Tag Archives: language acquisition

Language Development

Language Development: 6 Tips on Strengthening Your Toddler’s Language Development

Do you suspect your toddler has a language delay? Perhaps you’ve watched other children at the park or in a mommy’s playgroup, and noticed that the other children seem to understand and speak more than your child. Or perhaps your child’s speech is difficult to understand, but friends, family, and your child’s doctor suggest a “wait and see” approach.

While there can be a wide range of language ability between children, it’s often parents who first suspect their toddler has poor language development. Unfortunately, they are often told to wait until their child gets older, and regaled with stories of a child who didn’t talk until kindergarten and grew up to be a nuclear physicist.

If you suspect your toddler has a language delay, but have been told to wait a half a year and see what happens- your best bet is to ignore that well-meaning advice and get to work on strengthening your child’s language development.

There are several reasons for doing this, but the most important one is that not helping your child means that a large chunk of time was simply wasted. Taking a proactive approach can’t hurt your child,  but it could significantly help your child catch up to where they need to be.

You don’t need to go overboard, however, and start booking a private speech therapist to work with your child every day. As a parent, you are actually in a great position to help your child improve their language development in a nonthreatening, fun environment.

Here are some tips you can use to start helping your toddler today:

1) Sing throughout the day with your child. It’s natural for most parents to sing to their toddlers. The key word here, though, it with, not to. Choose simple songs – nursery rhyme songs are the ideal length- and encourage your toddler to sing along with you.

You can do this by singing a whole line and then stopping, letting your child fill in the blank. This helps build your toddler’s auditory memory, an area that is often weak in children with delayed language development.

2) Teach your child songs with gestures. Songs like “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” and “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” are great ways of helping build your toddler’s auditory and motor memory. Choose a set time each day to do them, and it will be easy to make sure your child gets practice every day.

3) Read to your child. You know you’re supposed to read to your child, but did you know that how you read can make the difference between peanut butter and jelly and a submarine?

Don’t just read the story to your child, occasionally pointing out a picture or two. Use the book as a jumping board for discussing other topics as well. You don’t have to cover everything at once; chances are if your toddler likes the book, you’ll likely be reading it more often than you like.

4) Mirror your child’s speech. Some parents, in their quest to raise little Einsteins, speak to their toddlers as if they were already in middle school.

While this might be fine for some children, children with weak language development get lost with this type of language. Instead, if your child is speaking 2-3 word sentences, then when you ask them where your favorite pen is or what they’d like to eat, you should too.

You won’t hinder your child’s progress; on the contrary, speaking on their level means they will finally be able to understand you. Try it - you’ll see progress in a week or two, guaranteed.

5) Give them lots of experiences. Parenting toddlers is tiring work. It’s easy to fall into the habit of going to the park, to the store, and perhaps a friend’s house.

However, your toddler needs lots of different experiences in order to build their vocabulary, learn new ideas, and practice new skills. Before you start packing for Disneyland, keep in mind that there are many places you can take your toddler right in your own neighborhood.

For example, take a walk to a local bakery, and show your child all the different foods that are there. Your child will learn the names of some common (or not so common) foods, and perhaps have a chance to see how some items are made.

6) Have fun! Don’t look at your sessions with your toddler as work sessions; not only will you start feeling pressurized, but your toddler will heartily resist your taking control of things. Instead, use the time to enjoy being with your child, and sharing with them the beauty of the world around them-while strengthening their language development at the same time.

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Expressive Language

Hands on Learning Games: Teach Your Child Words that Describe Space (Over, Inside, Below,etc.)

Often children with weak language development have great difficulty using words that describe where they or other objects are in space. You might find your child saying "inside" when she meant to say "outside," or substituting under for over.

Children easily confuse these words -called concepts of space- because it is difficult for them to form a mental image of what they represent. These are words have no meaning in and of themselves; they have to be followed or preceeded by another, more descriptive word.

One of the ways you can help your child understand and remember what you mean is to play games that help him visualize what these words mean. Here are 2 games you can play with your child to help them master concepts of space:

Twister Fister

This is a variation on the popular game "Twister." However, instead of getting all tangled up on a game mat, your child will fit themselves inside, under, over, etc. impossible spaces.


