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FLAT Ms. Lacy

FLAT Ms. Lacy ready to be mailed out to some of her favorite little people!

I miss my little people! I miss interacting with them and their families. I miss their hugs! I miss seeing parents in person, in action. I even miss my commute! But in spite of all that I miss, I’m thankful to continue to provide EI services via tele therapy. Although tele therapy was a big PIVOT for me, I’m finding my way and feeling much more comfortable now than I did six weeks ago. I’m trying to stay focused on the positive and love seeing the continued progress with my little people, all credit to their amazing families who are taking the reigns and positively impacting their child’s growth and development in amazing ways!

Over the past weeks I’ve been thinking of ways to connect with my work families other than just our tele therapy visits. I’ve continued to leave birthday presents on doorsteps and mailed pictures and handouts when needed but wanted to do something more. Then I saw this idea and knew I had to do it! Some of the teachers at my kids’ elementary school created flat versions of themselves and mailed them to students with ideas of things to do with their flat teacher. Their idea was inspired by the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. So I created a Flat version of myself and adapted ways to interact and play with Flat Ms. Lacy that are appropriate for toddlers.

I’ve had so much fun creating this! I hope my little ones enjoy the Flat me! It may not be the same as seeing me in person, but it’s a little something until we can be together again! Please feel free to download my activities and adapt them to yourself and the children you serve. Drop us a line on our Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter with your Flat therapy self! We would love to see you!

FOREVER TOYS – What are they and where can you find them?

If you have ever asked Nicole and I for toy recommendations then you are familiar with the term “FOREVER TOYS”. FOREVER TOYS are what Nicole and I lovingly refer to as toys that stand the test of time (and we don’t just mean durability). FOREVER TOYS are those toys that kids can play with for many years, at multiple stages in development; toys that don’t take batteries to work but a child’s imagination instead!

Forever toys are harder to find in mainstream toy stores.  They are NOT toys related to the most popular kids’ movie or television show or iPad app.  They are toys that have no identification to a character.  They are toys that don’t require batteries.  They are toys that occupy their space on the toy store shelf for many years because they appeal to all generations no matter what the latest trend in toy manufacturing.  FOREVER TOYS are most commonly found in small, locally owned toy stores that understand the importance of these types of toys to our kids’ growth and development.  On your next shopping trip take a look at what’s on the shelves of the toy aisles.  Look more critically for toys that will challenge your child, toys that don’t do it all for them.  Consider these types of toys for their next birthday or holiday.  Your child’s imagination will blossom and no doubt, their creativity will impress you!

My mother-in-law saved these Construx toys that once belonged to my husband for many years. My son loves them! With them he has created a multitude of things from a “backpack buddy robot” to a bow and arrow. Although Fisher Price no longer makes Construx, they would qualify as a FOREVER TOY in my book! This building toy could be used to supplement a math lesson about shapes, connected to create a fence to contain toy animals, shaped into letters for a multi-sensory spelling lesson, or used to create weapons for a pretend battle just as my son did!  Manufactured over 30 years ago, Construx have stood the test of time and are most definitely what Nicole and I consider a FOREVER TOY!

What toys do your kids have that would be considered a FOREVER TOY? Do the toys your kids gravitate toward most stretch their imagination and challenge their creativity?

Owen proudly displaying his creations!

An ax, bow and arrow, shield and sword – all made with imagination and Construx!

A Preschool Checklist in Pictures: what you want to see when picking your peanut’s preschool.

Preschool…once a privilege to a few kids is now commonplace for most.  Kids that enter kindergarten without any preschool experience are the minority these days.  Nursery school, as it was once called, was geared primarily toward affording children opportunities to play and build social skills.  Preschools today may mention play and building social skills in their description but more often stress their academic structure and extracurricular offerings such as foreign language exposure and computer skill training.  What?!?! We need to get back to the basics people!  What 3-5 year old kids need is exactly what our ancestors found to be most important:  PLAY!  Because we know that the best way for kids this age to learn is through trial and error, hands on exploration and free play, we must find preschools that stress these things and not other developmentally inappropriate skills.  A wise woman once said, “Preschool is not boot camp for kindergarten.”

