Sensory Social Routines

Action songs and social games play an important role in language development.  For late talkers, they help develop imitation skills and first words.  For children with ASD, they are an integral part of therapy.

Here are some ideas for action songs (nursery rhymes or finger songs) and first social games.  For a list of ideas, you can also go to our Pinterest page.  You can also download our EBook – Before First Words.

Action Songs

Baby Karaoke – this App has lots of nursery rhymes with the words/actions to remind you!

– Row Row Row your Boat

– Grand old Duke of York

–  Open Shut them

– Wind the Bobbin Up

– Humpty Dumpty

– Round & Round the Garden

– This Little Piggy

Social Games

  • Pat a Cake – have a look at this Youtube clip.

  • Peekaboo


We’re going on a smooth road

Stay tuned for more ideas!

Toy Box Essentials

Pretend play and language development require some good quality toys and some homemade ones.  Here are some ideas for your toy box at home.

Pack away all those battery operated toys with flashing lights and booming noises.  Let’s get all the low-cost, recyclable materials and the durable quality toys ready for your child to get out and play with.  We often kit up toys into a theme.  For instance a box full of baby things (bottle, brush, nappy, blanket, toothbrush and teddy) that can be used as the basis for an imaginative play scene.

Here are 10 Must-Haves that you need in your toy cupboard ready for playtime!

  1. Blankets, cushions or pop-up Ikea tent for a Cubby House.
  2. A teddy (or favourite soft toy) and some play food for picnics and tea parties.
  3. A farm set with plastic animals and fencing.
  4. Playdoh and cutters.
  5. Dress Ups Box with old hats, fairy wand, cloak, funny shoes.
  6. Cardboard boxes for making cubbies, cars/taxis, letter boxes, pet cages.
  7. Stickers, paper, glue, glitter, junk mail.
  8. Cash register, money and items to buy. (cereal boxes etc)
  9. Trucks, little people and roads to build.
  10. Musical instruments (either homemade or commercial)

5 Action Songs for Language Development

Why teach nursery rhymes?

  • Nursery rhymes provide a foundation for literacy.
  • Children who know their nursery rhymes tend to have strong language skills.
  • Nursery rhymes help babies to develop listening skills and tune into rhyme and voice inflections.
  • They help babies to imitate hand gestures and sounds.

Nursery rhymes are best learnt when they are practiced frequently and made fun. As your baby gets used to the song, try to do LESS so that your baby can do MORE. This shows your baby is learning and is laying all the basics for language development and literacy.

Forgotten the words to any of these rhymes?  Check out a nursery rhyme book.  RIF also has video clips of someone doing the actions and the words.


1.  This Little Piggy

A great rhyme to do from the start with a newborn.  You can do it on the hands or feet.  Your baby will begin to anticipate the final tickle and this shows Learning!  As your baby gets older, she will like to do this action rhyme on other children (or dolls) and again this is more Learning!!  We also use a great puppet mitt in the clinic which is great fun.

2.  Twinkle Little Star

This old favourite is an early one to teach babies.  There are really only 3 actions to learn!

1.  Start with just hands in front of your face and wiggle the fingers.  This is a good way to get baby looking at you.  Help baby to do this action and move his arms if needed.

2.  Lift babies hands above head for ‘Up above the world so high’.

3.  Accept any ‘diamond’ shape your baby makes!!

3.  Row Your Boat

horseyride1-264x300Sit down opposite toddler and hold hands.  Move back and forth pulling the child’s arms as you go.

1.  Stop every now and again to encourage your toddler to wiggle/hop to show you to keep going!  If your child can, try a word here too, like ‘more’ or ‘row row’.

2.  Pause at the end and then throw your hands up and scream (if you see a crocodile………don;t forget to……….ah!)  See if your child learns to do an ‘ah!’ before you do!


4.  Grand Old Duke

Another one with lots of movement.  Seat your toddler on your lap facing you and bump along to the song.

1.  Stop at the ‘when they were……… up’ and see if your baby goes up or says ‘up’

2.  Same with ‘when they were……..down’!

5.  Head Shoulders Knees & Toes

head shouldersThis is a great one to do with a few kids.  Everyone can copy each other!

You can help your child by lifting hands onto each body part when it’s time.  As your child gets used to it, give less help.

Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes play an important role in learning to talk and in learning to read.  Do some favourite ones every day with your baby or toddler and you will be giving her the best start!

Forgotten the words or actions to some nursery rhymes?

(1)  Try this link, for videos of action rhymes. (You will need Adobe Flash Player)

(2)  You can also download the app Baby Karaoke from the App Store for free.

(3) Or you can order one of our favourite illustrated nursery rhyme books.

 my first nursery rhymeslift the flap nursery book
ladybird my first nursery rhymes

Can Babies really learn to read?

baby book

reading programs for babies

There are lots of reading programs on the market aimed at teaching babies and toddlers.  Is it really possible to teach a baby to read and should you do it?  Here is our roundup of the current research on reading in infancy!

1.  Reading is not the same as memorising.  We all know young children who can ‘read’ a stop sign or the logo of McDonalds.  But does this mean that they can also read ‘stop’ on a printed page when it is not on a red hexagonal background?  This article explains how babies can memorize but this is not ‘reading’ per se.

2. What about flashcards or DVDs with words?  There are plenty of cute DVDs with music and printed words on the screen.  Is this any harm if my baby loves them?  What about flashcards with the name written on them – is it ok to drill these every day with my baby?  Read this randomised controlled trial of a DVD experiment with babies.  This second article also talks about DVDs and screen time which have shown no benefits in reading knowledge, despite their popularity.

3.  Are marketers of these reading programs relying on ‘parent guilt’.  Read more here about trying to keep up in today’s competitive world. 

4. There is a lot for babies to learn about before reading too!  Reading is built on top of oral language not before it.  So if a baby is not learning words verbally then there is nowhere for the reading to hinge on to.  What do babies need to learn first?   Babies need to learn what words mean, they need to read people’s faces and learn how to interact.  Read here for more on learning how to communicate and interact.

5. Other researchers are also worried about how early we are introducing young children to school type learning.  Toddlers and preschoolers learn through touching things, playing outdoors, taking turns in games and generally learning about their environment.  Read here for more on ‘schoolification‘.

so what should we do with babies and toddlers?

1.  Have the right materials and playthings at home for learning.  Check out this must-have list for your toybox.

2.  Set aside time to play with your child, on the floor, and with things he likes to play with.

3.  Read lots of books with your child, but you don’t need to focus on the ABCs just yet.  Lots of pictures and flaps and other things to make it interesting are important, as are the way you read with your child.  Mem Fox has some good pointers here.

4.  Remember the good foundations that you are building with your baby will stand him in good stead for learning to read later on!