The Bell Center Toddler Times – December

Monthly Theme for December: Cookies, Cocoa, and Candy Canes

Signs: run, walk, fast, slow, jump, stop, go, cookie, candy

Key Vocabulary Words: cookies, candy, gingerbread, bake, mix, stir, bowl, spoon, cocoa, peppermint

Nursery Rhymes and Finger Plays: The Gingerbread Man, Pat-a-Cake

Teacher Time

Hi everyone! Happy Holidays! December is such a fun month here at The Bell Center! Our theme this month is Cookies, Cocoa, and Candy Canes! We will focus our classroom activities around those items! Be looking for information on The Bell Center’s holiday party in the weekly updates. We are looking forward to see what the New Year has in store for all of our wonderful kids and families!

Some activities you can work on at home to reinforce the cookies, cocoa, and candy cane theme include: use a big poster of gingerbread man to identify body parts or make a large line drawing of a gingerbread man and let your child decorate the Gingerbread Man. Another exciting activity is to make cookies and decorate them! You can incorporate some of the key vocabulary words like bake, mix, bowl, spoon, and cookie. It’s also fun to make hot chocolate as a family and talk about differences between hot and cold.

There are so many fun Gingerbread and cookie books that we may read here at The Bell Center.  We love to read Who Stole the Cookies, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and of course, The Gingerbread Man. This time of year is a fantastic time to include your child in the kitchen. Let them help you mix and stir the ingredients for the scented play dough. It is a great time of the year to be with the ones you love. Below is a fun finger play for the Gingerbread Man.

5 Little Gingerbread Men

Five little gingerbread men lying on a tray,

One jumped up and ran away.

Shouting “Catch me, catch me, catch me if you can …

I run really fast, I’m a gingerbread man!”

Four little gingerbread men lying on a tray…

Count down using the same lines above to one

No more gingerbread men lying on a tray,

They all jumped up and ran away.

Oh, how I wish they had stayed with me to play.

Next time I’ll eat them before they run away.

Sarah, Ashley & Cindy

Language Lessons

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.

But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

First of all, how do our children learn speech and language through play?  Well, children learn a LOT of skills while playing, and speech and language are no exception.  As quoted above play is the work of childhood.  Even when your child is playing silently, they are learning important information that they will carry with them and use later.  And this starts the day they are born!  Those silly little finger plays and games of peek-a-boo really to help your child learn.  As they grow and develop, they begin to learn more and more complex ideas through play.  Below are several ways children learn speech and language through play, from infancy on.

They Watch

Your children WATCH others’ actions.  This starts as soon as they are born.  They start watching your face first, taking in your expressions.  As they get older, they watch what we do all day and then learn from what they see.  They will watch your play, their siblings play, and other children’s play and LEARN.  In terms of speech and language development,…

  • Your child watches your mouth as you talk, starting as an infant. She files these movements away for later use.
  • Your child watches your facial expressions during all sorts of experiences and moods and starts to realize what facial expressions go with what moods/feelings.
  • Your child watches your body language when you speak and communicate and will start to learn what your body language means.
  • Your child watches you, siblings and peers play and will later imitate these actions in her own play, including language that goes along with the play.

They Listen

While they are watching us, children are also LISTENING to us as well.  Again, this starts the day they are born (or, even BEFORE birth!).  They listen to all the sounds we make, the words we say, and the sentences we form.  In the beginning, they won’t mean anything but soon, all these words will begin to make sense to them.  They will be listening to YOU play with them, siblings and peers and will begin to imitate those words.

They Explore

Here is where PLAY really gets important.  Your children begin to explore.  They explore the things around them and manipulate them.  They “play” with them.  As he does this, you are sitting with him and you are playing and talking with him and narrating his actions as well as your own.  He is watching you and listening to you.  When you put the block on the tower and say, “Block ON,” he is learning the word for “block” and “on.”  When you place the block in the basket and say, “Block IN,” he is learning the word for “in.”  He is also watching you do these actions and taking note so he can try them, too.  This exploring and playing goes on through childhood, both while you are playing with him and while he is playing with peers, siblings, and even during solitary play.

