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My Child Doesn’t Talk Much: When to Worry About your Child’s Language

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Ellen Dolny, UPAT Parent Educator

Do you remember showing your baby items and telling them the names of the item and hoping they would say them back?  In the beginning, our babies hear speech sounds and words of their languages as we provide labels for the objects and people in their world.  Once they begin to use words, we start to ask questions and tell stories to them. Language becomes a conversation between two people and actually makes sense!

What if we are not understanding the child’s language or other people are asking you what they are saying all the time?  Or, what if you baby never gets to the “ba ba ba” and everyone else is saying “ma ma and da da”?

Every baby will write his own book on development, and language is only one chapter.  Receptive language is responding to the words and sounds that your baby hears, and understanding language.  Expressive language is sounds and body language a baby uses or says (when older) to communicate.

If you have concerns, you can have your baby/child screened by a professional.  Here are some facts that may help you decide.  Most two year olds have a receptive language from 300 to 1000 words in that second year.  Their expressive language goes from 50 to 300 words.  It happens from early opportunities given to them from books, conversations and experiences with words and sounds (mostly from the experts…the parents!)  You are the expert of your child and if you have a feeling that you are worried abut our child’s language, please talk to your parent educator about a screening.

   

The NO! Challenge: What to do When your 2, 3, or 4 year old says NO!

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Lauretta Flammer, UPAT Parent Educator

Many parents are confused, even startled sometimes, to hear there child first say “No” to them.  And then, as that child gets older and older, the confusion and startlement tends to fade while the frustration and annoyance builds.  So, what do we do when a child says “No”?

There are so many answers and not one single answer is going to be the perfect fit for every child. So many factors play in to how we should respond to this undesired behavior; the age of the child, the temperament of the child, and our own attachment to our child.

Let’s first consider age-appropriateness.  When a 2 year old says “No”, he/she is generally exerting independence and autonomy.  Desire to be independent generally out-rules the desire to be obedient for the 2 year old.  When a 3 year old says “No”, it can be related to the independence factor as well as the beginning stages of testing limits. When that 4 year old says “No”, typically testing has already been executed and proven OK to say.

So, assuming that parent and child have a solid, healthy attachment formed and fostered through the first years of life, and the child’s temperament is average for a child that age, the following steps should help in eliminating the “NO” word.

-You have asked your child to buckle up and they say “NO”.

  • Stay calm and firm in your tone of speech.
  • Quickly analyze the situation to determine if “No” is acceptable in the circumstances.  (This is not).  If not:
  • Give a choice that will work for you.  “You can buckle up by yourself or I can buckle up for you.  Which one will it be?”
  • Give a few seconds for a response.  If no response…
  • Allow 5 counts for them to decide.  “You have until the count of 5 to choose and then I will get to choose for you and you may not like what I choose.  One, two,”
  • If they choose, accept whichever choice as both works for you.  Remind them that making good choices first helps everyone to stay happy.


Hopefully this gives a few guidelines and suggestions that will be helpful.  The main thing to remember is that this phase starts young, and if handled properly and consistently through those testing periods, it can be almost extinct in the later preschool years.

   

Helicopter Parenting

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Sheila Chaney, UPAT Parent Educator

What does it mean to be a helicopter parent? A helicopter parent is someone feels the need to hover over their child/children.  When we are trying to help our children achieve something, sometimes feel the need to help too much.  In our excitement to see our children progress we may take over.  (I know parents that do their children’s chores, art, and homework.) Our children need the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work. We don’t want to suffocate or hold back our children. They need opportunity to learn and still be supported regardless of results to the projects. This is so important in the growth of a child.

Helicopter moms can instill fear in their children without even realizing it. Fear to not do it up to your standards. Fear of never being able to do it like mom. Fears of not doing it right the first time.  Often we see our actions as helping when it can be just the opposite.

Children want to please their parents. Learning to do things builds good self-esteem.  Children with good self-esteem learn to work things out on their own. The children then find themselves able and capable to complete tasks and want to do more.

