Blog Posts

Use What you Have: How to Support Your Child’s Language with Books!

Posted by Robin Stein, M.S.,CCC-SLP

As the daughter of an elementary school librarian, I remember how exciting it was when I learned how to read my first “Spot” book! At the time, my little brain didn’t realize how much I had already learned from engaging in joint book reading with my parents. Reading books with your child is a fabulous way to promote language growth and work on your child’s receptive and expressive language skills. If you are looking for some enriching ways to help your child’s language develop during this crazy time, there is no need to buy any new gadgets or gizmos. Take out your child’s favorite book and follow these guidelines.

For little ones, who are just learning how to talk, take advantage of the rich vocabulary provided in books to teach your child words! Follow your child’s lead and label pictures that they point to. You can also expand by adding more details that include descriptions and actions after you label words (e.g., If they point to a bird, you can say “That is a bird. The bird is red. The bird is flying in the sky!”) For these kids, it is especially important to modify books and focus more on the pictures provided rather than the text that goes along with them. If you have a long book with a lot of text, adapt the book for these kids by simply describing pictures on the pages and ignore the text.

For 2 and 3 year olds, use books to help your child work on their question answering skills. Expand beyond the text and use the pictures to your advantage. Talk about what is going on in the pictures and ask your children “Wh”-questions about them (e.g., Look! Pete the Cat is on the sidewalk! He is walking to school! What is Pete the Cat doing?”). As mentioned above, don’t be afraid to modify books that have a lot of text, and make up your own sentences about the pictures instead of reading the whole story.

For 4 and 5 year olds, use the text in books to start to teach kids about the alphabet, and how you read a book. Point to words and tell them about the letters that they see (e.g., That says CAT. I see a letter C at the beginning, a little A in the middle, and a letter T at the end). Show them words that rhyme, and make rhyming fun by challenging your children to create their own “silly rhymes” (e.g., That says “happy.” Hmmmm what rhymes with “happy.” How about “dappy?”)

For 5 and older, use books to work on higher level skills, such as storytelling and inferencing. Help kids retell stories by using sequencing words, such as “First, Next, and Then.” Encourage kids to think outside of the box by asking them to make predictions about what may happen next. (e.g., while reading the book “If you give a Mouse a Cookie,” when the Mouse is trying to drink his milk, you can say, “Uh oh the mouse can’t reach his milk! I think he needs something to help him! What will he ask for next?”)

Finally, here are some general tips that all children will benefit from:

-Get creative and adapt books based at your child’s language level. If you have books that have a lot of text on the page, but your child is just learning to talk, ignore the text and make up simple sentences to describe the pictures instead.

-Allow kids to take the drivers seat and tell you a story based on the pictures that they see

-Listen to what your child tells you while you read and expand on those ideas

-It is okay if your children want to read the same stories over and over again. This repetition will help them learn!

How to know when the pacifier is affecting your child's speech and feeding skills

As a new mom to an 8-month-old, there are so many questions I ask myself on a daily basis. Is she hungry? Is she tired? Why is she crying in the car seat? Is she eating enough solids? With so many questions, there are endless decisions you make with a baby, and it’s hard to know if you are doing the “right” thing. A question that comes up frequently with families I work with is “should I take the pacifier away?” As a speech therapist, I tell parents the earlier the better, and personally I knew that I wanted to take it away from my daughter at an early age. Here are a few key signs that it might be time to move on from the pacifier.

1. Your child has a lisp

When children suck on a pacifier for an extended period of time, it can impact how their teeth close and align. When this happens, you might notice your child’s tongue protruding between the teeth when they say an “s” or “z” sound (e.g., “houth” for “house” or “thebra” for “zebra”).

2. Your child’s tongue is forward at resting position

Resting position refers to the time when your child isn’t talking, eating, or swallowing. If you notice that your child’s tongue protrudes between the teeth at rest, it can be a big indicator that it is time to take the pacifier away.

3. Your child shows difficulty chewing

Due to the impact the pacifier has on a child's tongue, it is possible that chewing and swallowing can become more difficult. With the tongue being farther forward, it can become difficult to move the tongue side to side appropriately and move the food to chew effectively. If these issues are left unattended for too long, children may become averse to eating certain foods.

4. Your child seems uninterested in talking with the pacifier in his or her mouth

Our children learn through communicating, interacting and imitating peers and adults. If your child does these things noticeably less when they have the pacifier in, it is a sign to take it away.

If you notice these signs in your child and have concerns, give us a call and we can help you through it. Being a mom is hard, and it is important to have people to support you through times of transition!

Gift Ideas to Promote Language Development

Posted by Ivy Schantz, M.S.,CCC-SLP

Need some gift ideas for your kids, nieces/nephews, friends or neighbors?? Here are some recommended toys and games that help promote speech and language development to help you with your holiday shopping this season!

