Category : Miscellaneous


Happy Holidays from Teaching the Future!

Here's to a safe and fulfilling holiday for you and your nearest and dearest. hands on learning games

I'm taking a break for the next few days, and hope that you are also spending some time reconnecting with the most important things in your life.

If things get hairy, though, why not take a break and sign up for free hands on learning games, just to put a little "fun" back into your holiday season?

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Expressive Language Miscellaneous

3 Everyday Activities You Do Everyday That Can Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language Skills

One of the hardest things about helping your child improve their expressive language skills is getting all the materials you need to work with your child ready to go.

You can teach your child through everyday activities around the house

As a mom of 7, I know that sometimes by the time you find the game, set it up, and get ready to play, it might already time for dinner and baths! That's why I'm always looking for opportunities to build in learning that don't require any extra work- just a little bit of mental planning.

In previous posts, I wrote about improving your child's learning skills at the park, or while shopping with your child. Now I'd like to give you some easy games you can play with your child right at home.

I use these games with my own kids, and teach them to parents just like you. So dig in, and leave a comment below!

1. Help your child learn to state categories of common objects

There are plenty of sorting and categorization games out there. Most of them require that your child sort actual objects, or pictures of objects, according to the correct category.

That's a great activity, but it's really just the  beginning. Your child also needs to be able to name the category as well. A lot of children, however, find it difficult to do this with pictures; it's too abstract.

A better bet: you can teach your child the same thing as you and he clean up his room together. First sweep everything on the floor into a big pile. Then have your child separate everything out into several smaller piles: one for clothing, one for toys, one for books, and one for garbage if need be.

Once your child is about halfway through sorting, you'll be able to cue him to focus on categories as he puts his things away. For example, when he picks up a sock, say, "Oh, that's a sock. That's clothing. Put it with the rest of the clothing." Gradually as your child picks up other items, you can ask them to tell you what it is - clothing, toys, books, or garbage.

You can do the same thing when you bring  home groceries from the  store. Letting your child help you put everything away will also help her improve her visual memory, as well, since she has to remember where everything goes.

The trick to making this work is to have your child put away most of the items in a category before he starts on another category. That way, when he puts things away, you can remind him "Oh, that's a vegetable too. Put it with the rest of the vegetables."

Later when everything's put away you can point to the vegetable bin and say, "Here's where we put all the __" letting your child fill in the blank. Do the thing with the other food items: dairy, frozen foods, and so on.

2. Encourage your child to use her descriptive skills by describing lost objects.

How many times has your child lost something, and needed your help to find it? Our usual response is to just go and help our kids find it, or to have them check the last place they had it.

Instead, try asking your child to describe what the object looks like, where it was last, or what they were doing, using more details. So for example, if your child says "I can't find my flashlight!" Ask your child to tell you more: "What color was it? Can you tell me what it looked like so I can help you find it? Was it small or big?"

Even if you already know what it looks like, you can often feign ignorance with younger children, and get them to explain themselves.

For older children, you can encourage them to talk about what they were doing when they had the missing item, by rephrasing what they've said, and saying, "and then what did you do?"

3. Encourage your child to explain why they want something.

It happens probably a dozen times a day or more: your child wants something from you. But whether you plan to give your child the item or not, it's a good idea to ask your child why. That forces them to use words to express themselves, and helps them attach their feelings to their needs. This is a form of sequencing that's critical for kids with weak language development.

And by the way, did you notice these are all great activities for improving your child's sequencing skills?

Would you like to see more activities like this? Let me know in the comments below.

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Language Development Miscellaneous

Sequencing for Children: What’s the Big Deal?

As I wrote in an earlier post, I've decided to start working more intensively with my 4 1/2 year old foster daughter.

I'm always fascinated by how every child's learning profile is so different. I love the challenge of trying to see how the different pictures fit together, so that I can plan an effective learning plan for each one.

G, for example, has a very hard time expressing herself, when asked a specific question. She needs a lot of verbal cuing in order to be able to answer. Helping your child answer questions is very different than teaching your child how to ask questions. However, I have a few tricks that I use. For example, sometimes I help her by telling her part of the word, or by giving her two choices to pick from, one of which is absurd, or couldn't possibly have happened. So if I want to know what she did outside on the playground, I'll ask her " Did you go on the slide today, or did you ride on an elephant?"

Even if she didn't go on the slide, she's at least able to tell me "No, I didn't." I joke with her a little about it, trying to help her extend the conversation a little with her (that's a floor time principle, I'll go into some more of that in a different post). The main thing is to keep her interacting with me, and to keep her focused on what we're talking about. This is how I find out about her day, since I don't get a chance to speak to her teacher in the afternoon.

