Boys Love Girls’ Stem Products Too!

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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

Calafant Make-and-Play Sets Encourage Language Development

Calafant 3 pigs-willieAs you know, I just got back from a Sheshe visit with some of my grandchildren. Naturally I brought along some PAL Award winners to entertain and teach. The kids spotted the Calafant “The Three Pigs” and “Princess Castle” so we started in coloring the houses of hay, sticks and brick. The markers provided were nice quality so kids could see bright, colorful results. They loved the doors that opened, and removable or open-up roofs. The purple wolf and multi-colored pigs went right into action as soon as we assembled the houses. The kids just had to get those slightly oversized pigs in the houses so took the roofs off for play! I can tell when a toy has real play value when kids extend the play beyond the set. Our pigs and wolf spent a lot of time playing at the castle and later we made a fort out of the couch and I was asked to be the wolf and blow the house down!

These sets are a portable size to take for gifts, great for birthday gifts and are sturdy enough for repeat pretend/language building play and a great price point!

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

Kids Call Wonderhood Toys Wonderful!

Wonderhood Corner ShopsI spotted Wonderhood Toys at the New York Toy Fair this year and thought their sets were winners so it is exciting to see that kids agree with me! Their 2 sets, “Corner Shops” and “Wonderhood Grand Hotel,” include illustrated plasticized panels, staircases, and an elevator (in the hotel set) with clear clips for customizing your building according to the story you are creating. They come with 3-D figures, Emmie in the Corner Shops and Chelsea and Erik in the hotel set, with a journal to learn about the characters and add your personal information and design ideas. Characters give their bio, favorites, and design challenges. How fun to provide language, story-based instruction so kids can learn from a word problem rather than a picture, which mirrors much learning in the classroom.

Wonderhood Grand Hotel-AlyssaOne of my toy testing families includes a mom who is a seasoned first grade teacher. I offered the sets for her to take into her classroom to see what the kids thought. She thought they would be well received but was amazed at the reaction:

“Sherry.  My kids absolutely loved the “Wonderhood Corner Shops.”  I had a group of 4 play with it.  They loved building their own creations, as well as trying to make the ones on the box and in the booklet.  Their comments were, “It is super fun!”, “I love this!”, “I want to have one at home.”, and “I could do this all day!”.  

As a school extension activity, they created a story about Emmie.  They wrote the story, and acted it out with Emmie moving to the stores as they read their story.”  I was surprised how much they liked it.  They wanted to stay in at recess to keep working on it!”

Next, she took in the Wonderhood Grand Hotel Creative Building Set  which is a bit bigger and includes a working elevator. Kids loved that too, as they could relate to the theme. They got into lots of creative play with the two figures, Chelsea and Erik, and started referring to the set as “The Water Park!” Tells you where they relate to the theme. Their teacher said, I was surprised how much they liked it.  They wanted to stay in at recess to keep working on it!”

Stay in for recess???? Wow, that is quite an endorsement.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, writing | Leave a comment

Playonwords.com Announces Top 10 PAL Award Picks 2016, Holiday Gift Guide

Take a look at this list of fabulous toys, books and games that generate so much fun and learning too!

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Best Projects for the Grandkids

ALEX ready set dinos puppetAs we announce our Top 10 PAL Picks, Holiday Gift Guide, I will be blogging about several of our winners to help you on your hunt for the best toys, games and books to give your kids and grandkids this upcoming season.

I just returned from such a fun week with some of my grandchildren–four under 4 years. The 3 1/2 year old twins are just at the age of being able to sustain attention for and enjoy a game, and make some art “projects.” When I was little my favorite Christmas gift was a box from my mom that said, “Sherry’s project.” It was filled with all the supplies to make something from knitting, to sewing, drawing or glueing! So when the kids kept asking to do a project, I was ready with a great kit filled ALEX ready set dinos feetwith short construction projects and learning. Alex Toys “Ready, Set, Go!” series is a perfect “Sheshe (grandma) gift” and it easily fits in your carryon. (Just bring fewer clothes). I chose “Ready, Set, Dinos!” with 8 different dinosaur crafts. Each project has ample stickers for decoration before construction which make it fun. I did leave with a few stickers adhered to their kitchen floor. We started out making the stegosaurus, finished off with clothes pins clipped on his back for his boney plates, and the mommy dinosaur, with a fluffy pom pom for her belly and her huge egg. Then we made the apatosaurus finger puppet, again with ample stickers but now they were attached to our little friend’s fingernails for the dinosaur’s toe nails! On to the dino puppet which sparked, “Sheshe, let’s have a puppet show,” as I was led into the playroom where curtains were available. The simplest craft involved decorating large foam dinosaur feet and slipping then on top of their shoes. We tried to scare Daddy but were really cute and funny! The finished pterodactyl could fly, and we practiced saying “paleontologist” as we rubbed with our crayon to discover dinosaur bones and plants., while the kids begged to assemble the T-Rex skeleton. A few facts accompany each craft so I read to them as they ALEX ready set dinos boneswere constructing.

The true test of an effective make-and-play project is that the kids kept returning to their finished dinosaurs for some play. The puppet was the favorite, easy to manipulate by a 3 year-old.

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

What to Look For in Best Language Toys

Playmobil Camp SiteI love to blog about best toys for pretend play because it is such an effective vehicle for learning language while having fun! Today I got out Playmobil’s Camp Site and watched as my little friends explored so many play themes within the camp site. When you are choosing a toy to encourage language learning look for:

  • Multiple play themes within the general topic of the toy. For instance, with the camping theme, kids generate stories having to do with eating, going to the store-paying money, sleeping, hiking, nature, getting ready for bed, sending mail, showering, going to the bathroom, playing, pet care, and garbage clean up.
  • Many props associated with each story category of play. Within the Camp Site eating theme kids can choose apple juice, rolls, watermelon, etc or open the refrigerated chest to offer friends a variety of ice cream bars. The ice Playmobil Camp Site Dabney 2cream chest can overlap with the shopping theme as kids use their coins to buy a treat. This by the way was a popular prop as I was offered different ice cream treats throughout our play! Getting ready for bed we had a toothbrush and toothpaste, shower that pumps real water!! and toilet. Camping-nature theme includes bug spray, many maps, lizard (who they put in the trash can), squirrels and a tent. The camp store has a cash register, coins, post cards, suntan lotion, food, magazines and  drinks to buy.
  • Everyday themes that kids can relate to.  Kids learn by imitating scenes from their daily experiences as they act out eating, sleeping, shopping or playing. Often they will repeat phrases they have heard adults use in association with an activity. Imitating events in their lives gives them a jumping off point for their own storytelling, embellishing and adding to the story they have lived.
  • Easy to manipulate, kid-sized props. This may seem obvious but when figures are easily posable and little buildings’ openings are easily accessible, play and language can flow.
  • Moveable, flexible props that encourage more interactive play. Opening and closing the shower and bathroom doors, pulling baskets of food off the shelf, ducking in and out of the tent flaps, and opening and closing the garbage can on wheels all provide opportunities for taking the story further and learning position words too–in/out, deep/shallow, open/close etc.
  • Plenty of people figures. A family of people provides lots of role-play opportunities as kids try out being the mom, dad or sibling going through their daily activities. Our little friends talked to each other, asked what the other wanted for dinner and announced their activities, “I’m going to go cook.” “The bathroom’s locked.” “I’ll open it!” “Where’s the trash can?” “We can go get ice cream.” “What kind of ice cream do you want?”

You’ll know you have a great toy that stimulates language when you child stays engaged in play for a long time and picks up the next play session where he left off!

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