Mime Time

A traditional presentation of classical and modern mime techniques performed at Toddler Tree in a developmentally appropriate style through an acting technique that conveys emotion through non-verbal communication: this is Mime Time.

Occasionally referred to as ‘the art of silence,’ pantomime relies on facial expressions, body language, gestures and movements to convey a message or tell a story or create an illusion. People performing pantomime are known as mimes or clowns. With pantomime, kids can enjoy themselves while learning valuable social and communication skills.

Emotion
• Pantomime incorporates techniques to convey emotion within facial expressions. When expressing happiness, the actor will raise his brow, curve his lips upward, parting the mouth slightly in addition to squinting to appear as if he is smiling with his eyes. Surprise is conveyed by opening the mouth to an O-shape, raising the brow and opening the eyes as wide as possible. Conversely, anger is expressed by turning the brow and mouth downward, while firmly setting the jaw in a dropped position. Sadness is conveyed by turning the mouth, the brow and the eyes downward, while allowing all the muscles in the face to sag.

Gestures
• The chest is the central point of all action in pantomime. Actors will use the entire body to react and express emotion. Gestures in pantomime are exaggerated. When expressing positive emotions, actors will create free-flowing movements, maintain an elevated chest and gesture broadly. Negative emotions are expressed through restrictive gestures and a chest that is drawn inward. The body will appear tense and rigid.

Mime Time will take place next Friday, September 26th and it is packed with elements of surprise, adventure, music, dancing, excitement and, of course, audience interaction and participation. This enriching experience will exercise both the mind and the body of our youngsters.

Talking Toddlers

Strategies to Model and Require Language from Young Children

Children learn language from hearing it, and they start this process basically at birth (although some would argue that they begin even BEFORE birth, since studies have shown that babies can hear their parents voices in the womb sometime around 18-20 weeks gestation and newborns can actually recognize their mothers voices!). Even at birth, their little brains are taking in all the sounds of his/her language and storing this information for later use. Infants, toddlers and young children, then, are learning language from the people they spend their time with. This can be grandparents, siblings, teachers and caregivers, but of course the people they spend the most quality time with is their parents. They are constantly listening, analyzing, and storing what they hear until one day they USE IT!

Modeling

Model the language we want children to use: I remember when my son was a toddler and he would walk up to me and put her arms up while grunting. Yes, he obviously was communicating to me that he wanted up. However, is this how I wanted him to communicate this to me? Not really, I wanted him to say “up” and then eventually “up please” and then at some point “Can you pick me up please?”

But how would my son know to use the word “up” rather than just gesturing and grunting? I had to model it for him. So, for a couple weeks every time he did his arms-up-and-grunt I would look down at him and say “You want up? UP. UP. UP” and then I would pick him up. This went on for a while until one day he attempted to say up! When he said the “uuuu” rather than his grunt I got really excited, repeated “Yes, UP UP UP!” and picked him right up! I prasied and praised him and continued to model until one day he just started saying it all by himself.  PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE!! Once your child starts to attempt to say the words you are modeling for him, it is time to PRAISE him for his efforts! Not only do you want to give him the item he is wanting immediately to reinforce this behavior, you also want to praise him like crazy! Use big smiles, wide eyes, high pitched voice and say “Yes! UP! You said up! GREAT JOB!”We want to praise his attempts even if they are not perfect. As you probably know, children do not start talking like adults with all the sounds used correctly. If the child is attempting the word, even if its not perfect, that’s ok! Praise, praise, praise and continue to model the correct production of the words.

Requiring your Child to use Language to Communicate

Some children are very good at getting what they want using nonverbal communication. And many parents are very good at knowing what their child wants. Therefore, the child is getting what he/she wants without having to use language to get it Once you are modeling the language for your child and he is starting to get the idea and using words, you then need to require your child to use the language to get what he wants. For example, let’s say your child has learned to say “up” like in my example above. Start requiring him to use it most times he wants up.  Does your child want his sippy cup of milk? MODEL MODEL MODEL the word milk and once he starts to try using the word (like maybe a mmmmmmm sound) PRAISE him and then start requiring that he uses this approximation of Milk (the mmmm) most times he wants his milk.

