Literacy Lessons Reinforced with Art

Rainbow Fish Literacy/Art Lesson

Rainbow Fish Literacy/Art Lesson

I had a great outing to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin today. After a yummy lunch in the ArtCafe we visited the exhibits and ended up in the “student” section, art primarily by preschoolers. Can I say that was my favorite exhibit?? I loved that they had a literacy lesson on the classic children’s picture book, The Rainbow Fish. The kids were inspired to paint, collage and make ceramic fish and mobiles as a response to the story. This wonderfully illustrated book is the tale of a proud little fish who learned the joy of sharing and friendship. Hopefully the kids enjoyed a good language lesson too, explaining their picture or sculpture to the class.

Rainbow Fish Ceramics

Rainbow Fish Ceramics

When I was doing speech therapy in small groups of 3-4 year-olds with special needs, I always had an art project to support the story. I used colored shiny paper and plenty of glitter to make the coveted scales and used the pictures for re-telling the story, practicing the grammatical goals we were working on.  The art project served several purposes, it reinforced the story, was a helpful prop for re-telling the plot, and served as a take-home link between school and home to prompt the child to tell a little about what we did that day.

Literacy Inspires Art

Literacy Inspires Art

I loved seeing the ceramic “Rainbow Fish” with a lone sequin pressed into the clay on different parts of the fish, symbolizing all that was left after sharing her beloved glittery scales!

How fun to see art class use literacy for their inspiration.

 

 

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Books, Preschool, Preschool Class, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Rule Crazy Reading Game Showcases at Toy Fair 2017

Okay the excitement is mounting on all sides I must say. Company representatives are getting ready to travel to New York City and set up their booths, store reps are getting ready to top their Fit-Bit mileage in 4 days and press representatives are scanning all the incoming e-mail blasts about new products and launches.

Each day we get Toy Fair Press releases and this week it was great to see one from a small company and PAL Award winner, “P. F. Shaggy Launches Rule Crazy, a Multi Award-Winning Board Game to Inspire Budding Readers.” I love when parents, who are on the front line watching their kids learn to read, sometimes with great effort, invent a fun game to teach kids to read. In this case, it’s a father-daughter team, founder-dad, Shahin Orci, and his 6-year-old daughter CFO (Chief Fun Officer), Sabrina, who designed a game for kids 5-8 (grades K-2), Rule Crazy helps children build sentence-reading skills thanks to outrageous vocabulary and imagery, and a mainstream board game format. Rule Crazy also sneakily incorporates 72 sight words to help children master those more challenging, frequently-used words in early reading materials.

This dad-daughter team isn’t afraid to stand up for reading, amidst all the emphasis on the importance of STEM-based products. Don’t get me wrong. I am very supportive of the movement to build interest and skills in our young scientists, especially girls, but I think we overlook the importance of early language skill building and reading. Finding innovative ways to make learning to read fun should be a top priority as proficient language and reading skills are essential in all professions, especially as school and the work force require more collaboration and explanation of  ideas and results.

I applaud P.F Shaggy for bringing reading back into the forefront of top priorities in children’s products:

“Currently, STEM and STEAM-based games are in great demand. However, the makers of Rule Crazy believe that there is another brain-boosting category that must not be forgotten by the board game industry: Reading. Mass market retail shelves today are especially lacking reading-based games for ages 5-6.”

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

Kids’ Biographies Inspire Next Generation Leaders

Kids' biographies by Brad Meltzer

Kids’ biographies by Brad Meltzer

I always appreciate a good biography written for children, especially one that inspires young girls to be their best. During a weekend with some of our grandchildren, I had the opportunity to read about 8 of the books in a series, “Ordinary People Change the World,” by Brad Meltzer. Their other grandma, who is an avid reader, had sent this suggestion to mom who reserved the whole series at her public library, to read to her 6 and 8 year-old. We got started, ironically, on Martin Luther King Day, and pulled out his biography, which inspires kids to love others, do right and use your words to peacefully make change, without violence. Rosa Parks was my little friend’s next choice, which inspired a conversation on racial inequality, daring to stand up for herself on what is right and changing “the rules” to be fair for everyone.  There is thorough content in each life story, with a timeline and plenty of pictures for children to see how a child can grow up to be an adult who impacts the world. When we read Lucille Ball, it was evident that my little 6 and 8 year-old weren’t as familiar with her as I was. I was trying to explain the “wrapping candies on the conveyor belt” skit when I got out my computer and showed the video. Lucille Ball’s humor transcended generations as I was asked to keep playing it over and over! Jane Goodall was a favorite as my 8 year-old had been read several books about this female scientist and even had a doll accessory set with cot, desk, binoculars, journal and typewriter for pretend play. What an inspiring story to teach pursuit of your dreams, patience, curiosity, and making an impact on the world.