Oddly enough, even though it's so hard for her to tell me about her day, or what she's learned in nursery school, she does remember most songs that she's learned. Twice, she even memorized a part from the play that her sister was in last year. It was funny, actually to see: her sister practiced it so much, that she picked it up too.

I guess it seems confusing: how could a child have such a weak auditory memory, and yet still be able to sing songs or memorize longer passages?

I've had many parents of autistic or PDD children ask me this very question. The key is understanding about the sequencer.

The sequencer's job is to put things in order. It's kind of like the factory manager in charge of an assembly line, in that it wants to keep everything moving along, at the right pace. And just like an assembly line, sequencing deals with one piece,  then the next piece, then the next. It's focused on details. Our language system uses the sequencer in order to function. We process words, then sentences, then paragraphs, or even an entire lecture. But we have to do it in that order; you can't try and understand a sentence before you interpret the words in that sentence.

Most kids with weak language development, however, are spatial thinkers. That means that they don't process things in a linear fashion, like the sequencer does. They free associate: imagine a mind map, or a spider's web. There is a logic to how things are connected, but it's not linear, one thing after the next one.   Because of their ability to associate, spatial thinkers don't look at one piece at a time (remember, they don't think sequentially). Instead, they see the whole picture. There's a reason why we say a picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. That's because one picture can show us a ton of information, all in the space of about 3 or 4 seconds.

What it comes down to is that kids who are strong spatial thinkers may be incredibly creative, dynamic thinkers, but they're much more likely to have a lot of problems with language. Language, whether it's spoken, heard, read, or written, is sequential. It's an auditory skill, which spatial thinkers are naturally weaker in: think see-saw, with auditory skills and spatial skills on opposite ends.

So that's a quick run down of the sequencer.

G's sequencer is seriously dysfunctional. She is a child that lives in the moment. When she initially came to us, she had a very hard time connecting her behavior to a consequence, bad or good. She was fearless, and yet feared everything. She was afraid of what a toy would do, but had no fear of a hot stove - even when she felt the outside, which was very warm. In order to discipline her, I learned to give her a consequence immediately. But even so, there were numerous times when she had to get a consequence (usually a time-out worked best- her mind didn't understand logical consequences) hundreds of times. Yep, you read that right folks: HUNDREDS of times. It wasn't a matter of finding a better consequence - her mind just couldn't make the connection.

(For all of you worried about the "terrible" effects of time-out, she did learn eventually. And she only stayed in time out for about one minute - don't worry, she's just fine, and not traumatized at all. Believe me, sticking your hand in a hot oven, or running into the street, is a lot more traumatizing than time-out will ever be).

Another example: she's terrified of being left behind. If I walk a little faster up the street - for instance to catch up to another child who's walking a little too far ahead, she has a tantrum, crying hysterically.  It was bothersome, because no matter how much I explain to her that I'll be right where she can see me, it seems not to sink in. For a long time I thought it had to do with abandonment issues, related to her history, but somehow I knew that didn't fit, since she had no memory of her parents.

Finally I realized that her sequencer must be so out of whack, that she can't even imagine in her mind where I'll be in 30 seconds from now. So for her, when she sees me moving ahead, I could be going anywhere. I could disappear into thin air for all she knows. She can't project in her mind the sequence of me at point A, leading to point B, in 30 seconds from now.

Scary. That's something that even year-old babies have pretty much down pat.

So, this is one of the areas we'll be focusing on, after we work on auditory memory.

What? Why would she need to work on auditory memory first if I just said her sequencer is what's out of whack?

I'll get into that tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Anybody out there struggling with similar problems with a language-delayed child? Let us know in the comments below, and I'll be happy to help you with a specific solution.



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How to Build Your Child’s Literacy Skills By Reading (Again) Their Favorite Book

Today you can find me at It's a Wahm Life, where I've written a guest post called, " How to Build Your Child's Literacy Skills By Reading (Again) Their Favorite Book."

There are some great, practical tips on what you can do to strengthen your preschooler's reading skills by reading their favorite book.

So head on over:

Leave a comment, and let us know what you think!

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Hands-On Learning Games: Best 4 Ways to Find Time to Work With Your Child

Hands on Learning Games: Finding time to work with your child

You know you need to spend time working with your child.

You've even gone so far as to schedule it into your calendar. Somehow, though, life steps in, and by the time you've cleaned up the Cheerios on the rug and the mess made by the 3 year old in the bathroom (who couldn't read the "we aim to please-please aim too please" sign), the day is over, and you're dead tired.

Another day has passed, and you feel like kicking yourself: how are you supposed to teach your child and deal with life too?

Fortunately, with a bit of planning, you don't have to make the choice between working with your child, and tackling the never-ending stack of laundry. By following these 4 tips, you'll have plenty of time to work with your child, and keep up with the rest of life's demands.

