Category Archives: Child Language Tips


Apple Alphabet Activity for Preschoolers and Toddlers

15th September 2015


Tis the season for apple picking!  Here is a fun “apple picking” activity that I created to work my preschooler on upper-case and lower-case letter matching. This activity can be adapted to target a number of different goals depending on your child’s individual needs or stage of development.

Ideas for Goals:

Preschoolers:  upper-case and lower-case letter matchingletter-sound correspondence, vocabulary development, letter identification, upper-case letter recognition

Toddlers: upper-case letter recognition and letter matching.


Supplies For Apples:

1. Sheets of red felt (approximately 6 sheets)

2. Black permanent marker

3. Magnets– these are small but VERY strong

4. Hot glue gun

5. Apple template

6. Scissors

Print and cut out the apple template in a small or medium size, depending on your preference.  The smaller the apples, the less felt you will need to purchase.  Layer two pieces of felt on top of each other and trace the apple template onto the felt.  You will need to trace the template 26 times for each letter of the alphabet. Cut through two layers of the felt so that you have identical pieces.


Once you cut out all of your pieces, you are going to glue a magnet in the middle of the bottom piece of felt using your hot glue gun. Next apply a thin line of hot glue around the edge of the felt.  Place your matching top piece, sandwiching the magnet in the middle of the two pieces of felt. Making sure that the sides and the stems are lined up.  You could use just one piece of felt, but if you have little ones running around like I do, a small magnet could pose a choking risk.


 Once you have made all 26 apples, use your black permanent marker to write each letter of the alphabet on both sides of the apple.  I used upper-case letters for my apples, but you could do upper-case letters on one side of the apple and lower-case letters on the other side for more versatility for future activities.


 Supplies for Creating the Apple Tree:


1. Large green and brown construction paper

2.Scotch tape


4. Oil drip pan or large magnet board

5. Marker for writing the letters

-magnet apples

Note: My friend Kate gave me the idea of using a large oil drip pan as a magnet board for different alphabet activities.  They are pretty inexpensive and can be fixed to a playroom wall with Scotch adhesive strips or left free-standing so it can be stored away until you need to use it for an activity.


Tape two pieces of large green construction paper together.  Free-hand draw the top of a tree…clearly drawing is not a strength of mine.  Then cut the top of the tree out.


Next tape two pieces of brown construction paper together to make your tree trunk.  Tape both the trunk and the top portion of the tree to the magnet board to create a tree.


Using a marker, write all of the lower-case letters of the alphabet on the top part of your tree.  I wrote them randomly to make it a little more challenging for my son to find the match.

alphabet-tree activity

Place all the apple letter magnets in a basket or bucket and have your child select one apple at a time from the basket. Have them find the lower-case letter on the tree that matches the upper-case letter apple they selected and have them stick the match on top.  Continue this until all of the letter apples are placed on the tree and the basket is empty.  

Then work on letter recognition by saying a letter name and having them “pick” the apple off the tree and place it back in the basket.  For example, you would say “find the letter A and pick it from the tree.”

Apple Tree Letter Game

How to Make the Activity More Challenging:

-Have you child say the corresponding letter sound when they are picking the letter off the tree (the letter A makes an “aaaa” sound).

-Have your child come up with a word that starts with the letter they selected like “A stands for Apple.”

-Have them pick the letters off the tree in the correct order of the alphabet

-Have them pick the letters off the tree in the order of the alphabet backwards like “Z,Y,X,W” (you may need to write out the alphabet on a piece of paper for them to reference).

-Have you child stand behind a line and toss the apple at the tree while saying the corresponding letter sound (the magnets are strong enough that they will stick to the magnet board).

-Have your child think of a word that starts with the letter and them make up a sentence utilizing the word they came up with.

Toddler Variations:


Use an alphabet book (any alphabet book would work) and as you read each letter in the book, have your toddler find the matching apple letter.


– Sing the alphabet song and hand your child each corresponding apple letter to place on the tree as you sing the song.

