It's adorable when you say to kids, "Where's your belly?" and they point to their tummy or lift up their shirt!  They can point to simple body parts (i.e. nose, ears, eyes, feet, etc).  However, when should that occur and how do I help my child learn that skill?

The average range for kids to be able to "answer" simple questions like, "where are your ears" is 12-18 months.  Personally, I think it leans closer to the 18 months than the 12 months.  If I were to give a range, I'd say 15-18 months for a typically developing child.  Therefore, if you have a child who is between those age marks, that means you need to be TEACHING your child his body parts.  They don't just wake up one day and know their body parts and understand the relationship between asking a question and giving an answer (even if it is by pointing).  Also, it may take a few weeks for your child to really start to understand the concept and the names of the body parts that you are teaching him/her... so be patient!  These activities don't take a lot of time... so you can easily do them even if you are a mom who works full time.  You can always squeeze them in at: meal time, bath time, or just before bed time.

What can you do?
  • One idea is to get on your child's level.  Make sure there are minimal distractions (choose a location where there aren't a lot of toys) and sit across from your child to play.  Your child may squirm, but they do love one-on-one interaction.  Sit there and say, "where is mommy's nose" and point to your nose.  Then say, "where is your nose?", pause and then, using your child's hand, point to his/her nose.  Repeat this for all the body parts you want him/her to know.  You may want to start with 3 and then work your way up.  I suggest three in very different locations... nose, tummy, feet.
  • Do you know the song, "Where is thumpkin?" (if you don't, here is a link to a youtube of the song so you get an idea of the tune: thumpkin song).  Use that tune and sing, "where is your nose? where is your nose? here  it is!  here it is!  it's a pretty nose. it's a pretty nose. let's find some more, of your body parts."  Then repeat for another body part.  Kids LOVE songs and so it should keep them in engaged for a long time.
  • You can also use a favorite stuffed animal or doll.  Ask your child, "where is panda's nose?"  See if he/she will point to it.  If not, point to the stuffed animal's nose and say... I found it!!  The more animated and interested you are, the more interesting the game will be to your little one.
  • While in the bathtub, you can use the tune to row row row your boat and sing, "wash wash wash your tummy, wash it everyday, if you wash it everyday the germs will stay away."  Simply use auditory highlighting (see blog post from June 14, 2011) in order to highlight the body part name.  This isn't teaching your child to answer a question, but it is giving your child the language of his/her body parts in a fun, new way!

Have fun playing!!!
It's FRIDAY FLASHCARD FUN day.  It's also the last day of our flashcard week.  I hope these ideas have helped make flashcards more fun than work for your little ones.  Today is a bit more work on your part, but is a great new spin on a matching game.  There are two variations.

Variation 1:  Physical Objects
Collect up as many physical objects that match the flashcard pictures (i.e. flashcard of a lion and a small rubber/plastic lion toy, flashcard of a lollipop and a small lollipop).  Then, place all the objects in a bag.  Place your flashcards face down on the floor (like you would for a matching game).  Have the kids pick out an object from the bag.  Then, have the child turn over a card and see if it "matches."  The child who gets the most matches wins!  Once the child makes a match, there is so much language you can pull out of him/her: what it says, what it does, its name, describe it, tell how the object and picture are similar or different, etc.  Of course, you can always focus on articulation within single words, sentences, or conversation as well!

Variation 2:  Printed Pictures
Print out pictures that match the pictures on the flashcards.  Place the pictures face down and set it up like a matching game and then do the same with the flashcards.  I suggest making two separate piles because older kids are going to know the difference between the pictures you print and the flashcards that are pre-made.  Play the matching game.  Again, you can pull the same types of language goals as variation 1.

Variation 3:  (just thought of this one)  Copies
You could also make copies of the flashcards on a color copier, cut them out, and make a matching game.  You can't ask the kids how they are similar and different (because they are the same exact pictures), but you can still target a lot of language skills
Day three of our flashcard activities.  This one will stretch their little minds!

This one is easy and has NO PREP!  Simply take your flashcards out (the same ones you've been using) and hold them in your hand like you are playing cards.  The pictures should be facing you.  Let the kids try to remember the name of one of the cards.  If they are having a hard time remembering one, you can start describing one of the pictures.  Whenever someone says a correct word first, that person "wins" the card.  They get to hold onto it until the end of the game.  My kids LOVED this game - they loved the competition.

