Is my child ready for school?

What communication skills are needed for your child to have a smooth start to school? As speech pathologists, we play an important role in working together early childhood educators and parents to support children to meet their understanding and speaking developmental milestones. Let’s look at some of these key communication skills and read on to see tips on how you can continue to support your child to develop these important life skills!

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Help! Toy-nado alert!

My house has been swallowed by a toy-nado! Like many new parents, I am again eating my words from a past life.  I swore I would not spoil my children with ‘stuff’ nor let every space in my house be ravaged by a toy-nado of plastic, but I have failed miserably.  It is well established that play is vital for children’s emotional, social and cognitive growth and “Toys are the tools of play”.  So tonight’s blog will attempt to address the following:  What are the best kind of toys to buy and how do you get the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ when it comes to toys?

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Language of Behaviour: How to use the power of words to parent

To say the task of ‘parenting’ is overwhelming, would be a gross understatement.  Behaviour management is a complicated beast:  Rules vs Freedom.  Boundaries vs Flexibility.  Bully vs. Pushover.  This is all in a day’s work.  But what if we took the emotion out of the equation and just examined behaviour through a ‘language lens’?  Could it be as simple as a ‘game of semantics’? Let’s look a little closer at what this ‘language of behaviour’ involves:

1. THE POWER OF CHOICE: X OR Y?

Are you currently experiencing the joys of a terrible two, threenager or teenager?  While you have a battle of wills with the small dictator in your life, remember the power of choice.  You provide the choices, you maintain the upper hand. 

Speech pathologists effectively use choices not just as behaviour management technique but also to reduce the language demands of the task. 

Instead of having to know and retrieve the answer, your child simply chooses from the two answers provided; you have scaffolded the task.

“Would like to wear these shoes OR those shoes?”

“Broad beans OR peas for greens tonight?”

2. THE POWER OF A BRIBE OR THREAT

‘If’ and ‘unless’ are known as ‘conditional conjunctions’ and these language elements are necessary for understanding the concept of a threat and a bribe.  Obviously, bribes and threats are not the gold standard in the world of behaviour but we (parents) are not perfect!

Bribe Formula =  ‘If x, then y’. 

“IF you eat your broccoli (x), you can have an ice block (y) for dessert.”

Threat Formula =  ‘No x unless y”. 

“I won’t give you a push on the swing (x) UNLESS you say ‘please’ (y).”

3. THE POWER OF ‘POINTING POSITIVE’

‘Pointing positive’ is a behaviour technique where you say ‘what to do’ rather than ‘what not to do’.   

The social-emotional side of ‘pointing positive’ is that you are parenting with positivity however from a language perspective it is easier to comprehend sentences without negation (ie. not).

“Don’t run!” INSTEAD SAY “Walking.”

“Don’t hit.”  INSTEAD SAY “Be gentle.”

Beware of using double negatives in your sentences with young children as these are even more difficult to comprehend.

“If you don’t take those undies off your head, we will not be going to the playground.”

INSTEAD SAY

“If you take the undies off your head, we can go to the playground.”

4. THE POWER OF STATEMENTS NOT QUESTIONS

If what you are saying is a non-negotiable, don’t ask a question.  Parents are often guilty of asking a question instead of providing a statement.

As speech pathologists, we often work on understanding how to formulate a statement versus a question. 

“Are you ready to go in the car?”  INSTEAD SAY “It’s time to go in the car.”

“Do you need to go to the toilet before we leave?”  INSTEAD SAY “Come and do a wee on the toilet before we leave.”

This ‘language of behaviour’ strategy is easier said than done as often parents are busy avoiding sounding like a drill sergeant.But if all else fails, resort to option 2 (bribes and threats!).

If you would like to read some more behaviour, there are plenty of insightful blogs at Simply Kids by Stephanie Wicker https://www.simplykids.live/articles/challenging-behaviours and plenty of evidence linking language and behaviour by The Hanen Organisation http://www.hanen.org/SiteAssets/Articles—Printer-Friendly/Research-in-your-Daily-Work/Printer-Friendly—Behaviour-Regulation.aspx )

There is simply no way one could possibly overstate the power of words.  In fact, if we as parents learn to use the power of words, we might experience some wins in the battle of behaviour.  Well it’s worth a shot anyway!

Thanks for hearing our call.

Your Little Birdies,

Janice and Tania

RichREADER, PoorREADER: Does how you read to your child really matter?

We all know that reading books is important for our child but do we know why?  If we truly understood the benefits of read alouds, would we change the way we read?

