Toys That Teach to Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Here’s the clip from FOX6 Milwaukee:

Avoid the summer slide: A look at the latest toys that teach

 

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Playonwords.com on FOX5 Milwaukee today!

Talking Points FOX6 Real Milwaukee 6-21-18

Toys to Inspire Storytelling to Keep Reading and Writing Sharp Over the Summer

Background on Sherry:

Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun toys to build language skills through creative play and storytelling, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.

Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play. Information on all these toys is on my website, playonwords.com

Croco Jungle Research Station by Schleich, 3-8 years, $99

  • Carrying down hall to classroom to play and kids went, “Whoa!!”
  • Set it on the table and kids immediately began to collaborate in set up and starting a story
  • “The jaguar goes in here so he doesn’t make trouble
  • So many accessories that suggest different sub-plots of the story–treasure, trap door, ranger station, pens and animals, dangerous/sick, eating/ sleeping, cooking
  • Tired takes a nap in the “Hangmock”

Available at Amazon. Click here

Kruselings by Hape, 3 years and up,  ($28-$45)

  • Beautiful doll characters are Guardians of the Dreams.
  • Personalities: Vera, child of Grace, ballerina, waves wand, things dance
  • Sophia, Child of Nature, magic flower to speak in languages of creatures
  • Girls transformed their dolls from street clothes to wings and magic accessories
  • Ended up at teacher’s desk re-enacting their story, dialogue

Available at Fairhaven Toy Garden. Click here

Trap and Gap Baseplates by Strictly Briks, 4 and up, ($24.99)

  • Wisconsin company, CEO Dad remembers the fun he had playing with trap doors and extending ramps for escape, racing or parking
  • Strictly Briks are compatible with all major brick building brands
  • Their accessories and props add new dimension to story telling
  • Design best getaway adventure, house or  parking garage
  • Open ended play where child drives the story
  • Story changes as different toys are brought to the structure

Available at Strictly Briks. Click here

My Story Dolls by Faber-Castell, 6 and up, ($15.00)

  • These dolls just make me smile!
  • My little girlfriends chose to make Wishful, Goofy and Happy, unique fashion style, facial expression, mood and story to express through outfits
  • Chose mood, face, and clothes–floss hair, pom poms, rhinestones, fur
  • Conversation about choices, “Which face is wishful? eyes closed, dreaming?
  • Mixing conversation and crafting is rich experience
  • Kids learn to express feelings and recognize them in others, increasing EQ and building social language skills

Available at Faber-Castell. Click here

Frog Life Cycle by Folkmanis, 3 years and up, ($68)

  • I came into classroom, “Who wants to put on a puppet show?”
  • 2 boys came back and put on a show for me
  • Starts as the egg, lenticular printed patch with tadpole swimming->
  • tadpole-> frog
  • “In a few days I’ll be a frog to play with you!”
  • Puppets can bring out shy kids to engage in dialogue and story telling

Playful Chef Chocolate Studio and Shoppe by MindWare, 4 and up, ($16-$50)

  • Cooking is wonderful language activity: sequence directions, measure, learn fractions, and here set up display for a candy shop!
  • Boys loved making chocolate hearts from mom for Mother’s Day
  • Could write out menu, prices etc for writing practice and exchange play money
  • Kid tip: chocolates harden faster in the refrigerator

Available at MindWare. Click here

Pop Oh Ver Stove by Kangaroo Manufacturing, 3 years and up, ($39.95)

  • Unfold the canvas and slip it over a chair
  • Ready for the little chef
  • Perfect for parents, grandparents, teachers with limited space
  • Cleverly designed by a mom of 7
  • Building stories as they imitate adults in their life

Available at Amazon. Click here

 

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Choosing The Best Toys to Inspire Storytelling

It’s been my mission for over 35 years to teach parents how to select the best toys for fun smart play, that inspire creativity and storytelling, building language skills. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Schleich's Croco Junge Ranger Station PAL Award winner

    Schleich’s Croco Junge Ranger Station PAL Award winner

    Several categories of props with accessories to inspire sub plots within the story. Schleich’s “Croco Jungle Ranger Station” is an excellent example of this as they have created a jungle ranger station theme with several directions the story can take: work at the ranger station on the computer etc., fixing the property with tools in the tool box, preparing dinner over the open fire, eating, sleeping, caring for sick animals, penning up dangerous animals or those they are observing, or hiding treasure or people in the large croc skull.