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I couldn’t agree more!  Why are we expecting 3 and 4 year olds to sit for 30 minutes of tabletop structured writing activities?  Developmentally they shouldn’t be able to do this, so why are we expecting it from them?  There is a lot to be said in trusting a child’s natural developmental trajectory.  How about we don’t become overly excited when standards (set too high for their tender age) aren’t met in preschool and instead expect those skills when they are developmentally appropriate?

 

My son is blessed to attend a preschool that stresses the most important things for the preschool years:  allowing children opportunities to grow in their independence, develop a strong sense of self, and be able to use their creativity in working and learning as healthy, thinking individuals.  His school offers opportunities for true and creative play.  Reading this might worry some parents because no where in this school’s mission statement is there mention of learning to write his name, label shapes or count to 20.  Funny thing is, he has learned all of that and SO much more.  But the material is presented in a way that is fun, interesting and memorable to him; no worksheets, flashcards or repetitive writing tasks here.  He is engaged through multi-sensory activities that afford him age appropriate access to learning. Absolute perfection in the preschool world!!

 

The fabulous school I am referring to is Child’s Play, Inc.  Miss Melanie, Miss Liz and Miss Aimee are the extraordinary teachers at this school that I am forever thankful for.  Below are snapshots of what their school days look like.  I felt the learning that takes place at Child’s Play is much better expressed through Miss Melanie’s talented photography (shared on her Facebook page) than any typed checklist I could provide.  Take a look, a close look at what and how the children are learning through the fabulous experiences they are engaged in.  Keep these photos in mind as you decide, visit and attend prospective preschools with your little one.  Give childhood (and preschool-hood) back to our kids.  These years should be when they develop their love for learning, not when we are training them to be soldiers!

 

 

If you need something more to read, this article includes a GREAT checklist for parents when exploring options and visiting preschools.  Good luck in your search and may you also be as fortunate as I in finding a preschool as perfect as Child’s Play!

Homework for My “Speechie” Parents

As a speech language pathologist it is key that I engage the family in the therapy process.  In order to best help a child, the family must understand why I am doing what I am doing with their child and how it will help them.  And in order for therapy to be most effective, parents must follow through with my tips and suggestions when playing/interacting with their child at home.  This is called generalization.  Without generalization of new skills my efforts in therapy are ineffective and pointless.

 

When I worked in the school system as an elementary school SLP the children on my caseload had a speech homework folder.  When they completed their weekly homework and returned it to me, they received a sticker.  After 5 stickers were earned, they received the “honor” of visiting my treasure chest.  (You know one of those glorified cardboard boxes with dollar store plastic treasures inside…kids eat that stuff up!)  This proved to be the most effective way of informing the parents of what we were working on in therapy and encouraged them to work with their child at home on specific skills.  Now that I work as an early intervention SLP and am in the homes of the children I serve I rely heavily on parents just observing what I do with their child and trust that they will then work with their children in similar ways when I am not there.  Some parents do this…others find it hard.  Either they don’t recognize what I am doing as different or helpful for their child or they don’t understand why it may be helping. Sometimes I don’t do a good enough job explaining what I want them to do when I’m gone and sometimes they are unable to follow through because life just gets too crazy.  At times, I find myself wondering, what can I do or suggest that might make it easier for them to support the language development of their little ones?

 

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Introducing My Toddler Talks!   This is an easy to use book of “homework” focusing on speech and language development for parents. I recently had the privilege of reading this book when I received it from author Kim Scanlon, MA CCC/SLP.  Kim wrote this book for parents of all toddlers (developing typically and atypically) who want to encourage their child’s language development.  My Toddler Talks teaches parents how to “model and elicit language in a fun, straightforward and practical manner…”  The book highlights 25 play routines using toys found in most homes (play doh, stickers, etc.) and expands those routines by scripting language between the parent and toddler.  Often parents want to play more purposefully with their child but don’t know how.  This book gets you there.  Kim helps you model language that is developmentally appropriate for you child’s age and then gives you tips on how to elicit more language from them.  Often toddlers become frustrated when they can’t verbalize their desires. My Toddler Talks helps to diffuse that frustration by fostering earlier language development through play…the best way a child learns!  So for the parent who wants to do more, wants some “homework” to do with their toddler, My Toddler Talks is the answer.  It gets down to the old school version of child development:  PLAY!  No television, iPad, iPhone, computer or batteries required!  Thank you Kim for helping parents get back to basics of PLAY and helping them open up a world of possibility through communication with their child!  PLAY builds brains…and fantastic communication skills!

