The one thing I’ve got a black belt in….

After 4 years of undergraduate education, 2 years of Masters degree, a fellowship in speech pathology, and ten years of practicing this trade, there is ONE thing that I know I do well…. like, really well….


Yup. I'm a total Sensei when it comes to bubbles. Black belt in bubbles. I use them probably 5 days a week at minimum between entertaining my little guy, and my clients. And why wouldn’t I?

Bubbles are the coolest thing ever. Right?

Not only are they captivating, in that you’ll have your kiddo’s attention in no-time, they make for a great opportunity for providing this incredible language rich environment. Here’s what to do:

Under 12 months:

Practice pointing and joint attention with baby. As you blow bubbles, choose one bubble to point at and share that experience with your baby. See if baby can follow your gaze and pointing finger. Use lots of repetition as you say things like “bubbles up up… and pop pop pop!”

12-24 months:

Be sure to really exaggerate that breath before you blow bubbles. They love that stuff. Work on verbs like blow, breath, pop. Practice turn taking and have your toddler ask for bubbles using signs or words like “my turn,” “give me bubbles,” or “more bubbles.” Practice size concepts like big and little, and see if your toddler can imitate the words.

2-4 years:

Try making your own bubbles at home and talk about the sequence of steps, using words like first, next, last. Make your own bubble wands and designs using pipe cleaners.

4 and up:

Talk about the why. Find out how bubbles work and start getting creative with all the goodness that comes with innovation.

Switch it up, do bubbles inside, outside, in the bathtub, in the garage, at the park. My fave Bubble Tumbler can be found here… love the no spill factor.

Now I want to hear from you! What activity does your kiddo love to do when the bubbles are out? Pop? Reach? Blow? Taste?!?! (bleh!) Leave a comment below!

The Mom Guilt is Real: A Pep Talk… and my BIG Announcement

We’ve all experienced Mom-guilt, and it’s terrible.

I accidentally gave my kid the non-organic banana! (*GASP*); Oh my god he fell to the floor when I was RIGHT there and now there’s this terrifying shiner on his forehead (*GASP*); I didn’t or couldn’t breastfeed (*GASP*), Work has been craaazy and I barely got to feed my kid a sensible dinner (*GASP*); Was I texting on my phone too much and not giving him enough attention just now? (*GASP* [and probably guilty]).

Here’s the thing, you’re doing great. Moms stretch their limit every day with heavy physical and emotional challenges, balancing it all.

You’re probably doing things you didn’t even know you were capable of. Being a master of getting things done during a 45-minute nap (ugh, really kid? 45 minutes?!?)

Maybe you’re the CEO of the house and you’ve got everything house on the brain. Maybe you’re a working Mom dealing with emails at 10PM and a crazy boss that doesn’t get life with kids.

Kids are resilient. And truly, they thrive in a nurturing, safe, and stimulating environments where they are challenged too.

That’s right… they survived the non-organic half thought dinner of cheese and crackers the other night. That shiner finally went away and there were only a few pictures of evidence it ever even happened. Formula-fed kids are smart too (there’s proof of it), and he was perfectly happy throwing blocks around while you texted your friend about her latest in-law drama.

We all do the best we can. And I’m here to be your cheerleader, your compadre, and your go-to for a few tips on how to make short amounts of playtime count for quality.

Baby School

I want to show you how 10 minutes a day of quality playtime can start challenging your children, help them thrive, and make you feel like the champion you are in enriching their development.

You’re going to feel like the rockstar Mom that you are.

Baby School is here. What’s Baby School??? I’m so glad you asked. Find out more here.

Does your kiddo point and grunt? Do this….

Is your kiddo doing that thing where they point and grunt to tell you what they want? Are they grabbing your hand, forcing you off the couch, to lead you to what they want?

That’s awesome! They are showing great communicative intent!

To get them talking, try giving them choices.

When they’re in their highchair pointing to the refrigerator, ask “Do you want water or milk?” “Do you want an apple or banana?” Or during playtime, prompt them to respond when you ask “Do you want more blocks, or should we play with the ball?”

Sometimes even if you KNOW the answer (as in, duh— this kid LOVES bananas, he’ll never go for an apple), provide them with a choice so that they get more exposures to words and eventually start to vocalize their choice.

