kuessel, TLC Teaching Assistant

Responsive language is a way of speaking with children that uses reason and logic, encourages independence, uses nurturing control, and encourages elaboration. Responsive language helps children develop oral language skills, self-expression, and social-emotional skills related to peer and adult interactions. The opposite of responsive language is restrictive language. Restrictive language asserts power, discourages independence, is controlling, and has a lecturing tone. 

It seems natural to ask children questions to elicit responses, but research shows that asking pointed questions can raise the anxiety of a child and thus limit the complexity of a child's language and response. Questions can be restrictive when a child worries about giving an adult the "right" answer, or about selecting his or her words to stay in the parameters of the question. Responsive language creates opportunities for children to speak freely, using an expanded vocabulary and independent thought. Some suggestions for using responsive language when conversing with a child include:

1) Repeat: Repeating what the child said opens up the conversation and lets them know they are heard, and that the adult is receptive to the child elaborating on his or her statement.

2) Expand: Repeat what the child said and expand on it in your response. This helps guide the child's thoughts down new paths, keeping the conversation open and moving.

3) Self-talk: Use self-talk to teach children how to connect actions with language. In self-talk, a parent or guardian narrates what they are thinking and feeling. For example, "I like strawberries on my cereal," "I am slicing carrots for your lunch."

4) Parallel talk: In parallel talk, the parent or caregiver repeats what the child may be doing, feeling, and thinking to help the child connect language with their actions and feelings. Parallel talk almost always starts with "you," for example, "You are playing with your blocks," or "You are chewing your spaghetti."

5) Modeling: Modeling is another way to maintain a conversation with a child, but this time without using the child's words. This type of responsive language helps a child learn new ways to say things, while guiding them to elaborate on a topic or thought.

Strategies that support children's learning and give and take in conversation help children develop language skills, independent thought, and social-emotional skills. Responsive language is a great and easy strategy to give kids a head start in the development of these positive skills!

Cold Weather Speech and Language Activities for Kids

By Fawn Gold, TLC SpeechTherapist

January in Colorado is a chilly month! And with cold temperatures, ice, and snow, comes the need for indoor activities with children. Find a whole month's worth of indoor speech and language activities to help keep kids busy (and having fun!) while developing speech/language acquisition skills, and oral motor skills in the chart below:

 Make hot chocolate and talk about each step involved in preparation (first, second, third, etc.).

 When getting ready to go outside, talk about the purpose of coats, hats, scarves, and why we need to wear them.

Name four animals you see in the winter/cold climates and find pictures to discuss how they are similar and different from each other.

  Act out and talk about the verbs jump, crawl, kick, throw, catch, and other movements that can be demonstrated in the living room.

 Race cars on a table and talk about the differences between fast and slow.

 Read a book about winter and ask your child to recall five details from the story.

Find items of different textures (rough, soft, hard, etc.) and put them in a bag and have your child guess what they are.

Use silverware to make a pattern and talk about what’s first, last, and what will come next.

 Take turns thinking of things that are white like the snow. Where can you find each of the things you list?

Help your child find 10 words in a book or magazine that start with the same letter as your child’s name

 Find five things in the kitchen and talk about how they are used, and what you can make with them.

 Make snowballs of various sizes and talk about the differences between big and small.

Find all the tables in your house and talk about their sizes and shapes. Ask your child, what can you do on each table?

Make a grilled cheese sandwich and label and talk about the ingredients.

During a meal, include a variety of food textures and talk about soft, crunchy, chewy, etc.

 Have your child help sort the laundry and match colors.

Write the names of all family members and then count the letters and talk about long and short.

 Find several pairs of shoes and arrange them from biggest to smallest.

Have your child go to three rooms in your house and find five things in each room that are blue

While driving, ask your child about all of the different colors of houses, buildings, etc. that they see.

Walk between two buckets transferring cotton balls on a spoon and talk about full and empty.

Take turns hiding a small object under one of three bowls and guessing which bowl it’s under (1st, 2nd, or 3rd).

During bath time, talk about which toys or objects float and sink.

 Use play-doh to make a snowman and talk about all of the body parts.

Take turns naming as many different animals as you can.

Are you looking for a pediatric speech, physical, or occupational therapist for your child? TLC Learning Center has a highly rated pediatric therapy center, in addition to our 4 Star ranked preschool education and infant care center. Call us at (303)776-7417) to learn more.