Category Archives: Toddlers

Holiday Gift Guide 2016

We have three children ages 1, 4, and 8. So, I’ve kept my eyes open for the best new toys and gifts for a range of ages. I attended a number of toy events, including the Toy Insider HoliDay of Play and Blogger Bash Sweet Suite, where I learned about new toys from product representatives and even tested many of the coolest toys you’re going to see in the stores this holiday season. Here’s a list of my favorites – a list that I should just forward straight to Santa!

For Our 1-Year-Old Girl

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We are big fans of Learning Resources toys. Each one is designed to build children’s education-related skills. The Ocean Wonders: Build & Spin is a set of interchangeable gears and colorful play pieces.
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Our 1-year-old already enjoys moving the pieces around and turning the gears by herself.

I know my 1-year-old will love playing with the Go Go Smart Friends castle, and I’m sure my 4-year-old will be happy to join her. Collectible Go Go Smart Friends interact with the castle and ride-on unicorn when placed on MagicPoint locations triggering phrases, music, lights, and motion.

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The Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe is an interactive desk that comes with five colorful pages for exploring letters, numbers, music, and colors.

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Expansion Packs for the Touch & Learn Activity Desk Deluxe

A 1-year-old really only needs a cardboard box to have fun on Christmas morning, so decor is a great gift idea for little ones. I ordered these beautiful prints from Zazzle. A click on the image will bring you to my review of Zazzle.

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For Our 4-Year-Old Girl

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Judging by the number of Elena of Avalor costumes this Halloween, she is a big favorite for 2016. This Elena doll sings “My Time” from the Disney Junior TV series.
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I’m so glad to see some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) toys for younger kids this year. The Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set is for kids ages 5 and up. Kids can build a maze, then program the mouse according to the principles of coding to find the cheese.
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We tried out another early STEM toy from Learning Resources, the STEM Sink or Float Activity Set. My almost 5-year-old started grasping physics concepts like buoyancy and density using activity cards, weights, and a raft.
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The DigiArt Creative Easel teaches kids how to write with a magic pen and interactive board. It also allows can be used as a traditional easel with its dry-erase board, chalkboard, and paper-hanging drawing board.
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All the Shimmer and Shine merchandise! The Nick Jr. show is a favorite in our house, so I know the girls would be thrilled to play with these new toys.
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Shopkins now have a home for your little ones to decorate called, Happy Places.
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Each Gemlin has a name and personality and can be threaded with other Gemlins to make a charm bracelet.
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Magic Mee Mees come from different lands, such as, Seetsland and Berryland. They respond when fed special “food” and interact with other Mee Mees.
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We’re super-excited about this! Shopkins Kinstructions are buildable sets that are compatible with Legos. The Shopkins that come in these sets can be taken apart and mixed/matched.

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PJ Masks merchandise is out, and it’s everything the kids have been asking for. Collectible figures, Headquarters playset, costumes, and of course, masks!

For Our 8-Year-Old Boy

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My son’s number one Christmas list wish! We watched the popular ABC TV series, and now he wants the Hexbug Battlebots Arena to watch robots battle in real life.
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The Thames and Kosmos Magic sets teach kids how to perform magic tricks and help develop presentation skills, confidence, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and reading skills.
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A new line from the makers of Shopkins, the Grossery Gang, is even luring the boys into the market. They’re gross and squishy, and my son loves them!
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Crayola Art with Edge coloring books, pencils and markers elevate coloring to a level that is fun and exciting for pre-teens, teens, and adults.
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The Bosebuild Speaker Cube allows people ages 8 and up to build and customize a durable, high-performance bluetooth speaker. It is an exciting STEM gift that my son would love, but it’s a big out of Santa’s budget at $149.
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The Meccano Mecasaur is a super STEM toy that kids can build and program. Then the Mecasaur interacts with you, responding to petting, answering yes/ no questions, stomping around, and roaring. Click on the picture to see our review of the Mecasaur’s predecessor, the Meccanoid.
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Our son is going to psyched about the Skypaper Paper Plane Launcher. He’s into origami and paper planes already, so super charging his creations and shooting them in the air takes it to another level.
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Remember hearing about 3D printers that were only used by scientists and the super-rich, because of the crazy price tag? The 3D Doodler Essentials Pen Set is made for kids ages 8+ and it costs $49.99!
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My son is a big fan of the Harry Potter book series, so he was thrilled to receive this cool Hogwarts t-shirt. I chose the shirt from tons of Harry Potter gift items on the Zazzle website. Click on the picture for more info.