 

I love recommending My Toddler Talks as a resource for  the families I work with.  When I am not there, they can easily flip to a play routine in the book and know that they are benefiting their child’s language development while also having fun with them.  My Toddler Talks is the home based version of the homework folder I used to send home with my elementary students, but for toddlers.  I can site specific play routines that might be most beneficial for the parent and they will have their book to refer to and carry out the “homework” during the week.  It serves as  way to further engage parents in being the best early teachers of their children and one thing I know for sure as an SLP, when parents are engaged regularly with their children in play, rich with language, children become communicators themselves!

 

Check out My Toddler Talks today and start communicating with the toddler in your life!

 

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Find great tips on speech and language development on the My Toddler Talks website:  http://www.mytoddlertalks.com/.  You can also follow Kim on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Why Every Toddler’s a Genius!

 

It’s like magic…all of a sudden something clicks inside their little minds and they are the smartest baby you know!  Almost overnight these adorable, chubby cheeked, gap-toothed angels are able to demonstrate they understand what you are saying by following a simple direction, answering a yes/no question or imitating your gestures.  They show you they understand associations and daily happenings by going to the bathroom when you say they need a bath or going to the back door when you say it’s time for daddy (or mommy) to get home from work.  And every (proud) parent begins to wonder if they are raising a toddler genius!

My third child is 15 months old and the other day I caught myself bragging to Nicole about how smart she is.  Lately she goes to the closet to get her shoes when she hears me say we are leaving and she answers yes/no questions pretty accurately.  But as I heard my proud parent boasting, I remembered I thought her brother and sister were “sooooo smart” at this age too!!!  So why was that?  I mean, I do believe my kids are smart, but no smarter than any one else’s children, especially at the tender age of 15 months.  And I can’t count how many times I have heard a parent bragging on the early emerging genius they call their toddler.  So why is it that we ALL think we are raising little Einsteins at this age???  What’s the explanation behind it?

The foundation or building block of communication is receptive language, or a child’s ability to understand spoken language.  Their whole (little) lives they have been absorbing every thing you say, every word on each page you read and observing your actions as you navigate their daily routines.  These multi-sensory experiences (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and sometimes tasting) coupled with the repetition of your words and actions help them to understand what words mean.  Also when you speak to them and accompany your words with gestures (like pointing to what you want them to get or nodding your head yes and no), you increase their comprehension.  After many months of your tireless effort to keep their routines consistent and provide them with stimulation, all while keeping them happy and entertained, you are rewarded!  You finally realize the fruits of your labor!!!  They are now mobile enough to act upon what you have been teaching them for the past 12-18 months!  So relish in this stage, be PROUD of the tiny genius you have created!  And go ahead and brag…you deserve the accolades for raising baby Einstein!

If you would like to understand more about child development and get tips on how to help your child grow and develop during the toddler years check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.  It is jam packed with purposeful play ideas to engage your child and help you appreciate the magic of development during the first 3 years of your baby’s life.  Embrace the tiny miracle of your child!  Hug and kiss your baby(s) today 🙂

What Kids Learn at the Video Arcade

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Today is Big O’s 5th Birthday.  Yesterday I overheard him telling a friend’s mom that I was taking him to the water park today…what??!!  I’m not sure where he got that idea from but it made me begin to wonder what I could do special for him today.  Birthdays are definitely celebrated in our house, but not as BIG as in some families.  We have parties for the kids and (most) years I will cook them their favorite meal (or take them out to their favorite restaurant).  O’s party was last saturday and the only thing he asked for on his birthday was a pumpkin pie.  So in thinking what else I could do special for him today it came to me.  I could make his (random) wish come true!  So after preschool pick up, off we went to the “Splash Zone” at a local family fun center.  He enjoyed it…mostly.  See, he hates water in his face.  Naturally a “Splash Zone” wouldn’t be his favorite destination.  I knew this.  He had to figure it out.  So much to my surprise (not really) after an hour of getting squirted in the face he agreed to leave.  Wow!  That was easy, I thought.  Then he mentioned the arcade.

