Music for kids (and parents!)

I recently shared some of my favourite music for kids over on Instagram.

It’s nice to have some music that the family can all enjoy together, and it’s amazing how putting on some good tunes can change the whole vibe of an afternoon at home or a ride in the car.

I loved the suggestions from other parens in the comments of the post. Thank you!

Here is a list all in once place for easy reference.

My picks:

  • Raffi (We love all of his music. I grew up listening to it, so it’s so nostalgic for me.)

  • Jess Schellenberg/Happy Hearts Band - “Grow Your Heart”

  • Christina Perri - “Songs for Carmella” (great for quiet time/before bed)

  • Lauri Berkner Band (several of her songs are fun for speech & language therapy sessions)

  • Elizabeth Mitchell

  • Playlist from Mother / various artists curated by Elizabeth Antonia

  • Jack Johnson & Friends - “Sing-a-Longs and Lullabies”

  • Ziggy Marley - “Family Time”

Recommendations from fellow parents:

  • Laura Veirs - “Tumble Bee”

  • Dawn Landes - “I’m Your Mama”

  • Francese England

  • Vered - “Hello my Baby”

  • Lindsay Muller

  • Will’s Jams

  • Baby in Tune (link to award winning playlist)

  • Lisa Loeb’s children ablums

  • Gilly Atoms (husband of a follower!)

  • Patty Shukla - “Shake and Move!”

  • Ben Rector

  • The Okee Dokee Brothers

  • Pete Seeger

  • Jill Trinka

  • Ella Jenkins

  • John Feierabend

  • Ants Ants Ants Band

  • Ralph’s World

  • Emily Arrow (several of the comments mentioned Emily)

Thanks for helping me compile this great list, and feel free to share other family favourites in the comments.

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The online course for parents of babies is now available from Wee Talkers

I’m so excited to announce that my online course Talk, Sing, and Read with Your Baby is now available!

You can sign up today and have immediate access to the course.

You can read all about the course here, but I want to provide you with some additional information to help you decide if this course is right for you.

How long is the course? 

I know you don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands as a busy parent. My goal was to keep it a reasonable length, but PACKED with valuable, practical information on this topic that I feel is most important for you to know. It’s just over 60 minutes if you watch it from start to finish. The lessons are broken down into shorter videos, so you can easily stop at any time and return to where you left off. I know the moms in the test group mentioned watching the song videos over a few times until they got them down. 

How is the course content delivered?

Video lessons. Some of the lessons are me talking to directly to the camera, others you will hear my voice while you watch written information, and the songs & rhymes are all demonstrated for you. Many of them I do with my baby.

There is also a section of written resources for you. There is a helpful list of “baby play ideas” for those days you find yourself saying, “what am I going to do with this baby all day?!”. There is also a handout with all of the song lyrics and a tip sheet for bilingual families.

My child was born with special needs. Does the course cover that? 

I do not talk about specific special needs in this course, but I still think you will find it valuable. The strategies, songs, and general information are enriching for children of all abilities. The course will be great for helping you to create a language-rich home environment and bond with your baby.  

Why is the course for babies and not children who are already talking? 

A child must develop many communication skills before they learn to speak, and this course will teach you all about the steps your child will take before they say their first words. There is also a bonus section for babies who are ready to start talking (close to 12 months of age). In this bonus section, I’ll talk you through how I teach my clients to start saying words step-by-step. This is for educational purposes and not meant to be a substitute for individual therapy with a speech-language pathologist if you have concerns about your child’s development, but it can help jump-start you in the right direction. 

Does the course teach baby sign language?

No. I do demonstrate some American Sign Language in a few of the songs I teach, but it is too big of a topic to cover within the scope of this course.

How long will I have access to the course for?

As long I as I continue to sell the course, it will be available to you. It’s very easy to sign in and out. Return to it as often as you’d like. You will also receive all of the updated material if I make any changes to the course.

I have a two-year-old, but I love the songs and rhymes you teach. Is this class appropriate?

The songs and rhymes in the course are great for toddlers as well. It’s up to you whether you would like to take the course for this information. I think you would find it helpful as a parent of a toddler, but keep in mind I don’t talk about how to help your child speak in sentences or other topics toddler parents are usually most interested in.

What are your qualifications to teach this course?

I am a pediatric speech-language pathologist and have been practicing with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers for the past 12 years in public and private practice in the US and Canada. I have worked with children of all abilities and truly love it! If you’re interested, you can read more about my certifications, additional training, and qualifications on the about page. I am also a mother of two girls (3 and 10 months) and draw from my experience as a mom to make the information as practical as I can so you can easily incorporate it into your life.

Please reach out to me if you have further questions at hello@weetalkers.com

Are you ready to get started?

Click here to sign up. Can’t wait to see you inside the course!

 

Toys for Supporting Language Development

I know the toy store and shopping online can be a bit overwhelming. So many options! My advice? Keep it simple. If you’re looking for some gift inspiration for your little one, here are my recommendations. These are classic toys that your child will use throughout their childhood.

Play is closely related to language development, so it’s a big part of what pediatric speech-language pathologists do; encourage and support play! Most kids develop play skills with ease, but others may need more individualized support to learn to play.

Kids are gaining so many significant skills through play, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, fine & gross motor skills, and communication skills. 

The guide is broken down by age, and toy recommendations are based on how children typically develop play with a focus on toys that promote language development.

I haven't listed many brands, because I don't want that to be to focus. Kids definitely don’t need each item in all of these categories... the list is more meant to give you some ideas and then you can modify as you wish based on your child’s interests. 

