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Episode Info:

How do i best support communication in my infant and/or toddler?

This episode of the Strength In Words podcast was produced in partnership with the San Francisco Moms Blog. In this episode, Ayelet sits down with Kelly Arditi, founder of the San Francisco Moms Blog. San Francisco Moms Blog is part of the well known City Moms Blog Network. It is written by local moms for local moms and provides resources, recommendations, support and community philanthropy through their website, videos, social media platforms, and events.

Today, we flip the script and have Kelly interview Ayelet about how to support early communication in infants and toddlers. We cover the various areas of communication development, how to support speech & language development (using Ayelet’s 4-step framework which you can download here in the Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint), early communication milestones, when to seek help, and a few tips and tricks about playing with a tiny baby, using Baby Sign Language, supporting bilingual language development, as well as a few words about Ayelet’s bestselling book, Understanding Your Baby.

Plus, a big announcement about Ayelet’s next book, Understanding Your Toddler!

Early Communication in infants and toddlers

Kelly: Hi Guys, I’m Kelly with San Francisco Mom’s Blog, and I am so excited to be here with our contributing writer, the founder of Strength In Words and the Strength In Words podcast, and author of Understanding Your Baby. Yes, I keep going on and she’s a speech pathologist and a mom. Ayelet Marinovich (did I say it right?)

Ayelet: You did so well, Kelly, that’s very impressive.

Kelly: And today we’re talking about how to support early communication with your baby and your toddler, and how to interact and play with them. And we have a couple questions that were sent in, so we’ll go over those at the end. I did link her book, so please take a look in the comment section. And my son is home sick today. Yes. Authentic parenting life at its best. So he’s sitting right here with a popsicle and some books. But please don’t be alarmed if you hear him playing in the background. Okay. So let’s go ahead and start. Tell us a little bit about early communication and the different parts, and things like that.

Ayelet: Sure. So in the first three years, well not actually just in the first three years, but when we break down communication development, we’re looking at a few different areas, right? We’re looking at speech, which is that actual, like, motor component of articulating sounds, and then we’re looking at language, which is both the input (which we refer to as receptive language) and then the output (which we refer to as expressive language). And within the area of language, we have a few different things, as well. Things like phonology, which are the basic speech sounds, like ah, oo, b, d, those kinds of things. We have morphology, which are all the units of meaning, right? Those tiny, teeny pieces like plural markers, right? We have syntax, which is grammar. And then we have semantics, which is vocabulary, and then we have pragmatics, which is the social use of language. So, there are all different kinds of areas that we look at when we think of communication. And then of course there’s the verbal part and then there’s the written part, which will eventually become literacy.

Kelly: Right, later on. Wow. So it’s a lot.

Ayelet: It’s a lot, and as a pediatric speech language pathologist, I work on all of those different things, and then the sort of, the atypical things that can happen with little guys and gals and how to support parents who are dealing with those gaps in early development when their kiddos are not necessarily meeting the milestones or are delayed, or if they have a child who was born with a preexisting condition, for instance.

How to support speech and language

Kelly: Okay. So how do you support those areas, specifically?

Ayelet: Yeah, so this goes for both typical and atypical communication development because I am a pediatric speech language pathologist, but I also work as a parent educator with my work with Strength In Words, which serves families with all kids with all developmental levels.

Kelly: And you guys should follow this. She has a facebook group. It’s fantastic. And the podcast, and it’s full of really great information. Even your instagram feed, she always has really fun ideas to play and to, to get down and really hang out with your kids with just normal stuff around the house. So it’s really great. You should check that out for sure. Okay, so go ahead and continue explaining that.

Ayelet: So I think the most important thing that I want to get through to families is that it does not take fancy toys, you don’t have to be a stay-at-home parent. If you are a stay-at-home parent, we know the stay at home moms and dads are not necessarily spending all day sitting there and staring at their babies, right? This is not reality. We got to get the stuff of life done. We gotta actually get through the day, whether or not you work full time or you’re at home full time, whatever.