  2. Plenty of accessories within a category to expand the story. Playmobil’s
    Playmobil's "Camp Site," PAL Award winner

    Playmobil’s “Camp Site,” PAL Award winner

    “Camp Site” is a great illustration of this concept.  Vibrant hanging plants, postcards, magazines, maps, cash register (with Euros), soft drinks and your favorite frozen ice cream treat (with labels) help you ease in to your home-away-from-home. In case you failed to bring all your plates, cups, toothpaste, brush, suntan lotion and bug spray – don’t sweat it, you can pick them up at the Quik-Mart, along with canned goods, milk and OJ – all with decals reinforcing the reality. Shower, use the rest room or camp out in the cute orange tent.

  3. Sequenced props that for add-on stories. Some toy or games provide
    "Tall Tales," PAL Award winner

    “Tall Tales,” PAL Award winner

    characters and objects or setting cards to inspire a story to be told. Tall Tales provides a bag of 50 cute rubber 3D objects and characters to draw out of a velvet bag to carry on the story. 24 beautifully illustrated story cards give options for settings as kids can change up the story according various backgrounds. Kids learn story elements as they sequence their tale.

  4. Plenty of characters whether people, animals or animated objects to lead the dialogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Playonwords.com on FOX6 “Avoid the Summer Slide with Great Games and Puzzles”

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Playonwords.com on FOX6 Milwaukee Today! Great Games and Puzzles

Great Games and Puzzles to Keep Brains Sharp Over Summer Break

Background on Sherry:

Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun games and puzzles to build language skills, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.

Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play.

Magicube Story Building by Geomagworld, 3 and up, ($34.99)

  • Dream product for a speech pathologist as it provides 143 characters and props for telling “The Three Pigs”
  • 5 pages of clips attach to the cubes to tell the story, changing characters’ faces as the story progresses
  • “Where is the wind blowing?(wolf’s huff and puff)
  • Builds understanding of important elements of a good story
  • Prepare for reading and writing

Bright Lights Soccer Ball by VTech, 6 months and up, ($14.99)

  • What’s summer without a game of soccer with your baby or toddler?
  • Toss the ball: encouraging phrases, songs, directions, activated by motion
  • Learn rhymes, vocabulary, concepts, opposites, counting, social language
  • Babies talk more to a face

Available at VTech. Click here

ARTributes by Simplyfun, 7 and up ($33.00)

  • Kids pick 2-3 attribute cards and draw image representing that word
  • players guess, my 7 yr. old drew “sweet” which we guessed, ice cream/strawberry
  • From jumpy, cold, gloomy, tall, busy to sparkling, wet or lazy
  • Learn vocabulary, all about adjectives and how word is associated with their drawing

Available at Simplyfun.  Click here

Acorn Soup by Peaceable Kingdom/MindWare brand, 2 years and up ($17.95)

  • Best beginner games for preschoolers encourage pretend play
  • Let’s get out our recipes and make some soup for squirrel
  • Follow the recipe, by category, counting, matching, sequencing
  • Stir it up for some pretend play

CODENAMES: Disney Family Edition by USAopoly, 8 and up, ($24.95)

  • Loved Disney movie illustrations in a grid for game board
  • Key Card shows location of their Treasure Cards to be guessed
  • Cluemaster gives clue that applies to several cards to be guessed by their teammates
  • “amber” “sizzle” “submerged”
  • “competitor “ described Merida from Brave and Lightning McQueen.
  • A mom said, “Look at the words you’ve learned!{
  • Vocabulary, association, description skills, critical thinking, all to crack the codes

Available at USAopoly. Click here

Ravensburger VW 3D Puzzle, 10 and up, ($29.99)

  • Kids couldn’t wait to assemble this puzzle
  • Wonderful opportunity for several generations to talk and assemble together
  • Play began to resemble a team as we gathered numbers by section, “I’ve got the 20’s”
  • Some were assembling by the numbers on the back of pieces while others were matching the illustration
  • All of a sudden strips of flap sections went 3D
  • Had fun as kids were surfers

Available at Amazon. Click here

 Otrio by Spin Master, 6 years and up, ($34.99)

  • Kids and adults quickly became addicted to this game
  • Seems simple at first but really requires concentration, critical thinking, strategizing offensive and defensive moves to build one of 3 configurations to win
  • Have trio of large, medium and small colored rings, ascending  descending order, 3 of the same size in a line, or 3 co-centric circles on one space
  • Players shocked when someone won, everyone started explaining their strategy–one Dad teamed up with his son when mom was the biggest threat
  • Tapping language, visual memory, spatial and critical thinking skills

Available at Spin Master. Click here

Long and Tall Puzzle 123 Rocketship by The Learning Journey International, 3 and up, ($14.99)

  • love puzzles because they have so much learning potential
  • draw the whole famiy together as being assembled
  • This 5’ rocketship was constructed by 4 year-old, siblings, grandma and mom
  • Calling out pictures from each stage associated with 1-10
  • Looking for astronauts’ feet, wrenches and “Where do the paint pots go?”
  • Identifying, naming and sequencing numbers, dscribing sections of the puzzle, using positional words: higher, top, under, next, last
  • Finished and said, “Blastoff!”

