Apraxia Monday, Books on Monday
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Can you play with your child with NO toys? YES! Why you should, plus first words, early literacy tips, getting out in nature, and so much more in Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP’s “Learn with Less philoshophy”

By Leslie Lindsay 

A practical, accessible, no-nonsense guide to understanding and connecting with your baby from a pediatric speech-language pathologist.


I’m passing along a complimentary gently-used book bundle of both of these amazing books. Must reside in the continental U.S. to be eligible. Details below! (keep scrolling)



Shruti Gangakhedkar

of Beaverton, Oregon! Congratuations and thanks for all the interest.

This give-away is now closed. But there’s a another coming next Monday, 1/27/20.

Understanding Your Baby and Toddler Paperbacks~APRAXIA MONDAY/BookS on MondaY~

UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY is a MUST read for any new parent–or even a seasoned one! I love Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP’s down-to-earth, no-frills approach to connecting with your baby, how to maximize your time and efforts, and she does it all in an efficient, easily digested form. Parents are busy. They don’t have time (or energy) to read large research-heavy books on child development. And even if they do, chances are, they’re too distracted (or exhausted) to absorb the information. 

A pediatric speech-language pathologist, parent education, vocalist, and mother of two, distills the research-based developmental information in bite-sized chunks, making it easy to breeze through a section while nursing, over a quick bite of breakfast, or while your baby naps. Seriously, UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY can be a quick 5-10 minute read each day, and I would caution parents of reading it cover to cover. Wait. Take those precious weeks with your child one day–one week–at a time. 

UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY is structured in three-month intervals, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, and 9-12 months. Within in those sections, each month is divided into weeks of age. Ayelet breaks down what your baby is learning and experiencing (for example, week 1 is all about senses and moods). She then provides simple suggestions on things you can do to enhance your relationship with your baby. That’s it! Each week and month is different in terms of cognitive, communicative, motor/sensory, and social/emotional development. 

What I especially love about Ayelet’s approach is that it’s practical and gentle. And no fancy gadgets or toys required, just you, the caregiver, and perhaps some everyday household objects like containers or pillows, blankets, empty toilet paper or paper towel tubes, and the like.

Tips might involve getting outside and exploring nature with your child, music, singing, making sounds, and exploring language. You’ll see complex things happening [developmentally] with simple methods in a natural environment.

And when your baby is a toddler, Ayelet is there for the next step: UNDERSTANDING YOUR TODDLER. This title focuses on the ages of one to three years, segmented into months of age, and what skills your child might be reaching on a traditional developmental continuum. Keep in mind, if your child is developmentally delayed or you’re working with additional diagnoses, these skills might need to be tweaked

Here, Ayelet breaks down her four pillars of “Learn with Less”: 1) Play. That is, children need open-ended experimentation, 2) Talk. This involves discussion and conversation, repetition, variation, and modeling of behavior, 3) Sing. Be silly. Use the everyday routine to calm or energize your child’s sensory system and develop a sense or rhythm, and finally, 4) Movement—that is, children need to experience the full range (and planes) of their bodies, pairing gestures with sounds and objects, and a change in environment. Each suggested activity in UNDERSTANDING YOUR TODDLER includes ideas on how you can incorporate each pillar into your everyday activities. Seriously, this book—and Ayelet–is a gold mine. 

Please join me in welcoming Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP to the Apraxia/BookS on MondaY series. 

Leslie Lindsay: 

Ayelet, I am so thrilled our paths crossed! There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ parent or even a ‘how-to-parent’ guide, but this book is a treasure. Let’s start with what inspired you to write UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY?

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

Leslie, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m always excited to connect with like-minded professionals, and the work you do is so important!

So, when I became a mom, my husband and I were living far from our own culture and support network, and I was searching for ways to create support and connection for myself in what I knew would be an isolating time. 