These biographies are an excellent source of language lessons for the classroom or therapy, as children can name character traits, accomplishments, and impact on society. Lots of writing prompts come to mind–What is your dream? What is unjust in your world? What do you want to learn more about?

 

Abraham Lincoln and Lucille Ball.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Books, Elementary School, Elementary School Age, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Gearing Up for the Toy Fair 2017!

I’m packing in appointments for 4 full days of exciting discoveries as we will be covering the New York Toy Fair 2017 at the Jacob Javits Center with over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space looking for the best new toys, games and books to build language skills through fantastically fun play!

I’m already seeing some wonderful games to get the mind (and body) engaged in fun educational play. Here are some games and toys that are on my list to see and play:

Cha-Cha Chihuahua The Game of Dancing Doggies by Gamewright. I am always looking for cute preschool games to get our little ones ready for school, following directions, learning concepts and new vocabulary. Jump, jive, and wag your tail! Draw cards to get these peppy perritos to join your doggy dance-a-thon. Paw away another player’s pups with some fetching food, but watch out for “siesta” cards that will send your dog-tired dancers straight to the Nap Shack! End the party with the most Chihuahuas on your dance floor and you’re the cha-cha-champ!  4 and up.

Yookidoo’s Whale Submarine for 2-6 year olds. We all know that tub time is a great opportunity for learning through fun play as kids squirt, dump, pour, soak, float, tip and fill. Creative play around the theme of the submarine diver and whale, encourages storytelling and water ALWAYS adds to the  fun and language learning. I’ve had many successful speech therapy sessions at a little client’s kitchen sink, playing with bath toys.  Yookidoo is known for its super fun tub toys that encourage exploration and pretend play. The submarine can stick to the tub bottom, drawing water through the diver shower head for aiming streaming water at the whale, or a friend in the tub! Be innovative and give a tub toy for a baby gift. They’ll grow into it and older siblings will love you for it.

Think n’ Sync The Great Minds Think Alike Game by Gamewright for the 12 and up crowd. 3… 2… 1… Sync! Meld your minds in this hilarious party game of quick connections. Pick a partner and then, at the same time, shout out an answer to the chosen category. Can you both name a movie princess? An ice cream flavor? How about something orange? Your answers may be great, but they only score if they’re identical! So think quickly, think cleverly, but most importantly- Think n’ Sync! This game gets kids thinking in categories AND trying to match the minds of their partners.

Looking forward to meeting some new Little Friends at HABA USA and their pets and accessories. HABA’s soft light-weight dolls are precious cargo for little ones as they tote them around as  pretend play companions. They know how to cook, sleep, read, play and eat which are all scenarios for building language learning!

Rory’s Story Cubes Fantasia for 8 and up. I’ve awarded many sets of Rory’s Story Cubes over the years and played with them with countless kids in speech therapy to elicit creative stories based on themed images on dice from Batman to Scooby-Doo. Conjure up fantastic fairytales with these new Rory’s Story Cubes. Contained within this set are nine iconic cubes that will help you tell tales of magical feats, mythical beasts and medieval feasts. With 54 images and millions of combinations, your stories will be infinitely enchanted!