Here is a list of things that really help:

  • Support
  • Positive Family Values
  • Be Organized
  • Be a home of learners (everyone at home is a lifelong learner)
  • Have positive family habits

Whatever you can do to support, love, and nurture your child, do it. If you find yourself hovering or even doing the project remove yourself and find someone who can help your child in a positive and nurturing manner.

   

My Favorite Books on Parenting Young Children

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Barbara Rouse, UPAT Parent Educator

Parenting young children is the most challenging job you’ll ever love. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, your child will do something new that sends you back to square one. A young child’s brain is rapidly growing and changing and wise parents grow and change right along with their child. Reading a parenting book can help give you confidence and teach you techniques that will help you raise a happy, healthy child. There are many good books in the library or available at your favorite bookstore. Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years by Jim Fay and Charles Fay (Love and Logic Press; 1 edition (2000) ).  The Love and Logic parenting curriculum has been around since 1977 and it is an excellent resource for parents who want the building blocks to create children who grow up to be responsible, successful teens and adults. This book contains practical tips on potty training, temper tantrums, bedtime, whining, time-out, hassle-free mornings, and many more everyday challenges. This book is easy to read and understand and it’s also available on CD.

 

Parents in Charge by Dana Chidekel, Ph.D (Citadel (April 1, 2003). Targeted to parents of newborn to school-age children, Parents in Charge is packed with observations and practical strategies. While parenting is always a challenge, the author believes that it can be stressful and traumatic if parents don't have the right approach. Most parents, she argues, bring their own baggage to their skills as parents, which can affect their childrearing and their child. "To be the best parent you can be," she says, "you must develop your awareness of yourself. The better you know yourself and the more awareness you have of what has influenced you, the better able you are to see yourself and your children and to make the best choices for you and your family." To help readers navigate through the many issues parents face, Chidekel offers brief examples followed by a suggested course of action.

The book also sweats the small stuff: writing thank you notes, calling adults by their first names, and the need to rethink birthday parties with bulging party bags. Parents will be reassured and reinvigorated by Chidekel's wise counsel.

Touchpoints Birth to 3 by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. (Da Capo Press; Second Edition edition (September 26, 2006) ) and Touchpoints 3 to 6 by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. and Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D. (a Capo Press; First Paperback Printing edition (October 15, 2002) ). These are excellent reference books for any home library. Dr. Brazelton helps parents understand their child’s behavior and teaches them how to prevent future problems. Touchpoints are the universal spurts of development and the trying periods of regression that accompany them throughout childhood. These books offer a complete understanding of child development from a physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral point of view. They cover a wide range of topics such as asthma, childcare, chores, manners, sleep, television, toys, sibling rivalry, safety, etc.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey, PhD (Harper Paperbacks, 2001). In this book, Becky Bailey teaches parents to provide children with love and guidance by first learning self-control. She teaches seven powers for self-control, seven basic discipline skills, and seven values for living and gives parents the tools to stop policing and pleading, and start being the parents we want to be.

Good luck in your parenting journey and happy reading!

   

Every Moment Can be Special

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By Sheila Chaney, UPAT Parent Educator

Wouldn’t that be wonderful to have every moment special? Is that realistic? There are many days when I can see that in my family. There are many more days that I just missed the moment, (do to some minor irritant), and some days that are just awful. How can we make sure we get more special days?

Remember: Children are needy, exhausting, and challenging. They can drive you to the edge and back again. But if you are aware of a few things about children, and you know your own limits and needs, everyday has the opportunity to be special.

Very Important Reminder: Children are our greatest teachers, examples, and later in life (hopefully) friends.