 Setting up The Environment for Communication

Language goes beyond using words. The “language” you are requiring could be the use of gestures, signs, pictures, etc…anything that is getting your child to communicate to you. And how do you do this? The best way is to set up the environment for communication by embedding communication temptations into your child’s day.

What is a communication temptation? A communication temptation is an activity or situation that is set up to “tempt” your child to use language. How do you use a communication temptation to get your child to talk? You want to first set up the communication temptation. Then during the activity, you will want to model the language you want the child to use. This is important. You need to model so the child can use your model to learn how to communicate. Your model should be just slightly beyond, or slightly more advanced, than what they are already doing on their own. So, if they are not speaking at all, you may model signs, words, or possibly using a picture to request an item (this all depends on the individual child). If they are using only single words, you will want to try to model two word utterances. Then when they attempt your model, reward them with the item. What are examples of communication temptations? There are so many different ways to set up your child’s day to “tempt” them to use their language. Here are some suggestions of communication temptations you can use to help get your child to communicate (adapted from Wetherby & Prizant, 1989).

During Play:

  • Take a toy that your child enjoys playing with, and remove the batteries. Wait for your child to realize it is not working and model for him/her the language you want him to use. For example, you can model the sign or word “broken” or “help”. When he does so, put the batteries in and give him the toy. Repeat with other toys.
  • Take a toy that your child REALLY loves and start playing with it, not allowing your child to play. When he is starting to indicate he wants a turn, model the language you want him to use, like “Car Please” or the sign for car, or giving you a picture of a car in exchange for the car. Once he attempts requesting for the item, give it to him immediately.
  • Give your child only some parts of an activity or toy, but not all the parts (like only 1/2 of a puzzle, or only 3 train tracks). When the child begins to indicate that he realizes pieces are missing, model the language you want him to use. For example, “Track please” and then hand him another track piece. Then require him to request again to get more tracks.
  • In relation to the example above, during an activity try giving you child an item that does not fit (like a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit, or a piece of train track that won’t work, for example). Model the language you want him to use “Uh oh! Doesn’t work! Need another!” etc.
  • While playing with your child, randomly take away some of his toys and wait for him to indicate he wants them back, and then model the language you want him to use.
  • Engage your child is a fun social game like tickles, peek a boo, or swinging on the swings. After playing for a short while, pause to give your child an opportunity to request more of the activity. Model the language you want the child to use (for example, rather than allowing “more” I would model the actual verb like “tickle” “swing” or “peek”).
  • Activate a wind-up toy, let it do its thing, and then when it’s done wait for your child to indicate that he would like the toy to be wound up again. Model the language you want him to use.
  • Get out bubbles, blow a bubble, then put the lid back on and hand it to the child. Wait for the child to indicate that he needs/wants help. Model the language you want him to use.

During Mealtimes/Snack times:

  • Grab a food that you KNOW your child loves, and eat it in front of him/her without offering her any. Wait for your child to indicate that they want some, and then model for them how to appropriately request an item. This could be modeling using a sign, gesture, or a word (depending on how your child is communicating at this time). When he attempts to request in a more appropriate manner, give him the food item.
  • During meals or snacks, rather than giving your child all his food at once, only provide him with a couple bites of each item. When he is indicating he wants more, model the way you want him to request. For example, you could model the sign “cracker” while saying “cracker please” and so on. I suggest NOT using the word “more” to request for more, but rather the name of the item.
  • Give the child a food you know your child does NOT LIKE. Model the language you want him to use like “no” or “no thank you”.

In the environment/routines:

  • Take some of your child’s toys (that he REALLY likes), and place them in CLEAR bins in a place that is visible for the child but not accessible. Your child will have to request the items from you. Model the language you want your child to use (i.e. the sign or word for the item like “trains” or “trains please” or “I want trains please”).
  • Don’t allow your child free access to things like food, the computer, TV, iPad, CD player, etc. Put them away (but visible, when possible) so that your child needs to request to use them. Only allow limited use, then put away so they will need to request to use the item again.
  • Change up your routine. For example, “forget” to brush your child’s teeth or “forget” to give your child a bath. Model the language you want the child to use “Uh oh! Forgot bath! Need bath! Brush teeth!” etc. (Other ideas: place the child in a different seat at meal times, drive home a different way from the store, try serving dinner foods for breakfast, etc).
  • Provide obstacles: For example, tell the child you are going to go outside…after you have put a chair in front of the door, or locked the door. Model the language you want your child to use “Uh oh! There is a chair in the way! Chair! Move!” etc.

