Tag Archives: reading

The Importance of Babbling in Babies

21 Oct

shutterstock_218714161You’re driving down the road when you hear it—your baby starts cooing in the back seat. They may be gazing out the window or simply be fascinated with whatever colorful toy has caught their attention, but something has caused them to feel the need to vocalize. Babbling is a phase of early education every baby experiences as words begin to take on meaning. Here are a few ways you can take advantage of the early learning opportunities it presents and strategies for encouraging babbling as your baby launches into language learning.

What to Expect from Babbling:

  1. Babies understand more than they can say.

    Once babies start trying to talk, they have a lot to say but can’t always express those thoughts. Understanding concepts is a lot easier than voicing them. Linking meaning to words, however, is a big milestone for babies and usually takes place between eight and twelve months.

  2. A baby’s understanding of a word may vary from yours.

    When you say dog, your baby may only associate it with the fuzzy German Shepherd running around in the backyard. First word understandings are often only tied to a specific object. It’s important to use the word in several different situations, labeling and comparing objects with the same name.

  3. Baby babblings will begin to vary.

    You should notice babbles begin to vary and take on meaning as babies learn to add inflections and intonations in his or her speech. This is a good thing! You can encourage the frequency of those babbles through replying with words and smiles of your own.

  4. Babbling is a way for babies to initiate conversation.

    Even though they’re not using words, when babies combine words and gestures, whether it’s grabbing your leg or reaching for a cup, they are looking to you to engage in conversation. Be sure you’re responding in kind!

Communication Tips for Encouraging Early Language Skills:

  • Exaggerate actions and label and describe objects as your child focuses on them.
  • Use language to give your play and daily routines structure and meaning from which the child can learn. Talk more now that the child is starting to communicate more. Good labeling and attentive, language-rich conversations are even more important than before.
  • Reinforce turn taking and the back-and-forth of daily conversation.
  • Assume that the baby’s babbling refers to the thing he or she is looking at, touching, or playing with. Label that object.
  • Use books that can be chewed on and have flaps so that the child can understand that things do not vanish when out of sight.

Tips for Reading to Your Baby:

  • Reading fosters a baby’s understanding of cause and fact, fine and gross motor skills, listening skills, object permanence, and understanding of words.
  • Encourage your baby to follow your pointing or gaze.
  • Take turns with your baby as you repeat words in the book. Reading to them is not so much important as allowing them to vocalize what is being read.
  • Help him or her with understanding first words by also pointing that word out in different forms. (Ex. A dog in the book, the dog outside, a dog on the computer screen.)
  • What you should look for when reading:
    • Does the baby enjoy reading books with you?
    • Does the baby follow your gaze or pointing?
    • Does the baby babble when looking at pictures?
    • Does the baby try to direct your attention to things of interest?
    • Does the baby shift his or her gaze between you and things in the book?

At the end of the day, babbling is a good thing and an indicator that your child is on their way to becoming a regular motor mouth! The best way to encourage babbles to develop into words is by responding to those nonsensical conversations with patient responses and reading to your baby as you both engage in active dialogues.

For even more activities for encouraging early literacy in your baby, don’t miss Raising a Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3.

Have early language learning tips to share? Feel free to comment below or post on our Facebook page!

Related Resource: 3 Tips for Building Baby Language Skills 

12 Days of Learning | Day 11: Celebrate Winter

13 Dec

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The winter solstice is coming up soon, and we have some great ideas to help your family celebrate the start of winter. Whether your winters are warm and dry or cold and snowy, you can use these indoor and outdoor activities to have fun as a family and help your kids learn about winter:

1. Encourage your kids to read. Reading is an excellent activity for keeping kids engaged during the winter months. In addition to encouraging your kids to read on their own, you can make reading a family time activity. Books are also an excellent way to help kids learn about winter. The Snowy Day, Winter Big Book, The Mitten, Snowballs, and Snow would all be great additions to your child’s book collection.

