Teaching toddlers at home

One of the things I find gets Ethan (and most kids) interested is being sure to cover more than one kind of learning style-not just auditory and learning “by rote”, which was was a large portion of past teaching styles. These traditional, narrow styles have gone by the wayside to make way for a more multisensory approach. It has become widely known that children with Down Syndrome and Autism learn well visually. This does not mean they can’t learn in other ways, and I personally like to tap into all the different ways I can think of to get concepts across. Since children (and people in general) learn well and remember well through emotion and engagement, making learning FUN is of utmost importance!

avoid underestimating kids

Objects to illustrate the “b” sound alongside the letter “b.”

To make learning fun, I think you need to have fun trying to teach your child something as well. Kids can tell if we are impatient and irritated by their lack of understanding or consistent results. I find myself feeling like Elmo, Big Bird, Julie Andrews, and Barney all rolled into one when I am teaching and playing. For preschool age, I think that is a good thing! If you can see the excitement reflected in your children’s faces, then you have their full attention and they will respond best to what you are teaching at that moment versus when you are visibly exasperated or just plain tired-looking.

Your child will remember things best if they get a chance to
1)TEACH it to someone else…this could be in a video you allow them to make (when they’re older), repeat it back to you, do an action while hearing the word, etc.. They will next remember what they
2)DO…hands-on activities, signing while talking and singing, playing with objects while saying the name, etc…then what they
3)SEE, (flashcards, videos, gestures, books, etc.) and last, what they
4)HEAR. So of the different learning opportunities, the least valuable or memorable one is the one that has been so widely used in traditional classroom (and undoubtedly homes since parents often take their cues from teachers.) I do not mean to say that it is not valuable at ALL and some children will be more auditory than others. (I happen to recall a lot of things by what I hear)

In this hierarchy (that I am recalling from undergrad studies with a preschool-4th grade ed program and other readings), remember that EMOTION is something that will probably transcend the learning hierarchy because memories connected to emotions are the ones that will be most remembered, and possibly, learned. For example, if my son learned how to say “banana” because he really wanted one and had an emotion of eagerness when he heard me say the word “banana”, he was more likely to recall that word. Emotions tied to the way in which we RESPOND to our children demonstrating their new skills is also very important. If my son has emotions of pride and excitement at my husband and I cheering then giving Ethan a piece of banana when he says his new word, it is more likely for him to recall that yes, the syllables “banana” do in fact mean the oblong, yellow, delicious fruit.

Using ascending tones on child's keyboard to illustrate the number 3. Also showing quantity of th numeral 3.

Using ascending tones on child’s keyboard to illustrate the number 3. Also showing quantity of th numeral 3.

There is some research connecting music to success in math. It makes sense with the order and counting that goes along with music, just in listening to it and music composition/reading sheet music has even more obvious connections..I just use music and singing because children remember it (and people in general do), and it just makes learning fun for kids.

Hands on playing and learning about a bee as well as practicing his "b" sounds.

Hands on playing and learning about a bee as well as practicing his “b” sounds.

Yes I used a made up little chant with the above bee as well..”I’ve got the bee (clapclap) I’ve got the bee (clapclap( I’ve got the bee, bee, bee, bee BUMBLEBEE (pass it off to Ethan ) “(YOU’VE got the bee, you’be got the bee….” (Etc.) So this is helping with learning what a BEE is using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (tossing the bee), and its also teaching I and ME. I do not always think of those things beforehand when making up a little ditty, but I do try to be as intentional as possible in teaching my child things. Will kids learn anyways through play? Sure, but trying to instill repetition and monitoring what is working best, especially if you are concerns about delays, is important. I would still want to be intentional in teaching typical children because perhaps you are focusing on only one thing if you aren’t being intentional, or maybe you (or someone else) is teaching something negative, or just not accurate (“Red and yellow make BLUE?!! Who knew?” ) Being intentional in teaching selflessness and other virtues as well as Scripture and spiritual matters, etc. also needs to be intentional, but I am not quite there yet on my parenting journey to be able to speak from experience (not quite anyways, we basically sing Jesus loves me, pat the Bible, and I tell Ethan to be gentle if he looks like he is not being gentle! I want to be intentional in a plan for how we as a couple want our children to be taught though.)