And… don’t forget to wait….. like, really wait…..

Wait for your child to use some sort of other means of communicating besides the pointing and grunting. Maybe you can get the beginnings of a consonant (like “na” for banana).

Patience, grasshopper. Those sounds and words are close on the horizon.

4 Ways Singing Promotes Language Development

Singing and Language Development

You know those gurgles and screeches your baby started making early on? Those sounds, and vocal play sound a bit more like singing, than talking. In many ways, language is a kind of song. It’s true that singing promotes language development in the budding brain.

Singing to your baby can help develop early language and literacy skills, such as auditory discrimination, phonological awareness,  vocabulary development, and auditory memory.


Auditory Discrimination

Babies’ brains are wired to learn language. “Infants listen first to sounds of language and only later to its meaning,” says Anthony Brandt. One of the first components of language babies learn is auditory discrimination. This is the ability to differentiate sounds in their native tongue. Hearing songs sung again and again can help build this skill.

Phonological Awareness

Many of the classics that we sing to our children, rhyme! Rhyming is another form of auditory discrimination, but it is also the building block skill for phonological awareness. These skills help to promote literacy and are the precursors to reading success. Studies show that rhyming is something that can be taught early, and children as young as 3 years are able to generate rhyming words. Songs are loaded with rhymes and alliteration. So singing early on can help wire your baby’s brain to be attuned to literacy skills sooner.

Vocabulary Development

Singing also targets many of the ways your child learns new words. The repetition of words and verses can help children acquire new vocabulary and new concepts. It can provide an excellent language model for your child as they hear the construction of phrases and sentences and start to understand the syntax of our language.


Auditory Memory

For your pre-schooler, auditory memory (hearing information, processing it, retaining it, and then later recalling it) is a crucial academic skill that can be improved upon with activities. Singing is one of them. Songs that build on each verse, like, The Green Grass Grows All Around, can really challenge those memory skills.

Remember that as a parent, the BEST way to engage your child is to be dynamic. So change the way you sing a song, by singing it faster, or slower, or in a different voice. My inner camp counselor is humming Boom Chicka Boom as we speak.

Check out this list of songs for ideas:

Not-to-be-Missed Classics:

  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Row Row Row Your Boat

Body Parts:

  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low
  • Where is Thumbkin


  • Down By the Bay
  • Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Baby Bumble Bee
  • Farmer in the Dell


  • Five Little Ducks
  • Five Green Speckled Frogs
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • Ants Go Marching

Looking for more songs? Raffi’s Singable Song Collection is another great resource.

How to Start Using Signs with your Baby

Have you heard the craze behind baby signs? Interested in teaching your baby some signs, but not sure where to start? Using signs with your baby can give him/her early access to communication, while strengthening the ability to produce expressive speech.

Signs are easier for babies to use, since gross motor movements (like arms and hands) are much easier to control for a baby than the smaller muscles involved in speech (like the lips and tongue).

Remember that signs are the bridge to verbal communication. You nor your child need to be fluent in sign language, to make using signs at home effective.

How to Start Using Sign with your Baby

Communication is an exchange of information. Teaching your baby concrete nouns like cow, dog, and blanket don’t serve the same purpose as words that convey a basic desire. Starting with “give-me” and “more” can create more opportunities for early communication exchanges.

“Give-me” and “More”

6-13 more infographic

“Give-me” and “more” are the most basic requests that a child communicates. Giving your child the tools to communicate with their hands, before the muscles in their mouths are developed, can reduce frustration, increase social interaction, and improve self-expression. Children between 8 and 24 months are the ideal age to start using signs.

Start by using these two signs in a few contexts. For example, during snack time, give your child just one Cheerio (oh the agony for that little baby!)... model the sign you’d like to teach (for example, “more”), help your child do the sign with his own hands, and then applaud loudly and reward with that second Cheerio.

Other effective times are during bath-time play with bubbles, or playing with some other developmental favorite toys like blocks, mirrors, and puzzles.

Once you and your child have mastered the ease of these two signs, then continue to expand their vocabulary by using the key methods to word learning, paired with using signs throughout the day.

