Screen Time and Toddlers

The Average Australian Toddler spends 2-3 hours engaging in screen time each day

Did anyone see this rather startling headline in last week’s news bulletins?

At the outset it certainly makes you sit up and take notice.

The results of a long term, large scale study of Australian toddlers linked screen time to toddlers being exposed to 194 fewer conversations or missing out on hearing more than 1000 words spoken by adults each day.

The study then went on to say that, for every extra minute of screen time, our 3 year olds were hearing 7 fewer words and speaking 5 fewer words.

Yes, this finding needs to be acknowledged and, most definitely, addressed if we are to provide our children with the best start in life but let’s not use this as evidence to prove ‘all screen time is damaging’ or to make carers and parents feel guilty for allowing or even encouraging their young children to engage with screens.

Let’s use this information in the following ways:

Create Language Rich Environments for our Children

We know that being exposed to a language rich environment is critical in supporting the development of language in the early years.  Early language development predicts outcomes for children in later life including academic, social and emotional outcomes.

Screens are here to stay so, instead of demonising them, let’s accept that fact and really make efforts to engage our children in language opportunities that boost vocabulary development, engagement in back and forth interactions and play.  We can do this at times where screens are out of sight and out of mind.

The simple act of adults also putting away their screens (phones, laptops and televisions) and consciously following the lead of their child’s interests, getting down to their child’s level and playing will also work wonders in setting children on a path of language development.

Make conversation, story time and play with your child a daily habit and think about how you model the use of screens in your own life! Language rich environments and screens can live harmoniously side by side but we need to make a concerted effort for that to happen.

Remember that no programme, App or youtube channel has as much value when it comes to language development as YOU!

Children rely on the adults in their lives to provide opportunities for back and forth interactions, communication of new words and thoughts that match a child’s interests and children look to use for cues about what new words might mean.

There is no digital programme out there that can tune into your child’s interests as well as you nor is there an App that can provide true interactive experiences with another human in that way that you can!

Our young children are sponges!

Children don’t have ‘off’ waking hours when it comes to their potential to learn.  They are constantly absorbing new words and meanings as long as they are awake. Engage your child in conversation to stimulate this learning during your everyday routines, play and during car trips.  This […]


My child speaks in ‘gobbledygoop’!

Does your young child ‘sound’ as though he or she is telling you a long story and yet you can’t understand a word of it?

Perhaps your child uses amazing facial expressions and gestures to help communicate his or her message but you can only make out a word here or there.

This can be a pretty frustrating situations for parents, early childhood educators and children who have lots to say but insufficient vocabulary, speech sounds and motor skills to do so.

“Where do I start?” is a common question we are asked by parents and educators alike when I child is experiencing this type of communication difficulty.

Start by Acknowledging the Child’s Communication

This can be as simple as saying ‘yeah?’ ‘that’s right’ ‘uh huh’ and then repeating back what the child has said…even if that means that you also repeat the gobbledygoop.

Where possible, listen out carefully for any parts of the jargon that might sound like a single word.  Often these are louder or clearer than the rest of the message. This can sometimes give you a clue about what the child is trying to communicate.

Be a detective.  What has your child been watching or doing?  Context and shared experience can often give us clues about what a child might be telling us.

Listen closely for clues in the child’s use of intonation.

How is the child using gestures and facial expressions.  Do these give you any clues regarding the message that he or she is trying to relay?

Why do some children use gobbledygoop instead of words to communicate?

Some children just go through this stage on their way to developing intelligible strings of words.

Others are trying to communicate more than their ‘young’ motor systems can cope with in terms of motor coordination for the articulators.

Some children are what we refer to as Gestalt Language Learners.  They tend to learn larger chunks of language, tunes and repetitive sayings quicker than they do single words.

Other children are late talkers.  By the age of 2 years, they are yet to start combining words into clear, telegrammatic phrases.

Help your child by acknowledging their attempts to communicate and then modelling simple, repetitive ‘scripts’ that they can eventually learn to use on their own.  Keep your language simple, ‘tuneful’ and repetitive.  Don’t insist upon your child imitating you.  Simply use these scripts as conversational commentary as you interact with your child.  For example, your child rushes up to you and provides a string of gobbledygoop.  Using your detective work, you make a smart guess that this is in some way related to what just happened to the tower of blocks your child was building.  You can say “Look over there!  Oh no….Blocks fall down….Oh no….Build it up…Mummy help?”