2. Have an outdoor (or indoor) family snowball fight! This is a fun way for your family to stay active and exercise during the winter months. If it doesn’t snow where you live or it’s too cold outside for the kids to play, we have the perfect solution for your family. Snowtime Anytime Snowballs feel like real snowballs and can be used indoors or outdoors, which means your family can have snowball fights anytime during the winter or all year long.

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3. Ask children what changes they are noticing in the weather. This gives you the opportunity to discuss weather words, weather instruments, how people forecast the weather, and other weather basics. Kids will be particularly interested in snow at this time of the year, so encourage them to play in the snow or make their own paper snowflakes. Books about snow, such as Snow is Falling, will also help them understand weather and how it changes. Older kids may enjoy having a weather station to help them monitor weather conditions and make their own forecasts.

4. Take your kids ice skating at an indoor or outdoor skating rink. Ice skating is a great way to get your kids out of the house during the winter months. It will also help improve their balance and coordination. After your family burns some calories on the ice, be sure to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or a bowl of soup. Remember that it’s best not to use a frozen pond in your neighborhood because the ice may not be thick enough or your kids may wander off to an area of the ice that isn’t safe. Sledding and skiing are two other wintertime activities your family may enjoy.

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5. Talk to kids about animals and plants that are commonly seen in winter. Point out or ask kids which animals and plants they see more of in winter. This is a good way to start a discussion about hibernation and migration. Books, such as Time to Sleep, can also help you explain why certain animals hibernate or migrate during the winter months. Encourage your kids to take pictures or keep a journal of changes they notice in nature during the winter months.

6. Come up with fun art and craft projects your kids can do indoors or outdoors. Kids can become bored pretty fast during the winter months, especially if the weather is bad and they can’t go outdoors. Fun art and craft projects will help engage your kids on gloomy winter days, but make sure you also have projects they can do outside when the weather is nice enough. It’s also a good idea to have a variety of art and craft supplies on hand to help engage your children during their breaks from school or on snow days.

Check back on Monday for Day 12 of our 12 Days of Learning!

Happy Holidays!

Five Fun Holiday Traditions for Kids & the Kids at Heart

31 Oct

There’s a chill in the air and the daylight hours are getting shorter, which means the holidays are fast approaching. Pretty soon you’ll drive by a house lit up with Christmas lights and see Christmas trees for sale in store parking lots. You’ll start planning holiday dinners, putting up Christmas decorations, and scouring advertisements for the best deals (pssst, don’t forget to check our website). You’ll even make lists of what activities and traditions you want to do as a family because, after all, the best holidays are filled with anticipation and fun. Whether you’re looking to create new holiday traditions or are looking forward to your favorites, we have some great ideas for ways to build excitement and anticipation for the holiday season!

5 Fun Holiday Traditions

1. Adopt an Elf on the Shelf

“You better watch out / you better not cry / you better not pout / I’m telling you why…”

–“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (Fred Coots & Haven Gillespie)

Ever wondered how Santa knows if children are naughty or nice? He has his own little helpers, of course! Santa lets families adopt special elves every year to help him know which children need to go on the naughty and nice lists. When an elf is adopted by a family and given a name, the elf gains special Christmas magic that helps it fly to the North Pole every night to give Santa a daily report on the kids’ behavior. The elf then returns to its family and moves to a different observation spot each morning.

There are a couple rules every family must know when they adopt an elf:

  1. They may only touch the elf when absolutely necessary because the elf may lose its magic if it is touched.
  2. The elf will not speak, leave, or move until everyone in the house is asleep.

Adopted elves usually appear in homes at the beginning of the holiday season and then return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve until the start of next year’s holiday season. A timeless holiday classic, the Elf on the Shelf and its crazy antics will help fill your household with delight and laughter this holiday season.

Since we’re also one of Santa’s helpers, you can adopt an elf from us! Visit elfontheshelf.com for more information about the Elf on the Shelf tradition or to register your elf.

