FOX Milwaukee Skype Interview Featuring PAL Award Winning Toys and Games During Shelter at Home

Talking Points FOX6 Real Milwaukee Taping 4-1-20

Fun Toys and Games for Smart Family Play During Shelter at Home

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 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,

Turtle Steps by Hapinest, 3 years and up ($49)

  • Kids loved immediately, as soon as they saw the box
  • Set up play with large and medium sized textured turtle shells
  • Whole family can play, kids lead the play, strategically placing shells
  • Spin to see what color shell to jump to or read an activity card..switch shells with someone else or balance on 1 foot
  • Kids practice listening, following directions, large motor and balancing skills
  • Made up their own games and created a pretend play scenario, stimulated their leading the play

Available at Hapinest.  Click here.

Just Add Egg by Griddly Games, 5 years and up, ($29.99)

  • It’s all about the egg, over 10 activities-science experiments and DIY activities
  • Kids can create disappearing eggs, chalk or an egg succulent garden
  • Crush egg shells and color to make a mosaic on the box
  • experiments are followed with “What did you see?” and “Why?”
  • Observing and thinking critically, kids are exercising language skills as they explain conclusions

Available at Griddly Games. Click here

Global Warning by Adventerra Games, 10 years and up, ($24.95)

  • So deep in learning while interesting and fun!
  • Intergeneration play
  • Players understand causes of global warming, prioritize fixes while assessing the cost benefits of their actions
  • Each card has a real global example of a specific problem or solution
  • Challenges kids to use higher level language and cognitive skills to work collaboratively, think critically, analyze, compare and come up with best solutions

Available at Adventerra Games. Click here

Brio Builder Record and Play Set, 3 years and up ($39.99)

  • Wonderful pairing of STEM and language skills
  • Make a robot, airplane, animal or ??
  • Great attachment system using grey pegs to attach wheels, decoration, accessories, facial expressions and body parts
  • Add movement and integrate a little electronics to add recorded message or sounds effects
  • Build and pretend play to stimulate language developmemt

Available at Brio. Click here

Story Time Chess, 3 years and up, ($49.99)

  • Learn to play chess based on a story whose characters match up with chess pieces and move according to their back story
  • Silly King Shaky who lives in a pillow castle who is scared of everything so he tiptoes on square at a time on the game board
  • Playing chess can sharpen critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and social language.

Available at Story Time Chess. Click here

Toddler Kitchen Set by Hape, 18 months and up, ($24.99)

  • Imitating Mommy and Daddy, why not give them their own kitchen?
  • Mini stove with spatula and spoon, clicking dials and clean up storage
  • Pretend play important to language development
  • Kids use higher level of language when role-playing conversing like adults

Available at Hape. Click here 

Posted in Games, Language, media review, Preschool, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toy Reviews, Toys | Leave a comment

New Speech Therapy App for Preschoolers, Speech Blubs

As you know, I like to occasionally feature great products or new ideas to help SLP’s deliver the best services possible to improve the speech and language of our clients. Below is a guest blog by the team at Speech Blubs introducing their new app:

Speech Blubs we get it.

Your child isn’t speaking on the same level as his/her peers.

The Speech Blubs app is interactive, educational, and fun tool that helps pre-school kids jump start their speaking. This SLP-approved app is based on the science of mirror neurons and video modeling to get kids speaking.

Parents also like because it offers quality smart screen time. Speech Therapists (SLPs) recommend it because parents can: engage with their child, let him/her be in charge, practice with them on a regular basis, role play like there’s no tomorrow, take lots of pictures, and bribe their child with digital candy!

Speech Blubs has 25 sections with over 1,500 activities (including new words weekly, building sentences, numbers, colors, songs, etc.), and most importantly, it includes children in the videos.

SLP’s say “The student is more engaged using this for speech activities than if I was to model the sounds myself,” and “The use of children in it to model sound and oral motor sounds is much more engaging for a young student.”

The practical ways parents use it include: drawing the words with your kid; singing songs; finding the words in your toy box, in the kitchen, in the playground, etc.; using it on the go; and even creating a before-going-to-school routine.

You’ll see, kids become very engaged! Speech Blubs will help turn your child’s vocalizations into babble (we call them “blubs”J), and then into words!

To download the app click here.



