The Truth about Flashcards for Toddlers Who Don’t Yet Talk

WC-Words-flashcards-image-580x340

The Truth about Flashcards for Toddlers Who Don’t Yet Talk

I almost titled this post “Why Flashcards Don’t Work to Teach a Nonverbal Toddler to Talk,” but I opted for the one above instead. Many parents and even some therapists default to using flashcards in an effort to teach a child new words.

From a parent’s standpoint, flashcards may be a natural choice. They seem educational and after all, doesn’t everyone remember using flashcards in school to learn new information?

From a therapist’s viewpoint, I can also see why flashcards may be a preferred treatment method. When most of us attended grad school or have treated older children, we were taught to use picture cards during therapy, mostly to increase efficiency. It’s pretty easy to flip through a stack of 25 cards with an 8 or 10 year old, particularly if you’re working on getting the right sounds in the right places (or articulation, if you prefer the technical terminology.)

But here’s what happens when we try to use this same technique with younger and younger kids… it doesn’t work! Or at least not as well as we’d like and here’s why:

Many young children who are pre-verbal aren’t yet symbolic and pictures are symbols.

Flashcards show pictures of objects (and sometimes even written words!), and the child may not realize that the picture represents the real thing. In other words, just because the child sees the picture of the cup, he may not associate the picture of the cup with the one he may even be holding in his hand. Some children may not yet understand the word “cup” even when you say it.

This is important for language development because words are also symbols. If a child hasn’t yet linked the spoken word “cup” with the one he uses every day, he may not be ready to understand the picture is also called cup.

Beyond that, for many, make that for most toddlers, flashcards are just plain B.O.R.I.N.G. What’s the appeal of looking at a picture of a dump truck when you can glance out the window and spot a life-size truck or even better, you can zoom a cool toy version across the floor?

It’s true that some children do like flashcards. These are usually children with visual strengths. Kids like this may also watch movie after movie, spend lots of time exploring picture books, or require that the iPad be pried from their little hands in order to move on to something else. They may be drawn to finding shapes, colors, letters and numbers in all kinds of places. For those children, flashcards may be a natural extension of their individual learning preference. Although I detest flashcards for most of the toddlers I work with during therapy sessions, even I use them with children like this because it’s what they enjoy. Because of that, flashcards do work to teach language for these young learners. However, we must be careful, even when kids do seem to learn words by looking at the cards with you, that their language skills are generalizing to everyday life. It’s problematic when a child can say “banana” when he’s looking at a picture in his favorite book or in an app, but he can’t ask his mom for “banana” when he sees it on the counter top in the kitchen.

So if flashcards are out, what’s a desperate parent or therapist to do when we want to teach a very young child a new word?

It’s easier than you think!

Choose real life!

When language is emerging, or when a child is first beginning to learn what words mean and how to say them, teach new words by using real objects and real events, preferably as you’re going about your day. You don’t need pictures of blocks, a car, a ball, cookies, or milk to teach those kinds of familiar words. Dig through your kid’s toy box or get yourself to the kitchen and find the real one instead!

Be sure to say the word several times as you use the object in the way it’s intended – meaning that you actually play with the toy or eat the food. It will be much more relevant and much more likely to make a lasting impression for your child to help him learn to understand and use the word. Beyond that, the real thing is just plain FUN for your child and for you!

Remember…you can teach words anytime, anywhere.

Laura

WC-Words-flashcards-image-580x340

Laura

4 Comments

  1. funmi on March 29, 2016 at 11:02 am

    wow, good and educating. thanks

  2. Melissa Niemi on April 5, 2016 at 7:41 am

    This is what I have had to explain to several parents in my early intervention career- with varying degrees of success. This link should be VERY helpful for those parents who I’ve not quite convinced, yet. Thanks, Laura!

  3. Belinda on May 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    My son is 27 months old. Can name all the flash cards, numbers, alphabet, shapes and colours but cant ask for a glass of water etc. This article makes so much sense. Thanks.

  4. Yasmeen on October 9, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    What about words that don’t have a real life object, like emotions or activities? I have found putting a picture of a car and a bed helpful for when we’re going for a car ride or when it’s bedtime. Trying to find collections of activities and emotions for my toddler has been difficult but I imagine with time and effort would achieve similar success. Please point me in the right direction.

Leave a Comment





Sign Up for your
Free Book

FREE-EBOOK

Subscribe

Subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes

Browse Products

Featured Product

Recent Posts

Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

Dear Laura,

Thank you for your generosity in sharing so much knowledge in such a clear and enthusiastic way.

As a retired audiologist with a fabulous and language delayed grandson, I used your podcasts and outstanding publication, The Autism Workbook, to inspire and guide me over the past year.

It works!! He went from barely verbal, no gestures, didn't respond to his name etc etc to a verbal, social, curious, ready to imitate anything, fill in the blanks on familiar "set" speech, generate his own totally appropriate and mostly understandable sentences...not just short phrases anymore... full little paragraphs...about imaginary things, what he did during the day, what he wants. True communication!

You make a powerful difference in this world! ❤

With gratitude,
Diane

"Laura Mize, you are a Godsend. I don’t know how one human can have so many helpful things to say in a beautifully organized way, so often. Always amazes me when another super helpful email comes from you, and for free. With free YouTube videos and cheap CEUs. THANK YOU!!!"

Sheila, Canada

"I purchased the book on autism and have watched the #400s series podcasts. Laura Mize has been more effective in teaching autistic tendencies, than many professors, shadowing professions, and the 100s of books, articles and classes or videos, or live workshop speakers, have been at teaching effective practices for a child with ASD. Some of the many lessons she has taught, which I will now use, to be a more effective Interventionist, include but are not limited to: red flags, typical behaviors, self-stimulating behaviors, not taking away toys, rather showing child to play with toy appropriately. She gives examples of child's actions, "inappropriate," explains the reason for: why the child is engaging in these behaviors and how they can be replaced with more appropriate, effective fuctional and age-appropriate skills."

"I’m sure Laura gets these messages all the time, but I thought I’d share. I stumbled across Laura‘s "Autism or Speech Delay?" YouTube video when I really needed it. This video finally listed and explained some of the red flags my son was showing for autism. I share the link anytime a parent is questioning in my FB autism group. This mother I don’t even know said Laura's video changed her life. I know exactly how she feels because It changed families too. Thank you to everyone at Teach Me To Talk."

LINDSAY

"Good Morning Laura,
I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"

FRANCINE IN MICHIGAN

"Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, experience, and guidance.
I’m a parent who bought the autism workbook and it’s the only clear resource I found to make a change in my son. I’m really thankful to Ms. Laura for helping out people like us all over the world."

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"

 

"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!"  It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me!  Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.

Thank you so much, endlessly."

KATIE

"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"

SS

"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."

REBECCA

"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."

BRITNEY

"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."

HANNAH

"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"

ALLISON

"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"

ANDREA

"I just really appreciate your courses! I have two new clinicians that I’m working with and have recommended these courses to both of them. I’ve watched quite a few and have learned so much about serving this population. To be honest, before I started implementing your strategies I was a little frustrated with the lack of progress. My skills with engaging these little ones have improved so much! Thank you so much for making these CEUs so valuable!" C, SLP