March 2022 Student Spotlight – Kierst Doolittle

Initially, I went to school for communications.  After a couple of internships, I realized that while I enjoyed the field, I wanted to try something else.  A relative thought I would be a great teacher so I gave it a shot.  After a few months, I was sure that I wanted to stick with teaching.  My co-teacher was a fabulous mentor and encouraged me to try ChildCare Education Institute so I completed CCEI’s Early Childhood Credential.

I think that the children themselves as well as my education motivates me to work with children.  I love gaining knowledge from my classes and seeing it first hand in being applied the classroom.  I think that my personal strengths are well suited for teaching and being able to be hands on, creative, and problem solve on behalf of children who are struggling.  Helping children make leaps in their development is very rewarding.  I am fortunate because I get to work in a toddler class, young three-year-old class, and the mixed age after school program.  Getting to watch the children grow and to continue to have a connection throughout their entire preschool experience is special.  I am motivated to make sure they are ready for their next class and see them have the competencies to be fully engaged in the pre-K classes.

One of my favorite things about working with young children is watching them meet new milestones.  It is so exciting to see a child come in and begin to master a new competency that they didn’t have the week before.  I also love their enthusiasm and hearing what they have to say.  Hearing life from their perspective is so fascinating.  It is neat to see what concepts they are able to grasp and how their understanding changes throughout the year.

My favorite time of the day to spend with the children is after school at “Stay and Play.”  “Stay and Play” is the after school program for children 2.9 years-old and up.  This is a less formal time of the day.  We eat lunch and the children often help decide as a group what they are interested in doing that day.  It is a smaller, mixed age group.  I love the chance to get to know children who aren’t in my class and get to have more one-on-one collaboration with all the children.  Sometimes we build campsites or workshops outside, work on projects such as painting and decorating a playground for monkeys, or making boats out of found materials and making adjustments with trial and error.

The children’s favorite time of day is outdoor free play.  Because of the pandemic, we have been spending a lot of time outside and have created classroom centers on each playground.  At the end of the day, we go back outdoors for free play and the children love being able to run, jump, climb, use the outdoor mud kitchen, mixing tables, outdoor reading center, imaginative play areas, and coloring.  Right now their favorite activities include building with the large blocks in the sandbox to build homes for animals, creating obstacle courses, and mixing up pies in the kitchen area.  The children have hugely benefited from the increased outdoors time.

I currently live in Boston, MA and work at a small play based nursery school in Weston.  In the winter I love to ski.  I also enjoy cooking and going for runs in the city.  I am currently at Northeastern studying  psychology with an early education minor.  I am focused on my classes at Northeastern; however, I intend to take more classes at CCEI.   While I love being in the classroom at the moment, someday I would like to be the director of a school.

CCEI was recommended to me by one of my co-teachers and the director of the school.  We all had a positive experience with CCEI!  My education coach was very helpful, responsive, and encouraging.  I would not hesitate to recommend CCEI to anyone in the ECE field!

March 2022 Newsletter – Speech and Language Development: Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools

Sometimes, children with speech and language delays use tools to help them communicate.  These tools are typically introduced by speech and language therapists or other early intervention professionals.  They are trained in the best practices for using these tools in the home and classroom environments. If a child in your care uses a communication device, be sure to speak with the child’s family or therapist to ensure you are using the tool appropriately.  Request training or ask for a demonstration of the tool so that you are confident in how to support the child who is using the tool.

Some forms of alternative communication include gesturing, pointing, and indicating needs through eye-gaze. There are many technology-based tools, as well as no- or low-tech options available to support children’s communication. Common tools include:

  • Picture cards and cues – Some children use picture cards or cues to communicate a need or preference. Sometimes, the picture cues are arranged onto a page or board using Velcro. This allows the communication board to be set up for a variety of scenarios. For example, the card can be set up to allow a child to choose a learning center or a snack option, depending on the cards offered.  Teachers can also create cards that depict parts of the daily routine and other common prompts.  When working with the child, the teacher can flip to the appropriate picture card to provide a visual prompt to the child.
  • Switches and buttons – Switches and buttons can also be used to support communication. When activated, these tools help a child gain the attention of others and communicate needs and preferences. These tools can be pre-programmed with messages that play when the buttons are pushed.
  • Communication Boards and Tablets – These electronic devices allow children to create longer sentences in the moment. They follow the same principle as the picture cards, but these devices generate audio messages that can be created spontaneously. In addition to electronic communication boards, there are also applications that can be downloaded onto a tablet that assist with communication in a similar manner.

