Best Play Food for Toddlers

Learning Resources play foodAfter spending 2 days with my twin 20-month old grandchildren, I am stuffed with soup, cheese topped cheerios, blueberries, and apples. They spend so much time at their new Hape kitchen that I thought we should add some pretend food. “Learning Resources New Sprouts Munch It Food Set” makes an excellent set of toddler food–just what they eat–blueberries, cheerios, cheese, donut, orange, apple, banana, cookie juice box, muffin, carrot, hot dog, yogurt, mac and cheese and bread. The cookie, cereal and mac and cheese were the favorites to munch on with the two little spoons provided.

Pretend play offers so much language learning opportunity as kids prepare, eat and offer up their treats to others. Our kids were pointing to each food item and attempting to label them or simply saying an easier “Da” and waiting for us to say the correct word. Kids have to hear a word many times before they can attempt to say it, even when they already understand it. You can use the food items to teach following directions as you ask them to give you the cheese, or get the cheese that is next to the truck, etc. Listening skills are so important for learning, especially as they enter preschool and are required to listen to directions and at circle time.

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Preview of Some Hot New Language Toys Debuting at the Toy Fair 2015

Toy Fair 2015Things are heating up as I get several emails a day, inviting me to visit companies’ booth at the Toy Fair coming in February. I get excited just filling out my minute to minute schedule for the 4 days at the Javitts Center. (a little weary thinking of my feet, though!!)  Here are a few of the sneak peeks I have received:

image001Playmobil will be introducing their “Modern Luxury Mansion” with a functioning doorbell, fully automatic coffee machine, and lockable safe behind a picture. Add-on options include a guest suite, swimming pool and lighting set. Can I just move in? We all know that Playmobil sets are perfect for expanding language through pretend play because of all their well-selected props to extend the story in many directions. I’ve seen a trend in modern dollhouses with the swedish company and PAL Award winner, Lundby, bringing their ultra modern, lit doll houses to the US recently, and Hape premiering their PAL winner DIY Dream House in 2014.

Folkmanis makes incredible puppets that are so lifelike in the hands of kids and grown-ups. This past year I had such fun with the PAL Award winner, “Ostrich,” that my husband asked me not to give it away but keep it on the sofa! Folkmanis is giving sneak peeks of their  newest puppets on their Facebook page so take a look. I love “Baby Lop Rabbit.” Just slip your hand in and animate the mouth and front paws of this cuddle bunny as you stroke and soothe its super soft coat. Their puppeteers are so good that they make the puppets look real at the Toy Fair–a booth you can’t miss.

Little Kids, Inc, the company that has brought us all sorts of image003bubble machines, is debuting a new line of “living emoticon” characters – Moji Mi.   I have been invited to come see how these playful new guys interact with each other – and get my picture taken with them! I’ll keep you posted. They sound like a potentially helpful language tool if they talk about emotions.

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

Playonwords.com Named A Top Website for 2015

Top_75_SLP_Websites_Logo-e1418671212395Thank you to Kidmunicate, for naming  playonwords.com #12 in their “Top 75 Speech Pathology Websites / Blogs for 2015″  based on nominations “and then evaluated based on design, UX (user experience), content, frequency / longevity and social influence.”  we followed some big names like ASHA, ASHASphere, and Autism Speaks along with highly popular SLP blogs that offer so many therapy ideas and lessons (some for sale) to help out therapists.

So glad I can help others.  Inspires me to keep on blogging!

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Forget a Prop for Speech Therapy?

pool and figuresSince I am an itinerant speech therapist, I really have be be sure to have plenty of props and exciting activities to bring along for a session. Preschoolers require more changes in scenery as well as toys to fill up my bag. (This could be why my brother looked at my biceps and asked if I was working out!!) Anyway, the other day I forgot a favorite accessory to the Fisher Price Happy Family camping set when I didn’t have the swimming pool. My little 4 year-old friend wasn’t to be denied play with a little water so we went hunting in the kitchen for a replacement pool. She opened a drawer and got out a small bowl and then ran to find all her little figures who wanted to go for a swim, including Olaf.