By tuning into your child and first connecting by acknowledging any attempt to communicate, you will set the foundations for your child to absorb what you say next.

More information about the Gestalt Language Learning which is common in many of the children we work with at Learn2Communicate, read […]


Kicking Goals in Early Childhood Communication

So now you have profiled a child’s communicative strengths and challenges

and have some ideas brewing for where you would like to start.

Things can get pretty overwhelming at this stage so here a few helpful suggestions for communication goals that can be targeted in early childhood settings during natural routines and play:

“What will make the most difference to this child’s life?”

When looking at your profile of communication strengths and challenges, this is a vital question to ask as you sit back and reflect upon where to start.

SPEECH:  What speech sound difficulties are those that are most impacting intelligibility and clarity for this child?  These might be good sounds to start working on if developmentally appropriate.

RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE:  At what times of the day does the child’s difficulties with understanding language most impact his or her capacity to engage with activities, routines and play?  Perhaps it is when needing to follow instructions during transition times.  Maybe it is when required to listen and respond during story time on the mat or when responding to questions for early morning circle time.

EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE:  Are there situations where communication breaks down because a child is unable to effectively convey his or her ideas using words or short sentences?  Does this ever result in frustration for you or for the child?

SOCIAL COMMUNICATION:  Have you noticed particular patterns of challenge related to the child’s difficulties in understanding and using the many unwritten rules of social interaction and play.  Perhaps the child is struggling to understand the concept of turns or does not seem to comprehend when his or her actions have upset a playmate.  Maybe the child’s ability to play has stalled and the child is yet to play with a variety of items in a reciprocal and imaginative manner.  This may be restricting their ability to positive engage with peers.

Take Small Steps to Achieve Communication Goals

As I have often said…my advice is that less is more.  Choose no more than 3 small things to start working towards the child achieving in your early childhood setting.  Choose goals that are important, that have meaning to the child, are developmentally appropriate and that will make a significant difference for your child.

Keep goals small, really specific and achievable to target in natural early childhood routines.

Achieving these small goals helps the child to inch towards achieving those big, longer term goals whilst being motivated by small wins and success along the way.

Some examples might include:

XX will understand and follow 2 step instructions during lunch time e.g. “Get you lunch box…..and get your hat”.

Remember to also note the supports that you are going to infuse into these goals to set the child up for success.  In the above example it might be that you will call the child’s name first, get down to their level, place yourself face to face with the child when giving the instruction and slow your speech down.  You might also include gestures such as pointing and pictures of the items that the […]


My Child is Difficult to Understand

There can be many reasons why your child’s speech may be difficult to understand.

Your child’s age and stage of speech and language development are one of the first things we will consider.

Children gradually become easier to understand.  By school age, we expect that your child’s speech will be easily understood by all conversational partners.  There may still be a few tricky sounds and longer words may still be unclear at times but, as a general rule of thumb, by the time a child starts school we can understand most of what he or she says.

There is quite a wide amount of variety around when children acquire speech and language milestones.  If you have any concerns it is best to seek the advice of your child’s educator as a first port of call.  Educators have the benefit of working with a large group of children a similar age to yours.  If your child is more difficult to understand than other children his or her age, then it may be worthwhile to seek a Speech Pathology opinion.

When do Speech Sounds develop?

Different sounds develop at different stages.  We often refer to the early, middle and late sounds when working with young children.

Most consonant sounds are acquired by the age of 5;0 years (years;months).  The consonants /b, n, m, p, h, w, d / are usually acquired between the age of 2 and 3 years followed by /g, k, f, t, ng, y/ which are heard in child speech by the age of 3;11.  By the age of 5 years, children are using /v, j, s, ch, l , sh and z/ accurately.  The ‘r’ sound is usually used with accuracy by 6 years of age and the ‘th’ sound by 7 years of age.

My child is speaking in ‘gobbeltygoop’!

Some children need assistance to learn how to use words in simple sentences.  When using spoken language is difficult or lagging in development, they may substitute what sounds like ‘gobbeltygoop’ for words at times.  Speech Pathologists may refer to this as ‘jargon’ and it simply means that your child is likely to be using combinations of sounds and syllables to communicate instead of words.  Often children will do so using correct intonation and facial expressions to help the listener understand what is being communicated.  These children often respond well to a focus upon building up their vocabulary and sentences first before focusing upon specific speech sounds.  Our popular ’10 Tips for Talking’ may be an appropriate place for you to start if this sounds like your child.