Available at The Learning Journey International. Click here

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Toy Fair Trends New York 2018, Lots of Learning

What fun to step right into the parade lineup as I started my adventure through the New York Toy Fair last week! The opening ribbon cutting ceremony unleashed thousands of international buyers and press to see what’s new in the toy industry. I was pumped up with the excitement, energy, innovation, passion and fun generated by seeing the hottest new toys, games and entertainment products come to life. I loved discovering more companies intentionally building learning opportunities into their products, and calling out the skills on packaging, in lesson plans and parent guides!

After walking the nearly half million square feet, it was evident to me what was trending among products that can deliver an outstanding playful learning experience, with rich repeat play potential:

STEM +Story: STEM is STEAMing ahead with many products designed to build science, technology, engineering and math, even for babies and toddlers. What’s new is many companies are now adding a creative story element (read that “language/literacy  learning”) to their building and construction play. Build and Imagine and Wonderhood Toys have been favorite leaders in this rich pairing. Thankfully more companies have stepped up this year to deepen the learning by inviting kids to author the story as they build. Thames and Kosmos introduced Pepper Mint (“The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure”) who visits her scientist aunt in the rain forest, equipping their tree house with mechanical equipment using pulleys, winches, and gears, and even light up the jungle with a string of LED lanterns! Geomagworld engages preschoolers with their Magicubes, adding magnetic blocks to combine for people, animals and jobs, expanding mix and match story-telling opportunities.

Portable Play: After visiting companies specializing in larger play schemes, I saw an emphasis on sliding parts, and fold up play products for easy storage or take-along play. I know my Grammy friends were very interested in several of the larger pretend play toys that could be minimized for storage when the grandkids go home. One of the most innovative products I saw (and others were talking about it too) was Kangaroo’s “Pop-oh-Ver’s”  Stove and Market, a fabric stove, oven and microwave that is so cleverly designed by a mom of 7, that it fits over a chair! Talk about lots of pretend play potential that you can fold up and put away. The microwave door opens to a clear pocket to insert your bacon. So many of Simplay3’s products have design elements for take-apart packability. Their “Carry and Go Track Table” is fun ready to happen. The sturdy vehicle track has play options on both sides–race and train tracks, and an easy to carry handle. Kids bring the cars and people to the set for their own story.

Strong EQ:  EQtainment is leading the toy movement with outstanding new products every year for parents and teachers to provide excellent content for kids’ learning to name, regulate and understand emotions, while building kindness, compassion and understanding. This year’s “Moment AR App,” utilizes AR technology, helping children to identify their feelings and emotions with the use of unique 3D images of characters representing emotions, in the palm of their hand. Guidecraft’s Kai Kai and Xin Xin dolls have facial expression features to add to the face that can change the doll’s emotions, inspiring discussion about how one is feeling. Faber Castell’s “My Story Dolls Express Your Mood, “  starts with a clothespin, as kids choose a face that reflects their mood–calm, happy, sad, determined etc. and then decorate the doll with fabric clothes, tape, stickers, embroidery floss hair, and rhinestones to communicate emotions. What a creative beginning to bringing about a conversation about feelings! Hoyle’s “Super Me” memory card game teaches kids empathy, helping others and social skills as they match an emergency situation with the appropriate superhero response.

Expanded Play set Props: I am always excited to see some of my favorite toys I’ve used in therapy be surrounded by new playset props to expand and inspire story telling.  Schleich has added beautifully detailed “worlds” on the Farm and at the Horse Club, with characters, buildings and props to their collection of animals for work, play and secret getaways.  These play sets offer a starting point for kids to take off and be the director of their play, enriching the learning experience.  Planning, critical thinking, negotiating and reasoning skills are tapped as kids join together in pretend play. Corolle, known for its huggable,  sweet scented dolls, has stepped up the pretend play factor providing accessory packages for “A Day in the Life of a Toddler.”  With breakfast props (the toast pops up), and snacks, kids can exercise cognitive language skills through imitating real life. Park your car at  Plan Toys’ new “Parking Garage,” and get some extra reading and writing practice as the road surface is friendly to chalk messages. Kids can write directions, name a service or even the price to park.  Strictly Briks, is rich with new accessories to expand open-ended brick building play, from tracks, cubes, and 3D bricks including their newest “Trap & Gap Baseplates,” inspired by the CEO’s play as a child.