Posted in Apps, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Language | Leave a comment

Great New Picture Books, PAL Award Winners about Dragons, Beach and Twins

One of my favorite things to do is hang out in a neighborhood book store and check out the new picture books. As a matter of fact, when my husband asked what I would like to do on my recent birthday (besides getting the best donut in town and coffee), I suggested hanging out at the little book store in town that we had just discovered, Pomegranate Books, curl up on their comfy chairs and read new picture books. Here are some great new finds for home or the classroom:

How to Light Your Dragon by Didier Levy and Fred Benaglia

“Has your pet dragon’s fire gone out?” This dragon’s persistent and ingenious owner is up for trying everything to relight his friend who can’t produce “even the tiniest flicker of flame.” From lifting the dragon’s back legs and giving a shake, bouncing up and down on his tummy, tickling him with a feather duster under his arms, or offering him a cake full of candles to blow out, this persistent owner can’t seem to get his pal to blow fire again. Giving up he sits down and remembers all the fun adventures they have shared, and comes to the conclusion that he loves and will always love his dragon, fire or not! He can’t help but plant a big kiss of acceptance on his dragon’s nose which brings about a delightful ending to the story. Filled with large print and capital letters, this book invites new readers to move through the colorfully illustrated pages. A perfect read-aloud for the classroom or bedtime story time, this book invites kids  to predict the next attempt to get the dragon to breathe fire or even invent their own solutions, building reading and writing skills.

Available on Amazon. Click here

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

I love a story about a child discovering the wonder of the beach. It begins “Jamie and the sea are friends. Jamie hums. The waves swish.” She collects rocks, shells, sticks, seaweed and feathers and explores the tide pools creating figures, animals, sand towers and designs from her finds. Absorbed in her pretend world, passersby each question her about what she is making and how long until she’ll be finished. “Hum Swish,” She doesn’t know, but continues to create. Finally someone arrives who understands the mind of an artist in residence, setting up her own palette, brushes and paint and doesn’t question or name Jamie’s miniature world in the sand. This beautiful book celebrates the child who loves to explore and discover using nature as her setting and props, drawing the characters from within herself, needing no input from others! That is how good storytellers are born.

Available at Amazon. Click here

Fern and Horn by Marie-Louise Gay

“Fern and Horn” is a delightful story about twins who are play companions whose similarities diverge when their imaginations take off.  Fern leads the way in play as she loves drawing flowers, butterflies, birds, bees and caterpillars, but Horn is every bit as imaginative. A step behind, Horn tries to keep up. Borrowing Fern’s crayons,  trying to duplicate her cheerful drawings, his flowers look like purple pancakes and caterpillars like striped socks! Fern’s stars cut with scissors became confetti when Horn attempted to make them. Finally Horn starts to follow his own creative path. Fern “builds a magnificent castle with turrets and a dark dungeon” from cardboard boxes and a gold fish bowl for the moat. Horn sneaks out in a fire-breathing dragon costume to attack the fort. Peace is restored with a picnic of cookies shared by the dragon and the king. This story if filled with opportunities for discussion, describing the brilliant, lively illustrations as well as what it means to follow your own creative path and enjoy another’s by your side! This was a fantastic read-aloud at my grandson’s kindergarten. Whenever Horn failed to copy Fern, “He has another idea.” The kids in the class started to call that phrase out in unison as if cheering him on to forge his own path. This would be a wonderful  book for a teacher to read to the class before a writing assignment, encouraging kids to be confident in their own ideas, and celebrate the differences in classmates’ stories.

Available at Amazon. Click here





Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Elementary School, Elementary School Age, Language, Preschool, Preschool Class, Reading, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language, writing | Leave a comment

Speech Teletherapy vs. Traditional Speech Therapy

After more than 40 years practicing in my field of speech language pathology, I am still energized by my role in helping my clients as well as my profession. As a group of SLP’s, we are constantly revising, improving and perfecting how we deliver our services particularly through evidence-based practices. I love to meet fellow entrepreneurs in our field who are branching off into related businesses that provide useful research, “the Informed SLP”,  create daily therapy materials for school-based therapists, design speech-language targeted,  effective toys and books and most recently speech teletherapy. I was contacted by a new teletherapy company, Expressable, led by speech language pathologist and founder Leanne Sherred. Since I find speech language pathologists both intrigued and somewhat skeptical about this method of delivery of services, I thought it would be good to hear from Leanne about their approach:

What inspired you and your colleagues to start Expressable teletherapy?

As a certified speech-language therapist, I spent many years watching the transformative effect therapy can have on a person’s social, emotional, academic, and professional development. Unfortunately, I also witnessed first hand the challenges conventional speech therapy can present to both clients and therapists. On the client side, many families struggle to afford speech therapy. Insurance companies don’t classify speech therapy as “medically necessary” so coverage is often denied or services are limited, making paying out-of-pocket prohibitively expensive. In addition, speech therapists can earn more than the national average with flexible hours working from home.

