September is Children’s book month and I’m so excited I get to review Dr. Tinita Kearney’s Lola Koala Travel Adventures! This is a skillfully designed book, that takes children through the “Ws:” WHO/WHAT/WHERE, and also helps them answer YES/NO questions. As an educator, I know how much young children can struggle to learn these skills. This is why Dr. Tinita Kearney (Dr.T), a speech pathologist by training, has focused on these language skills and has made them FUN TO LEARN. Learning and playing are one and the same when it comes to young children.
Question for the author: What inspired your story?
Dr. T: School year after school year I am met with a caseload of unique, eager-to-learn elementary-school-aged students with not-so-unique speech and language issues. And while a percentage of these students have difficulties that require intensive therapy (plus the dedicated involvement of the family and school team), a good portion requires much less involvement from me. It’s this group that I aim to help with my books–by empowering their families to build their language skills at home with consistent, fun practice and resources!
Ready to get a preview of the book? Take a look at this lovely video of Dr. T reading to her daughter:
Looking for a way to teach your toddler how to answer the most important questions (Who/What/Where/Yes and No)? Grab a copy of your book right here. Enjoy!
In my work with young children, I often get asked by caring
parents about what goal/s I’m working on with their children. For the most part, goals are varied and they
depend a great deal on 1) the functioning level of the child, 2) the needs of
the family. When working with very young
children (0-3 years old), the family is the principal stakeholder.
But no matter the individual goals and objectives for each
child, the main goal of education is to help children become independent so that
they can learn for themselves. College
students, for example, will have forgotten over seventy five percent of what
they learned in college a few years after graduation (my observation), but they
would have learned HOW TO LEARN. They
would have become smart consumers and will know how to keep themselves abreast
of the latest developments in their field.
We don’t want physicians that only remember what they learned in medical
school! We want them to keep themselves up
on the latest medical news!
Similarly, children (even young children) need to learn how
to learn. How do they do this? With some individual variables, we can say
that most children learn by 1) being shown how to do tasks (commands or play),
2) being given the opportunity to repeat those tasks, even if they make
mistakes, 3) and providing them with free play time. This last point is important, as it will be
used to reveal how much a child can do by him/herself.
Children need modeling, and strategies and techniques in
order to learn from those around them, but they also need space to be able to
practice on their own. Two -year old
children have a difficult time sitting for any period of time as it is, and it
is not natural to have them sit and pay attention for a long period of
time. This would set an unrealistic
expectation for the parent and it would only hurt the chances that the child
will be able to learn how to learn. We need to build in time for children to express
Next time you wonder what’s the best legacy you can leave
for your child, think of yourself as the nest, and of your children as birds
who are slowly spreading their wings so that they can fly. What can you do for them to become more
independent? What does your child
like? What is your child good at? Does he like to do what he/she is good at or
does he/she struggle? Make sure that
when you teach your child about “learning,” you make it look more like
Of course, there will be times when you will feel like you need help, and you should ask for help! If you have a young child, and need help determining whether your child would qualify for the early intervention program, click here. If your child is 3 to 21 years old, and you need help determining whether you should request help, and want to know more about help in school systems, contact your child’s school psychologist, or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get back to you.
One of the most common questions that parents ask when I start
working with their children is “When is my child going to talk?” Of course, the answer varies. This concern is one of the most often cited
reasons for referrals to the Early Intervention Program and it is
understandably a huge concern for families.
It is also quite curious to me that overall, when I first meet children
and their families, there is little emphasis placed by teams or other
professionals regarding basic skills.
Basic skills are like the building blocks of cognitive development, and toddlers
need these in order to be able to grasp everything else, including (but not
limited to) the concept of language. Therefore, as a parent or family member,
it is important to understand what this entails.
Language is not only a skill, but also a cognitive concept,
whereas one person relies on a set of symbols (the language itself) to relay meaning
to another person. You may have observed
that when children first learn to speak, they will not speak while another
person is talking. They are grasping the
give-and-take of a conversation and understanding the turn-taking that is
needed to have a dialogue.
However, this does not happen overnight. There are certain skills that must be emphasized
before children can learn those more complex skills, that include language. Knowing what skills to work on and emphasize,
and how to get toddlers and children to learn them, is a very important first
There are 3 skills that I consider essential and I teach
every toddler in order to cement an understanding of more complex skills sets. They are:
Focusing: Focusing is very similar to “paying attention” and refers to a child’s ability to keep attention on the task that he or she has in front of him. He or she is concentrated and does not want to explore other toys or tasks. For example, if a child is engaged in putting together a ring stacker, this should be the ONLY activity they are performing. They are not simultaneously building a block tower or completing a puzzle. Those toys may come next, but for right now, they are only engaged in this one toy. How do we build on this skill? Make sure that your child has only a few toys at hand. Keep toys away if necessary and reduce your child’s need to explore. Less is more in this case.
Following Directions: Following directions does not necessarily mean that toddlers should blindly do what they are told. This is rather a learning tool, a way to get your child to do a simple task, from beginning to end, on request. It is important that your child be involved in simple, one step tasks such as “close the door,’ “bring your cup,” “throw this in the garbage.” This is a precursor to language as it reinforces the symbolism of words, and promotes understanding, among other skills. We already discussed this in part in this prior post.
Completing Tasks: A task should be performed from beginning to end. This skill is a reinforcement of the previous two. Once a child is engaged in a task, it should be carried out to completion. Otherwise, it is the same as letting your child explore. Exploring does have a place in learning, but it should be used in moderation and as a precursor to focusing and completing the task at hand. Promote task completion by re-directing to the task when focusing is lost and by giving your child something he/she likes after a job well done.
Continue practicing these skills and higher, more complex cognitive skills will make their appearance, including talking!