Ok, so I tried some of these and they didn’t seem to work. My child just walked away! What went wrong? This is important: for these strategies to work, the child needs to actually WANT the thing you are “tempting” him with. So, if you give the child a puzzle, for example, with only a couple parts and he just walks away, the toy simply isn’t motivating enough at that time. Try something else. Some children are more challenging than others to get to use their language. I find food works REALLY WELL. Also, another tip: to make toys more motivating (to make your child WANT that toy) put it away for a while (like at least a week) where the child cannot see it or play with it. Then try again. A child will be way more motivated to get a toy if they do not have free access to it all day, every day. A quick note about the word/sign “more”: I mentioned earlier that I do not typically recommend using the sign or word “more” when teaching your child language. Rather, you should try to teach them the word/sign for the item they are actually wanting more of (like cracker, milk, apple, puzzle, etc). It is very easy for a child to simply use “more” to indicate he wants more of something, but them he is not getting the opportunity then to say/learn the actual name of the object. So, using “more” can actually limit your child’s vocabulary while you are trying to do just the opposite. So whenever possible, model the sign/word for the item and NOT the concept of “more”. Once your child knows and uses the name of the object to request, you can add “more” to his/her utterance: more milk, more crackers, etc.

What other strategies can I use to help my child’s language development?

Language is not learned in a bubble. A young child cannot possibly get enough language stimulation from an hour a week speech therapy session. The child’s parents are the BEST “interventionists” when it comes to language development. I see my role working with young children to help teach and guide the parent to use the best strategies to help their child based on the child’s specific needs. So, what can you, as a parent, do to help your child learn language? I am going to share a few strategies with you that can be used to help your child learn to talk. The following strategies can be used with children who have no spoken words or have many spoken words.

  • Self Talk: This is when you are using short sentences to talk about what you are seeing. hearing or doing when you are with your child. For example, when you are making cookies you may say “Mommy is making cookies! I am putting the chocolate chips in the batter! I am stirring. I am going to put them in the oven” and so on. Have you ever been in the store and seen a person talking and talking to themselves until you realize that they have a baby strapped to their chest? (Or maybe you have been the one blabbering on to your infant in Target and gotten ‘the looks” from people thinking you are crazy  ). That’s self talk! Now, this self talk for some people comes naturally and for others, they need to make an effort to do it.

 

  • Parallel talk: Parallel talk is similar to self talk, except rather than talking about what you are seeing, hearing or doing you are talking about your child is seeing, hearing or doing. So, when your child is playing with blocks you might say “Wow! You just built a tower! Oh you have the blue block. You threw the red block! Oh let’s see how many blocks there are, one, two, three blocks!” Notice in parallel talk, you are not asking questions of the child but rather are just modeling language.

  Descriptions: These are when you simply describe an object that your child is playing with or looking at. Say you are at the farm…you may label and describe the different animals to your child: “Look at that cow! He is white with black spots!” or “There is a pig. He is big, fat and pink and likes rolling in mud.”   When should I start using these strategies with my child? From BIRTH! Seriously, you should start using these strategies from the time you bring that ball of joy into your life. Your child does not need to have a delay to use these strategies. Like I said, parallel talk and self talk come naturally to many parents and they do these instinctually early on, which helps their child to learn language naturally (usually people who are more verbal to begin with). That said you are not a bad parent if these strategies do not come naturally. Some people are quiet, shy, or are more visual vs. auditory/language and therefore may need to remind themselves to use the strategies.  How often should I use these strategies? This is important…you want to find a balance here. If you are CONSTANTLY talking your kids ear off, it may be too much language and your child may start to just tune you out. I recommend using these strategies on and off throughout your day with your child. Make sure to let your child explore his/her world “on his own” without narration sometimes and  provide opportunities for your child to talk back to you (if he/she is speaking yet). Children learn language by hearing it over and over. A few other strategies you can use to expand your child’s receptive and expressive language skills in children who have at least some spoken words are listed below.