 

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Toy Reviews, Toys | Leave a comment

“Ada Twist, Scientist” Inspires Girl Power

I’ve enjoyed reading Rosie Revere, Engineer and Izzy Peck, Architect for many engaging language lessons with kids They love the stories that provide so much to talk about and relate to their lives. The newest addition to the series, Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, drew me in as a speech pathologist because Ada was apparently mum until 3 years of age when her first word was, “Why?” followed by further questions pouring out, ”What?” How?” and “When? Her job was to question and figure out the answer. Ada was truly unusual as her order of questions, ironically was backwards from typical language development, “Why?” is a later developing more advanced query than a simpler “What?’ or “When?” But of course that probably only interests a speech pathologist and makes for a more compelling story! Of course “Miss Ada Twist had all the traits of a great scientist.” She loved “A mystery! A riddle! A puzzle! A quest!” Punished for her experiments on the cat, she sat in her Thinking Chair which inspired her Great Thinking Wall, filled with formulas and hypotheses on what could be causing that terrible stink! Her  curiosity, persistence and perseverance serve as a perfect model for girls (and boys!)  to pursue their passions.

Available at Barnes and Noble. Click here

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Book Review, Books, Elementary School Age, Language | Leave a comment

Boys Love Girls’ Stem Products Too!

Wonderhood's Grand Hotel language development toy

Wonderhood’s Grand Hotel

Okay that’s a crazy title in this world of controversy about labeling toys by gender. But I can’t help it. Boys DO like to play with great toys that are being marketed to girls to build their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very supportive of high quality toys and games designed to build those skills in girls and interest them in science related careers. The science of speech pathology as well as the ability to help people is what drew me to my profession and keeps me excited and interested in current research. Let me give you three examples from my play experience with kids.

IMG_2385Wonderhood’s Grand Hotel and Corner Shops Creative Building Sets provide kids with designing experience and storytelling practice as they experiment with different configurations of the many illustrated panels, placing the stairs, elevator, pool, Snack  Bar, and Kids’ Club for starters. It’s great fun to watch a group of boys collaborate over where to take the design next in their group build. Our guys got into it physically and verbally as they climbed across the table to get the pieces they needed for their model. I loved watching them move around and offer up pieces suggesting where they should go (in the space to the left of the elevator) and what they represented–Candy Store, Party House!

Build and Imagine Creativity Castle

Build and Imagine Creativity Castle

Build and Imagine sets have been a big draw for boys that I have worked with in speech therapy. These sets have been the single best pretend play set for building language in my little clients. They especially liked “Creativity Castle,” “Malia’s House,” and “The Fairy Tale Theater.” The magnetic, illustrated themed story walls snap together for easy on-off experimentation while designing a house, castle, stage, marina or pet studio. The stand up characters are boy and girl while the many magnetic props that attach to the walls are in appealing categories to both genders.

K’NEX’s “Mighty Maker” series are dominated by bright pink and purple pieces but that doesn’t stop the boys from constructing. Mighty Maker’s Director’s Cut Building Set features a stage with curtains that open and close, ready for boys and girls to MM Directors Cut_package_43067put on a show. With stop-action movies popular with kids, this stage and building pieces are a perfect set for creating an original movie or putting on a play!

 

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

“Pearla and Her Unpredictably Perfect Day,” Teaching Social Emotional Literacy

51gs4ndgu1l-_ac_us160_I enjoy finding SLP’s who are working and learning “outside the box,” applying their speech-language skills to important related areas of learning, to better the lives of our clients. I’d like to introduce you to  Rochel Lieberman, a Speech Language Pathologist and PhD student in Communication Sciences and Disorders, with her field of interest in social emotional literacy and stress in language development. She is publishing her first children’s book, regarding social  emotional literacy skills in children,  Pearla and Her Unpredictably Perfect Day,”  a delightful story about a clever little girl who uses strategies to overcome perfectionism, solve a problem and see the the fun outcomes possible in her imperfect world! Here is Rochel’s guest post:

I was inspired by my work as a Speech-Language Pathologist to write Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day.

While providing services to a wide range of children and adults over the years, I discovered that many of us find it difficult to deal with all of the little imperfections that are part of everyday life. As adults, we may experience some typical mishaps: the dress that you planned to wear had previously unnoticed stains resulting in wardrobe panic, or the kids’ babysitter cancelled last minute causing you to be late for an important doctor’s meeting, or your client cancelled her appointment just as you reschedule your day. Learning to accept these impossible-to-avoid changes is an important part of our development and can prepare us for challenges that have far greater implications. The main character in my book, Pearla, was born from this realization and from the realization that someone with healthy social emotional literacy, SEL, can conquer these daily mishaps and challenges and come out on top.