What to do to be ready and open for special moments…

  • Be stress free ( if your stressed your children stress)
  • Love them…then love them a little more…then love them just a little more.
  • See the good things they do…tell them. ( expressions of love are so important)
  • Let yourself dream of what they may become someday with your loving help.
  • Get some fresh air. Exercise is good for everyone…and can help let off building steam.
  • Have a time out.  Sometimes it is not them….it is you! Check to see if you need some rest.
  • Check to see if you or they are hungry. People who need nourishment act out.
  • Stop! Running and running doesn’t mean happiness. Take some time to have a moment.
  • Believe it or not, the weather can change people. Notice what the weather may be causing.
  • Read, be an example of continued learning. Read books about everything…open possibilities.
  • Stay hydrated.  When you feel good you act better.
  • Take care of yourself. If you are empty you have zero to give.

There are more things we could add to the list, but think of ways that you can meet the needs in your home.  Make opportunity for special moments. Sometimes just being more aware can bring one to flourish. Take good care of yourself and then help others.  When we look outward to help and lift we only help ourselves. Be kind and considerate, what seeds you plant in children will grow. Kindness and consideration are great attributes to nourish.

What a blessing and challenge it is to have and raise children. Be the best person in your and their life.

   

Expressing Emotion through Dramatic Play

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Dramatic play is a form of the performing arts.  Here are just a few of the benefits that occur through dramatic play:
  • Education
  • Therapy
  • Development of social skills
  • A sense of power through reenacting experiences
  • Increased development of language skills
  • Learning differences between reality and fantasy
  • Understanding symbols (using items and toys as real life objects)
  • Even relief from emotional chaos and tension
Encourage your child to “dance about” what they have experienced. When a child dances she is expressing some of what has been used in daily experiences and dramatic play. Having a child dance or act out his feelings about a friend, a sibling, a pet, an experience moves that experience into the body and out for someone else. When a child is encouraged to communicate with her body she often feels less frustrated, calmer and better understood with greater empathy. Try “dancing about” something you want to communicate to your child that is a little beyond words and see what happens.
   

C.A.R. Strategies

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Language is the Key teaches adults to use three simple strategies that encourage young children to talk. "CAR" is a simple way for adults to remember the three strategies.

C stands for Comment and wait.
A stands for Ask questions and wait.
R stands for Respond by adding a little more.

The "Language is the Key" program is based on a significant body of research in the following areas:

  • Early language, literacy and play development
  • Bilingual language development
  • Family involvement
  • Language facilitation
  • Cultural relevance
  • Adult learning

Language is the Key uses "Follow the child's lead" as the over-arching approach for early literacy and language facilitation. Children are more likely to talk about what they are interested in. Language is the Key teaches adults to respond to the child's interest when commenting, asking questions, or responding by adding more.

Comment and Wait. Modeling language by making comments that reflect the child's focus of interest is a universally recommended practice in language facilitation models. Describing pictures in books or what the child is doing during play, then pausing to allow time for a response, is an effective way to elicit language. Children need time to think and code their thoughts into language, so it is important for adults to give children at least 5 seconds to respond after they make a comment or ask a question. A longer wait-time also lets the child know the adult is interested in what the child has to say.

Ask Questions and Wait. Adults use two major types of questions to encourage children to talk or respond: open-ended and closed questions. Closed questions are those questions that require a yes-no answer, a pointing response, or a one- or two-word label. Asking a child "What do you see?", "Can you point to the cat?" or "What color is the alligator?" are examples of closed questions.

Open-ended questions generally require a more complex linguistic response and may require additional "thinking time" on the part of the child to formulate their response. Open-ended questions tend to elicit full sentences or even several sentences. "What is the chicken doing?", "What's going to happen next?", or "Why did the girl need a new bicycle?" are examples of open-ended questions.

Respond by adding a little more. Expansion of the child's utterances is a basic tool in language facilitation. The adult repeats what the child says and then expands the utterance with one or two new words. This allows the child to contrast her utterance with the adult's expansion and also hear the next level of difficulty for language production. For example, if the child says "ball", the adult says "ball, big ball." This reinforces the child's talking, gives her the support for the next level of complexity and provides new information.