So I want to… what I really, like, my passion and what I really strive to hit home is the fact that you are most likely already doing all of the really big, wonderful things to maximize, number one, your time with your child, and number two, to really support your child’s development. Especially in that area of communication. That’s my real sweet spot, but we know that in the first five years, but certainly in the first three years, infants and toddlers learn holistically, which means that when you are sort of working or targeting a specific area like cognitive development, or communication development, you’re also working on motor development and social and emotional development. Those things are not going to be separated, right? Because when we’re learning how to gesture, we’re isolating a finger. We’re lifting up our arm. We’re pointing at vocabulary words.

We’re integrating a concept – that’s cognitive development, and we’re interacting with somebody else – that’s social and emotional… So there are, when you are working on something, you’re going to be working really on so many different things and you can do this with stuff… Number one with stuff that you’re already, that you already have in your home, and with the time that you’re already spending with your child. Primarily through things like caregiving routines, through daily routines, like going to check the mail or putting your shoes on.

Kelly: Or even running an errand.

Ayelet: Right, exactly.

Kelly: I love this because I think as parents we always question and doubt everything that we’re doing. And you feel guilty about everything. I feel guilty right now that my son is sick and sitting next to you still doing this, but that’s normal. And so what I love about this is that you don’t really need anything fancy. You’re already doing it. You already have the tools that you need.

Ayelet: It’s just a matter of figuring out how to use them.

Kelly: Yes! And not being afraid to use them and get creative with them. Right.

Grab the Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint! The Four-Step Framework

Ayelet: So how to support communication? Well, I think about this as sort of a four-step or four area framework. So number one is PLAY, right? And what does that mean, really? Play is really defined as using tools, using materials and experimenting with them for no specific purpose, right? So when we’re thinking of play, it’s a really, it’s hard to get down to that level because as adults we think about the notion of play as like, we play a game.

Kelly: As like a task, where there’s like a goal.

Ayelet: Yeah, A plus B equals C.

Kelly: It’s about the process, totally open.

Ayelet: Yeah. So, so infants and toddlers and young children in general are going to be learning best through open-ended play and through open-ended play materials. So forget the notion of like “blocks are for stacking and books are for reading front to back.” Like your child is, your baby’s mouthing a block. Guess what he’s playing with it. What’s he learning about when he does that? He’s learning about the texture. He’s learning about the weight of it, all of the properties of it. He’s learning about how it moves when he brings…

Kelly: How to hold it…

Ayelet: Exactly. All of those things. Books, your baby’s mouthing a book. Guess what? That’s developmentally appropriate early literacy experience for your child, and regardless of if you just sit there reading the newspaper out loud and your baby’s sitting there, that’s wonderful early literacy, like that’s awesome. That’s… All of that is play and just walking around with your baby, talking about what you see that’s play, right? That’s supporting all areas of development. So it’s really basic stuff.

Kelly: And just being open minded.

Ayelet: Yeah. And, I think you’re gonna really like this because I know you have a background in improvisational comedy, Kelly, but what I like to think about it is this idea of “yes, and…” Right, so we, we talk about things like, oh, like your baby’s lead, right? Follow your child’s lead, right? But what does that mean? Like, we hear all these great things on tv now, these amazing advertisements of First Five, like talk, play, sing, read, right? But what does that look like? Ok, so here’s what it looks like. Your baby starts mouthing a book. Okay, great – “you’re mouthing a book.” Fill it in with words, right? Which brings me to my second framework idea, which is TALK, right? So we want to play, we want to talk to our babies. Bathe them in a language rich environment, which means, talking about what they’re doing, giving words to what they’re doing, giving words to how you interpret what they’re doing or how they’re feeling.

Kelly: So, even now, I’m cleaning his hands. I would say, oh, I’m cleaning your hands right now. Mommy’s cleaning your face.

Ayelet: Sticky, right? So think about things like action words, descriptive words…

Kelly: So like in something as simple as cleaning up, you can add words to that and that’s a learning experience.

Ayelet: That’s it. Exactly. That’s how they learn. That’s how they learn vocabulary – through contextual experience. So, of course, like your child’s first word is not going to be banana if he’s never seen a banana or hates bananas, right? They’re going to be using words, they’re going to be learning how to use words and they’re going to be motivated to use words that are based on their interests and their experience.

Kelly: Stuff that they’ve heard.

Ayelet: Exactly. So, PLAY, TALK, SING. So I think I get a lot of flack for this one sometimes because not everyone feels musical, right? But I want to remind everybody that being musical or providing musical experiences for your child does not necessarily mean singing in a beautifully operatic voice.

