Here’s the clip from FOX6 Milwaukee:
Here’s the clip from FOX6 Milwaukee:
Toys to Inspire Storytelling to Keep Reading and Writing Sharp Over the Summer
Background on Sherry:
Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun toys to build language skills through creative play and storytelling, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.
Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play. Information on all these toys is on my website, playonwords.com
Croco Jungle Research Station by Schleich, 3-8 years, $99
Available at Amazon. Click here
Kruselings by Hape, 3 years and up, ($28-$45)
Available at Fairhaven Toy Garden. Click here
Trap and Gap Baseplates by Strictly Briks, 4 and up, ($24.99)
Available at Strictly Briks. Click here
My Story Dolls by Faber-Castell, 6 and up, ($15.00)
Available at Faber-Castell. Click here
Frog Life Cycle by Folkmanis, 3 years and up, ($68)
Playful Chef Chocolate Studio and Shoppe by MindWare, 4 and up, ($16-$50)
Available at MindWare. Click here
Pop Oh Ver Stove by Kangaroo Manufacturing, 3 years and up, ($39.95)
Available at Amazon. Click here
It’s been my mission for over 35 years to teach parents how to select the best toys for fun smart play, that inspire creativity and storytelling, building language skills. Here’s what to look for:
Several categories of props with accessories to inspire sub plots within the story. Schleich’s “Croco Jungle Ranger Station” is an excellent example of this as they have created a jungle ranger station theme with several directions the story can take: work at the ranger station on the computer etc., fixing the property with tools in the tool box, preparing dinner over the open fire, eating, sleeping, caring for sick animals, penning up dangerous animals or those they are observing, or hiding treasure or people in the large croc skull.
“Camp Site” is a great illustration of this concept. Vibrant hanging plants, postcards, magazines, maps, cash register (with Euros), soft drinks and your favorite frozen ice cream treat (with labels) help you ease in to your home-away-from-home. In case you failed to bring all your plates, cups, toothpaste, brush, suntan lotion and bug spray – don’t sweat it, you can pick them up at the Quik-Mart, along with canned goods, milk and OJ – all with decals reinforcing the reality. Shower, use the rest room or camp out in the cute orange tent.
characters and objects or setting cards to inspire a story to be told. Tall Tales provides a bag of 50 cute rubber 3D objects and characters to draw out of a velvet bag to carry on the story. 24 beautifully illustrated story cards give options for settings as kids can change up the story according various backgrounds. Kids learn story elements as they sequence their tale.
Great Games and Puzzles to Keep Brains Sharp Over Summer Break
Background on Sherry:
Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun games and puzzles to build language skills, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.
Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play.
Magicube Story Building by Geomagworld, 3 and up, ($34.99)
Bright Lights Soccer Ball by VTech, 6 months and up, ($14.99)
Available at VTech. Click here
ARTributes by Simplyfun, 7 and up ($33.00)
Available at Simplyfun. Click here
Acorn Soup by Peaceable Kingdom/MindWare brand, 2 years and up ($17.95)
CODENAMES: Disney Family Edition by USAopoly, 8 and up, ($24.95)
Available at USAopoly. Click here
Ravensburger VW 3D Puzzle, 10 and up, ($29.99)
Available at Amazon. Click here
Otrio by Spin Master, 6 years and up, ($34.99)
Available at Spin Master. Click here
Long and Tall Puzzle 123 Rocketship by The Learning Journey International, 3 and up, ($14.99)
Available at The Learning Journey International. Click here
What fun to step right into the parade lineup as I started my adventure through the New York Toy Fair last week! The opening ribbon cutting ceremony unleashed thousands of international buyers and press to see what’s new in the toy industry. I was pumped up with the excitement, energy, innovation, passion and fun generated by seeing the hottest new toys, games and entertainment products come to life. I loved discovering more companies intentionally building learning opportunities into their products, and calling out the skills on packaging, in lesson plans and parent guides!
After walking the nearly half million square feet, it was evident to me what was trending among products that can deliver an outstanding playful learning experience, with rich repeat play potential:
STEM +Story: STEM is STEAMing ahead with many products designed to build science, technology, engineering and math, even for babies and toddlers. What’s new is many companies are now adding a creative story element (read that “language/literacy learning”) to their building and construction play. Build and Imagine and Wonderhood Toys have been favorite leaders in this rich pairing. Thankfully more companies have stepped up this year to deepen the learning by inviting kids to author the story as they build. Thames and Kosmos introduced Pepper Mint (“The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure”) who visits her scientist aunt in the rain forest, equipping their tree house with mechanical equipment using pulleys, winches, and gears, and even light up the jungle with a string of LED lanterns! Geomagworld engages preschoolers with their Magicubes, adding magnetic blocks to combine for people, animals and jobs, expanding mix and match story-telling opportunities.
