As an SLP, I’ve often wanted to hear advice on working with toddlers from another SLP who is both an SLP and a (current) toddler mom. As such, my SLP friend Jill offered to answer some of my questions about the intersection of the two. This is great reading for SLPs or toddler parents who want to hear a unique perspective. If you want to connect more with Jill, her website is here.
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Can you introduce yourself?
Hi! My name is Jill Shook, and I have been an SLP for 8 years. I opened my own part-time private practice in 2015. While I was planning to go full-time in 2016, I unexpectedly got pregnant. Now I stay at home with my toddler and see clients one morning a week and in the evenings after my husband gets home.
How has being a toddler mom impacted how you see speech therapy homework/home practice assignments?
Being a mom has radically changed the way I interact with parents and how I give homework. Before I had Eleanor, I had no concept of the lack of time that most parents struggle with. In addition, I didn’t understand the complexity of adding “just one more thing” to the daily schedule. I would blithely assign homework that they could “just do at the dinner table” or “just do in the car” and leave a few worksheets. This all sounds good in theory but is much more difficult in practice.
Now, I review everything we went over during the session before I leave. Then I send my notes, with homework explained, to the parents after each session. I also make sure to give them book lists that focus on sounds/language concepts and email links to articles and helpful sites, to enrich the experience beyond worksheets that can easily get lost (or thrown away, like my toddler loves to do).
What’s the homework reality? Twenty minutes a day might not work, but 5 minutes might be doable.
Has being a toddler mom influenced the way you do speech therapy?
Being a mom has made me more patient in therapy and changed the way I view development in children. I have a better tolerance for behavior in students now. I now know what’s expected for a young child to be able to handle and I have a lot more empathy for the parents! There’s definitely a difference between the head knowledge of children’s attention levels and the experiential knowledge of how long a child can actually pay attention (hint- it’s usually a lot shorter than you’d expect!)
What toys does your daughter like to play with? Do you have any recommended toddler toys?
Eleanor loves to dress up, so we have a lot of dress up clothes for both her and her dolls (fine motor skills for the win!). She also loves her Rody, which is an inflatable bouncing horse- she gets a lot of energy out that way. She also plays with her kitchen set every single day. At first she was just banging the pots and pans around but now she’s matured to making me “meals”. I can see her little kitchen from our kitchen and she often “cooks” whatever I’m cooking.
What kind of books does your daughter enjoy?
I’ve always loved books so I made sure to have a stash for her before she was born, and I’ve read to her every day since then. I bought a lot of touch-and-feel books/”indestructible” books for her to just mouth and explore with her senses, and she has always enjoyed looking at the pictures. I don’t force her to read, and I also make books a reward- she can “earn” books for cleaning up etc. She will get on a kick where she only wants a certain book for weeks on end, so sometimes I have to “disappear” them for a bit for our sanity’s sake. Recently, she has been obsessed with Corduroy by Don Freeman
, old Mickey Mouse books from my childhood (especially Mickey and The Beanstalk
), and Pete the Cat books
What advice would you give other toddler parents?
As far as advice, I would say from experience that you need to have more patience with your toddler than you expect! Remember that everything is so much bigger to them. Feelings like hunger, emotions, schedule disruptions, transitions can have a big impact, so adjust your expectations accordingly. Do as much as you can to warn them about transitions and acknowledge their feelings without letting them dominate you. For example, you can say “I know you’re disappointed that you can’t have all of the toys at the store, but that is not an option right now.” You’re going to mess up- but acknowledging that will do wonders for both of you! To sum it up: be kind to them and to yourself!