Refugee Crisis – Children are Children

Does your heart not break when you see these children? They are innocents being dragged along on this race ride! How can we ease their suffering and help them to continue to just be children who need everything children need – love, warmth, food, play, education?


Baby-Talk, Babble and Baby Books


Have you ever noticed how babies and toddlers seem to love books but when you try to read to them they have such a short attention span that you can never finish even the shortest of stories?  They seem to love the bright, colourful pictures and the sound of your voice (and their own), especially when you are reading in rhyme, but they don’t seem to be very interested in the story.  They soon decide to either eat the book or wriggle off your lap to explore something else in their immediate vicinity. So is children’s literature relevant for babies and can they actually learn anything useful during story-time?

Firstly, what is baby-talk?  Baby-talk is sometimes referred to as motherese (a term coined by Elissa Newport in her studies in the 1970s), which so as not to exclude fathers began to be referred to as fatherese, parentese or caregiver language.  However it is generally known by child development experts and linguists as child-directed speech or CDS (as opposed to standard adult-directed speech).  It is a very informal speech register that adults use specifically with very young children and has many distinguishing features; It consists of a mixture of meaningless sounds like “goo-goo, ga-ga”, family specific words like “num-num” or “ba-ba” (and variations of) for things like the baby’s dummy or bottle and some words that can be traditionally recognized such as “beddy-bye” for bed-time or other familiar parts of a baby’s routine.  It also consists of diminutive forms such as “doggy, horsy, ducky” etc.  Many of the words used in baby talk have onomatopoeic properties as well as alliteration and other repetitive patterns of sound like “wee-wee, dum-dum or teeny-weeny.”  David Crystal calls these types of words in children’s literature “sound symbolic words” and Elinor Payne et al. also looked at the “Rhythmic modification in child directed speech” how rhythmic properties of adult speech varies when addressing children rather than adults.

Linguists recognize that the phonology of CDS demonstrates a slower rate of speech, with clearer pronunciation, higher pitch, longer and more pauses between phrases and sentences and exaggerated intonation and stress.  Lexis shows a simpler vocabulary with a much more restricted or limited range of words, usually nouns, objects within the child’s own environment, such as the examples given above: doggy, num-num etc.  David Crystal calls the stage where children start to repeat these words as the ‘holophrastic stage.’ CDS has a form of grammar that uses much simpler constructions, shorter and less complex utterances, frequent use of imperatives, repetition, questions and the use of personal names rather than pronouns, for example “Mummy” not “I” or “Daddy” or “Doggy” instead of “him/he” etc.

Take a look at this rather cute video of a mother using child directed speech with her twin baby boys.  You can see how often she asks questions and uses imperatives (especially when one of the boys keeps smacking his brother!)  She uses lots of repetition and higher pitch, pauses, exaggerated intonation and stress etc.  And look how well the boys are responding using a clear turn-taking style of conversation with their mummy, which is another very important skill in any language.

As you can see from this ages and stages guide:

babies’ speech and language development is so important and from birth babies are listening, responding to and learning from adults all the time.  And they learn at a phenomenal rate.  Reading with babies is another way to really stimulate babies’ speech and language development using child-directed speech.  Here is another very cute example:

The video shows how keeping the baby’s attention during story time is more about how you speak to him than the story itself.  His mother uses lots of questions to ask him about what is going on in the pictures and the book has flaps and surprises so that those questions can be explored together, leading to more things to talk about.  It is the interaction between mother and baby that is important.  She uses lots of exaggerated facial expressions as well as intonation and stress to really highlight the language she wants him to pay attention to.  And he obviously loves it.  Well who doesn’t love Spot?

So you can see that baby-talk or child-directed speech isn’t just a silly way to talk to babies.  It provides a good base for language acquisition; word recall through repetition helps babies to form mental representations and leads to similar patterns in babbling.  It gives positive attention which helps babies bond with adults, helping them feel secure and aiding emotional development.  It provides the beginnings of turn taking, an important conversation skill, which along with smiling and other facial expressions is good for face recognition and social development too and when used during story time makes a fun introduction to early literacy.