Portable Play: After visiting companies specializing in larger play schemes, I saw an emphasis on sliding parts, and fold up play products for easy storage or take-along play. I know my Grammy friends were very interested in several of the larger pretend play toys that could be minimized for storage when the grandkids go home. One of the most innovative products I saw (and others were talking about it too) was Kangaroo’s “Pop-oh-Ver’s” Stove and Market, a fabric stove, oven and microwave that is so cleverly designed by a mom of 7, that it fits over a chair! Talk about lots of pretend play potential that you can fold up and put away. The microwave door opens to a clear pocket to insert your bacon. So many of Simplay3’s products have design elements for take-apart packability. Their “Carry and Go Track Table” is fun ready to happen. The sturdy vehicle track has play options on both sides–race and train tracks, and an easy to carry handle. Kids bring the cars and people to the set for their own story.
Strong EQ: EQtainment is leading the toy movement with outstanding new products every year for parents and teachers to provide excellent content for kids’ learning to name, regulate and understand emotions, while building kindness, compassion and understanding. This year’s “Moment AR App,” utilizes AR technology, helping children to identify their feelings and emotions with the use of unique 3D images of characters representing emotions, in the palm of their hand. Guidecraft’s Kai Kai and Xin Xin dolls have facial expression features to add to the face that can change the doll’s emotions, inspiring discussion about how one is feeling. Faber Castell’s “My Story Dolls Express Your Mood, “ starts with a clothespin, as kids choose a face that reflects their mood–calm, happy, sad, determined etc. and then decorate the doll with fabric clothes, tape, stickers, embroidery floss hair, and rhinestones to communicate emotions. What a creative beginning to bringing about a conversation about feelings! Hoyle’s “Super Me” memory card game teaches kids empathy, helping others and social skills as they match an emergency situation with the appropriate superhero response.
Expanded Play set Props: I am always excited to see some of my favorite toys I’ve used in therapy be surrounded by new playset props to expand and inspire story telling. Schleich has added beautifully detailed “worlds” on the Farm and at the Horse Club, with characters, buildings and props to their collection of animals for work, play and secret getaways. These play sets offer a starting point for kids to take off and be the director of their play, enriching the learning experience. Planning, critical thinking, negotiating and reasoning skills are tapped as kids join together in pretend play. Corolle, known for its huggable, sweet scented dolls, has stepped up the pretend play factor providing accessory packages for “A Day in the Life of a Toddler.” With breakfast props (the toast pops up), and snacks, kids can exercise cognitive language skills through imitating real life. Park your car at Plan Toys’ new “Parking Garage,” and get some extra reading and writing practice as the road surface is friendly to chalk messages. Kids can write directions, name a service or even the price to park. Strictly Briks, is rich with new accessories to expand open-ended brick building play, from tracks, cubes, and 3D bricks including their newest “Trap & Gap Baseplates,” inspired by the CEO’s play as a child.
Games and Puzzles Rule: Games and Puzzles continue to be the fastest growing category of toys as families seek more quality time with the kids. Thinkfun’s “Shadows in the Forest” is a game played in the dark. A team controls the movement of cute little Shadowlings who freeze when exposed to the light by the Seeker and need to be freed by collaborative effort. There has been much written lately about kids’ declining social skills due to increased time on their phones and devices rather than face to face interaction. Assembling a puzzle can be a wonderful opportunity to gather around the table and connect socially. “Volkswagon T1 Campervan 3D puzzle by Ravensburger appeals to the adventurer and surfer dude in all of us. I can’t wait to watch and listen as some brothers work together to assemble it. The Learning Journey’s “Glow in the Dark Pirate Ship” puzzle takes you through a day in the life of a pirate with lots to talk about.
Pet Play: “Cutie Paws Puppy Stroller” by VTech is sure to be popular with the preschool set, as they take their doggie for a ride. Alex Toys’ “Snap-To-It Vet” looks like a traveling vet van that opens up to all the accessories for grooming and a good exam with props that are attached to the fabric book with button like snaps for kids to set up the scene. Folkmanis’ “3 Stages of a Frog,” will delight kids just like their caterpillar to butterfly puppet did. Perfect for learning in and outside the classroom, this 3 part puppet teaches metamorphosis from the egg to the tadpole to the frog.