Mr. Potato Head

Every child we've ever worked with, even the older ones, have been fascinated by and love playing with Mr. Potato Head! There are tons of language opportunities with this toy- body parts, emotions, clothing, size comparisons, prepositions, etc. Work on even more complex grammar such as possessives (daddy's hat, mommy's shoes) and 2-3 word utterances (mommy's blue shoes, two pink ears). Playskool Mr. Potato Head


Building with blocks is a fantastic language building activity. These light cardboard blocks are big enough to stack up and knock down. This is a great way to your child to work on requesting "more", identifying animals and learning concepts (on, up, down, big, small). It involves social interaction (turn taking, problem solving, collaborating), and plenty of opportunities for pretend play. Melissa and Doug Blocks

Guess Who?

This is one of my favorite games for teaching children how to ask and answer questions. Kids can work on asking and answering yes/no questions, following directions, using descriptive language and drawing conclusions from situation contexts. Great for children to play independently or on teams! Disney Guess Who

Farm Set

This activity encourages “make-believe” play. Imitating animal sounds (e.g. moo-moo, neigh-neigh) is linked to both early speech and language development AND early literacy. This activity also lends itself to learning to identify animals, following directions, playing with others, and learning about location concepts (e.g. in, on, under) and actions (e.g. eating, running, sleeping). Battat Big Red Barn

Picky Eaters - Reducing Mealtime Stress

Posted by Elana Block, M.S.,CCC-SLP

Does your child eat the same exact foods every day? Are you making a separate dinner for them than for the rest of the family? Do you pack a lunch box for them when you go out to eat? Here are a few tips to keep in mind in order to make mealtimes less stressful for you and your family.

1. Get your kids involved

Have your kids help to pick out foods at the grocery store by giving them a visual shopping list (e.g. google images on your phone for them to search for in the store). Kids are generally more likely to eat foods once they are familiar with them, so let them help you by washing, stirring, peeling, and measuring ingredients. You can also encourage them to touch, lick and eat foods as they are preparing and cooking with you.

2. Routine

Kids do best when they have a routine to follow. Have them sit in their chair for the entire meal, and try to have meals around the same time every day. Kids learn by example so it is best if the whole family can eat together. Try to limit distractions in the environment like the TV or iPad.

3. Choices

Children like to have control so give it to them by offering choices. Instead of asking them yes / no questions (e.g. “do you want chicken nuggets?”), offer them two or three choices so they feel like they are actually in control of what they can eat (e.g. “do you want chicken nuggets or a hamburger?”).

4. Baby Steps

Build upon your child’s current food preferences. If your child loves crunchy snacks like pretzels and crackers, try giving them crunchy vegetables like peppers or carrots. If they prefer pureed foods like yogurt, encourage them to try applesauce or smoothies.

5. Praise

Children love to be praised, so every time they do a good job sitting at the table or trying a new food, make sure they know that you are proud of them. Give them a reward, like a special dessert or a new toy, when they do something that you are proud of. Try to only reinforce positive behavior like being seated for the whole meal, or eating everything that is in front of them.

If you think your child is more than just a “picky eater” and you have already tried these strategies at home with little or no luck, or if you need help implementing these strategies, give us a call and we can discuss other options to help you and your family enjoy mealtimes.

How Parents Teach by Example

Posted by Ivy Schantz, M.S.,CCC-SLP

During the first few years of our kids' lives we as parents are our kids' role models, teachers and playmates. The majority of what they learn comes from us. I am not saying that you need to have weekly lesson plans, but be conscious of how you communicate and interact with your children. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. How are kids supposed to learn how to play unless you show them?

Pick up the rattle, shake it, then put it in their hand to help them shake it. Clap your hands, then put your hands over their hands to help them clap. Have a pretend picnic, drink from cups, cut the food, eat the food and clean up. Push a car around the room, then put their hand on the car to show them how to make the car go, stop, speed up and slow down.

2. The words and sounds children hear are the words and sounds they will learn!

Even if they cannot or do not repeat or respond to what you say, it does not mean that they are not listening and learning. Children need to understand words before you can expect them to say words. If you feel like you are talking to yourself all day, you are doing it right! Label body parts as you give your child a bath, name types of clothing and colors as you fold laundry and sing songs as you get your child dressed.

3. Change the way you speak to your child; they sure don't act like an adult so you cannot speak to them like an adult.

Use shorter and simpler phrases: “all done apple”, “throw ball”, “big brown dog running”, “mommy drinking water”. These are words and phrases that you can expect children to start saying as they begin to talk. It is ok that these phrases are not grammatically correct, our children are not going to start speaking in full grammatically correct sentences no matter how we speak to them. Also, use varying intonation in your voice to keep them engaged, focused and interested in what you are saying. The more they listen, the more they understand, and the more they learn.


Just because you show your child objects, say words or do something with your body once or twice, you cannot expect your child to learn that quickly. It may seem boring and repetitive to read the same book, build the same tower, sing the same song or do the same dance over and over, but they learn something new each time you do an activity. You can add a twist or make a small change to keep yourself interested but don't stop just because you are bored with it.

This may sound exhausting and you are allowed to take breaks, but just remember that whenever you are around your children they are watching and learning from you so try to be the best role model, teacher and playmate you can be!