When kids are in on the planning, they get engaged and creative, planning the story. AND I am relieved to have the next activity set up, to fill out the session.

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

More Games for Teaching Preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum

91koIV+d10L._SX425_Okay, here are some more of my favorite games to play with kids on the autism spectrum, teaching social language as well as language concepts to preschoolers:

Sunny Day Pond by Peaceable Kingdom. Again, this is a very simple first game for kids where they work cooperatively to assemble the 3 animal puzzles, an orange duck, purple fish and green frog before collecting the 6 raindrops. Match the solid colored-back of the puzzle pieces to the color you spin and start assembling the puzzles. There is lots to talk about as you select the duck’s beak, the fish’s tail or frog’s eye.

imgres-2Don’t Wake Daddy by Hasbro. This one is new to me but we had a lot of fun with it yesterday. It is a bit more complex with spinning to see what number of spaces you advance and then depending on if you have a drawing of something noisy in the house on your space, you are safe or not. If you have a picture card that matches the one on your space, you are safe. If not, you have to push the button on the alarm clock the number of times indicated on the space. Kids love anticipating waking up Daddy. If you wake up Daddy he pops up in bed! Winners get to the refrigerator first for a snack. There is a surprise element to the game which could be tough for some kids so you have to assess if this would work for you little client. This game can be easily simplified, by disregarding the matching cards and just using the numbers to pump up the alarm clock which is fun for everyone, especially if you don’t play by the rules and get sent back to bed!

What games do find to be the most engaging and educational for your preschoolers on the autism spectrum? Let’s share.

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Best Games for Teaching Preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum

The more I play games with kids, the more I am a fan for using them to teach so many aspects of communication and language. I just started working with a 4 year-old on the autism spectrum and we have had such fun playing games to teach concepts (colors, shapes, matching, counting, one left, one more, etc) and social language of taking turns, commenting and giving directions. Attention is required to stay with the game and make the best move. I have started my list with simple games for 3 years and up. This will be a series of blogs on games and simple books to begin therapy with kids on the autism spectrum. Here are some of my favorites that I have revived and new games to add to the list:

imgresBarnyard Bingo by Fisher Price. This game has been around a long time but is great because it has a fun “barn” that is set up and kids pull down the lever to “boing” as a chip slides down a chute and appears illustrated with a sheep, cow or hen. Kids learn colors, animal names, animal sounds, beginning, middle end, next to and so on as they match their chip to their fence card. It has 3 levels of play but certainly has a beginner, easy first level for kids playing a game for the first time.

Candy Land Castle Game by Hasbro. This is a similarly imgres-1simple game for first time players as the castle holds all the colored shapes to match to your gingerbread boy or girl. This time you pull down the candy cane lever to release a shape through the chute and down through the castle entrance. The lever in both games provides enough interest for kids and the disks give therapists or parents the opportunity to build vocabulary within categories of shapes and colors.

Today we moved on to a little higher level of difficulty, 81RnyxTmGgL._SL1500_playing Feed the Woozle, by Peaceable Kingdom. This is a favorite with kids and so wacky that it feeds right into a child’s sense of humor. Drop the die, read the number and gather that many zany snacks onto your oversized spoon. Then spin to see if you have to carry your treats the Woozle’s mouth while marching, going crazy, doing the hula, spinning or hopping like a bunny. Kids catch on really fast that my least favorite is spinning. After we invited a mom to join our play, she spun the hula option and declared, “I haven’t done the hula for years!” Counting, recognizing numbers, following directions, and processing silly food combinations (fuzzy donuts etc.) are some of the concepts learned.

 

 

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

Taking A Fresh Look at Kids After the Break

Will with puppet showBreaks from speech therapy are good. Obviously I get refreshed and the kids seem to have a new vigor as they start up again. It’s fun to take a closer look at their progress, goals and abilities and do a little adjustment. Often I am pleasantly surprised that they have continued to make progress in my absence (whoa, does that mean they don’t need me or are they REALLY practicing as they say they are??) Anyway, it is all good.