  • Expansions: Expansions are when you take the words your child says about what they see and do and repeat them while adding in missing words/grammar. Another way to look at it, is repeating back the “child-like” sentences back to your child using more “adult” language. By doing this, you are repeating and expanding your child’s language without directly “correcting” him/her. For example, if your child see’s a red block and says “red” you could say “Yes, it’s a red block.” If your child says “Car go!” you would say something like “Yes! The car is going.”  It can be helpful to emphasize the “new” language you are providing by saying those words with a higher inflection/tone in your voice and sometimes can you can even repeat those new words a second time.

The simple act of repeating your child’s utterances not only confirms to your child that you indeed heard him/her, but also this back-and-forth of repeating let’s your child know that what he/she said was “worth repeating” and therefore can encourage your child to say it yet again (either immediately or later). This provides your child with continuing modeling and practice of language concepts.

  • Extensions/Expansions Plus: These are similar to expansions, but one more step up. In extensions, or otherwise known as expansions plus, you not only are repeating and expanding your child’s language, but you will also be adding or extensions new information. For example, if your child says “Car go!” you could say “Yes the car is going. The car is going fast.” If your child says “Red block.” you could.  say “Yes, you have a red block. The red block is shaped like a triangle!” Another example, if your child were to say “yellow doggy” you could say “Yes you see a yellow doggie! The yellow doggie is big and fluffy.”
  •  Repetition: This is for children who are speaking at least in single words, to help provide correct models for articulation. You simply repeat back the word he/she said incorrectly, the correct way. For example if your child says “wabbit” for “rabbit” you would repeat back that word to him, while emphasizing the /r/ sound in the word. Just like self talk and parallel talk, the use of these strategies may come more naturally for some people than for others. And that’s ok!

How often should I use these strategies? Again, you don’t want to use these strategies with EVERY word your child utters. You need to find a nice balance. I personally find myself using these strategies quite often with my own daughter in a very natural way. If you find that using these strategies is breaking the natural give and take of the conversation, you are probably using them too much.

Commenting and Asking Questions

How to use comments and questions to help expand your child’s language:

Make comments about your day: Comments are similar to self talk and parallel talk. However where self and parallel talk are based on what you or your child is seeing, doing, or hearing in real time, comments can be made about things not happening right then or about things that are not in your child’s vision at that time. A great example of comments often used by parents during the day are ones that are explaining what is going to happen now, or what is coming next. For example, “We are going to go to the store after nap” or “It looks like it’s going to rain” or “We are having spaghetti for dinner.” Comments can also just be random information like “I like going to the park.” Comments can help inform the child of what is coming up next or can provide the child with more information on a topic. Using comments along with self talk, parallel talk, and descriptions should be part of your daily communications with your child from birth to help him/her acquire speech and language.

Ask your child questions, but not too many! This is something I see often: parents bombarding their child with questions that the child is unable to answer: “Johnny, what color is this? What is this? Is this a car? What sound does the car make?” etc. Think about it this way: How would you feel if you were in your first day of biology class and the teacher began to ask you question after question about biology? What would you do? You would probably freeze up, feel uncomfortable, and maybe even leave the room. This is how a child can feel when he/she is bombarded with questions all day. These kids can actually shut down and refuse to even try to speak…which is the opposite of what we are trying to do. Before a child can have the ability to answer the questions, he first has to be in a language rich environment where the people around him are using self talk, parallel talk, descriptions and comments so he can learn the vocabulary and language first. Though it is definitely OK to ask your child questions sometimes that they cannot answer- especially of infants and toddlers (while then providing them the answer right after) you want to balance this with questions that he/she can answer without help while continuing to provide your child with good language models through the use of the strategies already mentioned. This is where open ended questions/statements are VERY effective.

Ask open ended questions: Make sure to ask your child open ended questions often. Open ended questions require more than just one or two words to answer and can allow for multiple ways to answer/explain. They can encourage critical thinking skills while requiring your child to use more language to explain himself. Examples of open ended questions include “What do you think about…” “What do you think will happen if…” “How do we make…” Why do we do….” “How do you feel about…” etc. These can include rhetorical-like statements/comments like “I wonder what will happen if…” also.