Tune in and Listen

Are there any particular sounds that your child has difficulty in using accurately?  Perhaps start a little list, noting words that are misarticulated.  You might start to see a pattern.

Do I need to be concerned?

Check out our developmental checklists and further information in our guide available for free download  or contact us  The earlier your child receives assistance; the better […]


Do Ear Infections affect Speech Development?

“Has your child had a history of ear infections?”

“Has your child had a hearing test recently?”

These are two questions we frequently ask Educators and Parents when they call us to enquire about Speech Pathology services for a child.

Middle Ear Infections are very common in children, especially between the ages of 0-3 years.  Most ear infections improve quickly without treatment and are not overly serious.  These infections of the middle ear are called Otitis Media.

We all have Eustachian Tubes that connect our middle ear to our throats.  Young children have very small, narrow tubes which are not yet tilted as in adults.  When children are unwell with a common cold, germs from the throat can travel to the ear and cause infection.  Repeated infections can result in fluid sitting behind the ear drum for weeks and even months in some cases.  Children who have persistent fluid in their middle ear have Glue Ear.  The fluid become thick and glue like.  This can make hearing difficult as the ear drum is unable to effectively vibrate when there is thick, viscous fluid sitting behind it.  For a child trying to hear, it is a little like trying to listen when you are under water.  Compromised hearing over time can impact how well a child acquires speech sounds and language skills as so much development takes place between 0-3 years. Some children also have difficulties with attention and behaviour as a result of ongoing complications with ear infections and fluid drainage from the middle ear.

Children may complain of ear pain, develop a temperature or present as irritable when they have an ear infection.  Children with chronic glue ear may experience no pain and have very little symptoms so it is really important to be vigilant in checking for any signs that your child may be experiencing an ear infection or difficulties with hearing.

If you have any concerns at all about your child’s hearing, it is best to discuss this with your GP/Doctor who may decide to monitor the situation, refer your child for a hearing test or recommend an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist to investigate the possibility of minor surgery for children who have recurrent and persistent difficulties with their ear health and hearing.


Late Talkers

My Toddler is Not Talking Yet.

Should I be concerned?  What can I do to help?

These are comments and questions that we hear quite frequently when concerned parents contact us at Learn2Communicate.  So many parents have, what they describe as, a niggling doubt about their child’s speech and language development.  At first, they may rely upon the well-meaning advice of loved ones.  Being told ‘Don’t worry.  He will grow out of it’ or  ‘Your father didn’t speak until he was 4’ can temporarily put those worries aside but, unless that little toddler starts to talk soon after, such comments rarely help to allay a parent’s worry.  Before long someone will surely say something  along the lines of ‘I think he should be talking by now’ or ‘Your child should have 50 words by this age’.  Although such comments often tip a parent into action; these types of comments can also fuel a parent’s concern and do little by way of assisting the parent in knowing what to do next and when to do it.

For those of you reading this post and think ‘Ahhh…I do have concerns about my child’s language development’, then please read on as we have some simple tips to get you started and to help you feel  empowered with the knowledge, skills and capacity to nurture your child’s communication development.  There is much that you can do to help young children learn how to communicate. All children can become effective communicators…even those who have a significant degree of disability and other co-morbid conditions.  Okay, read on for some great tips to get started!

The ‘WHY’ of Communication

Sit back and observe your child for a few days.  Take note of the reasons WHY your child communicates.  Take your focus off which speech sounds your child can or cannot say for now.  Just ask yourself WHY does my child communicate / for what communicative purposes?

Some reasons why you child might communicate include to express:

  • Greetings / Farewells
  • Request for items, food, drink and actions e.g. to be lifted out of the highchair, to go outside
  • Comments about what he or she is interested in or is noticing
  • Responses to your simple questions and to your requests to follow simple directions
  • Enjoyment, excitement, frustration, protest and rejection

The HOW of Communication

Some of the many ways in which your child might communicate these intents might include:

  • Facial expressions
  • Tone of voice
  • Gestures including pointing
  • Speech ‘jargon’ that is unintelligible but that has the intonation of language
  • Single words
  • Short phrases

Identify any gaps in the WHYs of communication

Communication is a complex dance between people that goes back and forth in a reciprocal relationship.  Communication involves far more than identifying body parts or imitating words after an adult requests a child to ‘say…’.  Look for the gaps in your child’s communicative intent.

Perhaps your child can wave hello and bye bye but may not yet be communicating for the purpose […]


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