For the Family

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Protect the Pride Lands is a unique game that is perfect for getting the family together on game night. All players work together to get Kion to the top of Pride Rock.
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The Nabi Elev-8 is the best tablet for a family with young kids because it combines superior technology, quality and learning features. Click on the picture for a review and video of the Nabi Elev-8 tablet.

Ready, Set, Woof! is a super-engaging board game for kids ages 3-5. It promotes important skills like recognition, concentration, memory, sharing, and turn-taking.

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We also tried out the Brownie Match game, another great family game that’s best for kids ages 3-6. It’s great for developing skills like memory, matching, number recognition, fine motor, sharing, and turn-taking.
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We also tried out the Brownie Match game, another great family game that’s best for kids ages 3-6. It’s great for developing skills like memory, matching, number recognition, fine motor, sharing, and turn-taking.

I’m sure you already know all about Kidz Bop, the group of young singers who perform G-rated versions of all the best new pop songs. We eagerly await every new album, so we were excited to receive a copy of Kidz Bop 33 and their new Christmas album.

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We’re Finding Ways to Fight Zika at Home – GIVEAWAY

I’m sure you’re as freaked out about the Zika virus as I am, especially now that it has reached America. Zika virus has been transmitted mostly by mosquito bite and can be passed from mother to fetus, causing birth defects including microcephaly. It also can cause fever, rash; and, in people with vulnerable immune systems, it can result in serious illness.

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We are always avoiding mosquito bites in our family, because they cause us to have huge welts on our bodies that are itchy and painful. With the spread of this virus, I’m even more motivated to shield my family from mosquitos. I’m definitely not planning on becoming pregnant in the next few years, but I still worry about our family contracting the Zika virus and becoming ill.

So, here are the ways we are limiting our risk of Zika exposure.

Mosquito Repellent: I have long been opposed to chemicals, like DEET, for protection against mosquitos. My new philosophy is “use what you’ve got.” However, I still can’t bring myself to spray that stuff on my children every night in the summer! I’m definitely not spraying it on my 1-year-old! (I tried one night and could only bring myself to spray the bottom of her stroller.)

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So, I rely on natural wearable mosquito repellent. I used a particular brand, Para’Kito all last summer, and I’m using it again this summer. I received a Para’Kito Refillable Band free for the purpose of review. Enter below for your chance to win one of your own!

We often wear the Para'Kito band on our ankles because it's a mosquito's favorite spot.
We often wear the Para’Kito band on our ankles because it’s a mosquito’s favorite spot.

Para’Kito’s wearable products contain a refill pellet in a snug mesh pocket. Each pellet remains effective for 15 days and they are even waterproof. The pellet’s natural oils (citronella, rosemary, geranium, mint, clove, and peppermint) fill the air around the body, masking bodily scents that attract mosquitos. My favorite thing about Para’Kito products are DEET-free, buzz-free, and smell so good.

Where's my Para'Kito?!
Where’s my Para’Kito?!

Travel: Not to worry! We don’t have any imminent travel plans. We spend most of our travel money on a beach club in the summer, so I don’t have to worry about our exposure in any exotic locales.

Air conditioning: Check! I have no problem shutting the windows and turning on the A/C at the first sign of warm humidity. And my A/C-hating husband can’t complain because…we are protecting ourselves from sneaky mosquitos.

Clothing: This took some conscious actions on my part. Putting the kids in pants, socks, and shoes when they are about to play outside in warm, humid weather feels counterintuitive, but we’re making it work. After a couple of arguments about wearing Crocs and shorts at dusk, they’re starting to anticipate my new dress code.