-Place all the apples on the tree and have your toddler knock down as many apples as they can and have them count how many apples they knocked off the tree.

Other Ideas:

-Create a palm tree instead of a standard tree for an alphabet activity with the book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.”


Hope your children enjoy going “apple picking” without having to leave home!

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Teaching Mama


Benefits of Baby Sign Language

11th September 2015


When I became a mother, I was determined to teach my children sign language because I knew that it would be beneficial in jump-starting their communication and verbal language skills.  I was amazed that it actually worked and my little babies could communicate with their hands!

This is my middle child Chase at 7 months old, learning how to sign “all done.”  You can see he is trying to verbalize “all done” along with gesturing the sign for all done.

So Why is Baby Sign Language Beneficial?

1. Signing allows babies to communicate at a much younger age.

Babies have the ability to communicate and understand language early, but they may lack the verbal skills or the ability to properly articulate words.  Signing allows babies to communicate their basic needs via gestures, which reduces frustration and improves self-esteem.

2. Signing increases verbal language.

In a study funded by the NIH, Susan Goodwyn and colleagues compared a group of baby signers (the experimental group) to a verbal training group (the control group).  The signing group was found to be more advanced talkers than the non-signing group that received verbal training alone.  This study shows that baby sign language actually FACILITATES verbal language development, as opposed to previous thoughts that it may impede verbal language development.

3.  Signing to your baby MAY increase their IQ.

Another study by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, followed up on the children in the groups mentioned in #2 at eight years of age, and they found that the signers showed IQs 12 points higher than the non-signing group, even though they were no longer signing.

4.  Signing can increase the parent-child bond.

As soon as a child is born, our main job as parents is to meet the needs of our newborn child. The parent-child bond is created when a baby knows that someone will respond to its cries for hunger, diaper changing, attention and pain. Baby sign language allows you to establish a line of communication earlier than the development of verbal language, which in turn allows you to meet your child’s specific needs and respond to their anxieties or fears. This creates a trusting relationship and gives you a window into your child’s unique personality.

5. Gesturing occurs naturally in development.

Early on, babies learn that gesturing is a powerful way to get their wants and needs known.  Whether it be clapping, waving or pointing to request items, gestures are a natural part of communication and development.  My son always loved to reach his arms up in the air and grunt or whine when he wanted to be picked up, eventually I transitioned those whines and cries into words by encouraging him to say “up” or “uppies” when he wanted to be picked up.  He would still raise his arms up and gesture to be picked up, but now he was producing the word “up” in combination with the gesture.


A few points about baby sign language-

**You do not need to be fluent in ASL to teach your child some simple signs.  It does not even matter if you are not signing the signs perfectly, as long as you are using the same sign consistently for a given object or action. After all, signs are just “symbols” for objects, actions, and emotions.

**My three children naturally stopped signing when they were able to clearly express themselves verbally, however some children will continue to sign well after verbal communication has developed.  

**A good age to start teaching your baby signs is around 6-8 months of age, or around the same time that you are introducing solid foods.  It may take a while for your child to utilize signs independently, but do not get discouraged they will do it eventually.


Susan W. Goodwyn, Linda P. Acredolo and Catherine A. Brown. Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development, Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 24, 81-103 (2000).

Linda P. Acredolo, and Susan W. Goodwyn, The Longterm Impact of Symbolic Gesturing During Infancy on IQ at Age 8, International Conference on Infant Studies (July 18, 2000: Brighton, UK)

Briant, Monta Z. (2009). Baby Sign Language Basics: Early Communication for Hearing Babies and Toddlers. New York: Hay House, Inc.  



Teaching Mama

8 Books that Promote Speech and Language

21st August 2015


8 Books that Promote Speech and Language in Children

I discussed how you can use books to stimulate language in this post.  Here are some of my personal recommendations for books that promote speech and language in young children.