Kelly: Right – they don’t know that your voice isn’t like fantastic, right?

Ayelet: Exactly. Number one, like you’ve got a good, at least two, two and a half years before your child even decides that you, that you should or should not be singing. And your voice, it represents comfort and closeness, right? Your baby, if you carried your baby, they have been hearing your voice since before they were born.

Kelly: Right, it’s comforting to them.

Ayelet: It’s a comfort measure, it’s associated with these positive things. So they’re associating you and your voice and you talking or singing to them with that. Not like my gosh, my mom is a horrible singer. Number two, like rhythm… [noisy toddler background noise] These are actually excellent communication skills at work, right? Like, look at this wonderful early literacy experience.

Kelly: He’s got like 16 Pete the Cat books right here.

Ayelet: All right, so not just singing but playing music around your baby, right? Imagine holding your child tapping to the rhythm – all you have to do is tap the rhythm on your baby’s body, right? And it’s a rhythm experience!

Kelly: So, this is actually really funny. So my mom is very musical. She’s probably going to watch this at some point later today. She’s very musical and I come from a very musical family, and what she used to do when we were in the car, I remember this as a child, she on the center console when we will be in the car, just the regular radio would be on. She would pat the beats of the song on the center console to teach us…

Ayelet: Rhythm Competence!

Kelly: Yes. And I remember like hearing it and she’d be like, come find the beat with me and we would find the beat and so I actually do it with my kids because it was really special!

Ayelet: And don’t forget – that is also supporting communication development, that rhythm, because when think about it, when we talk. [talks in robotic monotone voice] Imagine if I talked like this and it was only like this and there were no gaps and pauses and anything like this, that would be strange. Yeah. That would be atypical social use of language, right? Yeah. And so music really mirrors so much of what we do in speech and language. So we use pauses, we used phrases, we use a melody. The intonation of voice is called prosody, right? There’s a term for this course. Of course, there’s a term for everything.

Kelly: Of course! And I love she knows the term!

Ayelet: But all of this stuff – this is based on science. This is not like the like, oh, what’s best practice for like, how I should do this. If I have $30 today, what should I spend the money on to support my baby’s development? It doesn’t matter what it is. You are the toy, right?

Kelly: Right. And these are really simple things that you can do. Yeah. Okay. So we have PLAY, we have TALK, we have SING, so what’s the fourth?

Ayelet: The last one is move, right? Because we know that children learn through movement. Movement… Motor and sensory development are sort of two sides of the same coin. I’m not an occupational therapist, so that’s not my primary part of expertise, but it is. So all related, like I was talking about earlier, holistic learning, right? So motor development is about how our bodies enact on the world and telling our bodies to do those things. And sensory development is figuring out how our body is taking in sensory information, information through the different senses that we have. So when our children are exploring their environment right, when a baby is on a blanket, on a sheepskin, on whatever it is, the floor, they’re learning through movement – just through moving their arms up and down. Remember when your baby realized that they had hands like, yeah, that’s amazing stuff. So little things to help to encourage that movement, give them space, right? We have all these sort of containers that we rely on now because they’re modern, they’re going to help our babies develop… They’re not. What’s going to help your baby develop is to move and experience the world, right?

Kelly: So we have dance parties during the witching hours. Oh my mom just said hi. I was just chatting about you. So in the evening. So I have two boys, one you just met, and sometimes in the evenings there’s so much energy and we will put on really fun music and have like these little dance parties. And to be honest, it’s like a little break for mommy because it’s hard, right? But I think it’s so good for them to explore and that’s music and movement and that’s of course they’re older, but if you picked up an infant and moved.

Ayelet: So these are things like these sort of ways to think about like what are the things that I can do with my child? They are totally appropriate for infants from birth to at least three years old and beyond. This is like pre-school, my almost five year old. This is how I think, okay, what can I be doing if I have been playing with stuff, What can I do right now to enhance, to get more movement? Right? And you have to think about too, movement. Movement can be used, especially when you combine it with music and things like that, to both enhance and liven up a child’s sensory system or to also calm it down, right? So thinking about like play song, we’re talking about a dance party, right? But like, upbeat, exciting, fun, like you’re singing along, it’s a dance party, it’s great. Or you can think more along the lines of a lullaby which is calm soft and soothe and even like slow movements, and holding… Like these are things that you can do to both encourage excitement, and also sort of decrease the level of energy.