On the way out we had to pass through the arcade.  My kids love these kinds of places.   Personally , I feel they are a waste of money and provide little benefit except sensory overload!  But none the less, it was HIS special day.  So I cashed in my $5 for a handful of game tokens.  He was in birthday heaven!  As I  maneuvered through the blinking lights struggling to hear my own thoughts over the noise, I began to wonder, “Is there any benefit to this type of place?”  (aka How can I feel better about allowing my kids to indulge in this type of “fun”?)  Hmmm…why yes!  Yes there is!!!

 

These are the thoughts that entered my mind:

 

1.  Kids learn to recognize numbers at arcades.  O had to read the number on each game to tell me how many tokens it took to play, he then had to count out the correct number of tokens.  This was a good test for him and enlightening for me.  He can definitely recognize 1, 2 and 3!

2.  Kids learn addition, subtraction, multiplication and division at arcades.  When it’s time to cash in those tickets for those wonderfully coveted plastic treasures behind the counter kids have to count, divide and decide how best to trade up what they have earned.

3.  Kids learn how to handle disappointment.  Often times my kids want the big, purple, stuffed monkey on the wall that costs 5,000 tickets.  Does anyone really win those things???  Quickly they learn that the amount of tickets they have will only earn them the few dollar store items in the glass case.  Such is life…you win some, you lose some.

4.  Kids learn patience and perseverance.  When my kids are sad that they don’t have enough tickets to get the dusty monkey off the wall, I remind them they can save their tickets up if they really want the monkey.  We have yet to have this happen, but it is a good opportunity for them to practice perseverance. (If only the monkey were a bit more enticing!)

5.  Kids learn patience.  Just like at many kid themed attractions, kids have to wait their turn.  Thankfully today, due to the sweltering heat, the arcade wasn’t very busy.  The crowd was mostly outside in the water park.  But there have been many other times where my kids have had to patiently wait their turn to play a favorite game.  Or they’ve had to endure the shoving and pushing at the prize counter to wait their turn to claim their treasure.  Both good lessons in patience.

6.  Kids learn to respect limits.  Sounds a bit contradictory since this post has mostly been about how I indulge my kids at places like these but my husband and I always set a limit before we enter the arcade.  Whether it’s a time limit or a token limit, once it’s over, it’s over.  And following suit today, Big O was okay with leaving after he played his 5 game limit.  Shockingly we even left with some tokens in his pocket.  I think that’s his insurance plan to return someday soon 😉

 

Maybe next year, buddy!  Especially now that mommy can justify our trip as more than just overindulging, wasteful, sensory overload!!

 

Happy 5th Birthday, O! I love you!

Dear Parents…

Dear Parents,

There is something I need you to know.

Your children really need to play.

Why, you ask, do I care?

I care because I work with infants and toddlers and have two elementary aged daughters. I see every day as an early childhood professional and as a parent what our society is doing to children and families. I’ve been there….where you may be. Sitting in a friend’s playroom with your two year olds. Looking at the 40 different toys that sing the alphabet and count in 4 languages. I’ve stared at the items labeled with site words around the room and the shelves of books and flashcards teaching letters and sounds. I have had the pang of panic. I’ve heard that little voice in my head, “If she can’t recite letters or shapes or count..how…will..she.. EVER be ready for Kindergarten?”   “If she can’t sit through story hour…how will she EVER sit through circle time?” “If she can’t recognize her letter sounds..how..will..she..EVER get into HARVARD?”

What you need to know.

PLAY builds brains. Simple as that. 40% of the neural connections in the brain at birth are “extra.” Babies prune out what they don’t need and strengthen what they use. Flip flashcards in front of their face and yes, they might be able to recite back that small amount of information on cue. Let them make shapes out of stones, turn Play doh into pictures, and count while throwing blocks into a bucket and they will LEARN and REMEMBER.  Why? Because REAL LEARNING occurs in context. Children learn through all senses…engage them and it becomes permanent for them.  Your child can’t sit still? GOOD. They shouldn’t be able to! Learn while MOVING through PLAY! Jump, climb, dance. This is what small children should do.

How this applies to you.

