My husband's family is a family that sings... a lot.  They take tunes that they know and change the words to fit the situation.  It can really be quite funny - either the lyrics themselves... or just how bad the song gets butchered.  It's one of those that are you are either laughing with them or at them, but either way, we are laughing.

My son just recently started singing songs and remembering them.  It has been a slow progression since he was about 2 1/2 years old, but I noticed the other day that he really does know most of the lyrics of songs now!  Of course, he's singing: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jesus Loves Me, Baby Beluga, Row Row Row Your Boat, etc.  These are not top 10 hits (except for in our mini-van).  One of his favorite songs in the Spiderman theme song (the original, from the 1960s).  That one always cracks me up.

It made me start to think about when kids started to sing.  Of course, every child is different.  However, kids should usually start to sing songs and follow along with a tune between ages 2 and 3.  That doesn't mean that you start introducing music at age 2.  Kids need to have music around them from the time they are infants.  When I saw music, I mean lullabies, praise and worship songs (if you are religious), kids songs with catchy beats, instrumental music, etc.  There are so many benefits - learning to tap out of beat (first you will tap it out on their leg or bounce them as they listen), rhyming, variation in pitch, etc.  You may not be a world class singer, but your child doesn't mind and he/she needs to hear your voice.  Sing to your child/children when you put them to bed, wake them up, in the car, etc.  Music development 
 
Have you ever thought something was a GREAT idea, thought it was terrible while you were doing it, but afterwards realized that it wasn't so bad and you may repeat it?  Well, that happened with our first trip to the Library, but now it is a weekly occurrence.

We can't make the preschool story time because it conflicts with my daughter's nap.  So, I decided that we should take a trip down to the library.  I figured it would be better to ride my bike and let the kids sit in the bike trailer.  I wanted them to be able to have time to look at things in their world and for us to be able to discuss them.  (I'm always looking for ways to incorporate language learning in our everyday lives.)  Well, the entire way there the kids fought in the bike trailer.  However, Timothy did learn the word "antagonize" - so at least we had some language learning.  By the time we got the library, I was hot and aggravated.  I put on a smile and told the kids that we were going to get books!  Timothy was very excited.  Joanna was not so eager.  When we got in there, Timothy ran from book shelf to book shelf looking for any train or car on the cover of a book saying, "oh!  I like this book!"  Joanna, on the other hand, just pulled every DVD they owned and put it on the floor.  I wasn't able to help Timothy because I was scurrying to pick up the movies and put them back.  Joanna didn't really get much out of this whole experience (or so I thought).  The image that I had in my head of me helping Timothy and Joanna find books, sitting on the big bean bag chairs, reading them books and laughing was definitely NOT what happened.

We left with our books, we made it back to the house with both children intact (maybe a few scratches from fighting), but then an amazing thing happened.  They both went to the library bag, picked out a book, sat on the couch together (without fighting) and read their books!  What's even more amazing is that they ask to go back every time we drive by the library.  Even my one year old points to the building and starts laughing and getting excited saying "book!"

Sometimes language learning doesn't look good, it isn't easy, but it's definitely worth it.
 
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Has it really been two weeks?  That's what happens when I get out of my routine.

I made a mistake.  

Timothy discovered a Thomas app on the ipad.  He is obsessed with Thomas the train.  One of the games on the app is a matching game. He quickly figured out how to play the matching game.  He was able to navigate the game by touching the cards and would get excited when he found a match.  If he found Toby (for instance) and he had already seen Toby somewhere else, he would immediately touch the correct card and say "TWO TOBYS"!!  

Here's where the mistake comes in.  I thought he had learned how to play a matching game.  He had not.  He also didn't know what same, different, or match meant.  

Timothy pulled out the game Memory yesterday.  He wanted to play it.  I stopped what I was doing and sat down to play with him.  I figured it would be a breeze since he's so good at it on the iPad.  I was wrong.  He turned over two cards (Nemo and Thumper) and the following exchange occurred:
Me:  Are those the same?
Timothy: Yes!
Me:  That's Nemo and this is Thumper.  Are they the same or different?
Timothy:  Same!
Me:  No, Nemo and Thumper are different.
Timothy:  Different

There was no fight.  There was no tantrum (from him at least ... I was kicking myself for being so foolish).  We simply turned over the cards and I proceeded to play the game teaching him about same, different, and match. 

It just shows you that technology can only bring you so far.  One-on-one teaching with your child can't be replaced by a computer, tv, ipad, DS, etc.  Now, do I think Timothy would go to college not understanding same, different, and match?  No.  However, I'm glad to catch it early and to be the one to teach him.  