Games and Puzzles Rule: Games and Puzzles continue to be the fastest growing category of toys as families seek more quality time with the kids. Thinkfun’s “Shadows in the Forest” is a game played in the dark.  A team controls the movement of cute little Shadowlings who freeze when exposed to the light by the Seeker and need to be freed by collaborative effort. There has been much written lately about kids’ declining social skills due to increased time on their phones and devices rather than face to face interaction. Assembling a puzzle can be a wonderful opportunity to gather around the table and connect socially.  “Volkswagon T1 Campervan 3D puzzle by Ravensburger appeals to the adventurer and surfer dude in all of us. I can’t wait to watch and listen as some brothers work together to assemble it. The Learning Journey’s “Glow in the Dark Pirate Ship” puzzle takes you through a day in the life of a pirate with lots to talk about.

Pet Play: “Cutie Paws Puppy Stroller” by VTech is sure to be popular with the preschool set, as they take their doggie for a ride. Alex Toys’  “Snap-To-It Vet” looks like a traveling vet van that opens up to all the accessories for grooming and a good exam with props that are attached to the fabric book with button like snaps for kids to set up the scene. Folkmanis’ “3 Stages of a Frog,” will delight kids just like their caterpillar to butterfly puppet did. Perfect for learning in and outside the classroom, this 3 part puppet teaches metamorphosis from the egg to the tadpole to the frog.

 

 

Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Elementary School Age, Games, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Calling out the Learning in Toys

Those of you who know me, know that it is part of my mission to get companies to call out the learning potential in their toys and games for parents and educators. Let’s face it. This also helps sell toys and games when retailers can be helpful to customers looking for the learning in their products.

The first company I saw to do this effectively and comprehensively was ThinkFun who originally had a chart (which I helped advise on) that checked off different skills for each game. Now you go to their products and sort by skill–Word and Language skills, Logic and Problem Solving, STEM and Creative Thinking, and Visual Perception and Reasoning. Their games are loaded with fun learning and they were innovators in having a former kindergarten teacher, Charlotte Fixler,  on their staff to advise on skill building potential in products.

Brackitz has a wonderful grid broken into 13 skills, including “Representation and Storytelling.” They get it. Language is an integral skill in STEM/STEAM activities as kids are solving problems, negotiating, reasoning and often creating a story or structure for later pretend play.

So many companies fail to identify the language learning in their toys and games. Is it just too obvious? Language underlies all learning but kids are are getting less opportunity to interact face to face, practicing these social and cognitive skills as tablets and devices are stealing time from free creative play.

Educational Insights has been my go-to company for great games to use in speech therapy over the years, Their skill breakdown is evident under the “Education” category on their website. I’ve played “Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game” with kids and they loved it, while according to their website, learning:

  • Practices identifying geometric shapes
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Improves strategic thinking skills
  • Encourages social skills and turn-taking

I only wish these skills were identified for ALL of their games, not just those deemed “Educational.”

I’ll be at the International Toy Fair in New York City in a little over a week and be on the lookout for more companies making it easier for parents to find a great toy or game that can help build specific skills for kids who might need some extra practice or strengthening in an area.

 

 

 

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Taking Child’s Play Seriously

There is a wonderful article on the importance of the right play for kids in the New York Times this week, “Taking Playtime Seriously.”  Not only does it emphasize the importance of a child’s play but what can threaten natural learning through play,

“But though play may be intrinsically present, and intrinsically playful, those who study its importance in children’s lives point out that it can also be threatened, either by too little attention and responsiveness from distracted adults or, in another sense, by too much attention and teaching, of the not-so-playful kind.”

I’ve spent my career coaching parents on how to play with their children to strengthen language development and talked to them about entering their child’s play to elevate language learning. That means come alongside them and follow their lead, perhaps taking a figure and entering dialogue with your child’s figure or cooperatively building a story with props. Too much attention and teaching, such as taking over the play or pushing toys or tablets that push content over interaction can be taking away important time that could be used for exploration, creation and curiosity.