3 Reasons to Say No to the Sippy Cup

At the 9-12 month mark, you should start thinking about weaning your baby from the bottle. Prolonged bottle use can lead to a misshapen palate, protruded teeth, and can cause articulation delays, such as a lisp, later on.

And although the seemingly logical transition would be to move on to a sippy cup, there is some evidence to say otherwise. Using a sippy cup is actually too similar to using a bottle and can have adverse long-term effects.

3 Reasons to Say No to the Sippy and Go Straight for the Straw

1. A sippy cup can alter tongue placement (which also happens when using a bottle). This means that the tongue is pushed in a forward position, which can also cause the teeth to protrude over time. These structural changes are what can lead to speech and articulation delays. When using a straw or a regular cup, the tongue is placed behind the teeth.

2. Babies do a similar “head back” motion + sucking, in order to get liquid out when using a sippy cup. Moving the head back to get liquid does not engage the facial muscles (e.g. cheeks, lips, tongue) as they should be worked for continued sensorimotor development. Sippy cups don’t provide the oral-motor workout, but using a straw does!

3. Use of sippy cups have been tied to an increase in cavities and tooth decay. When babies and toddlers drink from sippy cups, they immerse the six upper teeth, which means constant exposure to the liquid, leading to tooth decay if there is something sugary (like juice) inside.

If you are using a sippy cup, think of it only as a transition to a straw or a regular cup to get less attached to the bottle. And although straw cups and regular cups can be more of a mess (because they don’t have the valve that sippy cups do), it is better developmentally for your baby.

Try the Oxo Straw Cup and Oxo Training Cup to help with transition to say sayonara to sippy cups!

What To Do About a Lisp

We all know someone who has a lisp, right?

There are actually four different types of lisps (see below), but the most common is an interdental lisp, when the tongue pushes through the front teeth and the /s/ sound is pronounced like a /th/. “See” sounds like “thee,” “bus” sounds like “buth...” you get the idea.

The research of what falls under “normal” development for sound acquisition varies across different researchers.

Caroline Bowen PhD, a well-known speech-language pathologist with a doctorate in clinical linguistics, believes that having a lisp is a normal developmental phase of speech/sound acquisition, until about 4 and a half years old. Others believe that its not something to address until after age 6.

Missing Teeth and that Lisp!

The /s/ sound is a sibilant, which means its a “hissing” sort of sound. It is produced when the airstream hits the back of the teeth or dental wall, and rebounds around until the air exits the mouth, creating a strident or friction sound.

When the front teeth are missing, especially when so many are missing, the airstream broadens. The air usually will come out wherever the teeth are missing. This gives it a slushy and imprecise sound. However, in the instance of only 1 or 2 teeth missing, it is still possible to produce an accurate /s/ sound.

A lisp is something that can be corrected in speech therapy. And as always, early intervention is the best intervention. If your child has a lisp, and is around 4 years old, then you may want to consult with your pediatrician and see if speech therapy is indicated.

There are four main types of lisps:

  • Interdental lisp—occurs when the tongue protrudes between the front teeth and the /s/ or /z/ is pronounced like /th/.
  • Dentalized lisp—occurs when the tongue pushes against the front teeth.
  • Lateral lisp—sounds wet or “slushy” because the air flows around the tongue.
  • Palatal lisp—the middle of the tongue touches the soft palate, or roof of the mouth, when trying to produce the /s/ sound.

For more information on speech development, check out our quick guide to sound acquisition or this articulation development chart.

Can You Hear Me Now? Ear Infections & Speech Development

Hearing is a crucial component to typical speech, language, and cognitive development, so children who have a history of frequent ear infections are at greater risk for language and articulation delays.

The first year of life is when your baby is really processing language. If fluid is present in the middle ear, then it can affect the acuity and sensitivity of hearing these sounds, syllables and words. Imagine walking around with cotton in your ears! Words and noises may be muffled, which does not provide an ideal model for typical speech and language. Thus, middle ear infections may increase the risk of delayed speech development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics provided a research study on 205 three-year old children. The study showed that children with prolonged periods of middle ear fluid, especially from 6 to 12 months, had lower scores on speech and language tests than those that did not.

