Today we had our first 'B4' school checkup with a nurse at our local medical centre. This is something that is free and available to all 4 year olds in New Zealand. I completed a questionnaire prior to the appointment, which asked me about my child's social interactions, behaviour, attitudes, physical abilities and if I had any concerns about any of these areas. Which, to be honest, I don't.
At the appointment, our little girl did some simple tasks which the nurse guided her through. She was asked to name colours of pencils, draw a picture, catch a balloon, but it was the one where she was asked to name some pictures that got me thinking. This task was basically identifying her language development. So, how she pronounced certain letters or pairs of letters; which I have since learned are called 'blended letters', such as sh, pl or ch.
Our eldest is a very good talker, and as with all children, her speech and how she articulates certain letters has improved with age so we can pretty much understand everything she says now. However, this particular task got me noticing how well she was able to articulate certain letter sounds. There was one in particular that stood out. This was the word 'sheep' which she pronounced 'seep'. The nurse asked her to repeat it a couple of times randomly coming back to it, and she would still pronounce it 'seep'.
I noticed that the nurse returned to this word so therefore I wanted to ask about it. She reassured me that it was perfectly normal and that the 'sh' sound is quite commonly not reach until the age of 7; she even showed me a chart. I was really interested in this so decided to check it out more. This is what I have learned, from a parent view, through my research this evening. I am not an expert in speech and language, but what I have found was hugely interesting and helpful. I hope this information may also benefit other parents out there, perhaps in identifying their child's current language stage and maybe some tips on supporting and encouraging their child with articulating the pronunciation of certain letters and sounds, or even improving their communication skills at home.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST 3 YEARS OF LIFE
The first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills. These skills develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others. There appear to be critical periods for speech and language development in infants and young children when the brain is best able to absorb language. If these critical periods are allowed to pass without exposure to language, it will be more difficult to learn. (1)
THE 30 MILLION WORDS INITIATIVE
This came about due to a world famous study. A child’s early language exposure is increasingly acknowledged as pivotal in language development and, more importantly, in ultimate educational and intellectual achievement. Studies have demonstrated a large inequality in children’s early language environments, with children from families of lower socioeconomic status hearing approximately thirty million words less than their peers from families of higher socioeconomic status. Furthermore, the number of words a child is exposed to between ages 0-3 is significantly correlated to the child’s ultimate IQ and academic success. The more parents talk to their children, the faster children’s vocabularies grow and the higher the children’s IQ test scores are at age three and later. Neither genetics nor a lack of potential lie at the heart of this inequity; rather, the thirty million word gap is a consequence of parental knowledge. This is the foundation upon which the Thirty Million Words® Initiative has been built. (2)
Communication is much more than words. Communication is the way we connect and interact with people. It is part of our identity and culture. It helps us to learn, interact with others and to make friends. Speech, language, social interaction and early literacy skills are all parts of a child’s communication. From a parent perspective, if you want some really good tips on supporting and encouraging your child with their communication development through each stage from 0-5 years old, you must visit this link
MUCH MORE THAN WORDS
'Much More than Words' provides information about children’s communication development so you can think about how your child is talking and support them, using their skills and interests. Get this resource FREE here
WHEN DO PARTICULAR SOUNDS DEVELOP?
I researched a few different 'milestone charts'. Each had slight differences but each also suggested that these milestones were general. Therefore, I don't think you need to panic if you think that your child has not reached a particular milestone with their speech. Check out some tips from the resources above and see if you can encourage them with some activities and games at home. The chart which I have provided a link to also differentiates between boys and girls; since developmentally they are different. See the chart here
I hope you have enjoyed this article and have learned something positive and useful. I know I am going to use some of the tips from the resources above to work on some communication with both our kids aged 2 and 4.
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Pets. They aren't everyone's cup of tea but if you are on the brink of making a decision regarding adopting a pet into your family life; here are some thoughts for you to consider as to why growing up with pets can be hugely beneficial for children. Many families acquire pets in the first place for the children's sake. When asked 'why do you have a pet? a high percentage believe it is good for the kids - and the research coming out now is suggesting that to some degree, it is.
There has been a growing amount of research in recent years surrounding the influence animals can have on a child's life. There is evidence to show that children with emotional, social, learning or behaviour disorders can benefit enormously from the presence of and interaction with a companion animal.
It is thought that pets can reduce stress, teach compassion and may even lend a helping hand with emotional support. It is even believed that owning a dog may help reduce the chances of child obesity. Evidence exists that children who are withdrawn become more confident in the presence of animals. Those who are hyperactive often become quiet, absorbed and more focused. In some cases, these changes in behaviour have then be found to be transferred to the classroom.
There is a genuine belief that interaction with an animal is beneficial for the development of children. Children with low self-esteem may talk to, or confide in, an animal in ways they would not with people. They are often more confident in performing tasks they find difficult with an animal simply because the animal does not care if mistakes are made, they are non-judgmental.
Parents, teachers and therapists can harness children’s interest in animals to encourage them to talk about problems, to overcome shyness and to facilitate friendships with other children. Owning a pet may even boost your child's self-esteems in tasks such as reading. In the USA therapy dogs are now often utilised in a programme whereby children read to the dog. The dogs appear to listen intently, do not interrupt and do not correct the child. The verbal skills in even some of the most reluctant children involved in the programme has greatly improved.
Children can learn empathy and compassion from growing up with a pet. They learn how to read the pets needs. Is he hungry? Does he need to go outside? They can teach kids value - even the youngest toddler can pick up a few pointers with simple pet care chores like pouring food into a dish. Children will learn that pets need food, shelter. exercise and love.
The animal magic goes beyond the therapeutic and educational to bring significant physical health benefits too. One of the more obvious benefits is that of exercise - dog walking or playing with a cat is a great way for people to burn a few more calories. This is particularly important when lifestyles are becoming increasingly sedentary and obesity is a growing issue, for children and adults. In some countries ‘Petsercise’ programmes exist to encourage people and their pets to get fit and healthy together. Many families are now acquiring pets to encourage children, especially boys, to spend more time in the “real”, rather than the “virtual” world.
More recently, research is showing that pets have an important role to play in building up a child's immune system. Children who live with a cat or dog in their first years of life have a lower incidence of hay fever and asthma and are less likely to develop animal-related allergies. Recent studies also show that the immune systems of children (particularly between the ages of five and eight) of pet-owning families are more stable than those of children from non-pet owning families - the result being that making pet-owning children are better able to fend off illness.
If you are considering a pet, please remember that they are a commitment and ensure that you choose one that will fit your lifestyle; and seek advice before deciding on age, breed and type of pet beforehand.
To figure out how long you can stay in the sun with a given SPF, use this equation:
Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number = maximum sun exposure time