1) Think of every moment as a teachable opportunity.

A lot of parents assume teaching your child means sitting at the table with a basketful of materials. That's a big mistake. Sure, learning can and does take place during these sessions, but why ignore the literally hundreds of opportunities a day your child has to practice his skills?

A pile of laundry is a great chance for your child to practice numerous skills.

  • Sorting: Have your child dig out her clothing from the pile. Then have her sort out the socks, pants, shirts, etc. into baskets or piles on her bed.
  • Fine Motor Skills: Letting your child practice folding towels and pants will not only help improve his fine motor coordination, but will strengthen his motor memory as well.
  • Listening Skills: When you tell your child where to put the clothing away, she must interpret and carefully execute what you say. Use one step directions in the beginning, gradually building up to 2 step and then 3 step instructions.

2) Know what your child's goals are.

If you keep track of what skills you want your child to accomplish, you'll have an easier time incorporating learning time into your daily routine.

Write down 2 or 3 simple goals in a place where you are likely to see them several times a day, and keep looking at them. Doing this will make it easier for you to remember what you're doing, so that you can stick it into your day to day activities.

3. Involve the whole family.

When I was teaching my foster daughter colors, I wrote the names of the colors on index cards, and put them up on the refrigerator. I also colored a section of the index card with the appropriate color.

Then I told everyone-husband, kids, and friends, that we were working on the colors red and blue. When my oldest daughter made a strawberry jelly sandwich for lunch for my foster daughter, she pointed out the color.

When we chose clothing in the morning, she pointed to all the clothing that had blue in it. When my 7 year old supervised toy clean up, he told her to pick up only the red clics.

4. Be proud of what you accomplish. I sometimes have to remind myself to be happy with whatever I accomplish that day. Moms have  a tendency to feel guilty about the fact that they could have accomplished so much more, if  x,y, and z hadn't occurred.

Don't do this. It's not only not counter-productive, it's simply not true. Just tell yourself out loud that you did the best you could today, and pat yourelf on the back for what you did accomplish. And if you didn't do anything, don't let that stop you from trying again tomorrow.

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Language Development: Oral Motor Exercises You Can Do At Home

Some children with weak language development also have motor difficulties that prevent them from speaking clearly.

While speech therapy is always important, you can boost the effectiveness of therapy by doing some of the exercises demonstrated here 2-3 times a week.

TIP: Keep a small post-it in the dining room or kitchen with a list of these exercises. Mealtimes are a great time to practice; your child also won't believe that this time you actually want them to play with their food.

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Language Development: The Do’s and Don’ts of Handling the Sillies (and Other Inappropriate Behavior in Children)

It’s every parent’s most embarrassing moment: there you are, waiting not so patiently in a long line at the grocery store, when one of your children decides to start making explosive sounds suspiciously akin to a cow that’s eaten a pile of Aunt Bee’s 4-alarm chili.

Your child being the dramatist that they are (and of course having had lots of practice despite your best efforts) continues, eventually drawing the attention of your fellow shoppers.

Not exactly ego-gratifying.

Children with weak language development do often lapse into silly, inappropriate behavior. Sometimes this occurs because they are feeling stressed out by a particular situation – meeting your boss at the company picnic for example – and so this is their way of trying to deal with the stress overload.

The other possibility is that the activity provides some sort of pleasure for your child. For example, perhaps your child likes rolling on the floor because they have poor muscle tone, and it’s hard for them to stand for long periods. Or they might be seeking the firm pressure on their body provided by the hard surface.

While these moments are definitely embarrassing for even the most stalwart of parents, here are some do’s and don’ts you should be aware of in order to help bring the situation under control:

1) Don’t tell your child to stop the behavior. While this seems counter-intuitive, it really isn’t. First of all, if telling your child to stop the behavior actually worked, you wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.

Second, telling the child with weak language development to stop usually leads to confrontation: they want to know why they should stop, and they can’t see why it would bother you since they have trouble viewing things from the other person’s perspective. On top of that, since children with weak language development have difficulty with sequencing, they have a hard time seeing the consequences of their inappropriate behavior.

2) Do try to figure out why the behavior is so pleasurable to your child.

Is your child seeking attention, because they don’t know how to interact appropriately with others? Are they the type that likes a little action, bored by everyday tasks? Are they completely unaware of the effect of their behavior on others, and simply trying to fulfill a sensory need? Is this how they typically react when they face new people or places?

These are the types of questions you should ask yourself when considering why your child acts out this way.

3) Do find another way for your child to satisfy her need in a socially acceptable manner.

If your child tends to roll or lie on the floor, redirect her by giving her a big sandwich hug, or a deep pressure massage. If your child insists on making explosive sounds with her mouth, challenge her to a game of whistling or whispering, or encourage her to pretend she’s blowing out candles on a birthday cake.