Showing numerals and related quantities for into to numbers

Showing numerals and related quantities for into to numbers

Ballpit+theratogs=great workout! See more on theratogs on my milestones and new therapy gear post.

Ballpit+theratogs=great workout! See more on theratogs on my milestones and new therapy gear post.

The ballpit above was bought primarily because I heard it could help with muscle resistance for kids with low muscle tone, but I have also used it to encourage Ethan to say, “more.” I try to have some toys (such as his ballpit) that he doesn’t have access to EVERYday so that it can be an extra motivator for learning opportunities, like requesting something.

My brother has teased me about releasing an album with “30 second children’s songs” because of all the directions and teachable moments that I make up a little ditty for. I do this because I see that it makes Ethan laugh and respond. He has always loved music and I try to use that to my advantage when trying to encourage him to do or learn something.

Some of what I’ve said may be quite obvious to a lot of parents, but I personally enjoy and get inspiration from hearing what other parents do to teach their children. Let me know of any great ideas you have come across!


Our Favorite Children’s books and how they can help your child or student

Being an avid reader as a child and having an undergrad in Early Childhood Ed, I have a particular interest in children’s literature and of course, like most mommies, reading to my toddler. 🙂

I know almost anyone could probably figure out how these different books could help with certain concepts, but pointing out certain ones may help if you want to add or start your child’s book collection and have no idea where to start.

Here is my list and breakdown of what literary, math, or social-emotional benefits they give.

imageI will start with some of Eric Carle’s books because I actually had a book baby shower when I was pregnant that was Eric Carle themed! So I happen to have a lot of those books!

OPPOSITES, DIRECTIONS, SCIENCE-Papa, please get the moon for me talks about things growing and shrinking in size, eluding to the moon phases as Monica’s father goes to get the moon for her. It also talks about things being very LONG and HIGH, also focusing on UP and DOWN throughout the story, making it great for littler ones learning those concepts.

2.MATH 10 Little Rubber Ducks is of course helpful with math (counting, ordinal numbers 1st, 2nd, and so on).

3. SOCIAL EMOTIONAL, SEQUENCING, MEMORY RECALL The Mixed Up Chameleon is helpful in a few ways. The main theme I see in this book is being yourself os the most valuable way to present yourself. It also helps with memory recall and sequencing as each page includes a different animal to build upon the different types of animals the chameleon is trying to be. My book also has tabs that show a tiny image of each animal the Chameleon has taken on to be a part of itself in his quest for identity. The tabs provide a way the reader can glance back and see on the left hand side of the page what was already discussed, like a quick ongoing review. Pretty unique!

4.COLORS, SEQUENCING, MEMORY RECALL GROUP PARTICIPATION Brown Bear, Brown Bear what Do You See? is another popular of Eric Carle’s. It has as different colored animal on each paged that is called by its color name and animal name. It also names the previous animal while calling on the next, helping with review. At the end, it summarizes all the animals named in the book and then provides a chance for feedback as if being read in a classroom.

5. CREATIVITY, STORYTELLING- I see a song. This is an Eric Carle book I had never heard of, probably because it is a picture-only book. I think its pretty neat, myself, though. There are some recognizable, and some unrecognizable/abstract shapes in the book. It starts an ends with a picture of a conductor. I think this would be good to make up stories to your younger children then have the older verbal (or signing) children tell or sign a story when they are older. Kids are expected to write stories and some can have great anxiety about this when they are given open ended writing assignments and this would be a great way to start that. Also, it is just fun and good for their imaginations! Now I want to go buy more picture books!


Those were our Eric Carle favorites. Now for the others…

6. ALPHABET, RHYMING Right now, I would say Ethan’s favorite (at 19months) is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John ARchambault. It is just a fun way to learn the alphabet and it rhymes. Part of what makes Ethan loves this is me bouncing him when I get to the “boom boom!” part. I also try to pause at different lengths so he gets excited about it coming. Part of enjoying reading early are things like this. Also, using different voice intonation keeps it interesting. A new favorite we just picked up and read from the library is Basher ABC Kids from Kingfisher books. It has so much variety and meaningful learning of the alphabet by including several words and names on each letter page including a picture describing the often bizzare and funny image. Every page also includes the lower case alphabet with the current featured letter underlined so kids can see where each letter fits in the alphabet. This way kids can hear more than one letter sound. We may have to get him that one at the store for keeps!