Ask a variety of different questions (but don’t expect your child to answer them all): You want to ask your child a variety of different kinds of questions (who, what, where, why, when, how, yes/no). Make sure that your questions are not just ones that can be answered using “yes/no” all the time. Using a variety of different question types will help to teach and expand your child’s vocabulary and grammar skills and help them to use language to predict, infer and draw conclusions about their world. As I explained earlier, some of the BEST types of questions to ask little ones are open ended questions like “I wonder” .

Use “I wonder” questions/statements (a type of open ended question): One way to expose your children to different types of questions before he/she has the language/information to actually answer them is to pose the questions in a rhetorical manner. Pose them in a way that you don’t necessarily need an answer, and then you can give them the answer if they do not/cannot answer. You can use the phrase “I wonder…” to pose your question. An example could be you are playing on the floor with your toddler and your child has a red train. Rather than asking questions like “What is that? What color is the train? What sound does a train make?” Try first using parallel talk to talk all about what your child is seeing, doing and hearing (You have a train! Oh the train is red. The train says “choo choo!” Oh the train is on the tracks now!). Then you can pose a question like “I wonder where we should out the train station?” And see what your child does. If he moves the train station you can say “You put the train station next to the tracks!” If he doesn’t move it, you can move it while using self talk and comments to describe what you are doing (and thus “answering” your own question): “I think we should put the station….here! Next to the trees. Yes the station is next to the trees.” Please remember that this information is for educational purposes only. If you feel your child has delays in his/her communication skills, please speak to your pediatrician or locate a speech pathologist in your area for an assessment.

Sticker Rewards

Children and adults behave according to the pleasure principle: behavior that’s rewarding continues, behavior that’s unrewarding ceases. Motivators help to obtain the ultimate goal: self-discipline. Children behave well because they want to or because they know good behavior is expected.

The stickers your child receives at Toddler Tree are rewards for effort and behavior. We are continuing with the strategy of rewarding children with a sticker when one or both of these elements are observed in the classroom. When referring to this concept, please use encouraging words, such as “I know you can win a sticker today” or “Show your best to earn your sticker” so that kids understand they will be rewarded when they deserve it. Please help us by correcting your child if you hear “The teacher didn’t give me a sticker” by reinforcing the concept of earning a reward, instead.

15 THINGS CHILDREN LEARN FROM ART

1. Art develops creative thinking.
2. Art provides a means of communication.
3. Art serves as an emotional release.
4. Art strengthens the self-concept and confidence.
5. Art increases self-understanding.
6. Art heightens aesthetic awareness and sensitivity.

7. Art enhances the ability to visualize.

8. Art provides problem-solving and decision-making opportunities.

9. Art develops appreciation for the individuality of others.

10. Art leads to the integration of the individual.
11. Art serves as a balance to classroom activities.
12. Art aids physical coordination.
13. Art develops work habits and a sense of responsibility.
14. Art aids the adult in understanding and helping the child.
15. Art generates joy.

Healthy Snacks for Kids

Toddler Tree families have shared their ideas for fun and tasty snacks that are much better than the prepackaged ones. A little forethought will get your kids eating, feeling and growing better. Please email me to add your personal suggestions to this list and check the following links: Snack Ideas for Kids and Switch Up Your Lunchbox for even more inspiration.

Fruits and Vegetables…

Mango, Papaya, Star Fruit, Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon, Watermelon, Cherries, Pear, Grapes, Oranges, Plums, Kiwi, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Figs (good with goat cheese)
Cooked Green Beans, Jicama, Cooked Snow Peas, Frozen Peas, Mashed Sweet Potato (good with butter and cinnamon)

Good with peanut butter: Apples, Banana, Celery (and raisins a.k.a. “Ants on a Log”))

Good with  hummus: Apple (good with peanut butter), Carrots, Raw Cauliflower or Broccoli

 

Good with ranch dip: Carrots, Celery, Cucumber Slices, Cherry Tomatoes, Raw Cauliflower, Raw Broccoli

Good with yogurt: Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Peaches

Good with soy sauce: Avocado (and brown rice) or Edamame

You may want to try: Applesauce, Unsweetened Raisins, Fruit Leathers, Freeze Dried Fruit (like mango, banana, blueberries or strawberries), Dried Apple Rings, Canned Fruit like Mandarin Oranges (Native Forest brand does not use sugary syrups in their cans), even Olives!