4) Do help your child reduce the immediate stress of a social situation.

If your child usually behaves on a higher level, but falls into silly or anxious behavior under stress, try playing a favorite game, or distract your child with a favorite topic of conversation.

5) Do help your child use problem-solving techniques to prevent similar behavior in the future.

Help your child figure out why he feels stressed out in a particular situation. Is it too much noise? Too many people crowding him? Too much light? Once you’ve determined some common triggers, create a signal that your child can use to let you know things are too much.

6) Let your child work out frustrating or frightening situations during pretend play.

Help your child play the role of a strong person: a policeman, a soldier, or a captain, for example, and allow him to boss others around in this role. Doing this will give him a greater sense of control – even if it is only pretend- and will help him feel more comfortable expressing the more confusing feelings of fear and anger during other periods of play.

If despite all of your best efforts, your child still acts out occasionally (and whose child doesn’t?) remember this pithy remark I once overheard from an exasperated parent: “They don’t pay my bills, so I don’t give a flying hoot what they think about me!”

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Blind Film Maker Doesn’t Let Closed Doors Stop Him

How many times have you wanted something for your child-I mean wanted something so badly you were ready to beg, borrow or steal to get what your child needed?

And then you found out that it just wasn't going to happen, no matter what you did?

Sometimes we think we know what's best for us. Sometimes we're right, but sometimes - we can be more wrong than zebra stripes on a skunk. Those are the times when, instead of giving up, we need to look around for the other door that's open.

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Language Development: Help Your Child Improve Her Reading Comprehension Skills

Children who have language issues often have trouble taking details that they read or hear, and turning them into the big picture. This is the auditory equivalent of seeing a bunch of metal parts and realizing that when put together, you’ll have a bicycle.

In younger children, you’ll see that they’ll have difficulty figuring out what an object is just from hearing its description. So you may send your child to the kitchen to look for the gravy spoon, but they may return empty-handed, confused by your description of a “large spoon with a deep bowl and a big handle.”

Older children get stuck when they read a story, and need to paraphrase it or answer questions based on what they read. They may have read and understood the details of the story, but they have a hard time putting all those details together into a coherent picture. They especially need to do that when they are asked, for example, to infer, state an opinion, or make a logical conclusion based on what they read.

These 2 hands-on learning games will help your child strengthen this area. The skills your child uses while playing them are the first steps towards improving their ability to see the parts of something and make a whole.

Not only are they fun to play, but they are easy to make from materials you already have at home. For best results, you should play at least one of these games with your child at least twice a week. Look at the tips below for suggestions on making this game easier or harder, depending on your child’s age or developmental level.

Game 1: Guess the Object

The object of this game is for your child to describe what you’ve put in the bag.


  • Objects from around the house, such as an apple, a toy car, a toothbrush, or a marble. The main thing is that you choose objects that can fit in a medium- sized bag.
  • A medium-sized bag, not see through.

How to Play

  1. Put an object in the bag, without your child seeing what you put inside.
  2. Next, your child’s job is to guess what you’ve put inside. Give your child hints as to what’s inside: the more hints you give them, the easier it is.
  3. If they have trouble guessing what the object is they can look inside the bag and try and guess (without looking) what’s inside.
  4. Once they guess what it is, switch sides, letting your child put an object in the bag and giving you hints as to what’s inside.

TIP: You can make this game harder by eliminating the bag, and having your child simply guess. You can tell them the object will be from a certain category (it’s a food”) or you can tell them it’s something in the room.

You can make this game easier by letting your child feel inside the bag before you ask questions. If you do this, give your child a maximum amount of time, for example 5 seconds, to reduce the chances that they will guess the object before you have a chance to describe it.

Game 2: What’s Going On?

The object of this game is for your child to guess what situation you are describing.


  • None

How to Play

  1. Choose a situation that your child is familiar with, either from experience or from a favorite book.
  2. Briefly describe the situation:

-“ A boy is standing in a toy store, crying. He’s looking at all the people as they go by. He even walks down the aisles, but he can’t find who he’s looking for, He’s really starting to get scared.”

  1. Now ask your child, “What happened to the boy?”
  2. If your child hesitates too long, you can give them hints by asking,” Do you think he’s hungry?” “Do you think he wants to go outside to the park and play?”
  3. Continue to ask more leading questions if your child needs it, but keep in mind that yes or no questions will be easier for your child to answer.
  4. When your child guesses the answer, you can switch, letting him describe situation to you. If it’s too hard for him to think of something off the top of his head, let him pull out a favorite book and describe a picture that he sees there.
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You want something? Go get it.

Just another inspirational video for parents out there struggling to do what they know is best for their child.

Don't let "them" tell you it can't be done.

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