Grab the Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint! Communication milestones in the first three years

Kelly: Okay, perfect. And what are the milestones in the first three years that parents, you know, I think a lot of people are concerned they want to make sure their child’s meeting every milestone… so what are some things that they should look for in the first three years that have to do with this early communication?

Ayelet: So I, first of all, I want to encourage you to look at again, your whole child. But these are some things that you can be aware of, right? So I think we focus on like, oh my gosh, my baby should be talking at age one. Right? But think about even if you have an infant, like what are the little things that you can do to encourage things? Like smiling and giggling, which is through play, right? And interaction! And what are the kinds of things that you can do to encourage babbling, like use of that consonant and vowel combination bah, bah, bah, bah. And a great way to do that is through music and talking to your baby, right? Your child babbles… it’s actually amazing, your child is going to be babbling using the speech sounds and the melody of the language or languages that you are exposing him to, which is so cool, right? I mean it makes sense obviously.

Kelly: So, my sister in law always used to, she had kids before me and she always with her kids, and now I do it with my kids because I loved it. She would say, “And then what happened? And then what happened?” to an infant because the infant will be like bah bah bah bah. And she’d be like, “tell me more. And then what happened?”

Ayelet: So encouraging turn taking, right? Because if you think about like, how do we break down the conversation, what are the elements of the conversation? I send a message to you, you listen and respond back to me. And so the content actually doesn’t matter when we’re teaching about what that looks like, right? So there are lots of elements that we can focus on, just that pragmatic, the use of language, when you’re teaching your child to take turns back and forth, conversational turns, you’re teaching them about communication, you’re teaching them about social cues and emotional regulation, right? How to wait. You’re teaching them about joint attention, which is a precursor to learning about being able to partake in a conversation which is essentially like we’re both attending to that flower over there. There’s some like, oh my gosh, look there that is, and we’re both aware that we’re both looking together. So these kinds of things, right? And all of those things really happened in the first year, which is great.

So like your baby’s not just talking at 12 months or whatever. There are lots of little things. So all of these little things are things to be thinking about them being aware of. And you can accomplish those through playing, talking, making musical experiences and movement experiences for your child.

Kelly: And what about comparing? Yeah, we always say this: don’t compare. You can’t… Even from one child to like your second child, everything is so different. That’s really hard because especially I think with your first child, when you’re a first time parent, you’re going to the little preschool class or the Mommy and Me class and you see, you know, so and so over here is having like full sentence conversations with his or her mommy and that’s really hard. But you just, you can’t. You just can’t compare.

Ayelet: Right. So I think this is related, so we were talking about the infant stuff, but then when you get into, once verbal, linguistic development is they’re actually using words. So we want to see about one word by age one and we want to see that our children are able to follow about one step directions around age one.

Kelly: Okay. So one word and one step direction. Meaning go get your blankets.

Ayelet: Yeah. Where are your shoes?

Kelly: Ok, that’s a good one. Okay. Okay. So one by one. And then what about like, 18 months?

Ayelet: So 18 months we, we want to see a real, like generally when they have about 50 words, you’ll start to see them combining two words, because around that 50 word count is when they’re using lots of different kinds of words, right? Nouns and verbs and adjectives and social words, environmental sounds and things like, uh-oh, and stuff like that. So, “uh-oh, banana! Mama up!”

Kelly: “Go, Dog, Go” is a really great book. We love that book. But he would say “red dog, blue dog” and just copying me, I don’t think obviously he’d understand, but like, but he would say that because we would read the books together! Those two words together.

Ayelet: And I want to encourage parents, number one, when we talk about like what, what is a first word? Signing counts, right? Your first sign, right? Your first sign. That’s a word! That’s symbolic language. I know we’ll get there…

Kelly: So that was something… someone asked about Sign Language, so we’ll talk about that in just a sec.

Ayelet: But first word also is like, you want to, when we count a word, it does not, number one have to be said in the correct way, like “wawa” for water, that’s a word – he’s saying something very specific. So you count that word, right?

