Happy Halloween to all Blakcats and Gostes!

caroline's ghost pictureHappy Halloween to everyone! Hope you have fun trick-or-treating and have as safe holiday.

Here was one of my treats that I found after our trip to Michaels for Halloween stickers that the kids requested. Caroline loves to make books so I found several of these pages taped together and couldn’t resist sharing it. We did get into a big discussion with little brother about if ghosts have legs. Good question.

I love to see her invented spelling and watch her sound out her words. Learning to read and write are an exceptionally exciting stage for parents and Caroline's black cat picturegrandparents to watch.

Here’s hoping you see some ghosts and black cats tomorrow night!


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5 Ways To Build Language Skills, Playing With A Puzzle

Galt farm puzzleParents don’t typically consider a puzzle to be a language learning toy. Sure, it’s great to build fine motor, and spacial relationship skills but how does language fit in? When parents join the play, it ups the level of learning as long as we stay in the passenger’s seat and let our child drive the play.

My 4-year old friend brought out his favorite Galt giant floor puzzles, “The Farm” and “Dinosaurs.” Let’s look at the farm. I sat down on the floor next to him and started the conversation. Soon he was leading and asking me the questions. So how can we strengthen language skills while playing with a puzzle?

  1. Asking questions. I started out with, “Where is the rest of the roof of the chicken coop?” or “Where are the purple stripes?” He joined in with “Can I have the tractor?” when we had  assembled the pieces around the shape of the missing tractor. “Where are the rest of the bales of hay?” as we looked to see what might be continued on the missing puzzle piece.
  2. Building vocabulary. After we finished our farm puzzle, my friend started to take out the animals one by one, “Wanna see this one?” and had me name them. Then he chimed in with the associated sound the animal makes, “bak bak bak” for the chicken and “neigh” for the horse. While assembling, I am talking about the  pasture, silo, chicken coop or clay flower pot.
  3. Describing. I like to describe what I am looking for. I need the front part of the pig, an animal with orange spots, the scarecrow’s body or the wooden doors of the barn. Kids start to follow that model and describe what piece they are searching for too so there is some nice chatter as they assemble their puzzle.
  4. Relating the objects and theme to life experiences. Start by talking about how the pictures related to your recent experience or something you might have done together like visiting a petting farm, seeing a cow, or maybe just growing a plant. As kids enter school they are asked to relate “books to life,” meaning tell what they have seen or experienced that matches a character, object or event in the story. These connections build language skills as children start weaving their world together and explaining the connections.
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

How Parents Can Discourage Their Kids From Reading

Reading In WilmingtonIt’s always interesting what sparks interest in social media. One of the most popular posts I shared on Facebook recently was “Eight Ways Parents Discourage Their Kids From Reading”. As school gets into full swing, after school time is crammed with activities and homework–some of which is to read. I thought this article had some valuable insights as we all can slip into caring if our child is in the blue or green reading group, are they progressing fast enough, or how much more can I do to help at home etc.

Tips like letting the child choose what is interesting to read (even if it seems gross or silly to us), provide the right reading level materials for success and enjoyment of reading and don’t over-correct an over-practice. I found the last one most valuable for me as I listen to kids read and have to bite my tongue so I don’t correct too much. Now when they read “pizza” instead of  “prizes” it is helpful for comprehension to have them try that word again. Although to kids, maybe a pizza is better than a prize! Take a look and I think you’ll find these helpful.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Reading | Leave a comment

Fun Halloween Jokes For Kids

Halloween-jokes-for-kids-with-printable-1I’ve heard more knock knock jokes this week while staying with my grandkids. Kids tell jokes in the cafeteria, in the hall, on the bus,  at the breakfast table and with playmates! Here are some cute Halloween jokes to print and put in their lunch box!

I guess I have morphed to the mind of a 6 year-old because I think they are pretty funny and have been trying them out on my husband. Here are a few:

How do you make a witch itch? You take away the W.

Why was the jack-o-lantern afraid to cross the road? He had no guts!

Okay I’ll stop but you’ll be pretty cool in the eyes of your kids if you try a few on them this week AND there is a little play on words in a some of them so here’s to a good language activity too.