As a new mom, I struggled with all of the familiar and common challenges: overwhelm, anxiety, constant questioning of myself around whether I was “doing things right” when it came to sleep and feeding, etc. – but the one area that I was not struggling with was the idea of ensuring I was doing everything I could to support and connect with this tiny human. I did notice that this was something many of my fellow new parents were challenged by… 

So I started inviting my new mom friends over for small group sessions in my tiny flat, in which we met for some developmental enrichment for the babies, some enrichment for the adults, and some tea and chat. It was part “parent support” part “parent education,” and focused on providing simple opportunities for play and connection with our babies through music, communication, and movement… using simple, everyday items. 

For me, it felt empowering to be able to share my professional knowledge with my new friends, to use my brain in a familiar way… and for them, it was empowering and reassuring to feel they were doing everything they could to raise great humans! 

The book, UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY (and the ensuing Understanding Your Toddler) is really a record of that!

“Every week, it was something to look forward to. It’s like a weekly ritual, and it’s very concise. And then we listen in to the audio, and he smiles when he hears your voice! I think it makes me feel better because we’re just trying to survive, right? But at the same time I know I’m doing something to support his development. It makes me feel better every week.”

Lisa Dou, Nurse Practitioner, mother of a 3-month old

man person cute young

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Your concept, “Learn with Less,” is so profound. As parents we often feel that more is better—more toys, more experiences, more gadgets, more money. But it often back-fires. More is not necessarily better. Can you talk about that, please? 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

YES. I think for many of us, we come into parenthood similarly to how we approach most things in adulthood. We ask: what tools do I need to be prepared for all eventualities – what do I need to buy to help my child learn the important developmental skills that will lay the foundation for the rest of his or her life?

And really, at the end of the day, you already have everything you need. We often place the developmental value of a thing or experience in a culturally defined item we can purchase off the shelf, or that can come to us in a subscription box. 

The baby industry is capitalizing in our desire to support our little ones, and they’re doing it well, using all the familiar fear-based marketing tactics. 

The unfortunate thing is that if parents could look under the hood at how their child learns and develops, they’d see that it’s sort of an “emperor has no toys” situation: that fancy, naturally stained nesting toy that “builds cognitive, sensory, and fine motor skills?” It’s already living in their kitchen cabinet, disguised as a set of mixing bowls. That toy microphone that “builds turn-taking skills and promotes expressive language?” It’s the empty toilet paper roll about to be thrown in the garbage bin. 

We literally already have everything we need. It’s just a matter of being shown the developmental value of everyday items and everyday routines, which we’re often already using or engaging in!

There’s also a lot of research to suggest that open-ended materials, often called, “loose parts,” are the key to fostering development – things like independent play, critical thinking skills, problem-solving, emotional regulation, impulse control… all of the things ALL parents want for their young children – are gained through the process of observation (our infants and toddlers observing us in the environment), imitation (eventual imitation of movement, language, etc.), and interaction (with us and with the environment). 

And exploring their world happens through open-ended play experiences and materials. There’s a reason your baby or toddler would rather squeeze the plastic water bottle than play with her fancy toys… first of all, it’s something YOU use – that she’s observed you using and can now explore on her own, perhaps imitating you, and interacting with it in a new way. Second of all, it doesn’t have a specific “button” to press – she can shake it, turn it, squeeze it, throw it, mouth it, roll it, and so much more, experimenting with gravity, cause and effect, force, and other complex concepts that we often can’t see

So when we fill our homes with STUFF, we’re often missing the point entirely! That it’s literally already there… and often it’s in our recycling bin 🙂 

little boy crying inside a box

Photo by Nicolette Attree on Pexels.com

**2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming Spring 2020 from Woodbine House! **

Leslie Lindsay: 

Since you’re a pediatric speech-language pathologist and many who are reading might be raising child with a speech-language disorder (maybe CAS), what—or how—might some of your techniques be modified? Is modification even necessary? And what if that child also has other special needs?

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

Honestly, so much of what I do and the information and suggestions I share is about the natural progression of development — whether or not it’s happening along a “typical” or “atypical” continuum. 

