Sunday, 14 September 2014

Learning and using names of familiar people with fun & simple homemade toys!
Young children love seeing photos of themselves and other people they know. There is so much opportunity for using and developing language by looking at family photos, pointing out who is who and talking about them with your children.
This idea is a fun and interactive alternative or extension to the 'people I know' photo flip books families often create for their children. I do love those photo flip books however, these simple to make toys offer a whole new dimension to the learning and language opportunities.  

Suitable For

Roughly 12months through to 8years, although most effective for 3yrs plus.
Suitable for children with language delay, a motor speech disorder or typically developing children

Speech and Language Focus

  1. 12months-2yrs: Identifying familiar people and learns the names of these people.                 May not be able to verbalise the names but can point to 'mum'.                                             May respond with a smile or nod or a shake of the head when shown a familiar person toy and asked is this 'Dad?'. Single words may appear.
  2. 17months-2.5yrs: Matching a spoken name to a picture of that person.                           Attempts to verbalise and name familiar people through a variety of play.                           Child begins to combine 2 actions in play and two word combinations may appear. Child represents real life situations through play, such as bedtime routine.                                        
  3. 2.5yrs + Role play interactions and conversations between these familiar people, practicing conversational skills such as turn taking, making requests, asking questions and answering questions. Able to respond to who, what, when and where questions.
  4. 3yrs + Emergence of storytelling skills. Will act out simple familiar events with the toys.
  5. 3.5yrs + Children use language, gesture and imagination to create scenes and invent scripts. Child acts as the author and director of the 'toy actors'.
Remember children's development varies greatly at this young age. It is common that they may progress through these skills at different rates.
At 34months Hman is working on two word combinations or 2 syllable words.
He can say Mum, but not mummy. He cannot yet say Dad or either of his siblings names. However, even though he is relatively non verbal due to his Apraxia he can act out a conversation and represents real life events through his play.  It appears, when I watch him play that he is creating stories or perhaps acting out things that have previously happened. I very much wish I could get inside his head as he has no voice for that internal dialogue and that breaks my heart. 

Other Learning

Social and Emotional- developing secure connections to key people in their life.
                                   - establishing routines and representing these through play.

You will need

All you need to make these is some photos of people who your child associates with regualarly. For example, people in their immediate family, Grandparents, Carers, Friends. You can easily print some off onto printer paper. If you can find photos or take a few with family members in interesting and varied poses the children really love them. I lamenated my photos for extra durability. I would highly recommend doing so if possible, especially as older babies and toddlers still like to explore with their mouths.
Once cut out and laminated I taped each figure to some old film canisters. If you don't have any of these you could use any small tub or block to hold them up.

Once cut out and laminated I taped each figure to some old film canisters. If you don't have any of these you could use any small tub or block to hold them up.

Ta Da!

How to Play

For younger children 12months- 3yrs
At this age the toys will more likely be used as chew toys or throw things unless direct adult interaction is provided. I would start by looking at them with your youngster and naming who they are. "look, there is Nana" model language for your child and include extra detail, such as "Nana is wearing glasses on her eyes, she is smiling, she must be happy" Other ideas include, "where is Daddy? pause oh, there he is, pause, what is Daddy doing? pause he is running!" and "I can see cat, cat is hungry. What does she say? pause (wait for an attempt) that's right she says meow!" "Where is cats ears, tail etc?"
As they get older you will be able to ask them to point to or grab certain toys "get Baby brother"
Once they have success with that you may be able to ask them to find people with certain characteristics, such as "who is wearing the hat? find the toy wearing the hat, who is it?"

Remember to also focus on 'joint attention' with your young toddler and make sure to make eye contact when asking questions, even if you don't expect a correct verbal response.
For older children 2.5yrs plus
There are so many ways. They should be able to play more independently, however if your child has a language delay or speech disorder playing together is still critically important so you are able to be a guide, a narrator and a model.
You could set up some invitations using various objects as props to perhaps stimulate play, such as;
Various Small Parts- here we took them outside on a beautiful sunny day
Blocks or Duplo -
Dollhouse - alternatively use a cardboard box to make a model doll house. This is brilliant for role playing routines such as bedtime. Daddy reads me a story then gives me a kiss and turns out the light. Then I go to sleep.
Other People Toys - Miss M likes to play with herself dressed as a Princess with her Princesses. She is able to use all her imagination and creativity and she comes up with the most elaborate stories.

Added Extras

Obviously real life interactions with familiar people are essential and these will happen in everyday situations.
 However, here are some games you could play with people in your immediate family, your children's friends or any willing familiar people.
1. Roll the ball - have everyone sit in a circle with legs stretched apart. The idea is to roll a ball to each other but first attempting the name of the person you are about to roll to. Play along to music for added fun.
2. Family hide and seek - my family like to play this in pairs with Miss M (Miss independent) on her own. I pair up with Hman or Bubba and my husband the other. One team counts while the others hide then goes on a hunt to find the rest of the family! "who shall we find?" "where is Daddy?" allows for lots of modelling and opportunity in a fun play based way. 
Click here to read another post I wrote exploring this idea
Wishing you all the Power of Communication

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