There is a wide variety of tools with different levels of communication support.  Again, be sure to work closely with the child’s family and therapist to be sure you are using the tool appropriately and in a way that aligns with the child’s developmental goals.  Click here to learn more.

For the main article Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Elements of Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Speech and Language Development Milestones, CLICK HERE

For the article Promoting Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

March 2022 Newsletter -Speech and Language Development: Promoting Speech and Language Development

Promoting Speech and Language Development

From the earliest age, the best way to promote speech and language development is to model skills by simply talking with children.  When others speak, infants are exposed to the sounds of speech as well as the patterns of grammar and sentence structure.

Early learning environments, including infant and toddler rooms, should be filled with light-hearted and joyful conversations. Conversations can be initiated by paying close attention to what the children are doing or showing interest in.  For example, a teacher can describe what they notice children doing or strike up a conversation about something that had grabbed a child’s attention.  Take a moment to reflect on the amount of time spent engaged in meaningful conversations with children versus the amount of directive or corrective language that you are using in the classroom.  If you feel like most of your interactions are focused on giving directions or addressing issues, make an effort to infuse more casual conversations into your day.

Playing turn-taking talking games with children, even when they are only babbling, models the natural flow of back-and-forth conversations. As children age, the language games can change to include riddles and rhyming games. Songs and fingerplays are also great ways to build speech and language skills.

Reading to children is another vital opportunity to introduce new vocabulary words and create strong bonds with children. Introduce a variety of literature to children including poetry, fables, and works of nonfiction. Doing so will help ensure that children are exposed to a wide variety of vocabulary words and styles of language.

Ask lots of questions. At first, children may point to objects in the environment if you ask them where something is located.  They will soon develop the ability to use short phrases to respond to your questions.  As they age, children will develop the thinking and language skills to answer more complex “How?” and “Why?” questions.

When children mispronounce words, it is sufficient to simply repeat the word or phrase back to them using the correct pronunciation. For example, if a child tells you, “I had take for my burtday” you can say “Oh, you got to eat cake on your birthday? Cake is my favorite treat!” This example illustrated how adults can model the appropriate pronunciation (which children likely know, but their oral motor muscles are not yet able to produce) and expand upon what children say. Another example of expanding on children’s language would be to say “Yes, that is a big red fire truck” when a child points to a firetruck and says “tuck.

Model non-verbal communication skills in addition to verbal parts of speech. Show children they have your attention by putting down your pen, turning your face toward them and making eye contact.  Nod as the child speaks and use appropriate facial expressions in response to what children say.  It is important to not force children to engage in these non-verbal cues, just act as a model and have fun!

For the main article Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Elements of Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Speech and Language Development Milestones, CLICK HERE

For the article Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools, CLICK HERE

March 2022 Newsletter – Speech and Language Development: Speech and Language Milestones

Speech and Language Milestones

We see indicators of communication as soon as infants are born.  They cry, a lot! This earliest form of communication lets others know that attention is required. As children age, there are certain milestones that they are expected to reach, such as cooing, babbling, and saying their first word.

Did you know that young children typically understand more words (receptive language) than they can use to communicate (expressive language)? These two areas of development do not develop at the same time or pace, even though they are closely related.  Here is a resource that compares receptive and expressive speech development.

You have probably noticed that different speech sounds emerge at different times. Children who are 5-7 years old may still be working on correctly producing sounds such as the R and TH sounds. Did you know that some children may be able to correctly pronounce speech sounds at the beginning of words, but not at the end of words?  This article reviews the development of speech sounds and provides guidance on when a referral to early intervention may be necessary.

There are many speech and language milestones that adults should watch for in addition to momentous ones like the infant’s first word. Click this link to discover a set of developmental milestones created by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The resource includes milestone lists you can share with families depending on the age of their child.  It also gives lots of ideas for ways adults can promote children’s development.

Each child will develop at their own pace, but it is important that educators have a clear understanding of the skills children should be working toward.  As with all other areas of development, mastery is achieved through exposure and practice.  In the next section, we will explore ways to promote speech and language development in the learning environment.