Sometimes ear infections are unavoidable. However, in the early months, when hearing and language processing is most crucial, there are a few tips to reduce the risk of ear infections. Breastfed babies have a decreased chance of ear infections since their immune systems are generally stronger, and they are not lying flat when feeding (feeding in an elevated position is optimal due to the horizontal shape of the eustachian tube). If your baby is bottle-fed, be sure to hold him upright. A baby should not be given a bottle while lying on their back.

If your child has a history of ear infections and you are concerned there may be a delay in speech, consult with your pediatrician to determine if an evaluation is indicated or, check out our quick guide for sound acquisition. As always, early intervention (treatment before age 3) provides the best outcomes.

The Dish on Articulation

Its almost impossible NOT to compare your child to others. Many moms ask something like, “There is a one-year old who speaks so clearly, I can understand everything, but no one knows what my 18-month old is saying.”

The fact is that articulation, or the ability to pronounce speech sounds, is a very complex motor skill.

It is much different than the muscles involved in walking and throwing a ball. Speech movements (using the lips, tongue, and teeth) are smaller and less visible to your kiddo, who is learning how to say it all.

Some of the early speech sounds your child makes are the ones you can see (sounds such as /b/, /m/ and /w/), but many speech sounds you cannot, because they are all INSIDE of your mouth, of course. Words they master are ones like mama, more, mine, and ball.

As your child passes the one-year mark, they should begin to use a larger variety of consonants during communication and play. The words they say may be difficult to understand, but know that this is normal.

By 24 months, you should be able to understand at least 50% of what your child is saying and by 36 months, about 75%.

Remember that when it comes to what is considered “normal,” there is a large grey area. So take this information lightly:

  • Sounds mastered by 2 years:  p, b, m, w, t, d, n, h
  • Sounds mastered by 3 years:  k, g
  • Sounds mastered by 4 years:  f, v, y, l
  • Sounds mastered by 5-6 years:  s, z, j, r, sh, ch, th

If your child does substitute sounds that make articulation less clear, just model the correct way. For example: Mama, div me dooce, you should say “Ok, Mama will give you juice.”

Remember that you are your child’s best language model. So keep just keep talking!

Sound Imitation and Early “Words”

cute baby eat appleAs your baby starts babbling and jargoning, you might notice that it is much easier to imitate sounds, rather than words. Using more diverse sounds during play and communication can set a great stage for future word learning.

Babies love sounds because they are simpler for their little mouths to say the first 12 months of life. Most sounds have a repetitious consonant-vowel structure with elongated vowels, that makes imitation easy.

The sounds that you use during play should be made simultaneously with an action or movement. For example, don’t just push a car... push the car and say “vrooom.” Here are some other sounds to use when interacting with your little one everyday:


  • Happy- “mmmmm” (Lick lips, during mealtimes)
  • Yucky- “yuck, bleh” (Stick out tongue, wrinkle nose)
  • Stinky- “pee-you” (Wrinkle nose)
  • Trouble- “uh-oh” (Wide eyes)


  • Train- “choo-choo” (Push train)
  • Car- “beep-beep” (Drive car)
  • Fire truck- “whoo-woo” (Drive truck)
  • Boat- “puh-puh-puh” (Wave boat)
  • Truck- “honk-honk” (Drive truck)

Household Objects/Toys

  • Clock- “tick-tock” (Rock head back and fourth)
  • Phone- “ring-ring” (Hold phone to ear)
  • Vacuum- “brrrrrrmm” (Pretend to push vacuum)
  • Popcorn- “pop-pop-pop” (Pop fingers up)
  • Bubbles- “pop-pop-pop” (Popping bubbles)

Dolls/Action Figures/Animals

  • Baby- “waaah” (Tap baby)
  • Sneezing- “achooo” (Place hand over face and mouth)
  • Hiding- “peek-a-boo” (Cover face)
  • Cow- “moo”
  • Dog- “ruff ruff”
  • Duck- “quack quack”

These early and simple sounds are the building blocks of verbal communication, words, and talking. As your child uses these sounds consistently to request or comment on activities, they are learning that sounds/words have meaning and intent.

Providing more opportunities for listening and learning, will certainly catapult your little one’s language skills.