What speech disorders/delays would teletherapy be most successful with? (Articulation, Aphasia etc.) Which would be most challenging? (For example, how does this work with an antsy toddler where we are used to “hands on” therapy?)

Teletherapy offers many of the traditional speech therapy services found in a practice or school-based setting, including apraxia, stuttering and fluency, reading readiness, language disorders, speech sound disorders, voice disorders, and accent modification. Of course there are some cases in which it’s preferred to have an in-person therapist working directly with a client. One example is a medically-complex or severe swallowing disorder. Another might be a tongue thrust, where tactile cues are particularly helpful. 

Teletherapy is also a wonderful option for families with toddlers or children that are prone to being antsy or inattentive, due to the opportunity for parent involvement (well supported in evidence based practice), a comfortable environment within the home vs. clinic or school, and taking advantage of stimulating and engaging interactive tools that kids enjoy.

What do you as a therapist find most positive about this mode of delivery compared to the traditional in person model?

Personally, as an SLP, online speech therapy is much more conducive to my lifestyle, allowing therapists to work full or part time, or supplement their their 9-5 jobs. It’s a savings of time and money and I can work from home. Since teletherapy companies aren’t paying for a physical location, administrative tasks, or insurance overhead, these cost savings are passed on to the client as well as the therapist. Our therapists earn more money than the national average.  

What can you accomplish during therapy with this model that you can’t with traditional therapy?

It’s affordable,  accommodates a frenetic schedule, utilizes familiar and ever more pervasive technologies, delivers to the comfort of a client’s home, and offers parent involvement.

What is the cost of therapy?

Teletherapy with Expressable starts at $49 a week for a half hour session.

Is online speech therapy as effective as traditional therapy?

One of the landmark studies that supports Speech teletherapy as an effective delivery method was conducted by Kent State University researchers. They compared school students receiving speech language therapy in a traditional setting to those receiving teletherapy. According to the report: “Student progress reports indicated that the children made similar progress during the study whichever treatment method was used.” In addition, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recognized teletherapy as a valid means of service delivery based on a strong body of evidence.


Thank you to Leanne Sherred and Spencer Magloff from “Expressable” for sharing your new venture with us. I look forward to future insights on how teletherapy is going, with real life examples of those aha moments when you see where this model is uniquely effective with clients and gratifying as a speech language pathologist! Particularly as an SLP who has specialized in pediatric therapy,  I will be interested to see how it works with our littlest moving targets around 15 months of age. I found those little clients the most intense physically to work with as I have memories of every few minutes having to pull out a new toy, play in the sink,  slide down a slide, or take a walk outside to elicit sounds and words in play therapy.  But I am ready to learn something new so please return with your successes and failures (I learn the most from mine!) so we can learn and grow as SLP’s.


Posted in Speech and Language Delay, Speech Therapy, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment Presents Their Fall PAL Awards

We’re excited to share our Fall PAL Awards–Best Toys, Games and Media that Spark Language Development Through Play.

I continue to be fascinated by the impact parents’ play with kids has on language development, a concept reinforced by recent research. What parents say and how they talk during play can make a difference. By simply using a strategy called “Toy Talk” where parents talk about the toys and give the toy a name, they up their grammatical models to their child and improve the growth trajectories of certain areas of their child’s language development. Toys are the tools for a child’s play which is why I’ve spent my career calling out the toys with the best language learning potential and coaching parents on how to play with their child to maximize learning.

Check out our winners and add them to your holiday shopping list because kids, parents and educators think they are great!

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

How to Write the Best Toy Review

First of all you have to play with the toy or game to be familiar with it. When I was doing speech therapy I had a whole group of kids I could play with, while working on their speech goals and making the session fun and engaging. Now I volunteer in a preschool and first grade classroom as well have a fun gang of kids in my neighborhood and family who gladly help with toy reviews. I love how some brothers round the corner past my patio and yell, “Hi Sherry! Have any new games??” Kids teach you things that you wouldn’t know unless you play with them.