For the main article Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Elements of Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Promoting Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools, CLICK HERE

March 2022 Newsletter – Speech and Language Development: Elements of Speech and Language Development

Elements of Speech and Language Development

Communication is a complicated process.  When you think about it, there are a number of spots in the process of communicating an idea where something could go amiss.

The process begins with generating a thought or idea that you want to communicate. You then have to pick the correct words and use them accurately and in an order that another person can understand you. The listener must be able to recognize the word and know its meaning in order to comprehend your request or idea.

Let’s dig into this a bit more.  There are three elements of speech and language development:

  • Speech is the act of producing the sounds that make up the words we use. Speech requires a coordinated effort of muscle movements and airflow through the vocal cords to create the sounds of words.
  • Expressive language refers to the ability to communicate thoughts using words, signs, or gestures. It includes the ability to retrieve the words to convey our message and organize them in a way that is understandable using grammar and sentence structure.
  • Receptive language refers to the ability to comprehend the messages that are communicated to us. It includes the ability to properly receive messages and recall the meaning of words we hear and the gestures we see.

Together, these elements help us to engage with others and make our way through the world.

Children can have delays in one of these skills or multiple areas at the same time. While children develop at their own pace, there may be a time when you have concerns about a child’s speech and language development. In such cases, it is important to reflect on the well-established developmental milestones to be sure your expectations align with child development principles.  For example, not all letter sounds develop at the same time, meaning children may produce some sounds clearly, while other sounds are still developing.

Think “pasgetti” – the oral motor muscles required to make the G and the T sounds develop earlier than the SP sound.

When a delay in development is suspected or documented through developmental screening tools, a referral to early intervention services is warranted. When early intervention strategies are implemented early, more of the window of opportunity is available for children to develop new skills.

For the main article Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Speech and Language Development Milestones, CLICK HERE

For the article Promoting Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools, CLICK HERE

March 2022 Newsletter – Speech and Language Development

Speech and Language Development

The first few years of a child’s life are the optimal time for speech and language skills to develop.  This period is called the window of opportunity for speech and language development. This means that during this time, the brain is primed to absorb language and make essential brain connections related to communication.

There are many windows of opportunity associated with different areas of child development. If skills are not acquired during these windows of opportunity, it does not mean that the skills can’t be learned.  It just means that learning the skills will be more challenging and may take longer to develop.

It is critical that ECE professionals are aware of the speech and language window of opportunity and take action to create environments that promote the development of communication skills. This will be the focus of this edition of our newsletter.

For the article Elements of Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Speech and Language Milestones, CLICK HERE

For the article Promoting Speech and Language Development, CLICK HERE

For the article Augmentative and Alternative Communication Tools, CLICK HERE

Using Sign Language to Promote Communication Skills

We have all heard the phrase – children are hands on learners. This means that they tend to learn through the concrete manipulation of materials with their hands. For example, children learn how to stack blocks, not by being told how to, but by practicing using their arms, hands, and fingers.

What happens when educators incorporate a hands-on approach to language development using sign language? Research has shown that there are multiple benefits to using sign language with young children. It has been shown that sign language “adds a layer to the way their brain will process the information they are learning” according to Samantha Hakim in her paper entitled Utilizing American Sign Language in the Early Childhood Setting.

Introducing sign language to young children provides them with a visual way to take in information and a kinesthetic way to express information.  This gives children access to an alternative communication tool that they can use when they do not yet have the ability to communicate verbally.  This can reduce frustration levels for children and caregivers. Sign language can also be used in conjunction with verbal prompts, which helps children who may have receptive language delays to understand the requests being made of them.

Teachers can begin by introducing signs for common parts of the daily routine (eat, drink, potty, outside, etc.). Children can also learn signs for please, thank you, and you’re welcome. Simple vocabulary words, such as coat, shoes, door, and friend can also be introduced as children become familiar using sign language. When children learn letters and numbers, sign language can be incorporated.  Teachers can then plan to introduce vocabulary words related to books being read or curriculum themes.


If you are interested in learning more, here are a few resources to explore:

ASL Video Dictionary –

ASL Connect from Gallaudet University –

ASL Kids – Sign Language Resources and Applications –

Sign language activity ideas –