All my Speech-Language Pathologist friends probably have an arsenal of books that they use with their speech and language kids, the books listed below are tried-and-true in my household.  Whether or not your are a mom or a professional, I would love to hear some of your favorite books.

Books for younger children- (under two years old)

1.  “Baby Happy Baby Sad,” by Leslie Patricelli found here.books-for-young-toddlers

Leslie Patricelli has a line of toddler board books that are really adorable and funny.  The words are simple, “happy baby, sad baby” on every page, so I elaborate what is written in the book by describing what is going on in the pictures.  Encourage your child to label what they see in the pictures (nouns) and the actions (verbs) that are being depicted in the pictures (crying, sharing, running, falling, floating, holding, playing, jumping).

2. This is a set of 4 (only 3 are shown here) Elmo books called “Elmo’s World First Flap-Book Library,” by Mary Beth Nelson and Random house.  You can find it here.toddler-books-elmo

This set of Elmo books are interactive because your child can lift up the flaps to reveal cute and funny pictures which are great in stimulating language.  It becomes a “peekaboo” type of game for them, which we all know children love!

3. “First Words,” by Roger Priddy and Bright Baby.  It can be found here.toddler-language-first-words-book

This book was so well loved in my house, I had to purchase a new one after the first one disintegrated.  This book is great for developing functional everyday vocabulary (i.e. cup, spoon, chair, ball, dog, cat).  Each page has only one picture on it, which is great because it allows your child to focus on one picture at a time instead of being overwhelmed by multiple pictures at once (like some of the other first words books on the market).

4. “Toes, Ears, & Nose!” by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Karen Katz. You can find it here.


This is a lift the flap/peek-a-boo book which is highly interactive and stimulating for young children.  Have your child identify (point to) each of his body parts as you read the book.  This stimulates your child’s ability to understand language (receptive language) and follow 1-step directions.

Books for Older Children- (two years and up)

1. “Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes,” by James Dean and Eric Litwin.  You can purchase it here.


This book is very engaging because Pete that Cat is one cool dude!  It’s also great, because it’s repetitive and helps your child to learn and identify colors.  There are imbedded songs to add meaning and make it fun “I love my blue shoes, I love my blue shoes, I love my blue shoes.”  I crocheted a Pete the Cat doll for my son’s preschool classroom, hopefully it will encourage lots of language and imaginary play!

2. “Caps for Sale,” by Esphyr Slobodkina.  You can get it here.


This my absolute favorite book for stimulating speech and language.  The pictures are really colorful and will keep your child’s attention.  There are also opportunities for you to use gestures and animate the book (pointing your finger, shaking your fist, and stomping your feet) which will make the book more interactive and meaningful for your child.  My boys love this book!

3.  “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” By Dr. Seuss.  You can get it here.


This is a classic book that incorporates rhyming which is a skill important for developing phonological awareness (which is important for literacy).  Allow your child to read the book with you by having them fill in the last word in each sentence.  See this post to view a video on how to use this technique to stimulate language.

5. “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak. You can get it here.


Another classic book, this book has lots of repetition and provides an interesting story line and illustrations. This book also provides lots of opportunities to produce speech sounds through actions and gestures, “they roared their terrible roars,” you roar and see if your child can imitate you.  


Purchase books used…don’t bother paying full price for books that will only be age-appropriate for a short period in your child’s life. I buy used books on Amazon or purchase them on local Facebook yard sales or Craigslist.  Also, your local library is an EXCELLENT, FREE source for books.  If they don’t have the book available in your library, you can borrow it from another library via inter-library loan.

Teaching Mama

How to Stimulate Language in Toddlers through Books and Reading

13th August 2015


As a mother of three young children and a certified Speech-Language Pathologist, I am constantly looking for ways to encourage my children’s language and vocabulary development. My youngest child just turned two years old and has been going through a period of frequent outbursts which include: yelling, hitting, biting and full-out kicking and screaming at the top-of-his-lungs (so the entire neighborhood hears) temper tantrums.  This is the phase of childhood widely known as “the terrible twos.” 