Ready? Let's jump right in!

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Birth to 6 months

For new babies, I recommend few high contrast toys to look at (the clutch toy above is by Haba), something interesting to touch, board books for starting a reading routine, a play mat, and you're good to go! 

Their favorite “toy” is YOU! Looking at your face and listening to you talk is building the foundation for learning to communicate from the day they are born. Pretty incredible, right?!

At this age, I think it should be all about taking care of the mother. Yup, that’s right.  

Instead of spending money on toys for the baby, I would buy something extra for the mom like a gift card to her favorite coffee shop, a new top she feels great in, or spa treatments (yes, I’m serious!).

Same goes for dads! Take care of each other.

When parents are feeling good and cared for, they are more likely to have the mental and physical energy to be present and interact with baby in meaningful ways, which is so much more important than any toy you could buy.

Finding ways to connect with other new moms is also really important when you have a new baby. Another great gift would be a gift card for participating in a baby music class, or workout class would be great. By participating in a music class, you will learn songs to sing throughout your child’s early years. So valuable!

In Vancouver, I love Fit for Two for baby-friendly postnatal fitness classes, Chorus and Clouds for music classes (The owner, Jessica, also released a super sweet new CD that's on repeat in our house!), and Signing Babies for baby sign language classes. The community centres have great options as well. Even if you’re not super social, meeting one or two other moms you can connect with is so valuable as you enter this new stage of life.

A cute & useful teether is also a great gift for a baby. I love these Glitter and Spice teethers. A quality nursing/carseat cover would also be lovely.  Also, these little adorable little beanies by LoveWicklow. All of these items are created by local mamas.

 

6-12 months

At this age, babies are all about exploring their environment. They are starting to make so many connections about how the world works. Babies at this age also love simply exploring child-safe household items like mixing bowls and wooden spoons.

Top picks are:  

  • Soft cube blocks

  • Cause/effect toys like a pop-up-toy

  • Stacking cups

  • Cars/trucks

  • Balls (it’s nice to have a few different sizes, shapes, and materials)

  • Musical instruments like a rattle and small drum

  • Board books

  • Bubbles

  • Child safe mirror

You may be wondering how these items are helping your child learn to talk and communicate. By you TALKING about what what they are interested in (even if it's just a ball rolling across the floor), they are learning to understand the meaning of words and building a strong foundation for getting ready to speak. So, talk, talk, talk!

 

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1-2 years

Around age one, little ones start to play in more functional ways. They begin to understand that a toy item can be used in play to represent objects in the real world. This is an exciting time when you will begin to see their pretend play skills emerge and play skills will start to flourish.

First, children will begin to pretend with themselves. For example, they will pretend to take a drink from a toy cup. Soon after, they will begin to do things with another object, like giving a baby doll something to eat.

This probably goes without saying, but don’t get caught up in gender stereotypes when choosing toys. I recommend cars, trucks, and a baby doll to all my clients. 

A few fun picks at this age are:

  • Any items mentioned above

  • Toy telephone (they may not be saying many words yet, but all the babbling is an important step in the right direction, so definitely encourage it!)

  • Dolls, stuffed animals, puppets

  • Felt stories (love this local BC brand, Northwest Felts, which can be used for years)

  • Pretend food

  • Little animals or dinosaurs

  • Farm set

  • Dollhouse

  • Basic train set (Ikea makes a basic one)

  • Picnic or tea set

  • Mega blocks (they still love dumping things out and putting them back in at this age... blocks everywhere!)

 

2-3 years

Pretend play really starts to take off at this age and you will see their imagination come to life! Play becomes more complex and they will begin demonstrating multiple steps in their play. For example, they may give baby doll a bath, dry baby off, and put the baby down for a nap. You will also start to see them use a completely unrelated item to represent something else, like sitting on a pillow and calling it a car. Their interests will become more obvious and that will help guide your purchases.

Fun gifts would be:

  • Any of the items mentioned above

  • Kitchen accessory toys (I also love using empty boxes of real items like a rinsed out milk jug or empty box of pasta)

  • Doctor's kit

  • Puzzles

  • Wooden blocks (endless options... your child could build a barn for animals, rocket ship, lily pads on a pond, etc.)

  • Bowling set (sounds odd, but I use it in speech & language therapy all of the time and it's always a hit and allows many opportunities for back and forth conversation)

 

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3-5 years

By this time many kids will be telling you EXACTLY what they want (if they haven't been already). 

In this age range, they are learning more about social communication and interacting with their peers. They are acquiring skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and communicating effectively with others.  They will play with many of the toys mentioned above with more advanced skills. For example, the pretend food they played with before to feed a stuffed toy, can now be used to play restaurant, grocery store, birthday party, coffee shop…. so many open-ended options!

A few ideas are:

  • Simple board games (I few current favorites I use with my clients are Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found it, Zingo, Hedbanz, and Guess Who?)

  • Lego or Magna Tiles

  • Dress up items (old accessories from your closet or second-hand store work great for this)

  • Gift certificate for a class, children’s museum, or aquarium (children are exposed to new vocabulary through having new experiences)

 

Stocking Stuffers (so fun!)

  • Art supplies

  • Playdoh

  • Finger puppets (Ikea makes a few cute sets, and I'm also obsessed with these by Meri Meri)

  • Stickers!!

  • Pipe cleaners (my new thing because there are so many opportunities for creative play & kids love them)

  • A classic slinky

  • Glow in the dark decals

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments. I would also love to hear about toys your child loves to play with or what gifts you plan to get this year. 

The print in the top photograph is by Banquet Workshop.