Kelly: And that’s ok, you don’t have to worry that they can’t say it perfectly.

Ayelet: Yeah, exactly because they’re sequencing so many different things. Remember all of those elements, all the speech, although the placement of the tongue, and the breath support, that’s a whole lot of stuff. That’s why they don’t speak much before age one.

Kelly: Right, and it takes time! But I liked what you were saying before. There’s two different… so, they have to understand…

Ayelet: They have to be able to understand language in order to use it.

Kelly: Right. So that’s really important because I know that… I remember we had a conversation a long time ago because I was worried. My son Byron had problems with his ears. He had tubes in his ears and he’s totally fine now, but I called her and I was like, what are the signs I need to look for? And I remember you told me, can he understand you? Even though he’s not saying it, that’s a huge step, right? Is being able to say, where are your shoes? Go get your shoes. Come to the front door, you know, and, and so it’s really two parts, right?

Ayelet: Absolutely. Okay. And then forming those words, you have to be able to sequence the speech sounds to be understood. So really, three.

Kelly: Ok, what about an older milestone, real quick and then we’ll go to our questions.

Ayelet: Okay. So I wanted to say so by age one we want to generally see around one word or more, but this is again, this is a range. This is just like basic. And then by age two, we want to see two words being put together. By age three, we want to see at least three words.

Kelly: Ok, so that’s easy to remember, so 1, 2, and 3.

Ayelet: And then also on the other side of that understanding, following around at least two step directions by age two, and three step directions by age three.

Kelly: Ok, three steps, meaning “go get your jacket, go get your shoes, and meet me by the front door.” Okay. Okay, perfect. Alright, so we have a couple questions that were sent into us. The first one we briefly touched on is Sign Language. I feel like this is a very big trend right now is signing up for the Baby Sign Language classes. [loud toddler background giggling] He’s playing with Siri right now, and she keeps saying, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about!” Just so can you just touch on that and like how beneficial this can really be, should parents be doing this, is for everyone?

Ayelet: Okay. So number one, we’re already using gestures. If you are waving around your child, if you’ve ever clapped, if you’ve ever pointed, right, if you’ve ever nodded your head or shaken your head or done like this, or “Where?” [lifts up shoulders and holds out hands]. Those are all gestures, and Sign Language is a whole language full of gestures. Now for the purposes of typically developing children using Sign Language and also developmentally delayed, sign as a bridge to verbal language. So, we see children’s using gestures before we see them using words, generally. So if you think about it that way, you’ll understand like, yes, of course my baby started pointing or clapping, before he started saying what he was pointing to, right? So, we know that use of gestures. The more a young child an infant, really uses gestures – and into toddlerhood to there is a correlation between early gestural use and more gestural use, and language development, which is cool. But does that mean that every child should go out and every parent is doing their children a disservice if you’re not able to participate in a Sign Language class? No.

Kelly: No, because you can do certain things at home.

Ayelet: You can do all of it at home.

Kelly: So it’s very beneficial. But you shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t make that Sign Language class. You can still work on things at home.

Ayelet: Absolutely. And through that framework again of playing right, if you are playing and you hide something under a book, you can do this. Where, where, where’s the ball? Or, “ball” or “eat” right during caregiving routines during daily routines, like whatever it is, like going and opening up the window and saying, where’s the sun? Right. I’m just using the gesture, over using where because it’s like this is a really useful… And it’s not even a sign, right? That’s not like American Sign Language. You don’t need to use any formal system of signs, you just have to be consistent.

Kelly: So if you teach your child that this is “eat,” I think this is actually eat, but let’s just say it wasn’t, let’s say I made that up. It doesn’t matter. He can still communicate with me.

Ayelet: And as long as you understand that. As far as signing, like prohibiting verbal language, that’s been shown in all of the research that it does not impair or delay verbal language. It actually…

Kelly: It only helps.

Ayelet: Exactly. Like I said, it’s a bridge.

Kelly: So that was my other question because I feel like sometimes there’s a little controversy like, I’m going not going to teach sign, I’m not going to worry that he’s not going to talk. So it actually does help.

Ayelet: Yeah. It’s been shown… like I said, more gestures is, is going to be great for the kid’s language development.