Repeat again in Spanish, Korean, etc. "Repeat again in the home language" is a strategy for families who speak a language other than English at home. Children who are learning two languages simultaneously frequently mix the two languages.

   

Family History

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by UPAT Parent Educator, Sheila Chaney

The power of family genes lives on in our bodies, and the power of how we see ourselves, others, and the world, lives on in our psyche.  That’s the strength of family history.  We inherit a genetic make-up and adopt values, attitudes and behaviors from those who birth us and rear us to adulthood. Nature and nurture—both leave influences that remain throughout our lives and influence who we are.  As babies we also come with our own unique personality traits, temperaments, and innate spiritual selves.
By looking at our family history and patterns we can decide what patterns we want to keep and what we want to change.  For example, If our parents suffered from heart disease, we may decide to watch our diet, exercise regularly, and get yearly medical checkups and advice.  We also may want to teach our children healthy eating patterns.


Humans are masters of denial.  Most of us will try to find ways to avoid examining painful experiences.  We tend to act angry, or to withdraw when we are feeling afraid, especially if we have no safe place to vent our anger; no safe person to tell our fears.  There is a tendency to ‘stuff” the emotions deep into our denial satchel.  Many people suffer bouts of depression, a common sign of anger turned inward, because their “satchel” needs a good cleaning out.  As we look at negative family and individual patterns our job is to unpack the past and current behaviors, piece by piece, clean it out an decide what to do with it.  If we need extra help ‘unpacking” we can ask for help from a qualified, safe friend or counselor.
As we examine family patterns, we can also rejoice at the good qualities, habits, and patterns found in our family and build upon the tremendous foundation.  As we incorporate those habits and values into our own family, generations after us will be solid in mind, emotions, body and spirit.  As a parent, our job is to increase our awareness and understanding of family dynamics and how the patterns-of-behavior influence and each individual in the family.


Family Systems
Any system is made of parts working together.  An automobile engine is a system.  A computer is a system.  A family is a system.  You are part of a family system. In a family, the parts are the members. They work together for the benefit of the whole family. Each member is important to the survival of the family.  Everything that happens to a member affects the entire family.  Changes in the family and in society as a whole affect the family system.

  • Marriage, living together, birth, or adoption of a child affects the whole family.
  • Divorce, death, or a family member leaving home affects the whole family.
  • Addictions, illness or incarceration of a member affects the whole family.
  • Children getting into trouble in school or with the law affect the whole family.
  • Job changes or a change in income affects the whole family.
  • Abuse or neglect of one member affects the whole family.
Family members are individuals.  Each is unique.  Each reacts to change within the system in individual ways.  Marriage or birth of a baby is usually joyous events.  They are stressful, but we feel good about the stress.  We handle the change. We feel happy.
Many changes cause pain.  Family members may cope with pain in different ways.
  • Some deny it.  They pretend it didn’t happen. They live with hidden pain.
  • Some act out in anger or rage.  They hurt themselves or others.
  • Some face it, feel it, continue growing and go on.
  • Some seek help or guidance through self-help books, counselors or therapists and classes so they too can continue growing.

Every family is unique and different.  Still, all families have many things in common.  They want to be happy and successful.  They want to rear happy, successful children. They want to give and receive love.

 

Family Functions and Roles

All family members have roles.  Roles have titles like father, mother and child.  Roles involve tasks like care giver, wage earner and learner.  The family, working as a system, has several tasks or functions:

  • It provides food, clothing and shelter for the members
  • It provides for the education of the children.
  • It prepares children for other relationships.
  • It helps children find their place in society.
  • It teaches values and skills to the children.
  • It protects and loves the children.
  • It celebrates joys and grieves sorrows together.
  • It sends children into society to accept new roles and tasks.
Healthy families help develop healthy feelings in the members.
  • The members feel important and comfortable in their roles.
  • The members show respect and honesty to each other.
Some families struggle with these functions and feelings.  Their members struggle, too.
  • They may have addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, or even TV watching.
  • They may gamble, over-eat, over-spend or even over-clean.
  • They may abuse or neglect their members.
  • They may develop depression or stress disorders.
All families function well at least some of the time.  All families have struggles, too. We either use our family history to choose to learn from the past, or we can deny that our family has any problems or concerns.  How we define our heritage assumes more importance than the legacy of our family per se.  Or, we can chart our own course and decide who we are and what our ”new” family (our own spouse and children) is going to be.
   