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Holiday Gift Guide: STEM and Learning Toys

My favorite kind of toy is one that teaches my 3-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son something new, especially ones that encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning.

I received some toys to review and picked up a few from the store already. These are some of our family’s favorites. Some of the toys below have links to their full reviews, and I plan to continue reviewing and linking…so check back!

Tiggly Learning Apps and Toys

$29.95

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Each Tiggly set includes toys that interact with your Apple or Android devices. I’m a big fan of these sets because they are highly engaging and teach and reinforce academic skills. See my review for more details and for demonstration videos.

IQ Fit and IQ Twist

Age 6+; $9.99 and $11.99

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These are great stocking stuffers for kids AND adults. See my review for more details and demonstration videos.

Goldie Blox: Blox + Bits

Age 6+;  $9.99 and up

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Goldie Blox are super STEM toys created to inspire girls to have fun with construction and engineering. There are loads of sets with fun and interesting characters and challenges at all price points. We had a lot of fun trying the teeny stocking-stuffer-size Blox + Bits.

Gyrobot

Age 8+; $44.95

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Gyrobot made a bunch of “Best Toy” lists last year. What I love most about this STEM toy is that, along with the fun of constructing robots with the set, kids are learning about gyroscopes and how they’re used in many technological tools we use everyday.

Riddle Cube

Age 8+;  $19.99

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Players race each other to put their riddle cubes together according to puzzle cards. Too tricky for little ones, but great for exercising spatial-relations in big kids and adults.

Check out more in the School Psych Mom Series:

Holiday Gift Guide: Family Favorites

Holiday Gift Guide: Preschool Learning Toys

Holiday Gift Guide Series: Family Favorites

It’s November and that means Christmas is right around the corner! I’ve already started shopping for my 7-year-old and 3-year-old for the holidays, how about you?

I received some toys to review and picked up a few from the store already. These are some of our family’s favorites.

Crayola Color Alive

Age 4+; $5.99

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Download the free app to make your kids’ creations come alive. This was a hit for both my 3-year-old and my 7-year-old.

Eye Found It: Hidden Picture Game

Age 4+; $20

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Eye Found It is a great game for the whole family. Kids love to find their favorite characters in the Disney and Pixar themed editions.

Sky Rover Helicopter

Age 8+; $45

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The Sky Rover comes with remote control AND headset for voice command! My son thinks it’s so cool to wear the headset and pretend to be ground control. He could play for hours if we let him!

Glow Show

Age 5+; $20

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The Glow Show sticker launcher is pure fun. Kids can launch glow-in-the-dark stickers on the ceiling and walls.

Lite Brite

Age 4+; $25

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This was a purchase driven by nostalgia. I loved Lite Brite as a kid and now I’m playing it with my kids. Now the templates are reusable; remember when they were paper?

Hex Bug Inchworm

Age 8+;  $19.99 (with remote control)

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We love Hex Bug toys and we always have fun with remote control toys, so the Inchworm is a win-win!

Quixels

Age 4+; $9.99 and up

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Basically Beados for boys, Qixels are little plastic pieces that stick to each other when wet. My son loves that they come in designs that resemble popular icons from Minecraft and Ninjago. This little Qixel package is a great stocking stuffer!

Check out more in the School Psych Mom Series:

Holiday Gift Guide: STEM and Learning Toys

Holiday Gift Guide: Preschool Learning Toys

WaterWipes: Chemical-Free Baby Wipes

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products to facilitate my review.

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My kids all have sensitive skin from head-to-toe. As newborns, I tried hard to use wet cloths or soft paper towels with every diaper change. You can imagine how impractical that was, but it didn’t irritate their bottoms. I had to use conventional “sensitive” wipes for convenience sometimes, and they all quickly developed diaper rash. Even as they grew and developed tougher skin, they still couldn’t handle regular use of conventional wipes.

My 5-month-old is eating solid food now, so we have big messes to clean up during mealtime, too. Her face is just as sensitive as her bottom, and frequent use of conventional wipes is way too harsh. Her skin becomes red immediately, and with repeated use, it becomes dry and irritated.