In my opinion a great toy review will have the following:

  • Clear, concise description of how to play a game or play with a toy, calling out the learning features, e.g. builds vocabulary, inspires conversation, negotiation, critical thinking, verbal collaboration, builds auditory memory, requires naming emotions and recognizing them in others etc.
  • Quotes from kids, parents, grandparents and/or teachers regarding the value of the toy. Heard from a first grade teacher, “Wonderhood building sets”  are the first toy the kids grab during our free play time.”
  • How did the kids play with the toy? How much conversation, discovery, imagination was evident and how was it displayed? Include quotes of storytelling using the props associated with the toy. How did this toy inspire creativity and storytelling?
  • Include informative pictures if you get permission to post.
  • Tips on how parents can play with their child and the toy to maximize language learning. For example, “This train has lots of accessories and features to describe  and name as your toddler is playing, which will increase their language learning as you narrate play.”
  • How much does it cost? Age range and number of players required? Link to where you can purchase the product
Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 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

PAL Award Toys Featured on FOX6 Milwaukee

Talking Points FOX6 Real Milwaukee 6-27-19

Toys that Will Allow Your Little Ones to Play Their Way to Brilliance

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,

Jet Duck Family by Yookidoo, 3 years and up ($29.95)

  • Kids saw Firefighter and were begging for a bath!
  • Add accessories to fuel the imagination and story
  • Water shoots out fire hydrant,  spins the duck around soaking everyone
  • So popular in family of 4 kids, had remove it until they could share
  • Flexible, open-ended play toy, kids become the story tellers


Spark Cards by Spark Innovations, 4 years and up, ($26.99)

  • Sequencing is valuable language skill, break down events into logical steps/recall past experiences or logically formulate own stories
  • 8 themed stories tell familiar events: library, plant flowers, beach
  • 6 picture cards encourage description, interpretation, problem solve
  • SLP developed, excellent questions-> predicting, analyzing, reasoning, build grammar, concepts

Click here

First Words Baby Babble Training Trumpet by People Toy Company, 7 months and up, ($8.99)

  • Kids love to make noise with their trumpet
  • As they can grab and shake, rattle of balls and can suck in to whistle
  • When babies and toddlers round their lips to attach to the trumpet, exercising important oral motor muscles for speech: u, p, b, m
  • At 2 and 3 years kids can blow out so this becomes a little musical instrument and pretend toy, became “milk” ad “water bottle”

Available at People Toy Company

Topper Takes a Trip by Peaceable Kingdom/Mindware brand, 2 years and up, ($17.95)

  • Topper the pup is going to take a trip, choose destination card-grandma’s house, beach, sledding hill
  • Pack your suitcase with appropriate items in that category
  • Don’t forget, book, backpack, apple, lunchbox, crayons
  • Close up suitcase, “travel” to destination and engage in some pretend play
  • Learning vocabulary in a category, matching, sequencing, pretend play and storytelling

Available on Amazon

My Peek-a-Boo LapPup by LeapFrog, 6 months and up, ($14.99)

  • Kids loved this, called it their “Puter” took it everywhere, sat down
  • Learn by imitating adults, type on colored crayon keys and move mouse
  • catchy phrases, rhyming songs, learning numbers, colors, shapes

Available at Target.

Under Sea Figure 8 Railway by Hape, 18 months and up, ($29.99)

  • Kids love trains so now littlest engineers can hop on an underwater railway
  • Magnetic train cars, movement, flexible track, bubbling fish
  • Learn cause-effect in connecting train, passing over ocean floor, fish and crab dance and swim along,
  • Parents have lots to narrate a child plays and configures their story, feeding child language associated with their play

Available at Hape

Dinosaur Island by Bigjigs Toys Ltd, 3 years and up ($74.99)

  • Grab a dinosaur and go back into prehistoric times
  • 4 scenes, several kids play at once, change story as they move
  • Stegosaurus making tracks through mud, cave “graveyard,” hid behind waterfall, mamas and babies, eggs
  • Hot lava integral in story
  • Collaborate on storytelling
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment Featuring Spring PAL Award Winners on FOX6 Milwaukee Today

Toys and Games to Keep Kids’ Learning 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,

Lily Pond By SimplyFun, 4 years and up, ($34.00)

  • wonderful reading/spelling game, good teacher gift
  • each child gets 3 word cards to spell
  • roll the die, hop your frog that many lily pads to reach the letter you need
  • use letter tracker to see where you are in sequence
  • watch other players, land on the letter you need, you advance tracker
  • practice letter recognition, spelling, sequencing, vocabulary, matching, reading

Gotta Word by Cortex Toys, 10 years and up ($19.99)