Kelly: Ok, so Becky just said here, “hand gestures helped my son in speech therapy. Visual cues helped him so much in improving his articulation.”

Ayelet: That too. Yeah. And that’s like a specific can be a whole area of use in speech therapy for not only language but also articulation that speech because we use, we can use cues to like to help a child remember, like where to place his tongue right? All of these, these are helping, right? We don’t communicate just through verbal language. All of us use gestures. So we are already communicating using multiple modes of communication, nonverbal and verbal alike. And what happens is we help to assist in our conversational partner’s understanding of what we’re saying… As I moved my hands all around… When we broke it down, right?

So it’s really, it’s a helpful thing and it’s a great thing and you can use it within play – when you talk to your child, pair that sign with the word right, because if you want your child to not only use the sign but also eventually use the word, you do it together. And they’re going to use the most efficient way possible. So if they’re not able to say the word yet or they’re just not comfortable with imitating that word, then they’re going to use the sign first. But once they can, they’re going to say the word, and that sign will fall away.

Grab the Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint! When to seek help?

Kelly: When should you seek help? That was a question. Again, we touched on this, you worry. You want them to meet every milestone. So at what point do you recommend a parent actually saying, okay, I need to talk to my pediatrician, I need a referral, I need help.

Ayelet: Yeah. So those milestones sort of basics that I, that I referenced earlier, like the one word by one, two words by two, three words by three. Those are averages, right? So if your child is slightly delayed and he’s not saying one word exactly at 12 months, okay, that’s fine. But be aware of what else is going on, right. And some children are just like really motivated in the area of motor development, right? Like both my boys did not crawl until 10 and 11 months, and we had friends who like, her son was crawling at six months and I was like, “oh my son’s not crawling…” And I know, like, I have all this information in my head, but as a mom, I’m still doubting. It’s a vulnerable time, and that’s why having this information is so empowering because you have a better sense of what and how to manage your expectations, really.

So generally what I like to say is your child, if you’re not seeing like a basic progression of like, little movement forward in all of those different areas, right? Cognitive development, problem solving skills and things like that and paying attention. Communication, development, motor and sensory development and social emotional development. If your child seems to be just like stuck at a place for more than a couple of months, then absolutely talk to your doctor about it. And in the state of California and in all over the United States of America, we have something called Early Start, which means that you, if your child is experiencing delays or you feel like your child is experiencing delays, you can get recommended. And you can get an assessment, and people will come and look at your child and, and tell you whether or not something is going on and whether you need to get extra support to help your child develop to meet those milestones. And early intervention services are free. So I mean…

Kelly: So, how do you get that information?

Ayelet: So number one, talk to your doctor if you don’t like what your doctor is saying because some doctors are old school and they go with the wait-and-see approach. If that does not sit well with you and you really feel like something’s going on, you can contact the Department of Developmental Services in your state and contact early start. You will find that information.

Kelly: That’s really helpful.

Ayelet: It’s great. And I think it’s hard because we as parents, we don’t. Sometimes it’s really hard to get to that place where we can admit that there is something to worry about. And when we don’t know whether or not there’s nothing to worry about. It’s like number one, like if there’s a family history in hearing impairment and your child is delayed in speech and language, go talk to your doctor, get that hearing test.

Number two, if you feel like your kid is just like stuck in a place and he is just not moving forward or she. Sorry, I’m using “he’s” because I have two of them at home. But like, go and ask, because the worst that can happen is that you will get the help that you need, and your child will get the help that he or she needs. And, you will get free support from a person who has all kinds of amazing tricks up their sleeves, you will get this toolbox of stuff and you’ll be like, I never thought about that. What a great idea.

Kelly: And also talk to the teachers too. I feel like teachers are a really, really good place to start if you have some questions. Even even like with the little guy in preschool, daycare, because they have a lot of experience. Um, okay.

How do I play with my 3-month old?

Kelly: This one was sent in. How do I play with my three month old? So this is hard, because three months old is really little. You feel like you can’t play but you can.