This week I have had some little epiphanies I wanted to share. I use Articulation Station with most of my articulation students to “warm up” at the beginning of the session, and then depending on what level of therapy they are at, I still use the word pictures for drill during a game or activity. At the end of a long day of therapy, I found I was tired of giving the model and started to tap the screen to have the app provide it. Believe it or not, the child perked up and listened more intently to the voice as a little change from our routine. Good all the way around.

Today I continued working with a 5 year-old on nasality issues. He nasalizes /f, s, sh/ and very predictably switches back and forth with nasal and oral emission. He’s been a quick learner but one of the best methods to teach him the difference was a little trick I think I learned in graduate school. I get out my bag of colored feathers, he chooses a color and I place it on a piece of cardboard below his nose. The visual feedback is great as he sees the feather fly across the surface if he is producing the sound with nasal emission and sits still if not. Sounds simple, but it really works. Now he is able to quickly correct himself as he knows the difference physically, auditorily and visually.

 

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New Research Shows Preschoolers with Special Needs Benefit from Typical Peers’ Strong Language

Sheshe reading to Sam's classI’m always interested in current research to back our therapy and planning for kids with special needs. As a pediatric speech language pathologist, I am often highly involved in putting together a balanced and comprehensive plan for therapies for kids that are identified in their preschool years. Last year it was a 5 year-old who moved in from out of town and was struggling in kindergarten, and then switched to a private program in a preschool. After identifying the best professionals to test him and collaborating on results, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and a schedule of therapies was adopted across several disciplines. Often when I start working with a preschooler just diagnosed on the autism spectrum, after revuewing test results and recommendations from the neuropsychologist, speech pathologist and OT, we look at the best program to help that child. One of the tough steps can be for the parents to juggle how much time to spend with the different therapist and whether to move to a “school” setting type of preschool in lieu of their typical preschool. I know it sounds like a lot of hours of school for a little one, but I usually recommend they stay in their preschool program and add the special education program in their school district. Recent research supports this.

Research done at Ohio State University and reported this summer showed that typical peers can have an impact on the language abilities of a child with disabilities in the classroom, but beyond that, the language level of the peers is critical. According to an article in Association for Psychological Science, “While peers with strong language skills can help boost their classmates’ abilities, being surrounded by peers with weak skills may hinder kids’ language development.” There was a clear difference in the impact of typical peers’ language abilities on those with disabilities, based on the if the peers were less or highly-skilled in language. “In general, preschoolers whose peers had relatively high language skills showed more improvement in their own language skills over the course of the school year than did children whose peers’ skills were not as strong.” So integration is important as well as maximizing the language skill level of typical peers as you look for the best program for your student with disabilities or guide parents in choosing the best program for their child.

 

 

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Back to Work, Hello 2015

Sheshe reading to grandkidsTaking a break is wonderfully refreshing and essential, I might add, when you are working with kids. I’ve enjoyed my 2 weeks off for the holidays and hope you all have too but I am ready to get back at it! Over “vacation” I wrote letters of recommendation for two undergraduate students I have been mentoring and encouraging as they are headed to graduate school to pursue a career in speech-language pathology. I’m excited for them both as they are excellent candidates and passionate about pursuing a career to help those with disabilities be able to better communicate. It was interesting to see the credentials that colleges were interested in as they select their graduate students–creativity, leadership, writing and oral language proficiency, problem solving, research potential, and so on.

Toy Fair 2015I also just registered for the 2015 Toy Fair in New York City in February so everyone is gearing up to present their new products at that 4 day extravaganza. I’m getting my jogging shoes ready.

The best part about vacation was our tour of kids and grandkids, seeing everyone in their homes and playing lots of games, cooking up some meals at the play kitchen, reading books, visiting a gingerbread village, riding bikes (we had to go south for that!) and eating lots of Christmas cookies.

I hope you had a great break and are full of excitement and energy to work with kids or work for kids in creating great products to promote language development. Keep the ideas coming and Happy New Year.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All

IMG_8726 - Version 3I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, filled with fun and laughter and family.

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