I still use wipes for my big kids when they have messy faces. They become less sensitive as they grow up, but I still find that the fewer the ingredients, the kinder they are to their skin.

I always bought “sensitive” wipes for my kids, but still noticed the super-long ingredient list, even from natural brand wipes. I remember wondering, “Why can’t they just make wipes that are wet, without all that other stuff.”  That’s why I’m so excited that someone finally did it with WaterWipes.

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We’ve been using WaterWipes for a few weeks and they are super-gentle, but strong and durable. I’m so glad to have the convenience of wet wipes that I can use over and over on my baby without irritating her skin. Plus, I have peace of mind knowing that I’m not exposing my family to harmful chemicals every day.

Now, I keep packages of WaterWipes on the changing table, in the kitchen, and in my diaper bag. Each package has a resealable opening making them good for travel as well as for use around the house.

WaterWipes is a chemical free baby wipe that contains only two ingredients, 99.9% purified water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract. Due to the lack of chemical preservatives in Waterwipes,  the package will keep for up to 15 months before it is opened. Once you open your WaterWipes package, it’s recommended that you use the pack within 1 month.

IMG_9527Unlike some other wipe brands, WaterWipes are not interfolded. This allows for the sterile environment within the package to be maintained. For the same reason, it’s recommended that you don’t relocate the wipes in an alternate container.

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I found my WaterWipes at Stop and Shop near the other baby wipes in the baby aisle. I’m so glad I can grab them at Stop and Shop because it’s the place I go for all my everyday groceries and baby needs.  Find out where to buy Waterwipes near you.

5 Reasons To Attend Blogger Bash Next Year

Last year I scored a ticket to Sweet Suite at Blogger Bash NYC 2014 and vowed to attend the whole shebang in 2015. So, this was my first time attending the two-day event, and I’m so glad I did.  Here’s why…

1. THE VENUE

 

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This year, BBNYC was at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers. It’s a gorgeous space with views of the water and every amenity. The food was delicious, modern, and plentiful. Elegant meals, hosted by Care Bears, Disney Infinity, and The Peanuts Movie, were the perfect place to meet friends and hear the sponsors’ messages.

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Major bonus: NYC! See the sights in the greatest city in the world. I can’t wait to see next year’s venue!

2. THE SWAG

Sponsors come to the expos with lots of goodies and giveaways for attendees…that’s what the big black bag is for!

Then, for attending Sweet Suite, bloggers receive a huge box of toys in the mail. Best parting gift ever.

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We also were treated to a free performance of the widely popular Blue Man Group. (See my post and enter to win tickets to them in a city near you!) Then we walked away with a giveaway for our blogs.

3. NETWORKING

BBNYC is the perfect set-up for bloggers and brands to meet face-to-face. I made lots of contacts with brands that matter to me and my readers. Sweet Suite gathers many of the best toy brands in one place. They always bring their newest products for demonstration and hands-on play. Babypalooza does the same for an array of baby products and foods.

Attendees were able to sit down with brands during Speed Dating to make connections with brands looking for bloggers spread their messages.

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4. LEARNING AND GROWING YOUR BLOG

On this year’s agenda were events, expos, and expert speakers. Attendees learned about the latest toys at Sweet Suite, philanthropic opportunities with Care Bears, and got a sneak peak at the new Peanuts Movie.

Expert speakers gave presentations on creating branded video and how to double traffic with simple SEO steps.

5. MEETING OLD AND NEW FRIENDS

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Perhaps, this is the best part of Blogger Bash. It seems like everyone in the industry was at Blogger Bash, and they came from all over the country. Old friends rented hotel rooms and cruised the events together. Online colleagues finally saw each other in person. New friendships and blogging connections were made everywhere we turned.

There’s no way to discuss all the awesome features of the conference in one blog post. More details on all my BBNYC experiences to come!

Will I see you at Blogger Bash 2016?

What Do You Do When Your Kid Pukes in Public?