 
Ever since teaching Timothy (age 2) about St. Patrick's Day and the different vocabulary that accompanies St. Patrick's Day, he has been obsessed with rainbows.  Even when eating pretzels, he nibbled on it until he made some semblance of an arch and exclaimed, "Mommy rainbow!"  It's really quite cute (or "tute" as he would say).

It got me thinking about colors and how to best teach them.  Timothy picked up on his colors rather quickly, but not every kid does.  If your child is having a hard time learning his colors, then try this technique.

Pick ONE COLOR and focus on that ONE COLOR for a set number of days.  You will know your child best.  If you want to change the color each day, do that.  If you want to have one color each week, do that.  However, focus on that one color.  You don't want to ignore the other colors, but really only be teaching that one color.  So, set a location in the house where you will display what color it is that day/week.  Get excited and your child will get excited too!  Put a piece of construction paper in that location to show the color of the day/week.  You can even write the word out on the construction paper so you are adding print with what your child hears.  Have them pick something out to wear that has that color (if this is too hard, then you choose two shirts and see if your child can find the one that matches the color of the day/week).  Have your child eat a snack that is that color (red = strawberries, orange = goldfish, etc).  Any worksheets or learning activities can be completed with a crayon, marker, or colored pencil that is the color of the week (so much more fun than using a pencil).  When you are running errands, then point out things that you see that are the color of the day/week.  When reading books, then point out things in the pictures that are the color of the day/week.  

When you focus on that one color, then your child won't get overwhelmed with ALL the colors that they see in a day.  If they call the yellow truck a blue truck, then correct them sweetly and say, "Oh I see that truck.  It's yellow.  I like that color", but move on don't get hung up.  We are only expecting them to learn ONE COLOR at a time.  

Also, don't be surprised if your child doesn't learn the color in a week.  That is ok.  Just cycle it through in a few weeks so that they get another go-round of that color. 

Also, we don't expect children to know their colors until age 3.  If your child is younger than 3 and is starting to recognize colors, then he/she is ahead of the game.  If your child is 3 and it's just starting to emerge then he/she is on-track.  If your child is 4 or older, then you will want to make sure to focus on teaching them colors (but don't panic, either).  If you are ever worried about your child's language progress, then always double check by asking your pediatrician or getting a speech therapy evaluation. 
 
St. Patrick's Day is not the easiest holiday to teach about.  However, there is LOTS of new vocabulary that you can teach!  How many times a year do you really talk about shamrocks and leprechauns?

In my mind, there are two main things to teach about St. Patrick's Day - the secular version and the religious version.  You may want to pick one over the other or both.  I focus on the religious version, but I also teach the secular version so that my kids understand all aspects of the holiday.

The religious version.  Do you even know who St. Patrick was?  A wikipedia search will give you some good information.  However, the short version is that St. Patrick was a British man who went to Ireland to teach the Irish people about God.  He used the clover (the 3-leaf version) to teach them about the trinity.  When teaching this version you can show pictures of St. Patrick, a map of where England and Ireland are, and teach how the clover can depict the trinity (and who the trinity consists of).

The secular version.  St. Patrick's Day is a day to celebrate Irish culture.  The things surrounding St. Patrick's Day are also symbols of Ireland.  Green is the color that we wear.  Shamrocks (or clovers) are often found in Ireland.  A leprechaun is a man who is part of Irish folklore.  He is typically dressed in green and likes to make mischief.  You can also teach about rainbows and the pot of gold at the end.

Either way, have fun with St. Patrick's Day!!  Check back for some fun St. Patrick's Day learning activities!
 
I've blogged about it before... it's one of my soap boxes... the topic of kids and TV.  My philosophy is that the less kids watch TV, the better.  My soap box stats come from the   American Academy of Pediatrics and their guidelines.  However, if your child is watching tv PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make it a child appropriate show.  Child appropriate, in my opinion, is one that teaches some kind of lesson (letters, numbers, counting, colors, manners, etc), is a slower moving cartoon (I have read that its hard when kids cannot process the fast-paced moving pictures, they tend to zone out and just see it as flashes of light), and is not violent. 

Well, I was going through some old magazines and Parenting had a great article back in April 2012 (I know... I'm behind on everything... even reading magazines) that spoke on this topic.  The article focused on the speed of cartoons and its effects on their attention span.  They had three groups of kids:  those who watched a fast paced cartoon, those who watched a slower paced cartoon, and those who did not watch TV at all and drew instead.  They stated, "the kids who viewed the faster-paced bug-eyed yellow square did not perform as well as the scribblers and those who watched the mellow tot."

Next time your child is watching a cartoon or kid-friendly show, take notice of how fast the characters are moving, the number of scene changes (and the speed at which it happens), if the camera is panning back and forth between characters or has a wider angle so that there is less movement, etc.
 