8 Things to Do on a Daily Basis to Help Your Child Learn

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If you are looking for extra learning activities to do with your child on a regular basis, there are several very accessible things that you can do without opening your wallet, and they are right your own community - and most of them are literally right in your own back yard! Here are eight things that you can do to help encourage learning in your preschooler:

  1. Allow your child to do things independently even if he/she takes longer than doing it yourself.
  2. Provide plenty of social experiences for your child. Whether in a formal or informal playgroup, preschool, or other setting, your child will learn skills that can only be taught by other children. Sharing objects or time with an adult is different from doing so with another child. Children develop their imaginations by role-playing and pretending. Pretend play has been consistently linked to cognitive, intellectual, language, and social growth.
  3. Provide daily opportunities to develop strength and coordination of large and small muscles. Go to the park, play ball games and tag, practice lacing, pour, stir, and participate in other functional activities.
  4. Play games in which your child counts out loud (such as hide and seek), play board games that require your child to count the dots on a die, and use household items such as cans, boxes, and balls to explore shapes. Complete puzzles and play with interlocking building toys.
  5. Provide plenty of opportunities and materials for writing and creative expression: crayons, sand, water, paint, paper, markers, scissors, hole punch, yarn, beans, and popsicle sticks.
  6. Read picture books, poetry books, nonfiction books, nonsense books, nursery rhymes, and signs. Exposure to a wide variety of literature allows your child to learn different sentence patterns and hear vocabulary that you might not ordinarily use at home.
  7. Talk WITH your child. (You talk TO your child when giving directions.) LISTEN to your child's stories. TELL your child stories. ASK questions. SHARE your ideas using descriptive language. Children learn language when they HEAR it and USE it.
  8. Visit your local library or bookmobile regularly.
There are many other things that you can do with your child to encourage learning, but these are just a few things to get you started. If you are already doing these and you are looking for some new ideas to add, try checking out books on a particular subject, i.e. science experiments for children or books on how to draw dinosaurs. You may also enjoy going on learning walks, finding bugs in the backyard, or setting up a birdfeeder where you can watch different birds come and go. The possibilities are endless!
   

13 Tips for a Successful Beginning

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Sending your child to kindergarten is a big step! Luckily, there are several things that you can do as a parent to make this transition easier on both of you. Here are 13 easy tips for a successful beginning:
  • Find out whether your school has a kindergarten orientation, or make an appointment to visit the school and teacher before the first day of school.
  • Talk with your child about some of the fun things that will happen at school, such as meeting new friends, listening to stories, and playing outside.
  • Begin a healthy routine by making sure that your child sleeps at least 10-12 hours and eats a nutritious breakfast.
  • Have your child tell you the plan for after school - exactly where to be picked up or which bus to take.
  • Label all outerwear.
  • Dress your child in clothes that can be put on and taken off independently, such as elastic-waist pants and shoes with Velcro closures.
  • Dress your child in clothing that is appropriate for sitting on carpets and outdoor play.
  • Pack a "reassurance" such as a family picture, a small stuffed animal, or a note from home in your child's backpack.
  • Don't over-schedule after-school activities; your child will likely be tired.
  • Check your child's backpack after school. There may be several forms for you to fill out and return.
  • Celebrate the end of the first day.
  • Begin your after-school routine, which may include a snack, playtime, and quiet book time.
  • Ask your child specific questions about the day, such as: "Who did you play with? What was today's story about? Where did you play? What did you make?"
   

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