Those of you who know me, know that it is part of my mission to get companies to call out the learning potential in their toys and games for parents and educators. Let’s face it. This also helps sell toys and games when retailers can be helpful to customers looking for the learning in their products.
The first company I saw to do this effectively and comprehensively was ThinkFun who originally had a chart (which I helped advise on) that checked off different skills for each game. Now you go to their products and sort by skill–Word and Language skills, Logic and Problem Solving, STEM and Creative Thinking, and Visual Perception and Reasoning. Their games are loaded with fun learning and they were innovators in having a former kindergarten teacher, Charlotte Fixler, on their staff to advise on skill building potential in products.
Brackitz has a wonderful grid broken into 13 skills, including “Representation and Storytelling.” They get it. Language is an integral skill in STEM/STEAM activities as kids are solving problems, negotiating, reasoning and often creating a story or structure for later pretend play.
So many companies fail to identify the language learning in their toys and games. Is it just too obvious? Language underlies all learning but kids are are getting less opportunity to interact face to face, practicing these social and cognitive skills as tablets and devices are stealing time from free creative play.
Educational Insights has been my go-to company for great games to use in speech therapy over the years, Their skill breakdown is evident under the “Education” category on their website. I’ve played “Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game” with kids and they loved it, while according to their website, learning:
I only wish these skills were identified for ALL of their games, not just those deemed “Educational.”
I’ll be at the International Toy Fair in New York City in a little over a week and be on the lookout for more companies making it easier for parents to find a great toy or game that can help build specific skills for kids who might need some extra practice or strengthening in an area.
There is a wonderful article on the importance of the right play for kids in the New York Times this week, “Taking Playtime Seriously.” Not only does it emphasize the importance of a child’s play but what can threaten natural learning through play,
“But though play may be intrinsically present, and intrinsically playful, those who study its importance in children’s lives point out that it can also be threatened, either by too little attention and responsiveness from distracted adults or, in another sense, by too much attention and teaching, of the not-so-playful kind.”
I’ve spent my career coaching parents on how to play with their children to strengthen language development and talked to them about entering their child’s play to elevate language learning. That means come alongside them and follow their lead, perhaps taking a figure and entering dialogue with your child’s figure or cooperatively building a story with props. Too much attention and teaching, such as taking over the play or pushing toys or tablets that push content over interaction can be taking away important time that could be used for exploration, creation and curiosity.
The article goes on to say, “So part of encouraging play is pulling back on how much programmed goal-directed learning we expect from very young children, to leave them time for the fun of exploration, curiosity and, well, fun. But another important part may be creating environments that foster children’s play and parents’ participation and attention.
Certainly toys are not always the answer, as pots and pans, sticks, a cardboard box or even fish candies can spark imaginations and free play in kids. But when we ARE selecting toys we should be on the look out for those that can give a suggestion of pretend play or story telling without prescribing it so carefully that a child is robbed of being the creative author of their play.
I love to “find” a fantastic language learning game and in this case, it was on the game shelf at my grandkids’ house and due to the kids’ excitement when I asked about it, I knew it was loads of fun too!
“Zoo on the Loose, A Hide and Seek Animal Adventure” by Mindware is right in sync with preschoolers as they are in charge of hiding and finding animals according to directions that include plenty of concepts to process–spacial relationships, colors, shapes, and descriptors. Unfold the play zoo mat and place the 5 cuddly animals, camel, zebra, bear, whale and monkey in their zoo homes. Play cards send the animals to hide on the mat or all around the house. Our kids did both which added a memory component because when we chose a zookeeper card, we had to return all the animals to their zoo homes on the mat. We forgot the monkey was in the refrigerator, as we had “put it someplace cold!” What fun to see how the kids listened to and followed the directions, choosing a spot that matched their descriptions. “Put the camel someplace soft” directed my little friend to place it under our dog standing by!
Kids practice beginning reading skills as they repeat a phrase, “Put the___”in the yellow circle,” “by a window,” “under a tree,” or “next to the camel.” Listening and following directions is a critical skill for success in the classroom as kids practice hiding the animals “someplace quiet,” “someplace sunny,” or “someplace dry (the clothes dryer).” Teachers and therapists take note as this would be a wonderful way to engage kids physically in the classroom as well as mentally as they exercise memory, listening, vocabulary, and concept learning to build essential language skills.