Q&A with Dr Miriam Stoppard
Any parent will tell you that bringing up a family is hard work, but they’ll also say it’s immensely rewarding. It’s sometimes hard to know if what you are doing is right, especially as your child develops and grows. We asked parenting guru Dr Miriam Stoppard to answer a few of your questions.
Question: My one year old baby is getting quite good at using his hands, he can even try to put one block on top of the other but doesn’t always. Are there any special games I can play with him to develop hand skills?
Answer: I’m sure your little boy has gone through the pick up and drop down phase but if not sorting shapes to fit in holes is a good wooden toy. Your baby now will be throwing things deliberately so play with a soft ball together. Encourage him to try to hold on to two blocks in one of his hands.
What can you do to help?
To give him practice holding more than one block, keep putting two into one of his hands. And keep on helping him to build block towers. Encourage him to eat more of his food with a spoon and give lots of praise.
Give him two blocks to hold
To encourage a grown up grip let him get used to the sensation of having more than one block to hold on to although he’ll still continue to drop one or both. Play with any toy where pieces go inside each other.
Encourage the finger-thumb grip
This grip is the most sophisticated hand skill your child will ever learn. It’s a pre-writing skill and a skill needed to play a musical instrument. Encourage him by putting peas, sweetcorn, raisins on his high chair table so that he can use his thumb and forefinger to pick them up precisely.
Question: My little girl of 19 months is babbling away. She only has single words though and can’t put two words together. I’d like to help her with her talking as I know she’s dying to communicate.
Answer: Your toddler’s speech will become more and more complex and sophisticated. She may have a vocabulary of 30 words and starts to ask simple questions, such as “Where gone?” and give one- or two-word answers. “There.” In fact, she will soon use many two-word combinations. Then she’ll add to her vocabulary possessives, “mine” and negatives, “can’t”.
She’s learning the rhythm of conversing so your toddler waits and takes her turn at speaking. She’s becoming cooperative in communicating. She uses language in different situations – to get something, to tell about something, to relate to others. Her speech, however, may be indistinct because of poor muscle coordination. She may say “tebbair” instead of “teddy bear”.
What can you do to help?
Start to use adjective whenever you can. The first are usually opposites “good”, “bad”; “nice”, “nasty”; “hot”, “cold”. Couple them with nouns “cold milk”, “nice girl”, “good teddy”, especially when you’re describing food, people and toys – your toddler’s favourite subjects.
Use adverbs, too, such as “here” and “where”. Emphasise all verbs, and add actions to promote understanding.
Prepositions are understood long before your toddler uses them, but always stress them and show them what you mean. Always indicate where “under”, “on top of”, and “behind” are.
Language acquisition isn’t smooth, it stops and starts, so follow your toddler’s lead and don’t press. Don’t compare your child with anyone else; language is learned at different rates by different children.