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

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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Shopping small this Christmas

We are excited to be featured again this year in Topknot Girls Christmas Gift Guide! If you haven’t seen it already, it’s a must-do before you start your shopping!

We have browsed through ALL the products in the guide and found our favourite products for kids! Here are our top picks:

1. Tinta Crayons

100% natural beeswax crayons sound pretty great to me! Melbourne mums Maria and Maria (!) have been pouring these cute crayons for 5 years and support other local suppliers through their business. The crayons designs are perfect for little hands to develop fine motor skills and fuel artistic creativity! I personally love the Australia Bush & Beach set – perfect to go with our Happy Holidays book box! You can find Tinta Crayons on page 60 of the Christmas Gift Guide.

Robots – Tinta Crayons

2. Jilly Jumbles

Handbag Sanity Saver. SOLD! Sydney mum Jules has got the right idea. A LEGO base plate + LEGO bricks + a fun wallet to keep it all together? I can think of endless uses for this – at the doctor’s, at the cafe, sitting on the bench at school pick up. Plus, fine motor, language and play skills all being nurtured at the same time! You can find Jilly Jumbles on page 61 of the Christmas Gift Guide.

3. Tailoring for Miss Polly

I will admit that as a mum of boys, I did not know what Miniland dolls were. To think that there is a whole store from our home state, Queensland, dedicated to handmade outfits for these dolls – wow! The stunning prints and the matchy-matchy outfits make for great conversation starters too. You can find Tailoring for Miss Polly on page 62 in the Christmas Gift Guide (same page as us!).

We hope we’ve inspired you to #shopsmall this Christmas. Don’t forget you can find us in the Gift Guide too! Browse all our memberships, book boxes and Christmas specials then head to the guide to find the discount code!


What if my child doesn’t know his ABCs?

At this time of year, we know that parents may be wondering, “Is my child ready for school?” coupled with potential doubts about their child’s abilities – “She only knows a few letters of the alphabet.”. If that is you, read on!

Firstly, we need to put it out there reading is not a natural process. It is a taught skill and in contrast to learning to talk, which is a wonderful development that happens (for the most part) naturally.

Nearly four decades of scientific research on how children learn to read supports an emphasis on phoneme awareness and phonics in a literature-rich environment. These findings challenge the belief that children learn to read naturally. (Lyon, G.R., 1998).

What is a literature-rich environment?

Having books read to them and having access to looking at books themselves is a good starting point however a literacy-rich environment demonstrates how literacy is useful in everyday life by allowing children to interact with print/texts independently and with parents/educators. This helps children understand WHY they need print, WHAT they use it for and HOW it is useful in everyday life. In other words, it needs to fun, engaging and meaningful to them.

What are some examples of print in everyday life?

  • Your child’s name!
  • Common shop names (e.g. McDonalds, Woolworths)
  • Street signs (e.g. SLOW)
  • Symbols (e.g. arrow, cross)

What do I do after I find this print?

Point it out and be excited when you discover it!
“Oh, look at this letter S on the SLOW sign. It’s just like the S at the start of your name, Sam.”

Talk about symbols and what they mean.
“A symbol is something you can read but it doesn’t have any words. See this arrow – I know that the way it is pointing is the way I need to go.”

Use the terminology
“Ah yes, that is the letter ‘M’ and underneath it is the word ‘McDonald’s”

If you’d like to read more about print awareness, check out more posts here on our blog or our Instagram.

Our play activities incorporate print is lots of ways – see all the themes and membership options available here, or see the activities in action here, here and here!

There will be more posts coming about phonemic awareness – another very important foundational skill that supports learning to read.

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies

Lyon, G. Reid. (1998). Educational Leadership, v55 n6 p14-18.