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Sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is.  You have to actually live what you preach.  Well, on September 7, 2011 I posted about the importance of a print-rich environment (check it out for more information).  It was easy for me to post about it then - Timothy was barely crawling!  Well, now he knows all of his letters and he is starting to figure out that letters make up words.  It's really cute.  He will name all the letters in a word and then guess what the word is.  It's usually associated with what he sees and knows, but he will be way off.  For example, he read the letters off my shirt: "f-r-o-g-s" and then said, "Mommy!"  He knew that I was Mommy and just figured that my shirt was advertising my title.  :o)  Therefore, I went to the dollar store (Dollar Tree), purchased some blank word strips, wrote out words of things he sees everyday, and posted them around the house.  Does my house look like a pre-school?  Yes.  But it will help him learn and, if you think about it, we are called to be the first teachers our children encounter.  Therefore, it's ok that our house looks like a pre-school!

 
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Cards can get expensive these days... especially if you are like me and set a precedent to send them to your "baby cousins" from the time they were born and don't feel like you can stop now.

Plus, we have had some bad weather days where we just can't go outside.  What is a mother to do?  Have your child make Valentines!

It's simple and it can be so much fun.  All you need is: paper, art supplies, time, and some imagination.

The card on the left is a bit more involved.  I used my son's hand-print and my daughter's foot-print to make the letters "o" and "v" respectfully in the word "love".  I suggest using washable paint and doing this outdoors.  I then wrote in the letters "l" and "e" with a red permanent marker.

The card on the right is easier and can be made into a learning activity easily.  Kids like stickers, right?  (I know mine does) Have your child do some "work" (whatever his/her speech goals are or whatever you are teaching him/her right now) to earn a sticker.  After you have placed some stickers on the card (we used heart and star stickers for our Valentines), then he/she can color on it afterwards (I don't think Timothy was quite into coloring the day we made this card).  Write a cute note inside and you are done!

If your child is older, then have him/her come up with the greeting that should be written inside, have your child write his/her name, etc.

This activity is a great activity that can easily be made easier for small children (we've been making cards since before Timothy could talk) and older children (even Middle Schoolers may get into this if you allow them to color a scene on the front instead of using stickers).

 
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Have you ever heard the old adage, "don't eat the yellow snow"?  If you live in an area where it snows a lot, then you probably have.  :o)

Well, now you CAN eat the yellow snow (and green and red and orange and blue...).

Simply collect up these materials:
  • water
  • food coloring
  • spray bottles (you can use spray bottles that you buy - i bought some at the dollar store - or spray bottles that used to hold cleaning products.  Just make sure you clean out the old cleaning product bottles completely first)


Put water in each water bottle.
Add food coloring to each water bottle.  
Go spray the snow and see the white snow change colors!!!  

You can make this into a wonderful language learning activity by talking about the steps, teaching colors, talk about how colors change when you mix colors (what happens when you mix: yellow and blue? red and yellow? blue and red?), describe the painting you created in the snow, talk about the verbs associated with the activity (pour in the water, mix the colors, spray the bottle, paint the snow, etc).

 
Winter time is a time for snowflakes, winter wonderlands... and GERMS!! We would know all about the latter since we have had the flu at our house this week.  I don't know what happens at your house, but at our house when my son or I is sick, then the TV is on A LOT more than usual.  I am a firm believer in keeping TV time to a minimum for kids (see blog post from June 2011), but desperate times call for desperate measures (or so they say).

I still didn't want the TV on all day everyday.  When Timothy is sick, we switch back and forth between the TV and our sick box.  What's a sick box?  A sick box is a box filled with special things that only come out when you are sick, which is one reason why they stay special.  It's a way to keep your child entertained even if he/she is couch bound (or at least can't go outside or doesn't have a lot of energy) and feel a little better (because special things always cheer us up a big... right?).  What is in a sick box?  Well, each sick box will look a little different depending on the age of the child, the child's interests, etc.  Here are some suggestions and a starting point for you.

Pre-Talkers:  special stuffed animal (that can be washed), cloth book (that can be washed), See and Say (or something that is exciting that makes noise), mirror (you would be amazed how long a child can be entertained by looking at himself/herself.  You could also practice making funny faces), crayons and paper (for kids who are one or older), CD to sing to.

Early Language:  special stuffed animal (that can be washed), a new book (or a special book), stickers/crayons/paper/envelopes/stamps (you can make special greeting cards and send them to friends while you aren't feeling well), travel game (because they are usually magnetized or use pegs so pieces don't go everywhere), new coloring books, CD and play microphone to sing with.

Elementary/Middle Language:  travel game (because they are usually magnetized or use pegs so pieces don't go everywhere and you don't have to sit at a table), new book to read together, mad libs (those can provide lots of laughs), small figurines of favorite characters to set up and play with (i.e. GI Joes, farm animals, etc).