The article goes on to say, “So part of encouraging play is pulling back on how much programmed goal-directed learning we expect from very young children, to leave them time for the fun of exploration, curiosity and, well, fun. But another important part may be creating environments that foster children’s play and parents’ participation and attention.

Certainly toys are not always the answer, as pots and pans, sticks, a cardboard box or even fish candies can spark imaginations and free play in kids. But when we ARE selecting toys we should be on the look out for those that can give a suggestion of pretend play or story telling without prescribing it so carefully that a child is robbed of being the creative author of their play.

 

 

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Zoo on the Loose, Perfect Language Learning Game

I love to “find” a fantastic language learning game and in this case, it was on the game shelf at my grandkids’ house and due to the kids’ excitement when  I asked about it, I knew it was loads of fun too!

“Zoo on the Loose, A Hide and Seek Animal Adventure” by Mindware is right in sync with preschoolers as they are in charge of hiding and finding animals according to directions that include plenty of concepts to process–spacial relationships, colors, shapes, and descriptors. Unfold the play zoo mat and place the 5 cuddly animals, camel, zebra, bear, whale and monkey in their zoo homes. Play cards send the animals to hide on the mat or all around the house. Our kids did both which added a memory component because when we chose a zookeeper card, we had to return all the animals to their zoo homes on the mat. We forgot the monkey was in the refrigerator, as we had “put it someplace cold!” What fun to see how the kids listened to and followed the directions, choosing a spot that matched their descriptions. “Put the camel someplace soft” directed my little friend to place it under our dog standing by!

Kids practice beginning reading skills as they repeat a phrase, “Put the___”in the yellow circle,” “by a window,” “under a tree,” or “next to the camel.” Listening and following directions is a critical skill for success in the classroom as kids practice hiding the animals “someplace quiet,” “someplace sunny,” or “someplace dry (the clothes dryer).” Teachers and therapists take note as this would be a wonderful way to engage kids physically in the classroom as well as mentally as they exercise memory, listening, vocabulary, and concept learning to build essential language skills.

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What Were Kids’ Favorite Christmas Gifts? These Ruled at our House!

  1. With the excitement of Christmas and the holidays past, it is fun to reflect on what toys, games and books were the biggest hits with the kids with lasting play value. This year I had to search a bit more for appropriate fun, learning toys for kids 12 and up as my grandkids are getting older. There is definitely less written about excellent STEM and learning kits for tweens in my opinion so it took some investigating. Here were favorites according to the kids and parents:

 

  1. Little Bits Droid Inventor Kit was just as much fun as expected. My 9 year-old put it together and navigated the app independently which is a plus for any parent as well as their child! He followed the building instructions and operated the droid from the app.
  2. Make Mini Piñatas by Klutz was a hit with the option to make 3 kid-sized piñatas, from a hamburger to a slice of watermelon, unicorn, emoji, robot, cactus and more. All the materials are provided except scissors and masking tape and we needed some extra glue. The cardboard forms were easy to fold into shapes and sometimes needed an extra pair of hands to tape them together. Instructions were clear visually and verbally so kids could count, measure and cut the strips of paper and “fringe” them for the piñata. Our 7 year-old chose to make the hamburger and it was so popular that it was hung on the tree and declared an annual ornament! He liked it so much he chose not to fill the trap door with candy and smash it to bits as one would traditionally do with a piñata.
  3. LeapFrog Scoop and Learn Ice Cream Cart was a hit yet again with a 3 year-old who was making ice cream cones for her grandpa. Check out my review of this PAL Award winner that keeps kids entertained and busy learning!
  4. KLUTZ  Stitch & Style Pouches are a perfect introduction to learning to use a thread and needle. My 9 year-old granddaughter learned to separate and thread floss,  remember the right and wrong side of the fabric,  and make a running and back stitch. She loves animals so these little animal pouches (you can make 7) were perfect for stashing her valuables.The kit includes zippers too to close up the pouch or make a mouth. With plenty of colored felt, heart and other shaped buttons and shapes to trace, kids can get creative making a llama, watermelon, ice cream cone or puppy to name a few. The hardest part was threading the needle so I cheated and left her with some metal and wire needle threaders we got at Walmart, so she could be self-sufficient.
  5. Soggy Doggy by Spin Master always catches kids by surprise when the shaggy dog randomly flicks water all over players when he decides to shake after his many showers!  A simple first game for preschoolers, this incorporates some pretend play with a rubbery, endearing doggy who doesn’t like to get wet.

 

Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Language, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddlers | Leave a comment