I also try to veer away from specific milestones, communicative and otherwise. So, nowhere in either book will you see anything that says, “your baby should be sitting up right now” – instead, it might say, “your baby is likely experimenting with new ways to move his body and engage in the world.” Nor does it say, “your child should be talking in 2-word utterances by now.” Instead, you might read, “your child is finding new ways to communicate a variety of ideas, thoughts, and needs. Here’s how you can support that at whatever level that’s happening.”

So really, it’s about taking what’s happening, and figuring out how to get to the next level. That’s what scaffolding is all about: what supports do I need to put in place (and in this case, how can I integrate more of the four pillars of Learn With Less: play, talk, sing, and move) to help my child become successful, and then what can I do to remove those supports slowly, or provide additional opportunities for independence. 

In each subsection of the books, I provide information about a developmental concept or skill that a child might be already working on or heading towards, and then suggestions for ways that families can support those skills, whether or not they’re emerging yet. 

Remember to enter the Giveaway for a bundle of BOTH of Ayelet’s books. Details at end of post. (keep scrolling)

I’m passing along a complimentary gently-used book bundle of both of these amazing books. Must reside in the continental U.S. to be eligible.
adorable baby child childhood

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

In UNDERSTANDING YOUR TODDLER, you mention that children of this age play differently. Can you give us some examples? 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

Sure. So, toddlers often get a bad reputation because they sometimes seem like tiny, somewhat functional human adults. Like us, they like to play, they are extremely interactive, they value their independence… but they struggle with things like impulse control, making judgments, regulating emotions, or following “rules.” 

But the truth is, they aren’t playing the same kinds of games as we have often come to do – like board games or sports games with rules. They are engaging in play in the truest sense of the word. I love the definition of play from Smith and Pellegrini – loosely stated, that play is for its own sake, there’s no specific end-goal, and it’s simply for the purpose of pleasure and exploration. So when we try to put them in a box and read a book to them from cover to cover, we’re often disappointed. 

But if we follow their interests, follow their pace, get into their world — while at the same time providing the boundaries of what’s acceptable and safe, then we can truly play.

Their job is to test the boundaries of their world, so that they can understand the world in which they live. 

So, this often requires a mindset shift from parents and caregivers. And also a new understanding of what’s appropriate, developmentally. A toddler who is removing all the books from the bottom bookshelf is still engaging in early literacy experiences! And when we can join them (and perhaps say one thing about each book, or stack them up together in a pile, or compare and contrast the size, color, shape, etc.), THAT is often what play looks like. 

Play also looks like using a silly voice during everyday routines, like when you put on a sock. Or appearing suddenly from behind the couch. Or going outside with an old toothbrush and a spray bottle and painting the sidewalk. Or matching the lids of snack containers from the cabinet.

photography of kid wearing sunglasses

Photo by Cristian Pantoja on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

I adore your innovative use of basic household items—how everyday things can be repurposed to encourage play and learning. What are some of your favorites? 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

Well, I should start by saying that two of my proudest moments as a parent are great examples: the first was a few months back when I brought my then 2 year old to an estate sale, and found the old collection of Tupperware, cake pans, salad spinners, and other interesting kitchen items… when my little guy saw them, he yelled, “TOYS!!!!”

The second was just the other day when I was cooking dinner, and my kids came in from playing outside. My toddler looked at me stirring with the wooden spoon, and barked, “hey! That’s mine!” 

After sharing with him that when he uses that voice it hurts my feelings and my ears, I offered him a choice between two other spoons, and off he went, creating percussive instruments and experimenting with size concepts. 

depth of field photography of p l a y wooden letter decors on top of beige wooden surface

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

“Some of my favorite activities were the little ways of making our ‘all-the-time activities’ more stimulating – it encouraged what was coming naturally for me, and helped me make a more conscientious effort. There were certain things that maybe I was doing already, but then I became more deliberate about doing them because I realized there was a benefit to it!”