- One set of cards with descriptive words on one side. Suggested words are: inside, outside, over, under, around, next to, beside, on, and  in.

- On the other side of each card, paste a picture of an object that's appropriate for that word. Then make an X to demonstrate where the child should place themselves.

For example, one card can have "under" written on one side, with a picture of a table on the other side. Under the table you would draw a large red X.

How to Play:

1. Put the set of cards on the table. Make sure that the side with the word is face-up.

2. Let your child choose a card from the pile. If they can read, they should read the word on the card. If not, you can read it for them.

3. They may then flip the card over and see what their task is. Explain to them if necessary that the X tells them where they should go.

Demonstrate if necessary. Be sure to emphasize the key word: "This is UNDER. Sit UNDER the table."

4. Your child can play this game with a partner. Deal the cards out between the two children. The child who finishes their cards the first is the winner.

TIP: You can make this game harder by making a separate set of cards with only the key words on it. Your child chooses a card, and then has to find (on her own) an item where the action can be carried out.

The Farm Game

This is a classic Montessori game that you can play at home. In it, you use a farm set to teach your child space concepts. You don't actually have to use a real farm set; you could make one out of cardboard, or you could substitute another setting, such as a police station, fire station, doll house, or other playset. You could also make up your own playset using blocks or Legos.


-Play animals or people

- Playset, as explained above.

- cards with space words written on them (see above game for detailed list)

1) Set up the playset. Your child may arrange things as he sees fit, but just make sure he has items that are appropriate for each action.

2) Have your child draw a card. She then chooses an animal or a person, and decides where to place them. For example, if she draws the word "under," she can take the horse and place them under a toy tree.

3) Your child continues drawing cards and choosing animals or people until all cards are used up.

TIP: You can make this game a little more complicated by making up a little story as your child goes through the game. For example, you could say, "One day the little brown horse (your child then has to take the horse) was outside in the fields (she then has to place him outside in the "field").

"It started to rain, so she ran and stood under a tree." You and your child can take turns telling the story, if your child is able, or you can just let your child choose the animal or the action, if she likes.


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Language Development

Language Development: 5 Tips on How to Help Your Child Answer Why and When Questions

Perhaps this has happened to you: your son comes home, looking battle weary and sporting a 2 inch rip in his new jeans. You, having assigned yourself the role of The Responsible Parent, are determined to get to the bottom of the matter.

Unfortunately, you forgot to take into account the power of The Silent One. The conversation goes something like this:

“Hi Mike. How was your day?”


“Put away your book bag-wait, what’s that?


“You have a tear in the brand new pants I bought you. How did that happen?”

“How did that happen?”

“The tear.”

“The tear?”

And so on, until you the parent decide to end the conversation before you go running madly into the night.

Children with weak language development often have difficulty answering what, when, why, where, and how questions. It can be frustrating for parents, especially when their child seems to be quite the conversationalist at dinner time. Often parents wonder if their children pretend ignorance on purpose.

In fact, for children with weak language development, it’s easier to initiate a conversation than respond to one. If you initiate the conversation, you’re in control (to a large extent) not only of the topic, but what details you discuss, and how long you discuss it. On the other hand, when children are asked a particular question, they need to be able to perform several complicated mental tasks:

1) Questions are abstract.

Most questions require your child to imagine a particular fact, concept, or event in their minds. When you ask your child “When do you want to eat your snack?” they need to picture a time in the future, and link that with wanting to eat their snack.

How will you get home?” requires your child to picture her actions sometime in the future. “Why do you want to go to your friend now?” means your child has to have an idea of how to satisfy his want.

Still, practice can help your child learn how to answer questions. Here are some tips you can use to help the child with weak language development learn how to answer why and when questions:

1) Ask your child’s opinions about everything.

When your child asks you for more juice, ask her playfully, “What you will do with the juice?” or “When should I give you another cup?”

If your child demands to wear his too-small red shirt, ask him, “What will you wear it with?”

