Routines to make you smile (+ build memory and vocab)

As we all face significant changes to our daily schedules and routines, now seems a good time to be mindful of how we can create new routines that nourish our conversations and our wellbeing.

In this video I share one that we’ve adopted in our house. And with my Speech and Language Therapy hat on, I’ve included some suggestions for using this routine to develop auditory memory and descriptive vocabulary.

Do you have any favourite routines at home? Or any new ones that you’ve added to your day? Wherever you are right now, I hope that home is a place of comfort and rest.

Sharing books to build sentences and vocabulary

Exploring books together is a fantastic way to support your child’s talking. When we look at books together in a playful way, all sorts of fun conversations can happen. I particularly like books with very few words, because this frees us to talk about the pictures, rather than getting stuck on decoding the words or telling the story ‘exactly so’.

In this video I share my top tips for sharing books together in a way that builds their sentence construction and their vocabulary.

First suggestion is to sit next to each other. It’s lovely to have that cosy lap time when you’re sharing books, but for speech and language development, it’s really useful to sit next to each other. It makes it easier for you to notice what your child is interested in and for them to watch your face when you’re modelling words and sounds.

Second suggestion: abandon your agenda! It’s easy for us to ask lots of questions and quiz a child when we’re looking at books. But, when we let the child be in charge of the book and how they want to share it, we create lots more opportunities to support language development.

Third suggestion: notice what they notice. Sometimes it’s surprising what children particularly enjoy in a book. When we slow down and follow what a child’s interested in, then it’s easier for us to give them a word or sound that they’re really motivated to learn.

Finally: reflect and expand. This is a really useful tip for supporting language in all sorts of situations. Whether your child is using single words or long sentences, we can build their learning by acknowledging what they’ve said and then adding in some useful details of our own.

Does your child love exploring books together? Then, you might like to try turning a favourite into a sensory story. Find out more here.

What is Lego Therapy?

Lots of the children I meet simply LOVE Lego! Great news for our Speech and Language Therapy sessions, because it gives us the perfect reason to work on some big communication skills: giving instructions, checking comprehension, negotiating communication breakdowns and so much more.

Lego Therapy is a structured approach to using Lego as a foundation for social communication practice. It’s a format that was first created by neuroscientist, Dr Daniel LeGoff. In this video you’ll get an overview of the structure of a Lego Therapy session, the different roles for each person involved and the various skills they’re developing along the way.

In a Lego Therapy session there are three key roles: builder, engineer (sometimes called the architect) and supplier. It’s common to work on one Lego construction over several sessions, so the children can rotate their roles each session and practice different skills. It’s also worth setting out some ground rules when you first set up your group, which can be a great starting point for talking about what it means to work in a group.

If you’re interested in further resources and ideas for supporting your child’s social communication skills, then do check out the Social Thinking and Me books, which I reviewed here.

A simple music game to help your toddler learn to listen

I will forever love the topic of listening and attention. Sure, it’s something that young children often need help to develop (so we do a lot of it in Speech and Language Therapy sessions), but really, it’s something that we can ALL practise. With so many pulls on our attention in this modern world, taking a moment to tune in and focus on one thing can sometimes be a challenge for us grown-ups too.

I often bring musical instruments to SaLT sessions. They’re fun to explore together and inspire lots of conversation and shared laughter (especially when I have a go at playing the harmonica). In this video I share a simple ‘sound matching’ music listening game that you can play together that boost early attention and listening skills.

Does your child enjoys songs and instruments? Got a favourite song you enjoy singing together? I’d love to know!

10 gift suggestions for toddlers learning to talk

When parents ask me for toy suggestions, the first thing I want to say is YOU are your child’s best play thing! In many ways, it doesn’t matter what you choose to play with, as long as you’re showing an interest in what your child is interested in and exploring things together.

That said, I do have a few favourite toys that I often use in Speech and Language Therapy sessions, particularly in sessions with toddlers, where we focus a lot on boosting speech, language and communication skills through informal play.

In this video I share TEN of my top toy suggestions for toddlers who are just learning to talk. If you’d like the full wish list sent straight to your inbox, you can sign up right here.

Do you have any toy suggestions? I’d love to know what your toddler enjoys playing with you.

3 ways to use stacking cups for speech and language development

You will always find a set of stacking cups in my therapy bag. They’re often thought of as a ‘baby toy’, but they’re actually useful with a wide range of ages. In Speech and Language Therapy sessions, you’ll find me using them for all sort of activities, including early language development, speech sound practice and more.

In this video you’ll find out about three ways that you can use stacking cups with your little one to build their attention, vocabulary, and your conversation together. I use stacking cups to help children learn about resilience, to help them learn key phrases and also help them develop their understanding of size words. I also use cups for sound sorting with my older children as well. Find out all about it in this video.

I hope this gives you a few new ways to play with this old favourite. If your child enjoys playing with stacking cups, I bet they also love balloons! Check out this post for ideas to build attention and language with balloons.

Activity Ideas for Early Speech Development

Some of the very young children who come to me for Speech and Language Therapy need help to master the early building blocks of words. Some of their early speech sounds haven’t yet developed and so families and I work together to find fun, creative, playful ways to encourage a child to practise some of these early sounds.

In this video I share with you some of the toys and everyday activities we use to help children practise these early parts of speech.

Is your child learning to master the building blocks of speech? What sounds are you helping them learn?

If you’re interested in finding out more about the process behind Speech Therapy sessions, you can check out the stages of therapy in this blog post.

A podcast interview: helping children learn the first steps of communication

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting the team behind the SLP Happy Hour podcast. They’re an American duo whose weekly podcast gives practical advice and encouragement to help Speechies navigate the complex world of Speech and Language Therapy.

In this brief podcast interview we talked together about early language development, capturing a child’s attention, and acknowledging the emotional support that is also a key part of our role. You can listen here.

If you’d like a behind-the-scenes tour of the road trip that led up to this in-person podcast interview, you can check it out below.

Do you have a favourite podcast? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations, so do let me know below.

Using sandcastles to build attention

When we’re helping children learn to listen and pay attention to us, it’s useful to start with something that they find really exciting and worth looking at. So, I’m always on the lookout for creative ideas that capture a child’s attention.

This sandcastle activity helps children learn to watch and listen to you, as well as learn some key phrases. As your child learns the sequence of the activity you can extend the length of the routine to build their attention.

If you’re off to the beach this summer, you might like to try out this activity. You can even extend it by taking turns to smash each sandcastle at the end of the activity. I hope you have fun together!

This activity inspired by the activities involved in Gina Davies’ attention programme. You can find out more about the first steps of this programme here.