They Imitate

All this watching and listening is going to start to pay off.  Your child starts to IMITATE your actions and the sounds they hear around them.  Though you may not realize it, the gross motor imitation your little one starts doing in the form of clapping, waving, moving, and so forth, as an infant is actually a pre-language skill!  Yes!  Believe it or not early gross motor imitation is a precursor to language!  Specifically in regards to speech and language imitation, this begins as the coos (i.e., vowel sounds) you hear at just a few months of age and then will move to babbling (i.e., consonant-vowel combinations) and soon real words (e.g., simplified versions of single words).  So those silly little rhymes and finger plays that you do with your infants and toddlers?  They are helping to lay the foundation of your child’s speech, language, communication and social skills!  All those times that you are sitting with your child, narrating your actions and their own…you know, the times you felt like a crazy person talking to yourself sometimes?  This is teaching your child LANGUAGE!

They Create/Formulate and Use Language for Purpose

Now your child is going to put it all together.  All those skills he has been working on, all that watching, listening, exploring and imitating is going to help your child begin to create and formulate his own words and sentences.  Then, he will be using this language for purpose.  He will use these new words to communicate his needs and wants and share information.  He will use this new language in his play with you, siblings, peers and even in solitary play.  My son, at age two, made sound effects and talked about what he was doing during his solitary play.  By 4 1/2, he now does the same but with much longer and complex utterances and ideas.  At both ages children use their language during play with each other and with their peers, all the while creating and formulating new ideas and sentences and using that language to communicate and share.  The more they do this through play, the more they are learning!

Enjoy this time of year with family and remember to relax and play!

Jane, Annie & Noelle

OT Newsletter

December is filled with many sights, sounds and smells. Some children may be drawn to these sensory experiences while others may withdraw. Your child may love lighted toys so they will most likely be attracted to lights on a tree or holiday arrangement. Make sure to take the proper safety precautions to ensure your child can visually explore the lights safely. Lights that remain at a static position will be more calming to your child, while blinking lights oftentimes are more excitatory.

There are many wonderful sounds during the holidays as well. There may be times of the day that you want to enjoy a music time with your child. Music with increased tempo can encourage movement so this is a wonderful time to work with your child on various movement activities such as jumping, reaching and clapping. In many environments during the holidays, there are ample amounts of sound and crowds of people. Strategies such as the use of noise-cancelling headphones/ear muffs or demonstrating for your child how to cover their ears can help. Also, allowing your child to take breaks from a noisy environment in a quiet space such as the bathroom can be calming. If your child has challenges in noisy places, it may help to talk to your child about what to expect before entering those areas. Social stories, which are concise stories that describe a situation, could help your child cope more easily in challenging environments. These types of stories often include pictures and brief statements describing what is going to happen, how the child may feel and respond. For more detailed guidance on developing a social story for your child, visit the following website:

In class, we will be enjoying one of the wonderful aromas of December as we explore and eat gingerbread men. Some classes may make their own gingerbread keepsake by combining cinnamon and apple sauce to create dough. This will provide opportunities for your child to smell and feel the unique texture with their hands. They will use rolling pins and a cookie cutter to create their very own gingerbread man that they can take home. That is one of many plans we have in the classroom this month. Whatever you plan to do in December, we hope you enjoy this “sensational” season with your child!

Mary Laura, Jennifer, Becky & Katie

PT Pointers

During the month of December, our classroom theme is “Cookies, Cocoa, and Candy Canes.” One of our favorite books to read is The Gingerbread Man. It is a great motivator to get our children moving in class. You can use The Gingerbread Man at home to encourage your child to “run, run as fast as they can!” If your child isn’t running, you can work on rolling, crawling, walking, or marching. Have wheelbarrow walking races with siblings or friends.  This is a great way to build arm strength. Even if your child is an independent walker, crawling and rolling races continue to help your child improve strength and coordination.

As it turns cold, you may be looking for inside activities. This is a great time to play games on the floor with your child. One of the best motivators can just be you sitting in the floor and allowing your child to climb on you or see you face to face while they are on their tummy.  If large boxes start to pile up at your house over the holidays – hang on to them! Pushing large weighted boxes is a great way for new walkers to practice moving independently. Climbing in and out of boxes allows your child to practice motor planning for more experienced movers. Taking a pretend “sleigh ride” while sitting or lying down in a big box, or on a blanket or bath towel, provides that fun feeling of linear acceleration.

Happy Holidays!

Holley, Mary Beth, and Rachel