The Fine Art of Distraction

My nanny and I were laughing the other day about my 15-month-old being a wiggly bag of worms on the changing table.  I mentioned that I try to distract her when I’m changing a messy diaper, in an effort to curtail her movement and keep her hands north of the mess.  I’ll ask her to point to her body parts: Where’s your nose?  Where’s your mouth?  Where are your…teeth?, and have her name animal sounds: What does a doggy say?  How about a cow?  Can you make a monkey noise?

Needless to say, at her recent pediatrician appointment, besides telling the doctor a resounding “No!” before her shots, my Roly-Poly demonstrated far more than the 3-word minimum.  With her trotting skills and language skills, I guess she is officially becoming “Walkie-Talkie #2″ rather than “Roly-Poly”!

It is amazing to me how distraction can change the direction of a toddler’s behavior meltdown or single-minded insistence that things go exactly. the. way. they. want.  Try these tips at home:

~When putting on your child’s shoes, rather than pinning their wiggly body down with one arm, start asking them questions about where you are going.

~Make up a song about anything, add the tune of a basic “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, and serenade them through the store (Yes, I have done this…  As quietly as possible.  But it’s a lot better than a tantrum!)  I have made up a song about “I wonder what we should have for dinner… oh my, that’s too expensive… just one more can of this…” with a little drum action on the cart from my daughter.

~Use a toy or book to draw their attention to something else when you get the sense that they are about to head down the meltdown road.

~Keep your child well-fed and restedbut remind yourself that bad behavior is often your child just trying to understand limits and their place in the world.  Getting down on their level, making eye contact, and slowing the frantic pace of life can help them feel heard and secure in the uncertainty that surrounds their little world. 

~Keep a bottle of wine or some favorite tea bags handy for when they are sleeping like a little angel.


How do you positively redirect your child?  What tips could you add to this list?

Speech Sounds – When to get help…

It’s often difficult to know when your child’s speech sound errors are typical or a cause for concern. For guidance, it’s often helpful to determine how intelligible your child is overall to an unfamiliar listener. Moms, dads, grandmas and babysitters often become awfully good at interpreting a child’s speech. But another adult, like a new teacher or parent of a playmate, may be able to help you determine if your child can be understood by others.
By age 2, we would like a child to be 50% intelligible to someone who doesn’t know them well.
By age 3, your child should be 75% intelligible to an unfamiliar listener.
And by age 4, your child should be 100% intelligible to someone who doesn’t know them well.
That’s not to say they won’t have a few speech sounds in error. And their intelligibility diminishes when tired and frustrated, upset, or very excited.

If your child is not meeting the marks listed above, I would be concerned that their inability to be understood by others may result in frustration, a withdrawal from communicative interactions, and may signal a larger problem with articulation or motor development. (And remember, a two-year-old should be combining words, and a three- or four-year-old should be speaking in phrases and sentences.)

In general, most of your child’s speech sounds should be in place by age 4. There are a few more difficult sounds, such as “s” and “r” which can give your child problems for a couple more years, and are considered “developmentally appropriate” errors in their speech. However, in my experience, a child around age 4 becomes focused enough for some direct instruction in how to make their speech sounds correctly, so if you are concerned, I recommend consulting with a speech-language pathologist.

Speech and Language Milestones

I wanted to repost the speech and language milestones list from earlier in the year. Since school is in full-swing, you might have questions or concerns about how your child is speaking or using language compared to other children. It’s always a good idea to cross-reference what is typical for a certain age versus what is atypical and warrants more concern on your part.

As always, if you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, make sure to talk to your pediatrician. They can help make a referral to a speech-language pathologist in your area. Parents know their child best, so if you have questions, schedule a follow-up with a professional.

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