Your parent gut screams to you loud and clear what your child needs. So tell it to stare that message that society is sending you down, and tell it to ZIP IT. Your actions and decisions as a parent matter for your child. I don’t say this to stress you. I say it to EMPOWER you. Breathe. Your child needs you and time and space to PLAY. How can this look for your family? SCHEDULE unscheduled time. Don’t sign up for so many (or any) “classes” for infants and toddlers. Go to the park or join a play group instead. Looking for daycares or preschools? Search for ones that have less “curriculum” and more play. Don’t ask the teacher “what did she learn today?” Ask, “What did they play today?” Because the answer to the second question will tell you WHAT SHE LEARNED. Don’t feel like she didn’t get the whole experience you paid for if there is NO WORK SHEET at the end of the day. I have an 8 year old. Trust my journey if I have come before you…you will get enough worksheets in your child’s lifetime to wallpaper 4 houses. If you are handed an art project that looks different than the other children’s EMBRACE IT. It means your child is learning to express themself individually. If it appears your child spent all day JUST PLAYING… EMBRACE IT. It means he had time to build his own interests, socialize with friends, learn to resolve conflicts, and release stress. It means he was able to keep his body healthy and sensory system regulated.

The good news? 

Do Less. Enjoy more. Be in the moment. Just say no to the craziness of it all. You will be happier. Your child will be happier – and healthier & smarter too. 

PLAY BUILDS BRAINS.

So enjoy your kid. Go PLAY!

Love,

Me

For more information on what REAL development looks like (no reading at 18 months is NOT TYPICAL) and ways to support development through PLAY – click here)

Paying It Forward

Here at Milestones & Miracles we love to pay it forward.  In fact, when we started our business back in 2010, helping others was our main motivation.  We wanted to help parents, children and families by educating them about child development and the importance of play.  This past week we were able to start giving back to our community in an effort to fulfill this mission.  Wednesday evening Nicole and I presented at the Entrpreneurs’ Café in Shepherdstown, WV.  We competed against 4 other awesome small businesses from the area to win a cash award.  We were honored to win and shared with those in attendance what we intended to do with our winnings.  Read more about it here.

 

Friday morning we met with Mr. Mitch Greenbaum of the WIC Nutrition office in Martinsburg, WV.  We donated 5 boxes of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me to his staff.  Our hope is that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me will help the staff better answer questions, better assess children’s needs and refer children to other agencies should they have concerns.  We hope the information from 1-2-3 Just Play With Me that is shared with families helps them to interact and enjoy their children more.  We also hope that should a family have any concerns about their child’s development, 1-2-3 Just Play With Me can be a tool in helping them to decide if they need to seek further help.

 

 

 

I have no doubt we will be pursuing more opportunities to pay it forward in the future.  With the holiday approaching we are thankful for many things this week; our families, our business, and the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world around us.  Blessings to you and yours this week and always!

 

Lacy and Nicole

Add These to Your Storm Preparedness List…

With Frankenstorm looming I thought now would be a good time to review some creative play ideas.  Why, you may ask.  Because if your house is like my house it’ doesn’t take many hours of being stuck inside for cabin fever to set in.  But parents delight in knowing that the boredom our kids may experience over the next few days may make them smarter!  A wise one once said, “a little boredom breeds creativity”.  So with that in mind arm yourselves with some of these great ideas to help your children grow their brains while the storm outside is brewing!

Creative, imaginative, pretend play is one of our favorite ways to play here at Milestones & Miracles.  Through this type of play kids can practice what they have observed, develop their interests, build language skills, gain social skills and create beyond what even we as adults can imagine.  A CNN article stated, “Want to get your kids into college?  Let them play.”  And the New York Times reported that the self-regulation skills that dramatic play develops “have been shown to predict academic achievement more reliably than I.Q. tests.”  It is important that we equip our children with what they need to engage in this type of play.  But first let’s define what constitutes pretend play.  Role playing and recreating familiar activities is the first type of pretend play our children engage in.  This is when they imitate us talking on the phone, cooking in the kitchen or mowing the lawn.  Role- playing usually involves realistic like props and actions played out by the child that they have seen an adult carry out.  By 18 months most children role-play.  Here are some examples of toys to support role-playing: doctor kit, play food/kitchen, dress up clothes, baby doll, play phone, plastic animals, doll house.