7. MATH (SUBTRACTION)- Five Little Monkeys. We all know the rhyme, but the book I have is by Eileen Christelow. It is quite cute and includes both boy and girl monkeys. I had so many random monkeys I got for shower gifts and so on that I was able to act this out for Ethan with stuffed monkeys and he loved it!

8. PREDICTIVE TEXT- Flip, Flap, Fly! by Phyllis Root Ethan loved this early on because of the quick, simple rhyming book and the fact that I again incorporated movements into the readings. The illustrator, David Walker, included a glimpse of the animal that would be on the next page, and the author always gives a rhyming word with the animal that will appear on the next page, making it the perfect example for predictive text. That term isn’t used often, but I learned about it in my early childhood education program. IT is what it sounds like, the reader is attempting to predict what will happen next which helps with creativity and problem-solving.

9. Another predictive text book is a simple but very fun Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden. It shows the pattern of the animal or object that comes in the next page, and all rhyme with “boo” in peek a boo. Ethan’s favorite is the last page, which is a tiny mirror. “Peek-a-YOU!” It was a great stocking stuffer at Christmas as its tiny. Also great for a diaper bag.

10.BODY PARTS, GOING TO NAPTIME/BEDTIME- Lovable Furry Old Grover’s Resting Places by Jon Stone This is a book that was actually mine growing up. My parents read it to me and I absolutely loved it! My son is learning about body parts so I like to read this one a lot lately. It is silly and fun. Grover has little spots on the page that he prompts the reader to place on various spots to “rest.” It includes hands, bellybutton, nose, etc. It ends with Grover sleeping on his overall body resting place, so I used to read it to preK kids who wouldn’t nap to encourage them to go to sleep or at least lie down!

11. FEELINGS/SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL/TANTRUMS Llama Llama Mad at Mama is a great rhyming book that discourages tantrums but acknowledges angry feelings. I haven’t read the other Llama books, but I’ll bet they are just as great as this one.

12.SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL-SELF-ESTEEM- I want your moo, a story for children about self-esteem…I bought this one when I was working with pre-K kids in the mental health setting since many had self-esteem issues. It is a charming story about a female turkey who tries out other animal sounds because she doesn’t like her sound or looks but in the end uses her turkey-ness to save the day. LOVE it for so many reasons. Excellent illustrations by JoAnn Adinolfi as well.

13. SOCIAL EMOTIONAL/SELF-ESTEEM-ON the Night you were born by Nancy Tillman-I bought this for Ethan for Christmas because I want him to know how blessed we were when he was born. I think I addressed it generically though, because I got to thinking man all these books are personalized to just Ethan. If we are blessed withmore children, I want them to know we love them too! haha the things that go through mothers’ minds. It has amazing illustration…like I want to buy a poster for my house its that good illustration..Teh book says the design was by Nancy Tillman as well as Kathleen Breitenfeld. This is a very touching rhyming book that talks about how the animal kingdom, and just the world in general celebrated and responded when the reader was born. One of my absolute favorites!

14.LEARNING ANIMAL NAMES, FINDING PICTURES BY REQUEST- My Little Animal Book by Jo Rigg from priddy books. Someone gave this to Ethan on his birthday, and it is a great one to practice the skill of pointing out a certain requested animal. For example, since he has interst in dogs and has attempted to say it (and has signed it, woo hoo!), I have been asking “where is the dog?” and “What sound does the dog make?” The animals are arranged in pages by habitat , such as farm, babies, patterns, match the pattern to the animal, match the baby to the mom, African animals, etc. It keeps him busy and he will look at the pictures and listen intently for a good 5-8 minutes! Hopefully he will start saying animal names. He does sign “fish” when we come to the fish!

15. ATTACHMENT/NOVELTY/GIFT: Classic Record a Story’s Ugly Duckling from publications international, ltd. (pi kids) This last one is near and dear to my heart for a few reasons…We all know the Ugly Duckling, but we bought one for Ethan that is a recordable book because I had to go back to work at my new job after the first week he was in PICU with flu and pneumonia when he was about 8 months old. I wanted him to hear my voice even though he was on a chemical paralytic. He could hear, but couldn’t move or respond and I couldn’t be there during the daytime hours. So even when I visited every evening, I really had no way to know whether he was awake and could hear me in a conscious way. I asked my husband and other family members to play the book while I was at work. So whoever came up with the idea of recordable books..that may not have been your intention, but it is wonderful for parents who have a hospitalized child. (More on that here.)