  • Draw a funny definition card, like..
  • Everyone chooses 2 word-parts from their hand of cards that matches the definition
  • Assigned Wordmeister decides which combo best matches the definition
  • Another name for chili cheese fries..PYRO-FACE
  • Lots of laughter as the judge uses the words in a sentence
  • Search for associated word parts that represent a specialized person, situation, object or emotion

Guess it, Get it, Gumballs by Peaceable Kingdom/Mindware 4+($15.95)

  • This is a game of faces and feelings
  • Spin, slap the gumball grabbing mirror and and make a face
  • stretch your face to look scared, silly, ,mad, excited, sad or happy
  • When did you feel that way? What makes you feel____
  • EQ, emotional quotient is a hot topic these days, parents and educators know the value of teaching kids to identify and manage emotions
  • Can increase EQ which is the strongest indicator of success in life

Gravitrax Trampoline, by Ravensburger, 8 years and up, ($24.99)

  • Recommend Gravitrax sets for kids 8 and up
  • Design and build 3D interactive marble run and construction set-gravity, magnetism and kinetics
  • Love to watch kids build, modify, collaborate, solve problems
  • New trampoline accessory has angled tiles that launch marble onto tramp
  • “That’s why they’re so cool!”
  • Perfect storm between STEM and Language skills

Summer Big Fun Workbooks by Highlights, K-1st Grade ($12.99)

  • Parents often ask how to keep skills sharp over summer
  • Perfect set of activities targeting skills aligned with school standards
  • Designed to get kids ready for K-2nd grade
  • Focused on letters, reading, writing, addition, subtraction, measuring
  • Can divide the summer into 8 weeks/8 chapters
  • I love “It’s Time to Rhyme search for star in jar, or stork with a fork
  • Reward stickers and activities to take learning outside

Snow Leopard Cub and Robot Puppet by Folkmanis, 3 and up, ($59.99, $55.99)

  • Grandma said, “It looks real!”
  • Folkmanis always teaching the next generation about endangered animals, information that kids learn and use in their role play
  • Robot story based on a folk tale, boy entered contest to make robot out of nuts and bolts, sister gave heart for good luck
  • Puppets encourage kids to talk, role play, converse, building confidence and essential language skills

Pop Up Shop by Hape, 3 and up, ($149.99)

  • I love pop up shops because element of surprise-where will they show up? kitchen, patio, or playroom
  • Kids take on roles, taking orders, adding up purchases on calculator, write out daily specials practicing reading and writing
  • Parent said, “It could turn into a Farmer’s Market
  • Children learn more language as they imitate events in their everyday life
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New York Toy Fair 2019 Toy Trends, Learning Through Play

Just walking into the New York Toy Fair got my heart pumping to the beat of the drums as the parade of characters assembled to lead the opening of my 11th Toy Fair. You can feel the air charged with excitement, innovation, creativity and novelty as brands bring their newest and best toys, games and entertainment products to life. Each year it is gratifying to see more companies valuing language learning and therefore integrating it into games, STEM projects and play, calling out the language skills on their packaging.

I’m always interested in the toy industry’s trends (Unboxing, Compound Crazy, Throwback Toys) but I choose to look at the trends through a learning lens, providing parents, grandparents, caregivers and educators a peek at the newest products that inspire learning through incredibly fun play.

Here are my 2019 Toy Trends:

Fun Food Prep:  Combine food and pretend play to create a rich language learning environment as kids act out scenarios common to their everyday experiences,  whether selecting ingredients at a the Fresh Market, or creating in the kitchen, at a crepe cart or barbecue grill. Favorites this year include Hapinest’s “Make and Bake Cooking Sets”  as kids lead the playful learning in their little fox, snowman, bunny or unicorn aprons, roll out the dough to the perfect thickness and use the 5 themed cookie cutters. Kids can head out to Leap Frog’s “Smart Sizzlin’ BBQ Grill,” adding pretend corn or a hot dog to the rotisserie initiating a silly song, while learning colors, vocabulary and counting integrated into the play.  Add a message of kindness, and inclusion to your food prep with Plan Toys’ imperfectly shaped “Wonky Fruits and Vegetables.”  Carl Carrot, Adam Apple and Tommy Tomato Heart become wonky pretend play heroes in their campaign to fight food waste. Flag down your little friend at Janod’s Crepes & Co. as they roll the cart to offer waffles and donuts, my mainstays, as well as fruit and check you out at the cash register.