2. Count Down to the Holidays!

Build excitement for the holidays and help your children learn and develop skills with LEGO® Advent Calendars. Each 2013 holiday advent calendar comes with 24 gifts and objects in individual compartments, which allows children to open and build a new item each day until Christmas. LEGO® Advent Calendars help children learn about the holidays and increase their manual dexterity, creativity, and problem solving skills. These calendars are also fun ways to spend time as a family during the holidays.

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LEGO® City Advent Calendar

Perfect for children ages 5 years & up, LEGO® City Advent Calendar features opening windows that include 24 buildable gifts, such as a Christmas tree, sled, fireplace, snowman, and 8 minifigures.

LEGO® Star Wars™ Advent Calendar

Find your inner Jedi with the LEGO® Star Wars™ Advent Calendar. Perfect for Star Wars fans, it features 24 Star Wars™ themed gifts, such as Dooku’s Solar Sailer, Cloud car, Attack cruiser, 6 minifigures, 3 droids, and much more!

LEGO® Friends Advent Calendar

Build decorations and prepare for the holidays in Heartlake City with the LEGO® Friends Advent Calendar. This set includes Stephanie and Lily minifigures and a calendar with 24 buildable gifts, such as Stephanie’s snow scooter, a Christmas tree, snowman, ice skates, and sled.

Our popular LEGO® Building Plates can also help bring your advent calendar to life by allowing you to create, organize, and store your advent calendar gifts as you build them.

3. Have a Holiday Reading Tradition

Get your family in the holiday spirit by reading holiday books, which is also a great way to build children’s literacy skills and interest in reading. This is an activity that the whole family can enjoy due to the fond memories holiday stories invoke. If you have young children, try to read them a holiday story at bedtime each night. If the children in your family are older, however, have everyone pick out their favorite holiday stories and either take turns reading them or have a designated holiday story reader. We recommend The Polar Express and The Twelve Days of Christmas as two great books to include in your holiday reading.

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The Family Reading Partnership also has some fun ideas for holiday reading traditions:

  • Plan a family trip to the library to check out books to read at Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas.
  • If you don’t have a collection of holiday and winter books, start a collection of them for all ages. Enjoy them during the holiday season, but then put them away in a special container until next year.
  • Listen to a holiday audio book while you are baking cookies or decorating the tree.

For more holiday reading traditions and book suggestions, check out the Family Reading Partnership’s e-brochure on holiday reading.  Another great resource is readkiddoread.com, which is author James Patterson’s non-profit website that promotes literacy and helps parents find ways to encourage their children to read.

4. Make Creative, Delicious Treats

Many holiday traditions are tied to food or the preparation of food. Perhaps your family serves a particular meal or side dish every year at Thanksgiving or Christmas, for example, or your whole family congregates at one person’s house to fix Christmas Eve dinner. Whatever your holiday food traditions are, be sure that your traditions include foods and recipes that children can appreciate and help prepare. You can even incorporate a math lesson into the festivities by having kids count candies or measure ingredients!

Children love making gingerbread houses and baking and decorating cookies at this time of the year, so try to schedule a weekend for the family to make some holiday treats. If you like the idea of making a gingerbread house but don’t want to go to the trouble of actually making the gingerbread, try our Candy Cottage Party Pack. It includes a 4-pack of re-usable plastic gingerbread houses that your family can decorate for Christmas, Halloween, or any another occasion. All you need is some icing, candy, and cereal to start decorating them with after you snap the pieces together.

Baking and decorating cookies is also a fun holiday tradition that you and your kids can do together. Your family could even participate in a cookie swap with other families in your neighborhood as another fun holiday activity. Remember that cookies don’t necessarily have to be homemade for kids to enjoy decorating them, especially if you have time constraints on the activities you can do as a family. Just be sure to make some cookies you can leave out for Santa!