Dr. Anna Loeb, M.D. Family Practice Physician and mother of two

Leslie Lindsay: 

I love, love reading books with children and incorporating into one’s daily routine to enhance communicative development. What books might you recommend for parent-child reading time? Can you talk a little about dialogic reading? 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

So, as far as reading time, I honestly don’t believe there are any “rules” for a book except a) that it’s interesting to the child and b) can be explored by the child. Since younger babies and toddlers are not necessarily using books “traditionally” in the adult sense all the time, it’s important that they’re able to explore, manipulate, and handle books just as they would other materials. So, board books are wonderful for this reason, because they’re less destructible when they go in mouths and they don’t rip as easily.

But I don’t want parents to think that board books are required! and it’s very easy to make your own book using some photos, images from a magazine or printed web search, and a few sheet protectors or, say, some tape and cardboard. 

And books can become even more interactive when we have things like “lift-the-flap” elements – but remember, all you need for that is a post it note, and you suddenly transform any picture book into a lift-the-flap book!

What I look at is: how can I make this book more engaging, instead of just reading the text on the page? What else can we talk about, do with the book? What can I say about whatever it is that’s catching my baby’s attention on the page?

And also, what else can I do to maximize engagement together, other than simply asking my toddler to “find the x” or “point to y” – how else can I model all the different ways we communicate and all the different functions of communication – within a simple book reading activity? 

Sometimes that looks like labeling, sometimes I wonder aloud about what will happen next, sometimes I make inferences, sometimes I ask my child a “why” question, even if it’s a rhetorical question. There’s always pausing, there’s always an opportunity for turn-taking, but I always try to model the many different ways I hope my child will eventually communicate with me. 

Some of my personal favorites over the years have been Bear On A Bike by Stella Blackstone, the Hairy MacClary series by Dame Lynley Dodd, and the Raffi Sing-A-Long books, like Baby Beluga and Wheels On The Bus

These have wonderful illustrations, lovely rhythmicity, and fun words to read. 

[Editor’s Note: You might like this Learn with Less podcast, “Choosing Books for Infants and Toddlers and How to Engage in Early Literacy.”]

Remember to enter the Giveaway for a bundle of BOTH of Ayelet’s books. Details at end of post. (keep scrolling)

I’m passing along a complimentary gently-used book bundle of both of these amazing books. Must reside in the continental U.S. to be eligible.
woman reading book to toddler

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

Many CAS parents are interested in first words. You outline four guidelines for ‘true’ word. Can you tell us more? And also, the book mentions modeling words in context…how might that look? 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 


We want to really focus on first words as these spontaneous utterances that are clearly based on the context and environment in which we hear them. 

So, those four guidelines are as follows:

Consistency: you hear it over and over again, often in the same context. Now, when we’re talking specifically about our kiddos with a CAS diagnosis or suspected diagnosis, the production of that word or word approximation may not sound exactly the same every time. But it’s something specific that we hear in a particular context, consistently over time.

Next, we’re looking specifically at context: you might hear the word in the same context (say, eating), but across different situations or in different environments (at the table, in the kitchen, outside before a snack), and often using non-verbal cues. So, this might look like your baby saying the word nana while pointing to and looking at the banana.

Next, we’re looking for recognizable speech sounds: the word may not be pronounced correctly – or, again, even the same way with our kiddos with CAS – but the “essence” is there. So, maybe your baby says wawa for water

And finally, we’re looking for spontaneity, meaning that your baby utters the word spontaneously, and not in imitation of you. 

Now, when I talk about modeling words in context, I mean talking about the things around us, the actions we’re engaging in, the people around us. Words are LITERALLY all around us. And not just words! Sounds, too! Environmental sounds – like animal noises, the dripping of the faucet, the crunching of a cracker. When we call attention to those things, narrating them aloud, we give our little ones another opportunity for PLAY within communication! We’re playing with language, playing with sounds, playing with words. 

