Help Kids Use Their Noodle (and Pals)

Noodle & Pals

Noodle and Pals are well loved Super Simple characters and songs that I, as a Speech Language Pathologist, frequently use in speech therapy sessions. I will pick some of my favorites to share ideas for how you can support speech and language development at home all while having fun!

Why do I love Noodle and Pals songs? To fully explain it, I need to cover some basics of speech and language development. Language development begins in early infancy and continues to develop throughout one’s adult life. Babies learn speech and language by observing and listening to others around them. They begin by hearing sounds that are made when others move their lips, and this builds to eventually understanding that combining certain sounds will make meaningful words. In other words, children learn to understand what others are saying (receptive language) before they are able to speak (expressive language).
Most parents tend to put a big emphasis on expressive language- the actual words babies and toddlers begin to say. Which makes sense because verbal speech is what you can actually see and hear as kids develop. However, receptive language is just as important in order for a child be an effective communicator. Receptive knowledge can range from being able to point to items that are named, to following directions, to understanding what is taught in school. Which brings us back to why Noodle and Pals are awesome. They have some amazing songs to work on early receptive language skills.

One Little Finger:

This is one of my all time favorite Super Simple songs. I love using One Little Finger when teaching children about body parts as well as following simple directions. This song specifically teaches head, nose, chin, arm, leg, and foot, but I like to make up my own song to learn other body parts and even pointing to other objects (i.e. sing “put it on the floor”). Some kids struggle learning pronouns and I often use this song to teach the possessive pronouns ‘your’, ‘my’, ‘his’, and ‘her’ (“Put it on MY nose” vs “Put it on your nose”). This song is also great to learn and practice pointing, waving bye bye, and using/understanding the prepositions up and down!

If You’re Happy:

If You’re Happy is perfect for learning both simple emotions and following one step directions. Learning about emotions is a very important early social skill, and actually begins developing when babies are very young! I like to use this song to practice making and recognizing facial expressions and feelings. You can push pause while watching the video and ask how the characters feel when they are smiling, or give directions such as “Show me happy”, or ask “How do I feel if my face looks like this?” It also helps kids learn simple instructions like “clap your hands”.

I also enjoy adding on to this song by teaching cause and effect for simple wants and needs. “If you’re hungry hungry hungry, eat your food”, “If you’re thirsty thirsty thirsty, take a drink”, and “If you’re hurt hurt hurt, say ouchie”.

This song holds a special place in my heart as it brings back a very special memory everytime I hear it. Earlier this year I was evaluating a child who is on the autism spectrum and he was overwhelmed with being in a new setting. As a result, he was struggling to engage with others and the activities, and I could tell it was really difficult for his mom to watch. She wanted to show us some of his strengths and started singing If You’re Happy. His face immediately lit up and he looked at her, smiled, and stomped his feet. It is a memory I will hold dear forever- but also a great reminder that music not only helps with language development and bringing back positive memories, it can also calm those who are upset, and help those who struggle making connections be able to engage with others.

Walking Walking:

Word of warning: be prepared for you kids to get a little wild with this one- but I promise it will be so worth it! Plus kids learn best when they have fun because playing and movement helps the brain make more connections. This song is great for learning action words- walk, hop/jump, run, stop, tip-toe, swim, and sleep are all specifically taught. I also like to work on opposites like fast/slow and loud/quiet (“let’s walk fast fast fast!!!!”, “now let’s walk slllloooooow”, “Let’s be LOUD LOUD LOUD”, “Whoa, that was so loud, now let’s be quiet, shhhh”). A fun twist is letting your child give you directions or playing Simon Says.

An added bonus is this tune is catchy and perfect for making up your own songs as you go about your day! Modeling language and talking about your day as you go is the BEST way to help a child learn how to talk, and singing it makes it a little more fun for everyone. “Eating eating, eating eating, chomp chomp chomp, chomp chomp chomp, I am so hungry, I am so hungry, let’s eat more, let’s eat more”, “Getting dressed, getting dressed, put it on, put it on, now I’m ready, now I’m ready, let’s go play, let’s go play”, or “waiting waiting, waiting waiting, I can wait, I can wait, waiting waiting waiting, waiting waiting waiting, now let’s go, now let’s go!”

Follow Me:

Follow Me is an excellent song for increasing receptive vocabulary and following a bit more complex directions. A lesser known, but important communication skill is using gestures to facilitate communication, and this song has several gestures for children to imitate. Waving your hand towards yourself when saying “follow me”, hands out for “yay”, waving “hello”, and flapping your arms for “flying” are gestures to practice with this song.

This song is also an excellent way to introduce a new game of imitation- Follow the Leader. Get outside and have your child imitate your actions (while saying what you are doing!). Take turns and be sure your child and younger/older siblings get to be the leader. You can comment about what your children do as they move- “Jackson is the leader! He is walking around the tree, now he’s jumping up high, ohhh now he’s rolling on the ground!”

If you truly want to work on receptive language skills, I would recommend starting with the videos to give your child a visual to help them learn. When you are teaching and learning with videos, it’s important to remember that the key to learning is not in the video itself, but in the interaction between adult and child. Singing along, dancing, and doing the movements with your child will have a huge impact on their ability to learn- children make many more synapses in their brain when they are having fun and engaging with others- and much less when sitting alone watching a screen. Once your child is able to do the actions with the video, try singing it without the visual aid and see what your child can do just by listening! You can also download the songs on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify, which is great for at home and car rides!

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Andi PuttiContributor
Andi Putt is a mommy, pediatric Speech Language Pathologist, and chocolate lover. She specializes in language development and autism spectrum disorders, and has deep love for helping children with special needs. Andi is passionate about teaching parents how to support speech and language development at home, and does this on her blog at Follow her on Facebook and Instagram for quick tips to improve your child’s communication skills.

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