Once the child "won" the card, then everyone would take turns doing some work with that card - naming the item, describing it, answering a question.  The cards are very adaptable to every child's skill level.  A great way to adapt this for kids who are working on listening comprehension is to hold the cards and start describing one of the cards.  Having some exposure to the cards already will help them figure out which one you are describing!  This can also be a great articulation activity to break up the drill & practice routine.
I looked back at my blog posts over the last few months and I am SHOCKED that I have not blogged about the rice box yet!  I know it has come to mind, but I guess it has never made it onto the blog.  Shame on me!  A rice box is one of the best materials to have in a speech therapy repertoire.  It can make any boring flashcard activity fun and engaging.  However, you  might want to invest in a little dust buster too because it can be a little messy.

First off, what is a rice box?  I like to get a plastic bin (whatever size you have room to store) with a lid.  That makes it easier to store and hopefully prevent some spilling.  You then buy bags of rice and fill the plastic bin with the rice.  Easy enough, right?

Take the flashcards that you will be using with the kiddo(s) and hide them in the rice.  The kids love to put their hands in the rice to feel for a card and pull it out.  You can then talk about the picture, what it is, how you use it, describe it, talk about what letter it begins with, etc.  The sky is the limit!  It's a great language activity, but can also spice up any old artic drill and practice session.  For little ones that might not be using flashcards yet, you can also put little toys in the rice for them to find.  
When I worked as the deaf education teacher in the oral classroom, each week we would focus on a letter.  We started with "A" and worked our way to "Z" (as you might expect).  I had gone to many garage sales (cheap materials) and picked up the flashcard packages that were "first words", "colors", "animals", etc.  They are the packages that you will see many times in a drugstore back in the coloring book/educational book section.  I then went through and separated all the words that started with A, B, C, D, etc.  Those became my flashcards for all of the activities you will see this week.

Flashcard Find:
Before the kids came in on Monday, I will tape the flashcards around the classroom.  During circle time we would play "flashcard find."  The kids were in an oral classroom and so they were ALL working on listening comprehension.  Thus, I would cover my mouth (so they couldn't read my lips) with a listening hoop (a sewing hoop with speaker fabric so that the sound was not muffled) and say something like, "Suzy, find the flashcard on the TV."  They all had to be listening for their name and where to find the flashcard.  Of course, they all needed to know the names of the items around the room in order to find the card.  

They loved this simple game!  They would be able to get up and go get the item and then come back to the circle.  We would then look at the card and they would have to tell me the name of the picture (Alligator)!!  We would then talk about what letter it started with (A) and then point to the letter A.

It was a great way to incorporate Visual (picture on the card) and Kinesthetic (going to get the picture) aspects into the lesson.  (see blog post from August 23 about the importance of TVAK).

Here is a picture of my "T" pictures that I found from the various packages of flashcards.  As you can see, some are duplicates, but I have a wide variety of items!!!

Please excuse the picture being upside down... for some reason my computer freezes when I try to rotate the picture!!  Very strange.

One word by one year. Have you ever heard that? Typically we say that kids should be saying one word by the time they turn one year. However, what constitutes a "word" and is the timeline strict?

What is a word? By definition, a word is, "one or more spoken sounds carrying meaning and forming a basic unit of speech." I would like to focus on the phrase "carrying meaning." Before I go much further, let me remind you that these are my thoughts and you may disagree. I will use examples to illustrate different points.  If a child says, "mama" (and your heart goes a flutter), but is playing with his truck or block, is the child saying a word? It carries meaning for us, but does the child understand that meaning? It is a word in our language, but I would not count it as a "word" for that child. However, this gives you an opportunity to teach the meaning by saying, "yes, baby? I'm mama." He/she will soon associate 'mama' and you! At that point, it would be considered a word. Now, let's say that Junior says "dudu" every time he sees a truck. Is that a word? As long as you and he know the meaning and he says the same thing each time, then yes, I would count it as a word. However, I would call it a 'jargon' word since it is not a known form to most people.

What about this 'deadline' of a year? Like with all milestones, kids will do things on their own timelines. My cousin walked to the door on his first birthday and got excited when he saw balloons and said, "yay! Ba-woons!" is that typical? No, but it does happen. My son just turned a year old and he isn't saying any words consistently enough for me to count them as a word? Am I worried? Not yet because he has been hitting every other milestone, practices with words and sounds, and has a high level of receptive knowledge. I would be worried if he were not responding to my words appropriately, was not playing with sounds or words, or was not attempting to communicate in any way (pointing, fussing, getting my attention, playing kid 'games' like peekaboo, etc).