Take Note of Toddlers: Personally toddlers are some of my favorite little people to play with because of their curiosity, boldness and hunger for learning. Parents are often stumped when it comes to finding appropriate toys. Wonder Forge’s “Mickey’s Snuggle Time” game, designed for a bedtime activity, is a fun introduction to following directions and learning colors as kids move their animal down the path, arriving at the barn before the sun sets.  Fold and tuck the blanket game board  to make a pillow. Nite,  nite! Want a rich learning environment with no pick up? Oribel’s VertiPlay Wall Toys, are a series of cause-effect toys, “Slidey Spidey” (Itsy Bitsy) , “Old MacDonald” or  “Jack and Jill” that rely on gravity as they attach to the wall and move top to bottom, while kids can sing or narrate the rhyme. Rubber Ducky in the tub just got more fun with Yookidoo’s “Jet Duck Family”, as kids dress up their duck with 15 push in accessories to match their duck’s character, Pirate, Mermaid or Firefighter. Think Mr. Potato Head goes for a swim while firing his water cannon and charging around the tub. Perfect for story telling and creative play. Join 2 year-olds for a game of “Topper Takes a Trip” by Peaceable Kingdom, a company that knows their audience and kids love their games. Choosing the right clothes and items to pack in the suitcase for Grandma’s house or sledding etc. is a terrific language learning activity involving categories, vocabulary and story telling.

STEM + Story: I’m passionate about including literacy linked to STEM products because that is how kids are learning in the classroom. Science and math involve  problem solving, critical thinking, evaluation and drawing conclusions, all essential language skills. This trend is getting stronger as I see new STEM products calling out a story integrated in their build. E-Blox’s  “Story Blox” sets take kids on an island, city or cave adventure with Seymour and his robot Robyn, building models with circuit blox throughout the story. For the younger set, Thames and Kosmos’ “Robot Safari”  pairs a cartoon story book with 8 cute animal robot builds associated with the Omega family’s search to find their lost robotic teddy bear. Kids love building their setting with magnetic blocks while adding illustrated clips from the story with Geomagworld’s “Nursery Rhymes.” Their sets were favorites in the classroom last year. hand2mind’s “Air and Water Mechanics” led us through injecting air into a tube to power a K’NEX model digger with written questions to build critical thinking related to the project.

Tech-Free Learning: There was a buzz around the Toy Fair this year of “Where are all the drones?” In the past you had to duck to miss them. Yes, I believe there is a swing back to non-tech toys with classic play. Who didn’t hide in a home made fort of their own making (or a big brother in my case) when they were younger? A favorite discovery in the Launchpad section housing first time exhibitors was the Densters, a set of flexible rubber toy monsters, each with a unique personality and function (hooking, clamping, gripping, clipping, curling and tucking–hey that’s a great vocabulary lesson!) for holding kids’ play tents or forts together, attaching sheets and blankets to walls and furniture. Enter Schleich’s world of Horse Club where kids can act out living in the “Large Horse Stable” (a dollhouse for horse owners) and relax with a coffee or cupcake at the “Rider Cafe.” Crayola offers some of the most extensive and comprehensive science kits for kids. Their newest offering, “Color Chemistry Arctic Lab” takes kids through 50 winter science experiments. Thankfully dolls were one of the strongest categories last year as they provide pure child led play. National Geographic has collaborated with Mattel’s Barbie dolls to create a wildlife conservationist, astrophysicist, polar marine biologist, wildlife photojournalist and entomologist to inspire young girls to explore new professions.

Hide Away Play: This year we saw some ingenious toy designs that capitalize on utilization of space.  Sharingland’s cardboard playhouses have drawn kids into delightful pretend play worlds of space, castles, a farm and teepee. Now they offer a slightly downsized model that can easily be folded and put away after play. Sago’s “Pillow Playsets” have added a vet and doctor’s  office to their kitchen playset that unfold from a throw pillow to transform your couch into a scene from the office complete with scale, cast, eye exam chart and so on with plush accessories to give your teddy or pet a happy physical. When the story ends, fold up the office and pack it in the pillow for repeat portable play.  Short on room? Pull out a folding chair and slip on Kangaroo’s Pop oh Ver Ice Cream Shop filled with inspiring design to start our little storytellers. Hape’s “Pop Up Shop” opens up for play with plenty of room to display your products as well as a scanner and calculator for speedy purchases, then closes up for later play.




Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Games, Language, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment Announces 2018 Top 10 PAL Picks, Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again to start your holiday gift list. I know a lot of grandmas and moms who take this with them when looking for a toy or game with lasting and enriching play value. Congratulations to the amazing companies who work hard to make learning fun. Here are the PAL Top 10 Winners 2018.

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