Ayelet: Absolutely. That’s what my book is all about. So again, this framework of playing, right? So offering up something… A three month old is most likely starting to use their hands and legs and reaching out more purposefully. Right up to that three month old period, they’re more sort of just reflexive, jerky movements. But around three, four months is when a child starts to move more purposefully. So, put things around them that they can reach for and even start to grasp or hold and bring to their mouths. When you have a child who’s found their thumb or hand, it’s great for them to find that. I think a lot of people are like, oh, I don’t want him to be a thumb sucker, so they take their babies hand out.

Kelly: Right, but it’s only three months old.

Ayelet: And I think since we don’t know, like we imagine when our children are three months old and I know, you and Sarah Mitchell [of Helping Babies Sleep], have talked about this like, oh my God, my baby’s not going to sleep until he’s in college. Right? But like, this is three months old. Things are gonna change so quickly. So much more quickly than you are even prepared for.

Kelly: Actually I used to, whenever I felt like I had a doubt and I was like, okay, I got this, then they would change, it changes that quick. Um, okay. So touching and feeling at the three month mark because yeah.

Ayelet: Absolutely touching and feeling and then also singing or playing music with them and just offering different kinds of tactile materials. They may still be having this reflexive grasp when you put something in there, so take advantage of that. Put your hands in their hands, put different things, have different textures in their hands so they can just experience that feel. And then like visual things that, moving around, I think we get really excited about like, oh, those high contrast images, those black and white images are great, we need to buy those. Sure, you can buy those, and they’re beautiful. But guess what else is a high contrast image: your face, the connection between the window and the darkness behind the window, right? The wall, that’s the word I’m looking for, I’m looking around at 100 of them, right now.

Kelly: Just stuff in your house.

Ayelet: A picture frame. All of these are high contrast images. So, moving around with your baby and taking a walk down the hallway and looking at stuff, commenting on the stuff that you’re seeing, who’s in the picture, what you’re looking up, what you like to do, where you like to go, right? All of those kinds of words bathes your child and in language because they’re going to be learning the language that you’re exposing them to or languages by hearing it.

Kelly: I love that it’s going on a little tour of your house. That’s a great idea. 

Grab the Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint! favorite toddler development toys

Kelly: So, what are your favorite toys for toddler development?

Ayelet: Yeah, so I love anything that is stackable, that you can hide things under, that makes noise (but doesn’t have like crazy voices and buttons to push). I’m thinking more like things that nest in between other things and have different shapes and things that fit in other things, um, things that you can blow or, or throw or move with. Again, it all comes back to this like playing with open-ended materials. Now all of these things that I’ve mentioned, like yes, you can go out and buy a shape sorter or a stacking cup set… Or you can go into the kitchen and take out your Tupperware. Yes, exactly. Because look at what’s happening? Like, putting things inside, taking them out, putting the top on.

Kelly: Finding the top that fits.

Ayelet: Yes. Hiding things inside and rattling it around. That’s a musical instrument, right? There’s so many different things.

Kelly: It’s like, tell your four year old, hey, can you help mommy match the Tupperware tops? You know, because it’s always a mess. Like in that cabinet or drawer.

Ayelet: Give them a mission. They are mission driven!

Kelly: But it seems like that, some stackable shapes, things like that.

Ayelet: Or a ball right, or building materials, but again, like yes, you can go out and buy this like beautiful organically stained wooden blocks which are beautiful and amazing, but you know what else you can use? Those bricks of diaper wipes – stack them on top of each other. All of these things are already in your house! You already have the power to maximize all of these naturally occurring things in your home. You just have to figure out how to use and be creative. Play peekaboo, hide behind the diaper wipe…

Kelly: Like we all have those, right?! Yeah!

Ayelet: The magic is not in the material. The magic is in the interaction, and the experimentation that can happen with that object, right? So if you have a bunch of toys that are like, press this button and it’s going to teach your child about shapes. What’s going to teach your child about shapes? Teaching them out i . the environment, like finding them and putting two stars on top of your eyes and pretending that they’re right. Right? These are, this is how you’re doing it, through play.

Kelly: So, basic. Think basic, think simple. Okay.

Grab the Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint! What about Bilingual language development?

Kelly: So I have one more question and that is the languages, real quick. What do you recommend for parents that are trying to do two languages? This is something that we’re doing. We’re doing Spanish with our children. They go to Spanish immersion preschool, when they don’t have fever. And so, is there anything that you could recommend when you’re trying to help them learn something other than English, as well?