Little Birdie Book Boxes provide RichREADING activity cards in every box to accompany their carefully-selected, quality picture books.  These cards provide a key focus for parents to think about when they are reading the book.  These small changes in HOW you read will give your child an ‘educational edge’ and make your read alouds RICH and your child’s future RICH in opportunities.  Here’s how:

1. The best things about books

Books introduce our children to new worlds, helping their minds to grow and develop. Books and pictures are concrete, always there be to read again and again unlike speech which ‘disappears’ as soon as we are finished talking. Stories and words in books come back to us the same way each time we read a book. This repetition makes learning new words and ideas easier for your child.  So read their favourite story again and again…you are doing your child a solid.

Sneak Peek:  Little Birdie Book Boxes give you access to our very own YouTube channel that allows your child to read along to their new favourite picture books being read aloud by ‘yours truly’.  You can thank us later 🙂

But how can we go beyond just reading the story over and over again so much so that we can we can recite it in our sleep?

2. Not your everyday conversation

The ability to use language to think and learn is developed through the pre-school years and is fundamental to literacy and success at school. We want to foster more complex kinds of language children need to learn about the world e.g., to compare and contrast two things, to pretend and imagine, to provide explanations and descriptions. Your child will start to learn this type of language long before they actually start school and quality picture books provide the perfect platform to start these conversations.

3. Turn book reading into a conversation

Books are a rich source of language for thinking and learning. To build this type of language, we want to encourage the children take turns to contribute their thoughts and ideas throughout the reading. It involves an ongoing conversation – stopping, asking, listening, responding, explaining and commenting.

Studies show that children who participate frequently in extended conversations with adults have better language and literacy outcomes.

4. Ask, don’t test

Testing questions are not useful because they are usually too simple to be cognitively stimulating. Questions like, “What colour is that?” “What is this?” (a familiar object) or “What is he doing?” (when it’s obvious) are testing questions. Your child may answer these questions correctly but they are learning little from them, and often these questions end the conversation.

5. Balance comments and questions

If we are asking too many questions throughout our book reading, it becomes an unbalanced conversation. We all know those people who make us feel as though we are in an interview answering twenty questions – it is unnatural.  Over questioning during book reading limits the opportunities for your child to learn from you.

If adults use more abstract and sophisticated language in their conversations with children, children will raise the level of their language.

BE A RICH READER

Our RichREADING activity cards give you information about the language for thinking and learning and a comprehension skill is targeted in each book box. We provide you with facts and practical tips for how to extend comprehension for your child.  Every box includes specific examples of comments and questions to try during your read alouds.

Out 6 month memberships are great for building a home library or purchase a gift box for a special someone on our SHOP page today.

We know you are reading aloud to your child everyday, why not get more bang for your buck, and become a RichREADER today!

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies

References:
Weitzman, E. & Greenberg, J. (2010). ABC and Beyond: Building Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Settings. The Hanen Centre: Toronto.

3 talking tips for raising empathetic children

Have you ever shared an experience with someone where instead of feeling heard, you were on the receiving end of sympathy, comparison or worse, a lack of interest? 

Empathy has the power to make or break personal and professional relationships.  It is a cognitive skill that develops over time.  We are all born with the potential to develop empathy but it is a taught skill, arguably the most important skill a parent can teach their child. 

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Language skills may have the greatest impact

Preparing young children for school is the goal for many parents and preschool programs. Research has told us that the more skills children bring into their schooling – in basic maths, reading and social skills – the more likely they will succeed in those same areas in school.

Superskill for school success

But is there a superskill to school readiness? We sure think so – LANGUAGE. A study published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly say that a child’s vocabulary and grammar not only predict future success with written and spoken language, but it also impacts performance in other subject areas.

Dr Amy Pace and her colleagues looked at data for more than 1200 children in the US and looked at several measures of academic and social skills at specific ages and grade levels, including upon school entry and in grades 1, 3 and 5.

The findings reveal that of the skills and milestones evaluated — social/emotional, attention, health, reading, maths and language — only language skills, when a child entered school, predicted his or her performance both within that subject area and most others (maths, reading and social skills) from first through fifth grade.

Why does language affect so many areas?

Language is a foundational skill in social interaction. If you have strong language skills, you will be able to communicate with peers and teachers.

Language skills help with executive functioning – the ability to understand follow instructions from the teacher.

Language skills help with maths and science – terminologyand abstract concepts rely on the knowledge of language.

When kids learn to read at school, strong language skills means they can understand WHAT they read.

How can I support my child’s language skills?

Talk, read and play! Ongoing interactions and conversations with your child about things that interest them will encourage them to explore, ask questions, make comments and retell stories.

Our NEW 6 month membership has just launched – the perfect addition to your home with a high quality picture book, reading guide and play activity arriving to your door each month. Designed by speech pathologists and tested by mums, this will get your kids talking, reading, playing and succeeding!

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies

Pace, et al. (2018). Measuring success: Within and cross-domain predictors of academic and social trajectories in elementary school, Early Childhood Research Quarterly; Volume 46, 1st Quarter 2019, Pages 112-125.