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If someone in your family is diabetic or allergic to an ingredient used to make cookies or gingerbread, you can still enjoy the favorite sweet treats of the holiday season. Our Counting Cookies™ Jar and Gingerbread Sort and Snap Cookies can help you spend time as a family and help kids learn to count, recognize colors and patterns, and develop fine motor skills.

5. Decorate Your Space for the Holidays

Decorating for the holidays is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the holiday season. Most people love decorating their Christmas tree or setting up a holiday display in their front yard, but many of those decorations aren’t very kid friendly. Be sure your kids are included in the decorating stage of the holidays by having them either pick out decorations or make their own homemade decorations.

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One decorating idea is to buy or make a holiday ornament for each child to put on your Christmas tree every year. You can also have them trace their hand to create the outline of a turkey, which they can then color and decorate. Another easy craft for children is to draw or cut out a snowflake design and then color and decorate it with glitter. Crafts like these are great for children to do while on break from school or when they have to stay indoors due to bad weather. Be sure to check out our Art section for all of your art and craft needs!

Love and Your Little One: Children’s Books About Love

14 Feb

Teaching children about love and what it means to be loved is very important! Celebrate the magical spirit of St. Valentine’s Day by cuddling up with your young one(s) and reading together. But first, join us as we count down our favorite children’s books about L-O-V-E!

8

Taggies™ I Love You

By Scholastic

Book Description: Curious babies will love to touch and tug on the TAGGIES™ fleece blanket that covers this special book. The soon-to-be favorite of your baby also features eight colorful tags made for small fingers. The adorable bears illustrated in pastels make perfect daytime or bedtime companions. Machine washable. 3 pages. Cloth book. Birth & up.

Item#: 88268

Price: $12.99

7

One Hundred Is A Family

By Pam Muñoz Ryan

Book Description: Counting first from one to ten and then by tens to one hundred, this picture book celebrates the many meanings of family. The people connect in ever-widening circles, creating families of community, heritage, and simple love and friendship. 32 pages. 4 – 8 years.

Item#: 46702

Price: $7.99

6

My Monster Mama Love Me So

By Laura Leuck

Book Description: At once tender and funny, this monster bedtime story is guaranteed to generate giggles, tickles, and plenty of monster hugs.

Item #: 46442

Price: $3.50

5

Only One You

Book and Puppet Set

Book by Linda Kranz

Book Description: This inspirational book emphasizes how important each individual is to the world around them.

Item #: 91232

Price: $12.95

4

Little Sisters Are…

By Beth Norling

Book Description: Little sisters can be tiny, cuddly, smelly and sad. They can be bouncy, lumpy, sticky and brave. Every little sister is different, but we love them all the same. This book has bright pictures, easy text, and sturdy paper to help toddlers and twos turn the pages easily.

Item #: 85155

Price: $4.99

3

I Love You All Day Long 

By Francesca Rusackas

Book Description: Owen’s anxious question prompts this heartwarming, comforting tale of how a parent’s love stays with a child whether they are together or apart, all day long. Paperback. 32 pages.

Item #: 13433

Price: $6.99

2

Mama, Do You Love Me?

By Barbara M. Joosse

Book Description: In this universal story, a child tests the limits of independence and comfortingly learns that a parent’s love is unconditional and everlasting. The story is made all the more captivating by its unusual Arctic setting. The lyrical text introduces young readers to a distinctively different culture, while at the same time showing that the special love that exists between parent and child transcends all boundaries of time and place. The story is beautifully complemented by graphically stunning illustrations that are filled with such exciting animals as whales, wolves, puffins, and sled dogs, and a carefully researched glossary provides additional information on Arctic life. This tender and reassuring book is one that both parents and children will turn to again and again.

Item #: 92387

Price: $6.95

1

Guess How Much I Love You

Felt Story Set

By Sam McBratney

Book Description: This book is a wonderful expression of love between a parent and child. Set includes 15 felt figures, felt background scene, hardback book, and 2 bonus short stories. Ages 3 and up.

Item #: 62013

Price: $30.95

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