There are many different reasons why children experience temper tantrums and I am not an expert on child behavior, but in my experience, some of my sons tantrums are attributed to his inability to communicate his thoughts and ideas in a succinct manner.  


When you lack the ability to communicate your wants, needs, thoughts and ideas effectively, you feel powerless. This leads to increased frustration and the likelihood that your child may express his frustration via negative behaviors including hitting, biting, kicking, and screaming.  You often hear parents telling their child to “use your words,” to empower the child to communicate their wants and needs instead of whining or yelling.

That brings me to my next thought, how can I improve my toddler’s oral language skills and provide him the tools he needs to clearly express his thoughts and ideas.  There are many different ways to stimulate language development in infants and toddlers and I am not going to go into all of them in this post.  Instead, I am going to share with you some tips on how to utilize books effectively to stimulate oral language in your child.

How to Stimulate Language in your Toddler through Books and Reading

1.  Books should be easily accessible. 

Here is my son attempting to read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?  by Bill Martin, Jr., (upside-down). See the books spread out all over the floor? I am willing to pick up books ten times a day, if it means that my son has a greater interest in books and reading.


Books should be readily available for your toddler to access at any time.  That means baskets, bins or bookshelves (see how i used alliteration there) filled with books in your main living space or play room.  This is especially important for active toddlers who don’t sit still for long periods of time. Eventually they will select a book, bring it over to you, plop down on your lap and ask or gesture for you to read it to them.  Best case scenario, they will select a book and attempt to “read” it by pointing  and labeling the pictures.

 2.  Be animated when reading to your child! 

Use gestures (actions with your hands and other body parts) and different voices to animate the book and allow it to come to life in your child’s eyes.  Change the inflection or tone of your voice…your child will be surprised that your voice can transform into a man’s voice (with a low pitch) or into a child’s voice (with a high pitch). This will make the book more meaningful and fun for them which means they are more likely to remember the words and gain knowledge and comprehension of the books concepts.  

Why do children like TV? Because its interesting visually and it is animated.  SO BE ANIMATED when reading to your child!

3.  Choose repetitive books and allow your child to fill in the words.

Once you have a few books that your child is familiar with and they have started to babble or say words, allow them to “read” the book with you.  This creates more of an interactive reading experience.  A lot of children’s books are very repetitive (which is GOOD) to the point where your child has probably memorized some of the repetitive phrases (like familiar songs and nursery rhymes).  You will be surprised at how much they have memorized from the books you read to them. Capitalize on that by allowing you child to participate in reading the book!

Watch the video below to see how I use this technique to stimulate language production.

——–If your child is not producing words yet, try the strategy that I use in the video below.—— 

For the picture of the leaf, he said an approximation (a word close to the correct word) of “flower.”  I helped him by providing the first sound of the word “leee,” and he was able to say “leaf.”

He is reading “First Words,” by Roger Priddy.

4.  Stretch out the words and over-articulate the sounds.

As you read to your child, you want them to be listening for the different sounds that make up words.  The better they can hear the sounds, the more likely they are to be able to distinguish between the sounds they are hearing which will improve their accuracy when they go to produce the sounds themselves.  This doesn’t require you to increase the loudness of your voice when reading, it has to do with pronouncing or articulating each sound clearly when you read the words.  Also, stretch out the words that are meaningful in a sentence to bring more attention to these words.  “Good night MOOOON, good night ROOOOM.”  You are simply stretching the vowel sounds in the words you want to emphasize to bring more attention to those words.  

5. Follow your child’s lead.

If your child LOVES trucks, purchase or borrow from the Public Library, every book you can find on trucks.  If your child loves Elmo, get some Elmo books.  This will keep your child’s attention and stimulate language in an area that interests them.  This is true for children of all ages.

***If you are at all concerned about your child’s speech or language development I recommend consulting your pediatrician and/or a Speech Language Pathologist who specializes in young children.  The sooner your child receives intervention, the better.***

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