“Baby-talk” Wikipedia –

“Motherese” Glottopedia –

Alan Gardiner – English Language As and A2 Revision Express, 2008 – pg 140-141 “How Adults Speak to Children”

David Crystal –

David Crystal’s Theory on Child Language Acquisition –

David Crystal Pg253 The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language – second edition

Elinor Payne et al. –

Catching Up


Hello everyone.  I know I haven’t posted on here for a while and it has all gone a bit quiet.  The Workshops are on hold and I am studying; trying to improve my English Language skills so that I can be a better writer.  Hopefully I will be able to put my new skills to good use soon.

I am very excited to say that I have written a new 1 Little Dragon book and planned another – “1 Little Dragon goes to Church” and “1 Little Dragon gets his wings”.  I am really looking forward to illustrating them as they are very colourful, happy stories about making new friends and how Grifin learns to be a good friend.  I will keep you updated on the progress of these 2 new and colourful 1 Little Dragon stories.  In the meantime don’t forget you can still buy “1 Little Dragon”, “i Little Dragon’s Alphabet Adventure” and “1 Little Dragon’s Shape Challenge” for your little ones to get acquainted with Grifin, my lovely little green dragon.





I can’t wait to hold the next one in my hands!

DAY FOUR (National Poetry Writing Month) – The Bunny Hop

images (7)
This one’s for my little girl – she’s 10.

Children laughing in the garden
Baskets swinging in their hands
Bonnets filled with frills and flowers
Picnics, dancing, games and bands
Lemonade is freely flowing
Hot cross buns with butter too
Friends and neighbours all are gathering
To welcome in the Spring with you
And then the bunny starts to hop
The children chase his fluffy tail
Gathering up the eggs he’s dropping
Following his happy trail
One by one their baskets fill up
Thoughts of chocolate fill their heads
They prance around like horses gallop
Until it’s time to hop in bed
© Laura Crean 4th April 2015

Parent Power Blog – Tales from the Nanny Diaries – Attention leads to Retention


This isn’t quite a Nannying story, but is from the time I was a classroom assistant in a Special Needs base in a junior school.  One of the Mum’s of the children in my group recommended me to a friend as a possible tutor for her daughter, who was struggling with her reading and writing.  I wasn’t sure about whether I was the right person for this job because I wasn’t a teacher, but the mother practically begged me, saying she had heard such good things about me and how much I had encouraged other children.  So of course, blushing and feeling very flattered I agreed.

The little girl began to come to my house every Saturday morning and for 2 hours I sat with her and encouraged her with her reading and worked around her school spellings.  I bought English workbooks from W.H. Smiths and we worked through them together.  It wasn’t long before she began to shine.  She started to love reading and she thrived on the workbooks which had stars in the back to stick in every time she completed a topic.  We played games around her spellings and soon she was getting 10 out of 10 every week and her reading levels started to go up.

She was a lovely girl, very sweet and I didn’t have any problems with her and I was quite surprised when the mother told me she had an individual education plan at her school which was up for review and could I come to the meeting with her.  Apparently the girl had been having some difficulties and the mother was trying to get her a proper statement of educational needs but after all the help she had been getting with me they decided it wasn’t needed.  They told her mother and myself that we had probably done her some harm letting her come to me because now she had improved too much to be offered the classroom help!  Can you believe it?  Anyway after a time, I can’t remember how long now, 1 year, 2, I can’t remember, I moved to another county and had to say goodbye, I was very sad to say goodbye and I hoped she continued to shine like the little star she was.

Anyway fast forward about 13 years.  I was in my local town doing some shopping when a lady in an electric wheelchair came rushing over to me, hands waving around like she was going to have a heart attack.  I didn’t recognise her at first because she had changed so much and anyway, I’m terrible with faces.  It was usually the girl’s Grandfather that brought her to me and I had only seen the mother a few times – 13 years is too long for my poor little brain to remember someone I had only laid eyes on about 4 times.  I do giggle to myself when I remember her waving frantically trying to get my attention! Needless to say  it was this little girl’s mother.  She said she couldn’t believe it was me and had thought of me often over the years and how much I had helped her little girl.  I protested and said really, it had been nothing, just a little reading and spelling practice and that her daughter was the star and had really wanted to do well in her learning.  She proceeded to tell me that because of my encouragement her daughter had thrived and had continued to study hard outside of school after I left.  Now she was at college getting ready to go to University and she just couldn’t let me go without telling me how much she appreciated my help and that her daughter remembered me fondly.  Well I was so happy. I can’t tell you how much my heart just glowed to hear that news.