Ayelet: Well, again, this is like, just like learning one language, you’re going to be supporting it through play, words, using those words in the environment, songs, reading books, and social engagement and moving around and talking about how those kids are moving and experiencing lots of interesting things.

Kelly: So you just expose them on all those different, different categories the same way.

Ayelet: What I would say is, usually best practice and I’d get, like, we don’t live in a vacuum, so this is hard to do and not always a reasonable thing and it may not work for every family, but like with simultaneous language development, which is learning two languages simultaneously. If you speak English and your child’s teacher speaks Spanish, keep it that way. But you can also like, that doesn’t mean that you can’t read a book or do something within a specific kind of routine, like a bedtime routine, like give them an option of a Spanish book or an English book, and read it in both languages or one language.

So I think just keeping it consistent is a great idea, and giving them lots of different kinds of ways to experience each of those languages, right? So if you have one parent who speaks Spanish and one parent who speaks French be as consistent as you can with your child and, and if you both speak English together, and that’s your language of love, that’s fine! When you’re talking to your child or children, be as consistent as you can.

Many children learn multiple languages in a what’s called a sequential language learning environment, which is like you only speak your home language until they go to school or in French or whatever it is. And that’s fine too. So I think the consistency is the key, and also giving access to that language or languages in lots of different ways and making it fun, making it fun to play with the words, play with the sounds.

Kelly: And not being afraid to expose. I think a lot of people that I’ve talked to worry because, you know, we’re doing two languages, so they asked us like, aren’t you worried they’re going to be delayed in English because you’re exposing them to another language? And so not, so not to worry too much about that, right?

Ayelet: Because children are picking, they are figuring out how to categorize and make sense of those patterns. So when you are exposing your child to multiple languages, you’re actually encouraging lots of cognitive development as well, which is really good.

tell us about your book!

Kelly: Okay. So, um, to finish up, if you guys have any other questions, please ask them live. And to finish up, I want you to tell us a little bit about your book, why you wrote it again. We have the link here so you guys should definitely check it out. So yeah, tell us a little bit about the book real quick.

Ayelet: Yeah. So, in May [2018], I launched my first book which is called Understanding Your Baby, and what it is is a week-by-week development and activity guide for playing with your baby, from birth to 12 months. So it goes through and I think when new parents hear that, they’re like, I can’t read a book, but literally, and of course because I’m a mom and I ran out the door without my book this morning…

Kelly: We were going to show you the book! It’s been one of those days for all of us.

Ayelet: But literally it’s like, for instance, it goes through and it’s the section of like, here’s one thing your child might be working on in the area of cognitive development. Here’s what you can do. And all of the ideas are using those kinds of things that I suggested, with stuff that’s already in your home or attached to you and giving you ideas for supporting your child’s development through play and through movement and through early literacy experiences and stuff like that.

Kelly: And are you going to write another book?

Ayelet: I am actually in the thick of my toddler book, which will be launching in March 2019.

Kelly: And will it be similar or kind of tell you the different stages and stuff?

Ayelet: So with the toddler book, it’s going to be covering age one to three years, so instead of week by week, because I think that can get a little bit intense. It’s month by month, but for each month I give to different areas of developmental stuff like social/emotional and motor. And then two different kinds of things that they might be working on. Then two different sets of ideas that you can do to support that development. So you can find that all on Amazon, which you found the link that Kelly put on the baby book and the toddler book is actually now available for pre-order. You just look up on Amazon, Understanding Your Toddler, you will find that and you are welcome to preorder.

Kelly: Perfect. Well that’s very exciting. Well thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for your patience with my little toddler.

Ayelet: Who’s now sitting with his book.

Kelly: And thank you guys for your patience as well. This was unexpected with a little fever, can’t send him to school and we do have a doctor’s appointment later today, but thank you so much. I feel like this was really, really helpful and please keep the conversation going. You can continue to comment on this. And we will be uploading this to our youtube channel and definitely check out Strength In Words, the facebook group and instagram handle. It’s really great tips, things that you can just look at everyday. Alright guys, thanks so much for joining us. We’ll see you guys next time. Thank you. Bye!

Grab our FREE Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint! How to find great infant development activities by age Find that here! The best developmental toys for babies (aren't toys) Find that here!

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