2) Simplify questions.

Why questions are hard to answer. If you give a clue, however, it helps to narrow down the possibilities. Use your knowledge of your child to guide you. For example, if your child is angry, ask him, “Did you miss your turn to sit near the window in carpool today?”

3) Change why questions to what questions.

Instead of asking, “Why do you want to go to Dani’s house?” ask, “What will you do at Dani’s house?”

4) Give choices.

If your child has trouble even with what questions, change the question to multiple choice. For example, instead of asking, “What do you want for lunch?” ask “Do you want to eat hamburgers or tacos?”

If even this is hard for your child to answer, change one of the choices to a silly one: “Do you want to eat hamburgers or elephant ears?” will have your child laughing but will also help him respond correctly.

5) Rephrase her answers to why answers.

If your son answers that he’s tired, respond, “Oh, so that’s why you didn’t want to go outside. Because you’re tired.” This will help your child see the connection between what he wants and his actions. It also gives him numerous real-life examples of using the word “why.”

Just remember- answering questions is a skill that takes a lot of practice, but it can be done. You can use the many opportunities you have daily to practice, encouraging other members of the family to join in.

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Language Development

How to Use Books to Improve Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills in 2 Weeks or Less-Language Development

Does your child have trouble expressing himself, or explaining what he’s learned in daycare or school?

This is a simple way to improve your child’s language development, and boost his expressive language skills. It doesn’t require any special materials, and teaches you how to make an activity you already do – reading to your child – into an activity that boosts your child’s expressive language skills.

After a week or two, you’ll see major improvement in your child’s ability to understand and think critically when reading a book.

Here’s what you do:

Days 1 -2: Teach your child to use the pictures to understand the story.

On the first 2 days you’ll be reading your child’s favorite book, but with a twist. First, ask your child to tell you the name of the book. That’s an easy one, of course. Next, have them show you where on the front cover it says the name of the book. If they don’t know, point it out, being particular to read and point to each word separately.

This teaches them important information about how to read a book, but they will also learn to recognize the words. Do the same thing with the name of the author. You can also show them that inside the book it says the name of the book, and the author.

As you go through the book, there are 2 types of questions you’ll be asking: questions about the pictures, or questions about what’s written. As you flip through the pages, ask your child to tell you a little bit about the pictures.

What does she think is happening? How does she know? Ask her to tell you what she sees in the picture makes her think that – a happy face, scary pictures, etc. Guide her through the pictures first, helping her to use the pictures to predict what the story will be about.

Days 3-4: Help your child notice words and think critically about what she hears.

As you go through the book, you are going to draw your child’s attention to two aspects of the text: the words themselves, and what is being said.

When you talk about the words themselves, you’ll point out things like whether one word rhymes with another, or you might explain what a new word means. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, the word mischief is introduced.

You can see if your child can guess what it means, referring her to the pictures as a clue, and then ask her if there was ever a time when she made mischief of one kind or another.

When you focus on what is actually being said, you’re looking at the bigger picture. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, you can ask your child, “Why did Max’s mother call him a wild thing? Why was he lonely? Did he really go to another place?”

You can also extend this even further, asking your child what they do if they feel like making mischief – how do they handle it? Do they sometimes feel lonely?

Of course you don’t need to do all of this at once. Take your time to introduce ideas as you go through the book several times, each time deepening the level of the questions you ask your child. Your child will have gained valuable thinking skills that are critical to being a good reader – all in the space of a few bedtime readings.

TIP: Check out this post to find out how you can use wordless picture books to improve your child's expressive language skills.

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Parenting children

4 Must-Know Tips on Helping Your Child Be Less Aggressive

scream and shout, a photo by mdanys on Flickr.

It’s happened again.

Your third-grader was sent out of class again for shoving a classmate in the hallway. Frustrated, discouraged, you wonder what set him off this time. Was he tired? Did he get a bad grade on a test? Whatever the reason, you’re at a loss of what to do: how can you help your child learn how to control himself?

1) Keep an eye on the intake/outtake pipes.