What can you take away from this little story?  Well I think what I am trying to say is that children absolutely thrive with encouragement and when you make them the centre of attention.  For 2 hours every week that little girl was the centre of my attention and I lavished praise and encouragement on her for everything that she did well.  She soon realised that the hard work itself is all the reward she needed and when I wasn’t there she continued to work hard on consolidating her school work with home learning and it worked.

1. Always, always encourage children in everything they do and lavish praise on them when they do well.

2. Make time for them with a regular routine of one to one time – believe me, just half an hour reading with a child and perhaps half an hour helping them with their homework (every week) soon adds up to hours of positive, constructive learning.

3. ‘Attention leads to retention’ Children always remember those that take the time to make them the centre of attention and they remember the positive things that you have to say.  They will retain the important things from your interaction – parents – don’t you want to be those positive role models in your children’s lives?  I know it is hard when you are a working parent, and even if you’re not and you have other children and all the household duties to attend to, it’s tough finding time to read with your child or help them with their homework – but believe me, if you set aside just 1 hour per week and really make your child and their home learning and their self-esteem the centre of your attention, you will never regret it and your children will never forget it.


Goldilocks and the 3 Bears – a story you can listen or read along to.

This term we will be looking at fairy stories and super heroes in the workshop.  To get you in the mood for this theme I will be posting videos and activities on the Rainbow Rune Reading Room blog.

This little video is great for all ages.  Little ones can watch the pictures and listen to the story being told by the narrator or Mums, Dads, Grandparents or Child carers can mute it and read it themselves.  Older children can read along to get prepared for writing their own fairy story later on in the theme.

See you in the Workshop.


Parent Power Blog – one from my Nanny Diaries – A Time Out is not always a chocolate bar!


I know I already posted today but I was sitting thinking about the kinds of stories and advice I could post on here and one particular story sprung to mind.  So I thought I would have a go at presenting a story from my Nanny Diaries and a piece of advice to boot.

A few years ago I began looking after a couple of children after school as a Childminder.  I prefer to be a Nanny because I believe children are usually better off being looked after in their own home.  However at this time I had 2 children at school and my youngest was a toddler in a buggy, so I was Childminding from home at that time.  The two boys that I had, and I’ve had a few boys over the years, were particularly shall I say stubborn.  The youngest took a long time to get used to me and didn’t want to be looked after by anyone but his mummy.  The first hurdle I had to get over was the fact that he would only do what his big brother told him to do and not me.  His big brother was only in junior school so this presented as a power struggle from day one.  Anyway I nipped this issue in the bud straight away and after the first dangerous trip out with a child who wouldn’t hold my hand he soon realised that I was in charge and if he didn’t hold the buggy or my hand for the entire trip we would just stay where we were until he did.  It took about 20 minutes of standing outside the library, not going anywhere until he got the hint, and from that day on he held the buggy (not my hand but it was a safe compromise) and soon we got on like the best of friends.

Anyway, that was day one of the first week and all that week he pushed every button he could.  His big brother by the way was reveling in the fact that his little brother would only do what he told him and I knew straight away that I was going to have to be careful about how to approach this issue.  I immediately lavished praise on the big brother for being so well behaved and doing everything I told him to do and praised him for his help looking after his little brother but I laid down the law in the form of a reward system for them.  Little bro soon realised big bro was getting more stars and treats for his good behaviour and didn’t take too much time to be hooked on stars LOL  The parents however took a little longer to toe the Nanny line.

The parents had lots of issues about how I worked and were so ridiculously unrealistic about how the children should spend their time that we had a head to head almost immediately.  They wanted the children to watch no television or play any computer games and only wanted them to have planned activities such as crafts, reading and maths worksheets.  And they were adamant that their word was law on the subject.  If I had been looking after the children in their own home, this would have been easier to deal with as they would have their own toys and activities to help get around the issue.  Unfortunately they weren’t in their own home, they were in mine and I had 3 girls who all liked different things.  I had a little one who loved lots of imaginative games, role play and books but also liked CBeebies and I had a daughter who liked girly programs on the Disney channel and was very artistic and liked to be creative.  And then there was my eldest who loved her computer and console games, construction toys and puzzles.  My children have always been extremely well behaved and I had no issues with homework being done or falling behind in school.  So after school they were allowed to have free play in whatever they wanted to do, including TV and computer and console games.  My youngest daughter by the way was still preschool at that time and I had already taught her to read, so she was quite happy to be left alone with a stack of library books which she would read to her dollies and teddies.  There was no way on God’s Earth I was going to tell my children to turn off their TV and computer games because the minded children weren’t allowed to have them – oh no!