When children battle with perfectionism and anxiety, an individual with healthy, developed SEL can intervene and guide the children toward optimal resolutions.

Take the following typical scenario of Perfection and Anxiety butting heads. Anxiety continuously repeats lines such as, “You must not relax until you know for certain that things will work out”, or “No resting until you have 100% certainty that the fearful event that you worry about will not take place”, or “Don’t stop until that hopeful event that you insist must happen, occurs”. Perfection rolls his eyes and folds his arms across his chest. “Measure up, get to perfect or else you won’t get that feeling of certainty”, he says, and, “If you hadn’t made mistakes in the past, you would have more certainty around your upcoming event”, “Next time you must go the extra mile, why didn’t you?” He mutters under his breath, “Why didn’t you plan each piece accurately?”

Someone with SEL has the ability to identify, label, understand, and respond to thoughts or emotions like the quotes above, in a healthy, positive manner. This leads a person to engage in healthy social behaviors. Therefore, when an adult with healthy SEL hears this conversation between Perfection and Anxiety, she can easily highlight some buzzwords. “You cannot relax until you know for sure that things will work out”, “there is no rest until you have 100% certainty that the fearful event that you worry about will not happen”, and “don’t stop until that hopeful events that you insist must happen, will happen”, all things that anxiety would say. Perfection said, “Measure up, get to perfect or else you won’t get that feeling of certainty”, “You should’ve never messed up, then you would’ve known that your certain event would’ve happened”, “Next time you must go through the extra step, I mean how did you not?” and lowers his eyes to say “Why didn’t you plan each piece so perfectly?”

Recognizing words like ‘cannot’, ‘for sure’, ‘will not’, ‘would’ve not’, and ‘must’, identifying their meanings, and being able to understand what they represent, can help you respond in a positive and healthy way to stress, negative self-talk, and uncomfortable events.

In Pearla and her Unpredictably Perfect Day, Pearla is excited that she can bake in her father’s bakery. It is a huge responsibility and she anticipates the preparation and the presentation of her baked goods with great effort. She is aware of what is at stake; she has accumulated fans who show vested interest in her success. I mean, she has people driving over from the other side of the river – on a Sunday – just to sample her goodies! You know those perfect people from the other side of the river, grass, building, city, who come for this 10-year-old? Preparing for them takes tremendous work and organization – as well as the pendulum swing between Anxiety and Perfection. Perfection lays out the good-luck bowls and uses strong hands to whip her baked goods into masterpieces. There is nothing simple about this activity. Sure, the work is tiring, but Anxiety keeps the argument strong and consistent, leaving no room for mishap.

When mistakes do happen and events that Pearla could not have planned for do indeed occur, Pearla enters into a “Blllllega Blllllega” phase, the phase introduced in Pearla and Her Unpredictably Perfect Day that initially renders Pearla helpless, causing her to make sounds with her mouth, to pace back and forth, and to not think logically. Fortunately, through the intervention tools of SEL, Pearla is able to emerge from her paralyzing fear and she is able to problem solve.

Her solutions, her healthy labeling of emotions, and her reframing techniques will be covered in my future blog posts. Please follow my posts via my website ariberspeech.com and on Facebook @ariberspeech, I endeavor to leave you with a one-second take away that can be embedded into practice.

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Best Preschool Toys for Holiday Gifts and Learning Too!

Alex Ready Set Sew

Alex Toys “Ready! Set! Sew!