This is how she looked BEFORE our Starbucks adventure.
This is how she looked BEFORE our Starbucks adventure.

My 2-year-old and I had a messy start to our day. It was going to be very productive – groceries, painting supplies, and maybe even a little clothes shopping. We were all dressed and out the door at 8:30. She looked especially cute, too! We stopped at Starbucks first for coffee and juice…and didn’t make it any further.
While waiting on line, she chugged more than half of her juice. Just before it was our turn, she hurled. A lot. It remains to be seen why; I’m hoping she just drank her juice too fast.
I wasn’t completely freaked out, because this isn’t my first rodeo. My two major concerns were to take care of her and then do the right thing about the mess. It was too much to clean up with napkins, so I asked for a mop. And apologized, repeatedly.
The weirdest part was that the Starbucks employees and most of the people on line seemed to be horrified and just stood there, not eager to help with action or kind words. Then an unfortunate employee mopped it up, while his friends(?) made wisecracks.
There was one woman in front of me who really seemed to feel for me. She rushed to get me a stack of napkins and said, “I’ve been there! I hope your day goes a lot better.” Her empathy was greatly appreciated at that moment.
My little munchkin is no worse for the wear, so far. However, despite washing and cleaning everything it came in contact with, I still smell puke.
Please tell me I’m not the only one to experience a barf surprise in public! How did you handle it?

10 Rainy Day Activities for Kids


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Lately we’ve been having some generally yucky weather…with clouds, humidity, intermittent drizzling, and a threat of thunderstorm. Days like these are tough to plan with little ones.  I aim for my 5 and 2 year old to run around outside AT LEAST once a day so they can burn off some of their energy. Without outdoor activities, I have to get creative.

Refrain from turning on the TV and the iPad right away.  You may need these by the end of the rainy day, so don’t waste them too soon. Try these first:

1.  Start with a dance party!  It’s good for their health, and yours!

2.  Open up the dress-up trunk and have some role-play fun.  We went through the superheroes, pirates and princesses…then mixed and matched.

3. Unearth the puzzles.  You have lots of time for that mess today!

4. Lego master building time!

5. Have them help you bake some cookies. If you have the ingredients already, congrats, you don’t have to go out in the rain.

6. Put on your wellies and go outside anyway.  Jump in the puddles and make mudpies. We did this today and followed with showers.  WARNING!  Don’t go outside when there’s a looming thunderstorm.

7. While outside, use those messy painting crafts you’ve been avoiding, and let the rain wash away the mess.

8. When that gets old, let her “paint” the outdoor toys with water.

9. Just before the rain is a good time to let them draw all over your driveway with chalk.  It washes right out.

10. When all else fails, Disney movie!

What do you do to keep your kids busy on a rainy day?

18 Month Old Not Talking

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I’ve been anticipating my daughter’s 18 month check-up, not because of the shots and tears, but for the developmental check list. Last time we were at the doctor, I said she wasn’t talking like her brother was at that age. She has about 15 words now. I was assured that it was classic for the second child; her brother does all the talking for her. This is absolutely true, she can’t possibly get a word in edgewise in this house. But now she’s 18 months old and it’s time for her to be speaking more for herself.

Here’s one of those times my training comes in handy, then goes right out the window. I know the developmental milestones she should be meeting, red flags that signal a problem, and where to find more information if I need it. But when I have a concern about my kids’ development, I can’t help but fluctuate between denial and irrational hysteria. That’s why I rely on my pediatrician and these check-ups. Our decision was that I would check in again in 3 months to see how much progress she has made. She should be picking up a new word a week, so we’re going to track her words and keep reading and talking to her.

Its important to identify a Speech-language delay as early as possible because early intervention is key and because speech delay may be a sign of a developmental disorder that needs to be addressed. The trouble is that children develop differently especially in the early years, so many “slow talkers” will catch up. Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine with certainty if a child is just a slow talker or a child with a speech-language delay. So, talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development.

Check out the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website for age guidelines.

Learn the signs of an autism spectrum disorder at Autism Speaks.