I had a great big discussion with the parents and asked them if the boys watched TV at home or not and of course the answer was “Of course they do”.  I explained that the children had all worked hard in school all day and my policy was free play.  Especially as I had to cook for all 5 children before the minded children were picked up too so there just wasn’t any way I could sit and offer them planned completely supervised activities the whole time.  I explained that if I had children during the day TV and electronic games were very monitored and only a part of the planned daily activities but after school was another matter.  Also the boys didn’t want to read (other than their school reading which they all did with me) or do worksheets and crafts.  The eldest boy wanted to play some computer games and watch some TV, although I did discover he was a very talented artist later on and encouraged that also.  The youngest loved to dress up and cook with me.   They all loved the trampoline and the eldest boy wanted to play outside when he wasn’t watching the TV or playing on the computer.  My maths sheet and reading compromise was a couple of excellent computer programs; one a brilliant Disney Maths game and the other a program he could input his school spellings into and which would play games around them to help him learn them.

My first lesson for the parents was that if you encourage your children in everything that interests them, they will thrive and anyway children get bored quite quickly so providing you limit TV time they will happily move around and do different things.  Or they will sit and master whatever it is they love and this is excellent for things like puzzles and drawing.  Practice makes perfect after all.

The second lesson for the parents also came in week one, when we were all getting used to one another and the boys were seeing just how far they could push me.  There were a few battles of wills as the boys and my girls all tried to fit into the new situation and volley for my attention.  The youngest boy in particular was very sure he wanted more of my time than my own little one and his behaviour towards her was, let’s just say, not very gentlemanly.  One day after a particularly spiteful bullying I had to do my first and I’m pretty sure one of only a couple of ‘Timeouts’ for the whole couple of years that I had him.  So he was left sitting in the quiet room on his own crying for a minute for every year of his little life.  He calmed down and apologised and then went straight back and did it again, so he had to go straight back into the quiet room once more.  Big brother protested that he shouldn’t be punished and that I had no right to make him sit on the lovely comfy settee all on his own for such a long time (6 minutes!) but oh well that was the rule.  Anyway when Dad came to pick the boys up I of course started to explain that we had had an awful time of it with his youngest’s behaviour and unfortunately I had  given him ‘Time Out’.  Dad looked at me with a blank expression for a few moments and then asked: “What a chocolate biscuit?” (For anyone not from the UK a Timeout is a chocolate biscuit.)  I kid you not, he actually asked me this question.  So of course I calmly and politely explained that no I hadn’t given him a chocolate biscuit for his unacceptable behaviour, I had in fact given him ‘Time out’ from the others in a quiet room until he calmed down and stopped physically abusing my child!  This led to another confrontation with the mother the following day about my disciplining her child but needless to say I won that battle too!

I must say though by the end of our time together I really loved those little boys and was so proud of how much they grew in my care.  Unfortunately my children and my husband at the time didn’t want me to continue with Childminding at that time as they felt there was just too much intrusion into our family life and they couldn’t do many of the things they wanted to because of having to consider other people’s children, so I stopped.  But I do love watching children shine and having a hand in whatever small way I can to help them reach their potential.

What can you take away from this little story from my Nanny Diaries:-

1. You must set boundaries for children (and some parents lol).  It keeps them safe, helps them to understand what is acceptable and not acceptable, helps with social and emotional development and also helps children learn routines.

2. Always encourage children in their pursuits, praise good behaviour and good work (and play is work to a child) and where possible distract the child from unwanted behaviours.  Please, please, please follow through with discipline if a child has hurt another person or damaged property – it’s not acceptable and they must realise the consequences.

3.  A Time Out is not always a chocolate bar.