The story the Ugly Duckling was chosen from just a few that were present at the bookstore I visited, but I like Ugly Duckling because of its focus that being different is okay and even beautiful and special. A great message for a sweet child with Down Syndrome. But for any child. 🙂

If you are reading a blog, I probably don’t have to sell you on the importance of reading to your child and making it fun, but other ideas are:

Call or visit the website of your local library..there are more and more activities there these days for storytellings, crafts, even toddler movement activities. (moving bodies, not bowels. 😉 ) There are things for teens on our library website calendar, too. Have fun!


20 Month Milestones

“Why these milestone posts? Are you going to be doing this his entire life or something?” Well, maybe!

>>>>>>I will be doing milestone posts monthly because I know as a parent of a kid with developmental delay, I just like to read where other kids with delays and typical children are. It can be encouraging for those who have kids ahead of you in months and years, can dispel myths about what all kids with special needs “can’t” do as well as give comfort that your child is struggling with the same things as mine. Also, I’m just proud of Ethan. 🙂

So 20 months, here we go…


On way home from NICU at 3 weeks old

He wanted to play in his infant car seat. 20 months

He wanted to play in his infant car seat. 20 months

Well Ethan has come quite a ways in this past month! Definitely one of those booming months developmentally for Ethan.

In addition to what was already listed, he now can:

SAY: “I want more.” (twice so far that I’ve noticed)
“No, momma.” (more than twice haha)
“Up!” (He says this interestingly with more emphasis on the “p” sound, but he says it after I do when crawling upstairs! Just started this today.)

SIGN: “More” (He alternates between saying it (which still sound more like “mah” or “moe”, but I can understand him.) He just started signing this more this past week, I suppose when he doesn’t feel like talking. He has a cold this week.

has signed “blanket” a time or two, just imitating the show.

“please,” has been doing this one awhile, if I didn’t say so before
“finished” He does this one very consistently and it can be kind of funny when he chooses to use it..like when he doesn’t want to wait for a diaper change and tells me he is finished! Or finished on the potty

Signing "finished!"

Signing “finished!”

EAT: he has made great strides in eating textured food. This month he ate ham sandwich, grilled cheese sandwich, banana (done this before, but with more consistent success this month), and different noodles.

Eating some big boy food finally!

Eating some big boy food finally!

Ethan was able to look at a flashcard of a fish and sign fish today.
He has been signing the word “sign”, mostly to tell me that he wants to watch “Signing Time.” He takes out his own DVD, holds it up to the X Box disc drive, looks at me and does one or both pointer fingers in a signing motion. It is way too cute and I had to resist letting him watch extra TV today when he asked. (He

OTHER GESTURES: shakes head “no”

DO: After the doctors’ appointment, we experimented with potty training per her advice. It has been going pretty well! He pooped the first two times I put him on! We bought a child potty and other than the splash guard being pretty low (about to buy another most likely), he stays on it fairly well! He gets to play I pad toddler games as a reward. I try to limit the I pad use to only potty rewards. (I use it during doctors’ office waiting, though, because it is the only way I can keep him off the nasty floors! He does deserve a reward for sitting still, too so it works I think..)

He can stand after he lets go of a support for up to a minute and has maintained his balance while dancing with his arms! We are hoping he will b walking by 21-22 months.

When asked what the elephant says, he will do a sound and raise his arm like a trunk. He won’t do the dog or cat or other simpler animals even though we worked on those more often! He just really liked the way I did my lips for the elephant sound I guess. So if you ask what any animal says, he does his elephant impression.

TEETH: Ethan has tweleve teeth, had his first cleaning and did awesome staying still! They say his teeth and gums still look great so all the brushing has paid off..He is starting to get annoyed with it, I can tell. I have to create a new tooth-brushing song almost weekly to keep him from squirming. But since I have a song for everything, I think even that is losing its luster haha. The dentist gave us a cool teether/toothbrush trainer though, so maybe he can learn to brush his own a little soon and that will make it more fun for him.

He is in PICU for RSV right now, so his development is at a bit of a standstill physically at least.