Imaginative play is the most sophisticated type of pretend play.  An example would be my son feeding the imaginary monsters under the pine trees at the soccer fields with the fallen pine needles and dirt.  This type of play involves the child imagining objects are something they aren’t.  This type of play happens around the age of 3 ½ and beyond.  Some examples of “toys” to support imaginative play are: colored scarves, wooden blocks, cardboard boxes, art supplies, things found in nature (dirt, sand, sticks, leaves).

So be prepared for Frankenstorm; gather your bottled water, candles and toys!  Clean out your closets for dress up clothes and raid your recycling bin to help your kids create and imagine their way through their boredom!

Shake, Rattle, & PLAY! Choosing that first special toy – tips from the EI therapists!

You’ve waited for what seems like forever for that sweet bundle of joy and now that baby is here, you want to hug, adore, love, and….shop! Parents, grandparents, & friends love to buy that first toy. It’s often seen as a special a right of passage and such an important decision, but how long do we spend considering that first toy?

A baby’s first toy is one of their very first ways to learn through play. By touching it, moving it, and placing it in his/her mouth, that tiny infant is learning about spacial concepts, exploring and wakening the sensory system, and getting that sweet mouth stronger to produce lovely first sounds. Important roles indeed for a simple rattle, right? That’s why when choosing a first toy, like any toy that comes after it, we suggest first examining the child’s developmental stage and finding a toy that matches those abilities.

For example, a newborn infant has tiny hands that have the ability to grasp with a whole palm, so smaller diameter rattles will be easier to maintain a toy in the hand. Did you know that a newborn only  sees 8-15 inches in front of them at first and initially only recognizes black, white, orange and red? Typically, babies don’t see pastels well until close to 5 months of age. This fact makes seeking out toys with bold, contrasting colors a smart choice. Ever notice babies seem to put EVERYTHING in their mouths? As therapists, we actually encourage this because it strengthens those muscles in the mouth and brings self oral awareness that later helps babies to make noises and speak and eat safely. Choosing first toys that are safe to place in the mouth from a size standpoint as well as ensuring the toy is made with safe materials.

Over the years, we have found a few favorites that we are excited to share with you here.

Sophie the world’s most famous giraffe (found at: http://sophiegiraffeusa.com/index.html) is loved by all babies. But do you know she’s been a fan favorite since 1961 when she got her start in France? Still made today by a top secret process utilizing specialized rubber made by Hevea Tree sap, Sophie is a classic.
Simple links like those shown here (found at: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3502433) are wonderful first objects to hold (a single red one is my personal favorite).  These are fun to link to make longer chains and hook to a car seat as baby grows.
Wooden toys are some of my favorite and infants seem to love them too.  This one (found at: http://www.etsy.com/listing/110805067/baby-rattle-montessori-wood-teether-eco?ref=sr_gallery_16&ga_search_query=baby+rattle&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=all) is a nice option for a rattle and a great teether.
Manhattan Toys does a wonderful job at creating developmentally appropriate first toys. Here’s two of our favorites. We love them for the easy of grasp and unique designs.
Found at: http://www.manhattantoy.com/product/206914/200930/_/Winkel
Found at: http://www.manhattantoy.com/product/206914/200970/_/Skwish_Classic
Some of the greatest toys come out of Germany.  Wish I had known about this awesome option when my girls were tiny.
Found at: http://www.amazon.com/Grimms-Grasper-Wooden-Rattle-Germany/dp/B003VLBNTW
While these are great commercial options, don’t hesitate to make your own rattle or toy.  Small water bottles, plastic Easter eggs, or small baby food containers with beans or popcorn inside (be sure to glue lids and openings shut tightly for safely) make simple options.  Before you know it, that baby will be shaking and learning, and you’ll be able to continue to hug, adore, love, and…play!
Are you intrigued by the idea of being mindful of your child’s development when choosing toys and play activities? Head over to our HOME PAGE to learn more about 1-2-3 Just Play With Me.  We’ve uniquely paired 3 years worth of milestones with play in each domain of child development. PLUS, this generous information is presented in accessible card format, because we know, as parents you want to save your valuable time for PLAYING!