If your child is signing, but is not deaf, and is signing at least one word consistently, then I would say that he/she has a word by one year. Make sure to always encourage spoken language as well as sign language.
I've named this activity "3-similar" for very practical reasons.  You will typically use three cards during a turn and the pictures on the cards are all similar.  Hence, 3-similar.  :o)

This is a great game that doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of a file folder.  However, I always like to keep them in file folders because that makes them easy to store.  

Simply print out the pictures and cut out each card individually.  You are ready to play (simple, huh?).  Place three cards in front of the child and start describing one picture.  I typically like to give three clues and have the child try to find the correct picture.  This is a great activity because it's easy to modify the game to meet the child's level.  You can use two cards if three is too hard.  Here are some other "examples" of ways to modify the game:

Easy version:
Place three different pictures in view (i.e. pumpkin, bat, witch)
Tell the child, “find the pumpkin”

Moderate version:
Place three different pictures in view (i.e. pumpkin, bat, witch)
Tell the child: 
“Find something that is black” (bat or witch)
“That flies” (bat or witch) “on a broom” (witch)

Hard version:
Place all three pumpkins in view
Tell the child:
“Find an orange pumpkin” (could be any of the 3 pictures)
“With two teeth” (could be one 2 of the pictures)
“The teeth are on the bottom of his mouth” (could only be one picture)

You can also have the child start to describe one particular picture and YOU have to guess.  It's a neat spin on describing because you can only get the correct picture if the description is detailed enough and said correctly.  This will give the child feedback about what he/she is saying without you having to correct all the time.  

This activity is great for kids who are working on listening comprehension (either due to auditory discrimination difficulty or hearing loss) or kids who have some language deficits and may be working on "following directions."  
I love figuring out how to make my own materials instead of buying the pre-packaged ones.  Why is that?  Well, it gets pretty expensive.  It may only be $3 here or $4 there, but it adds up fast!

Have you ever seen the flashcards with pictures where something is wrong or missing?  The kids have to look at the picture and explain what is wrong.  The picture might have a child holding the string of balloons, but the balloons are hot-air balloons - something of that nature.  Well, you can make this yourself very easily and very inexpensively.

What will you need?  construction paper, old magazines (from around your house or collect from friends/family members or doctor's offices when they throw them out), scissors, glue, laminator (if you have access to one and want to make them more durable).

Advertisers are always trying to come up with something clever.  Many times, that will come in handy for this type of activity.  You can find pictures with something that is "wrong" (but the advertiser is trying to make a point or be humorous).  Simply cut that picture out and glue it onto some construction paper.  I like to put them in a large manila envelope.  You can really start collecting some great ones!  Another great benefit is that you can always be adding to your collection and so the kids won't learn one set of flashcards without mastering the skill.  You could also have them look through the magazines to try to find something that seems "wrong" or "out of place" - then you have little minds helping you find the pictures.

Example... this is my most recent find... a Hidden Valley advertisement.

Let the kids look at the picture and ask them, what's wrong with this picture?  Hopefully they will say, "those kids have vegetables in their ice cream bowls" or "they put whipped cream and a cherry on top of their veggies!"
It's Milestone Monday and I realized that I've been blogging about different milestones, but they may not have anything to do with where your children are at in development.  I try to pick a range of topics and ages, but that can be difficult at times.  Therefore, I want to hear from you!  Tell me what kinds of milestones you would like to learn about (or anything else that you would like me to blog about in general).  You can hit me up on the facebook page with a post or a message, send a message through the "contact me" section on the website, or comment directly on this blog.  Thanks!
I've discovered a new site and it is awesome!  Story Time For Me is another way to make your home environment a "print rich environment" (see blog post from September 7).  It has FREE children's books online.  I've listened to one and it has some great features:
  • animated
  • the book is read to the child, but the print is on the page
  • the print is highlighted as it is being read
  • the child can click on a word and it will be read aloud
  • if a word is underlined, a picture will pop up showing the child what it is
  • the pages turn on their own, but you can go forward or back, if you like

I believe that it is a fairly new site and so they are slowly building the library.  Check it out and encourage our little ones to read!