 

Whole-Grain…

Whole Grain Crackers (like Triscuits, Multi-Seed, Ak-Mak, Whole-Wheat Matzos, Brown Rice Crackers/Snaps, Whole-Grain Rye Crackers topped with cheese, peanut butter, or a cream cheese and jelly combo)

Popcorn (make it using “The Popcorn Trick”)
Oatmeal (served warm in a Thermos)
Shredded Wheat (look for brands that contain 1-ingredient)
Arrowhead Mills Puffed Whole Grain Cereal (corn, brown rice, wheat or millet variety)
Brown Rice Cakes
Whole-Wheat Pretzels
Whole-Grain Toast
Small, Cooked Whole-Grain Noodles

Nuts and Seeds…

Peanuts, Cashews, Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Pine Nuts (they are good lightly toasted), Pistachios, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Nut Trail Mix including Dried Fruit

Other… Hard-Boiled Eggs, Garbanzo Beans, Cheese (cubes or sticks…with or without crackers), Plain Yogurt (flavored with a little honey or maple syrup and vanilla extract), Organic and/or Local Bacon

Homemade…

Homemade Granola Bars
Homemade “Larabars”
Whole-Wheat Toaster Pastries (a.k.a. Pop Tarts!)
Smoothies or Smoothie Pops
Whole-Wheat Banana Bread
Zucchini Chips
Whole-Wheat Zucchini Bread (made into muffins)
Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Bread (made into muffins)
Whole-Grain Cornbread (made into muffins)
Whole-Wheat Berry Muffins
Pecan Maple Breakfast Cookies
Easy Cheesy Crackers
Kale Chips
Homemade Powerballs
Whole-Wheat Biscuits (good with butter and jelly) or Buttermilk Cheese Biscuits
Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn
Whole-Wheat “Baked” Donuts

Spring Parade 2012

It has become a tradition at Toddler Tree to celebrate the coming of Spring and Easter with a special party. The event begins at 10:00am with families arriving at the park with a decorated trike, bike or vehicle that will be organized by group at the indicated location. Here are some examples of how Toddler Tree families have decorated different vehicles using paper, balloons, flowers, plush toys and other decorations.

For mobile devices, use this link.

The kids can choose from a variety of activities the teachers have prepared and there will be time for an individual photo shoot with the Easter bunny, too. When everyone has arrived, Mr. Mike will blow his whistle to start the Parade. The kids will ride through the park on the sidewalk path in their decorated vehicles. Everybody will share a snack after that. Next week we will be preparing confetti stuffed eggshells for the Easter Egg Hunt that will take place after the snack. We look forward to seeing you there!

Toddler Tree: Where Kids are # 1

Mission:

The Mission of Toddler Tree is to facilitate the integral growth of each of child through creative, directed and planned activities with the flexibility required to respond to the spontaneous and changing needs of the young learners, in order to promote a positive self-esteem.

Philosophy:

At Toddler Tree, we believe that children enjoy discovering the world with their total being, since their minds and bodies are interrelated in knowing and understanding their surroundings. For the little ones, everything they touch, every movement they make, every smell, flavor and sound signify a discovery.

Therefore, we offer toddlers the opportunity to explore and assimilate their world by means of a safe, loving environment, with enriching activities that will enable them to stimulate all their senses at their own level and their own pace.

We believe that the ability to communicate in more than one language is most easily facilitated in infancy.Toddler Tree provides a total immersion experience in the English language for young learners communication needs.

Our goal is to assist each child in a complete integration process: satisfying each one’s basic needs of love, sensory stimulation, exploration, of interacting and conversing with their peers and with adults of both sexes, extending their comfortable, safe environment from their home to a new space.

When children’s basic needs are met, a trust is established that enables them to more freely investigate, thus developing their curiosity, their ability to analyze and solve problems, allowing for more independent growth, resulting in increased self-confidence and greater self-esteem.