Context is King!

I think that actual saying is ‘cash flow is king’. But I think we can use it when we are talking with about babies and young children. Context is king. I will try to explain what I mean.

When we are learning to talk, and this applies to other developmental areas as well, such as gross and fine motor. If we don’t have the experiences we won’t be able to learn the skill.

We see in areas across Australia some places where the children are machines at gross motor development. They are climbing, running and jumping at a very early age, but perhaps they are not so keen on books because maybe they don’t have a lot of books in their environment.

Then we have areas where the kids are all over reading and books at an early age but are less adventurous with their gross motor.

Same with writing and using scissors. If we don’t have the safe scissors to practice with, we can’t easily learn to cut paper (not hair, never hair!).

With language development, if we want our children to use words, we do need to provide them with the opportunities to do so. Depending on their age, the way you do this is different.

For a child of about 18 months to two years with single words, you will need to start pausing…. give them a chance to say the word. I needed to count in my head sometimes as silence makes me nervous (jokes – but I still don’t like it much). Be mindful not to always be saying everything for them. If we wait and give them a chance to have a go then maybe they will. Have a go at waiting for about 5-10 seconds rather than jumping in.

Context also is the environment.

If we have lots of books we can go to so many different places. Learn new words.

If we want them to learn about food (flour, egg, and milk), verbs (break, mix, stir, pour, tip, and bake) then providing them with baking opportunities is the simple and easiest way to do this. Looking at my children it is also a great opportunity to learn words like messy, sticky, gross, wash, mouth, face…

Every home has a different context.

Which is why I feel that empowering parents to feel confident in supporting young children’s language development is the key. Learning language in the context of our home and our routines is critical.

I am going to be running a series of communication workshops.

I am talking about 3 different age groups.

Over 3 days.

Each workshop will be about half an hour, perhaps a little longer.

I am going to share 3 tweaks to your everyday that will build language in babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

For more information please head to this page.

When you register you are eligible for all, but come to one or all.

Whatever ones are useful to you.

Getting ready for school….

Last week my eldest finished school, we still have another 7 years though of being the parents of school aged children.

I am grateful I had four, as I get to extend it out for a while! It is a little bonkers as I lie in bed at the moment and think to myself that I have a child at schoolies. Not the Goldie, but away for the week with his friends.

All the little baby steps that we have been taking together to get to this point. It feels a little like “and just like that he was gone”…

Life seems to be made up of all of these little moments that get our children to the space of readiness for the next space.

You know when they are little and you get that false sense of – I am on top of this and then nope you get the reminder that in fact you are not as they change it up for you. Just as it starts to get a bit easier.

I was thinking about all the parents who are facing their eldest starting school next year. I recall that like it was just yesterday!

As a speech pathologist there are a few things I can encourage you to think about prior to the big day.

On a personal level I think being able to:
• make friends,
• separate from you,
• stay awake for 6 hours, and
• open lunch boxes and packaging are the critical elements.

I remember when my now “old boy” was going into school and he is a fairly shy and quiet child and a friend would say “Hi” and he would say nothing…and I would say to him “when someone says hello, you have to say hi back – it is what we do” and he would say to me “I did say hi” and I would then say “you have to say hi out loud so they can hear it, not just in your head gorgeous boy”.

These skills are super important as we transition to school.

Some kids do them remarkably easily and for others it is a learning curve.

There are other skills that are easy enough to teach most kids, such as early literacy skills. Some of the most important of these are just knowing what a word is, what a letter is, what a sound is.

Speech Pathologists call these skills metalinguistic skills – this is the ability to talk about language.

Also, understanding the language of the classroom.

When we are first learning language we talk about the things that are very much in front of us.

The ‘here and now’ elements, however as we transition into school knowing how to talk about the ‘there and then’ becomes very important.

Using language to predict and describe not just what is in front of us but also what is not.

I will do a webinar focusing on these language skills to be ready for the classroom.

I will let you know when it is ready to go!

First words and when to expect them.

The days are long, but the years are short.

I remember hearing this quote and loving it. Because in the early days the days are remarkably long.

This young gentleman graduates from high school this week.

The photo on the right is him this week in all his formal splendour.

I cannot believe how the time has flown.

I recall the moment of his birth.

The moment he first started to walk.

The time when he started to talk.

His first days in daycare.

His first day at school.

Now here we are and tomorrow is his last day.

In the moment sometimes it all feels so very big.

I was reflecting on his development last night.

I remember the first time he got sick and foolishly we went to the hospital as we were so scared. Yes, it was just a cold.

I remember when the daycare carer came to me and said she was worried about him, as he was falling over all the time. You know it is bad when they come to you with their concerns as it cannot be easy saying to a parent – “I am worried”. You need to be genuinely very worried.

What had happened though was he learnt to walk around 11 months.

Then by 18 months he had at least 50 or so words and was using single words consistently.

Then his language exploded and he went from single words to phrases over the period of about a month.

It was in this month that he kept falling over.

It was like his brain was directing all its neurons to learning language that walking got put to the side for a while. Multi-tasking was not his strength! (I guess it is no ones really).

However, once two words phrases were his new norm, his walking was fine again.

By 2 years he was speaking in short phrases and walking just fine.

As a rule of thumb by:

  • 15 months your baby is likely to have about 10 words
  • 18 months they are likely to have 50 words. This amount is often considered the minimum amount to start to combine words into phrases.
  • 2 years between 200 and 300. By now they are typically combining words into 2 word phrases
  • 2 and a half about 450 words and lots of phrases.

If you would like to know more about what to expect at what age I have developed an e-book of typical milestones and how to support your toddlers talking.

You can find it here.

Now, to get ready for the next phase of his life as he heads off to Uni.




How do I develop my toddlers language skills?

This is a question I get asked a lot.

We all know not to compare our kids (or ourselves) but it still happens. Must be something about being human. But I hear parents of young children (typically between 18 months and 3 years) who find themselves with a little one who may not be doing things the same as their friends kids / sibling / cousin…and they wonder…what can I be doing?

There is a lot I can share to answer that question because it is one of my passions in life – helping little people find their voice. Giving them some self-determination.

But here would be 3 of my top tips to support toddler language development.

1. Serve and return… when your child communicates with you (word, gesture, sign, eye gaze whatever they do) then respond to them…. so we want to have conversations… turn taking. It is a bit like a game of tennis and the more turns you can each have the stronger the impact on language development.

2. Follow their lead… let them lead the conversation so you are talking about what they are interested in…

Let’s say you are having a tea party.
I would have my own baby and then I would copy what the child is doing… so let’s say he is feeding the baby. I would feed my baby and I would say “baby hungry, my baby hungry”… then pause and see if he joins in.

3. Add words… if your toddler is using no words you give him single words… if he is at two word phrases you give him three and so on. Add the words for them to hear, copy and learn.


Here is a video I did sharing why the first three years are so important from the perspective of brain development.