I was often bewildered when out of the blue, one of my children would suddenly go ballistic for no obvious reason. Eventually I figured out that he hadn’t eaten; once he ate, he was transfigured back to hi s regular persona.

If you notice your child turning aggressive with no noticeable pattern, consider insisting he eat a protein snack, such as cheese, peanut butter, or natural beef jerky. Bananas, which are full of potassium, are also a quick picker-upper.

A friend of mine noticed her child often acts out when he needs to use the bathroom. For some reason, the sensory stimulation is too much for him.

2) Consider whether your child is in sensory overload.

Children with sensory issues can appear persnickety. One morning they can handle seeing tomatoes on a sibling’s plate, while the next they can smell them in the closed refrigerator. It’s not done purposely, although it may seem like it. Picture your child’s sensory system as a plastic 8 oz. cup. Loud alarm clock (2 oz.) + strong shampoo smell (1 oz) + getting your hair brushed (4 oz.) =OVERLOAD.

Some days this happens sooner, and some days it might not happen at all, depending what your child’s triggers are. While some children turn inwards when this happens, others explode in a cascading ball of rage and frustration.

Teach your child to be more aware of his sensory triggers, and encourage him to engage in soothing activities that will help him empty his “cup,” and you’ll uncover a more peaceful child.

3) Teach your child to express himself.

No, I don’t mean your child should take up mixed martial arts or explore the fine art of hang gliding – though that may be interesting. Instead, consider the fact that because children with language development issues have trouble expressing their feelings, needs, and wants, they are often trapped by unpleasant feelings and thoughts tumbling around in their heads.

Talking about how he feels may be a task beyond your child for the moment, but you can help him loosen the release valve by joining in while he plays. Letting him take the lead helps give him a sense of control, while pretend play is a safe way for him to experiment with his desire for control, or need to be dependent.

4) Don’t forget to spend more time with your child.

When your child acts up, it’s a natural response to be so angry at your child that you can’t even look him in the face for a while. While it’s understandable to you however, it will definitely sour your relationship with your child.

Tightening the valves on one aspect of your child’s behavior means you need to find a way to loosen them somewhere else. Be sure to spend more time doing something enjoyable with your child. Whether it’s reading an extra chapter of a favorite book at bedtime, or sharing a cuddle in the early morning, it’s important to spend time accentuating the positives.

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Language Development

Language Development: 3 Tips On How to Raise an Optimistic Child

Today’s child is a virtual reality child.

Instead of being allowed to climb trees in order to see the sky, we cut down low-hanging branches lest a one fall and hit someone in the head. A private school child may dine on delicacies such as squash fries, yet be banned from cooking in his kitchen on the chance that he hurt himself.

On the other hand, the same child is allowed to dine on a diet of violent or explicit movies, listen to music whose lyrics would make their grandmother swoon, and dresses in clothing designed for a sex-crazed thirty year old.

Such helicopter parenting is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. This is an age where conscientious parents work hard to make sure their child feels great about everything they do – regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

But is this really best for children? Do children actually benefit from a no-fail, no bad-experiences environment?

The answer is no. Extensive research shows that children who are fed a “feel-good” diet, are actually more likely to experience depression, and feelings of helplessness. Instead of being taught that negative feelings like anger, anxiety, and frustration are an indication that change is necessary, they are told that it’s unacceptable to experience “bad” feelings.

It’s no wonder depression medications are the number one prescribed drug in the U.S.

In order to truly feel good about yourself, you need to do good. You must experience a sense of mastery. You need to experience the frustration, the boredom, and the acute distress of trying to make “it” happen, before you can feel good about yourself. No one appreciates success without the heady feeling of having stretched yourself to the limit, and despite the odds, reached success.

That would be a little like swallowing Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Remedy– smells good, tastes great- but made of nothing more than water and alcohol (and a little cocaine or heroin if you got lucky).

Raising children who feel good about themselves is closely tied to being optimistic. Here are 3 tips you can use to help you raise optimistic children:

1) Help your child view setbacks as temporary. Children who are optimistic view setbacks as temporary. When they fail a test, for example, they tell themselves that they’ll do better next time.  When your child experiences an unpleasant event, whether it’s a failed test or a friend who rejects them, first empathize with their feelings.