I have lots of “bests” according to what your child’s interests are but here is a start:

  • Go! Go! Smart Friends Enchanted Princess Palace by VTech. Shhh, don’t tell but this going to be our 3 1/2 hear-old’s WOW present for Christmas. Not just for girls, I’m sure her twin brother will love it too based on all the fun they continue to have with Nora an Dawn and the Go! Go!v Smart Friends House. VTech is very intentional about designing toys that inspire talking and interacting, encouraging language development and creative play. They have a panel of experts, including an Early Childhood Language and Reading Expert and they are one of the leaders in the toy industry at calling out language skill building in their products. Care for Me Learning Carrier by VTech is another favorite as kids love to care for pretend pets and this little puppy comes with all the accessories for pretend play and even packs up into his carrier!
  • Brio Countryside Horse Set by Brio provides a wonderful opportunity to add some language learning to train lovers. Brio has added creative play set dimensions to their tracks and trains so you can hop off at the barn, ride Sky the horse, feed her some hay and even give her a shower before boarding the train again.
  • Alex Toys Little Hands Ready! Set! sets provide so much fun for the crafty preschooler. Many have 8 different “projects” as my preschoolers call them from learning about and making dinosaurs to sewing and learning how our bodies work.
  • Fire Station Train Set by BigJig Toys Ltd. For your train lover, how fun is a fire house with railway access on two levels, making fire fighting and rescuing speedy and exciting? Combining high interest kid themes of a fire station and train, Bigjigs Toys has included just the right accessories to expand creative play in several directions of story telling–ladder rescue, road signs, water tank and fire truck.
  • Large African Safari by Playmobil. This set has all the components for multi-themed creative play–an airplane and pilot, zoomobile with luggage holds, ranger and jeep pulling a trailer and many animals. Our little ones who love vehicles couldn’t get enough of this toy.

Stay tuned for more great gift ideas. I’ll keep blogging:)

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Fuzzy Puzzles Please!

Janod zoo puzzle mouth openI’m blogging and posting some favorite gift ideas for your kids for the holidays. I think that parents should have fun playing with their kids too so a puzzle is a wonderful joint activity for smart play.

I just spent several days with my 3 1/2 year old twin grandchildren who fell in love with “fuzzy puzzles” (Janod Tactile Puzzle- A Day at the Zoo, and Life on the Ice). Kids love the soft white fur on the polar bear, shiny blue tail fins of the whale, striped fuzzy back of the tiger, curly fur of the koala, or shiny patterned body of the lizard. With a large fold-up picture of the zoo and ice scenes, kids can refer to the placement of monkeys, ponds, ice, eskimos and penguins to complete the puzzle. Dad even had the kids orienting around the arrows that Janod zoo puzzle playlead you through the zoo! I started by asking the kids what part they wanted to put together first–the alligator, wolves, igloo, balloons or flamingos. The kids gathered up the pieces with those images and started their part of the puzzle. They had to learn to look at the picture, not just fit the pieces together. We were looking for an alligator’s tail, giraffe’s head or flamingo’s legs. We even had a discussion on “What is an eskimo?”

The different tactile experiences associated with a furry deer or shimmery glittered goldfish provide kids with extra sensory input as they learn about animals and their habitat. We had lots of chat going on as we were looking for pieces and experiencing and little trial and error while assembling the puzzle.

The minute we finished the puzzle, they asked to do it again!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Language, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Parents Ask for Best Holiday Toys for Painters and Campers

HABA tentI often get asked by parents or grandparents about specific kinds of toys they want recommended for their kids or grandkids. I thought as we approach Christmas and the holidays I would share my answers in case it’s helpful to others.

Today’s question was from a dad, “Hi, I want to get them some indoor camping tents or teepees.  Is there a brand you could recommend?  Also, I was painting with my 3 year-old son yesterday and it was really fun.  Any suggestions on painting kits for him?

Here’s my response:

Pacific Play Tents makes fun tents. I think the dome tents are light, less tippy and would hold more kids. Their teepees are varied–a canvas one you can paint, and some that include a waterproof floor.  Hape’s tent is very sturdy with thick fabric and solid wooden poles. I have had some feedback from parents that smaller teepees can be tippy when the kids get active inside!  HABA makes beautiful, good quality tents that are great for pretend play and very cute I might add–designed for princesses, knights, fairies or pirates.

As far as painting goes, depending on your child’s age,  I would just get some nice big brushes and different washable paints by Crayola for 4 and up. These would require pouring some paint in little dishes and learning to wash your brush before using a different color. Or even simpler, for a first painting experience at home, just get watercolors. Here is one in a case to keep things neat (ha!) by Crayola. 

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Language, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toy Reviews, Toys | Leave a comment