So, engage in parallel talk – where you’re narrating what your baby is doing. And engage in self-talk, where you’re narrating everything you’re doing.

And that might be everything from actions, silly noises, making things fun and musical, playing with the pace, etc: “ok, I’m dipping my spoon in my yogurt, bloop! oooh, that bite is the perfect size! Ok, who should have a turn, now? Me? or You? Oh you pointed to yourself! Zooooooooom! Here it comes over to you, aaaaaand – IN! Now I’m going to zoooooooooom it over to my mouth…”

**2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming Spring 2020 from Woodbine House! **

tilt shift lens photography of woman wearing red sweater and white skirt while holding a boy wearing white and black crew neck shirt and blue denim short

Photo by Nicholas Githiri on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

One last thing I really loved and feel needs mentioning is the power of nature. Children thrive when they are exposed to new textures, sizes, shapes, densities, and even routines. Nature walks—even if you live in a city—are vital. How can parents make the most of this time? 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

Oh yes. My first child was born in the middle of the city of London. I think it’s really important for families to remember that it doesn’t matter where they are in the world – there are lots of different sensory experiences – textural, visual, olfactory, vestibular, and otherwise – that are EVERYWHERE. 

I think we go out and purchase items we can put in “sensory bins,” or buy baby books with different textures… and while those certainly have value, the entire point of everything I do here at Learn With Less is that they don’t actually have ANY additional developmental value than the cool air on one’s face, the puddle in the concrete, the pile of leaves on the ground, the spider web on the fence…

So go outside, take a walk, a bike ride, a stroller ride, a crawl… lay on the grass, dress your baby or toddler for the snow and get outside to explore textures and other sensory experiences! And again, talk about what you see, feel, smell, hear, taste, and experience with movement…

blue jeans

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay: 

Ayelet, I am afraid I could ask questions all day! Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten? Any last piece of advice? 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

Honestly, just that you are enough. You are enough as a parent or caregiver. You already have everything you need. 

Come and have a listen to the Learn With Less podcast, where I and my guests regularly explore topics related to early child development, setting limits and managing behavior, setting up the environment for learning, and balancing needs, priorities, and relationships in early parenthood. 

Leslie Lindsay: 

Thank you, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. 

Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP: 

Thank you, Leslie, for having me.


Artistic photo of book covers designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow @leslielindsay1 on Instagram]

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase copies of UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY and UNDERSTANDING YOUR TODDLER, please visit:


I’m passing along a complimentary gently-used book bundle of both of these amazing books. Must reside in the continental U.S. to be eligible.

Here’s how it works: Share this link wherever you hang out on line (FB, Twitter, Insta, email). Then send me a note (leslie_lindsay@hotmail.com) and say you’d like to be entered to win this book bundle. Make your subject line: Learn with Less. A random name will be selected Wednesday 1/22/20 at 2pm CST. I’ll respond to your email if you’re the winner. Check your junk/spam. You’ll need to provide your continental U.S. mailing address and I’ll ship you your books. Yay and good luck!


Order Links:

GRAB YOUR FREE Infant/Toddler Development Blueprint here!

headshot smallABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ayelet Marinovich, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist, parent educator, singer, and mother based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the founder and host of Learn With Less, where she provides families with the confidence to raise a great human from day one – without having to buy a single toy! She is also the creator of the Learn With Less™ Curriculum, the basis for which is outlined in her bestselling books, Understanding Your Baby and Understanding Your Toddler. Her current passions include spending time with her family, dismantling the baby industry, and creating communities of support for families of young children with infants and toddlers of all developmental levels.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

I hope you do!

Second edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming Spring 2020 from Woodbine House! 
image1 (5)

Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. She has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.


#childdevelopment #SLPeeps #parenting #toddlers #babies #learnwithless #play #reading #CAS #apraxia #firstwords


[Cover and author image courtesy of A. Marinovich and used with permission. Artistic photo of book covers designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow @leslielindsay1 on Instagram]


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