When your child is less upset about the incident, help your child reframe the incident. Instead of telling your child it won’t happen again (which may seem false), use questions to guide your child to understanding how this specific situation is only temporary. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince them: you are merely planting a seed for the future.

2) Give credit where credit is due. Children who are pessimistic look at failure as being their fault (“I failed the test because I’m dumb”), and view success as a fluke, unrelated to their own efforts (“I did well on the test because it was an easy test”). This encourages a phenomenon called “learned helplessness,” where the child feels there’s nothing he can do to better his situation.

Optimistic children, on the other hand, see things completely the opposite: failures are a fluke (“I wasn’t feeling well that day”), while success is due to their own efforts (“ I really studied hard”). As a result they are more resilient when failure occurs, and more likely to see themselves as successful, competent people.

Monitor how you react to failure. Do you accuse your child of not trying hard enough, or of not being smart enough? Those are global assumptions that encourage pessimism. Instead, when your child fails, view his failure as a step towards success. When your child breaks a plate while washing dishes, suggest calmly. “Hmm, ceramic plates are pretty slippery when they’re wet.” He’ll understand on his own that he needs to be careful next time, instead of viewing himself as a clumsy loser.

Your child will learn to view failure as an opportunity to learn how to be successful.

3) Keep things in perspective. Help your child understand that not everything they do will affect them for the rest of their lives. Teenagers especially tend to overgeneralize, assuming, for example, that a bad grade on one test will doom their college prospects forever.

Instead, wait until your child is less emotional, and then gently remind them of a time when they despite their failure, they lived to see another day.

Optimism is a learned behavior. However, it will take time for your child or teenager to change their mindset, so consider it like the drip method of watering trees: it takes time, but it eventually does the job.

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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: http://itsawahmlife.com/helping-kids-learn-to-read.html

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

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Language Development

Children’s Language Development: 3 Reasons Why I Speak Down to My Child (And Why You Should Too)

In my house I purposely speak down to our younger children.

Conversations revolve around topics like mealtimes, playtimes, and bath times. Sentences are purposely brief, with most words no longer than two syllables. You might call it unimaginative.

I call it functional.

It gets the point across. Quickly. Everyone understands what’s being said, letting us move on to other things, like dancing in the mud on a summer’s day.

You see, my three younger children all have varying levels of language development. While their ages differ, they all have language delays ranging anywhere from six months to a year.  And though most parents would rise to the challenge by immersing their children in a tsunami of words, sentences, and extended conversations, I’ve done exactly the opposite. And here’s why:

Bigger is better. Not.

A while ago my family and I relocated to a foreign country. I knew the language – or so I thought. I quickly discovered that when your language skills aren’t up to par, short and sweet wins the day.

In order for your child to understand and learn to speak better, he needs to be able to understand most of what he hears. Submerging your child in a sea of complicated sentences and multi-syllable words does the exact opposite.

Success is in the numbers.

Research shows that in order for people to learn a new skill successfully, there needs to be an 80% success rate. That means that only 2 out of every 10 words that you speak to your child should be unfamiliar.

More than that, and learning either doesn’t happen, or progresses at a very slow pace.

Using fewer words, simpler sentences, and talking about the here and now, forces you to choose words your child will understand.  And that’s a win-win for both of you.

One good thing leads to another.

Once your child sees how easy it is to understand you, he’ll be more likely to test the waters and talk more. More talking leads to a better connection with you, which in turn leads to – you guessed it – more talking.

And after all, that is what you want, right?








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Language Development

Language Development: Best Tips On How to Combat Summer Learning Loss

You’ve probably heard teachers moan about how much information children forget over the summer. And as a parent of a child with language development delays, you've probably seen it in action. Material that your child sweated blood and tears to learn has somehow been lost in your child's memory files.

The most common areas that children forget are the ones where –surprise- there is a lot of repetition and practice. Math and spelling are two subjects that are particularly vulnerable.

However children with learning disabilities often spend a larger portion of their time learning and reviewing material that other children acquire easily. For them, the summer "brain drain" is even more devastating.

Research shows that an average child  loses a full month of general studies, and two months of math skills. In other words, by sixth grade your child will have lost half a year of general studies skills, and a full year of math skills.

s there anything you can do - short of putting your child in school year round?

Yes! There are several things you can take to help your child retain most of the material they’ve learned during the year. Here are some tips:

1. Set a specific time to learn with your child, and stick to it.

Summertime is a busy time for most parents and children. Between camp, family vacations, and the occasional trip or family get-together, it can be hard to maintain any sort of schedule.

Children with learning issues, however, do better with a consistent, predictable schedule. Download this free daily planner to help keep your family on track.

2. Schedule a 15 minute block of time to learn with your child.

Review doesn’t need to take hours. In fact, the brain functions more efficiently when smaller amounts of material are reviewed over a period of time. You don’t need to set aside hours a day in order to help your child stay on top of things; 15 minutes a day spent reviewing a few math problems and a several spelling problems will do the job just as effectively as twice the amount of time.

3. Throw a few hands-on learning games into the mix.

The great thing about the summer is that you have more opportunities to give your child some real hands-on learning experiences. Use the extra time you have to follow up on some of the topics or concepts your child learned during the year, by visiting science museums, renaissance or history fairs, or even by performing a science experiment in your backyard.

Not only is it a great way to answer that popular question “will I ever need this in real life?” but it also gives you an opportunity to have quality time with your child.

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Hands-on Learning Games: Teach Your Child the Months of the Year in Less Than a Week

Is your child struggling with memorizing the months of the year? Often children with a delay in language development have difficulty with concepts involving time. Younger children have trouble with using words like “yesterday” and “tomorrow” appropriately; you may find your child asking you when yesterday’s baseball game will be.

Older children, even well into middle school, may struggle with knowing what day of the week comes before Sunday, or what month a particular holiday falls out on. You may find that even your tween struggles with remembering the order of the months of the year.

This hands -on learning game will help your child learn the months of the year, as well as improve her sequencing skills, which are at the root of her difficulties with concepts involving time.  It can also be adapted to suit children and teens of all ages.


-Print out two copies of a paper with name of the month on top and the picture associated with it on the bottom. Take one copy of each month, and cut it in half. That will leave you with one set of pictures with both the name of the month and its picture, PLUS a set of labels with the name of the month, and a set of labels with only pictures.

Examples of pictures for each month include: January-New Year’s Day, February-Valentine’s Day, March-wind, April-flowers, May-rain, June-last day of school, July-Fourth of July, August-hot day, September-first day of school, October-Halloween, November-Thanksgiving, December- winter, or holiday.)

* You can use your child’s picture for the month their birthday falls out on. Also, if you can’t think of a picture, simply let your child pick out a picture that they like.

How to Play:

1. Choose a large space to work at so you will have plenty of space to spread out the materials.

2. Place the copies with the months and the pictures cut out to the side. You don’t need them yet.

3. Place the page for January on the table before your child. Say the name of the month clearly, and point to the picture (no need to name the picture).

3. Do the same thing with the next month.

4.  After 2 or 3 months, mix up the pages, and ask your child to put them back in order. If she can read, she should name the months after she has placed the pages in order. If not, then you can say the names of the months and have her repeat after you.

5.   Continue until you’ve completed all the months of the year, making sure to stop after every 2-3 pages. You have a choice whether or not to require your child to remember previous pages. It really depends on how hard or easy it is for your child. So, for example, if your child can easily remember months 1-2, then when you do months 3-4 you can ask them to order the pages from months 1-4, all at once.

If this is hard for your child, you can have them do only months 1-2, then 3-4, and so on. As they get better at it you can slowly increase the number of months they remember at one time.

7.  Continue until your child can recite the names of the months in order forwards and backwards.

TIP:  Younger children can simply match the cut out pictures with the complete pages. In that case as they place the picture they can call out the name of the month that goes with it.

Children who can read can sequence the names of the months only. This would be step number 8.

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