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

Kids Inventing A Halloween Cat From Hape’s Packaging

Caroline with halloween cat

Halloween Cat from Hape boxes

“Do you know what happens when you make a toy? It helps the world!” That’s what 6 year-old Caroline told me as she worked on her Halloween Cat toy, made from Hape’s “Minimals” toy packaging. It was fun to watch her creative mind work as she began after dinner to start cutting apart 2 boxes and the plastic covers to make the body, found a large roll of clear packaging tape and cut it apart to make the legs decorated with halloween stickers.  She finished up the cat this morning while it was still dark outside.

We had a nice discussion about being an “inventor” and what that means. I loved that I was not involved one bit in this project. Caroline has a craft drawer in the kitchen (One of the biggest drawers) that holds paper, markers, tape, duct tape, and scissors. She was self-sufficient in her creative Caroline's halloween catprocess. Isn’t that what we want our kids to be? Have great materials and toys available so they can take off and lead the play. That’s how they learn the most.

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I’m Mystery Reader In The Classroom This Week

Reading to Sam's classI love reading to my grandchildren and watching them learn how to read. This week I have had the opportunity to read to two of their classrooms with the kids “helping” me. Sam’s 3 year-old preschool class was so helpful as I read “Skeleton Hiccups” and they joined in on “hic, hic, hic,” as the skeleton hiccuped his way through many activities, trying to rid himself of those pesky jolts. Nothing seems to work–holding his breath, pouring sugar down his throat, or holding his nose. Ghost has a better idea as he searches through the attic trunk for just the right solution. Each page has “hic, hic, hic” repeated until the last page when the hic’s jump away for a final “hic, hic, hooray!” Perfect for a preschool read-aloud. In our followup discussion about halloween, the teacher asked the kids what is inside the pumpkin and a little girls said, “Guts!” Don’t you just love this age?

Today I was the Mystery Reader in Caroline’s 1st grade so I chose some Halloween Caroline's mystery readerfavorites. They have been working on a unit about bullying so I thought “Hallo-Weiner” would be a good choice. Poor guy, Oscar was made fun of by his friends for his homemade lovingly made by his mom–“Weiner Dog” they yelled and had a good laugh. Well, when he came to their rescue from a giant monster, the dogs changed their tune and re-named him their “Hero Sandwich.” The kids were such good listeners that we read 2 more books including “Skeleton Hiccups” and “T. Rex Tick or Treats” After we finished, we asked the kids how the last 2 books were alike (book to book, text to text comparisons–a great language building exercise) and they came up with 8! Such a special class.

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Getting Creative with Faber-Castell Connector Pens

Connector pens dino

Faber-Castell Connector Pens Elephant

All I had to do was dump out the can of 50 Faber-Castell Connector Pens and the kids started building a flute, dinosaur and robot arm. This is the kind of toy that I love. Do you want to draw? or build? My little friend said, “Let’s be creative!” She could be part of the marketing team. The markers came in handy as the kids drew faces for their creations. Just cut them out and tape them on.

Before breakfast the can came out again. Cooper made a boat with a mast and oar–actually more like a raft. The construction is pretty linear but that makes the kids think harder about what they can make.

The elephant in the picture was made by the inventor and displayed at the Toy Fair this year.

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A Precious Week With My Grandchildren, Take A Look at Home Schooling

Sheshe with Ben and SamThis is such a special week as we get to spend time in the lives of some of our grandchildren. So far we have participated in home-schooling, surfing, reading to the preschool class, conducting science experiments, playing math games, catching fish and going to the book store.

This is the first year that one of the families is home schooling. It is amazing to watch as learning goes on all day in many formats, starting early as they review verb forms on the bed, learn their history timeline, Home schoolingsing in latin while making legos and learn their state capitals. We went along to their morning of Classical Conversations which I had heard about but didn’t understand  until we joined the home schooling families as they reviewed and learned new dates and events in history, added hand signs and songs and then recited it in latin! My husband came out of one the classrooms where he had been observing 1st grade and said, “I just had a whole day of school!” The fast-paced, fun delivery of organs of the body, grammar, state capitals and latin vocabulary gave us a packed morning. As a speech-language pathologist, I appreciated all the rich vocabulary that was introduced. As they first used their tin whistles in music time, they learned “cacophony” (which was applicable to their first notes!), harmony, melody, symphony and fipple (the hole in the mouthpiece)–who knew?

Short presentations to the class are started at an early age to teach kids to be confident in public speaking. Later when they have a foundation of historical events and the classics they will be equipped to discuss and debate ideas.

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Dress Your Dolls for Speech Therapy

Galt Fairy Princess DollsComing from a house of boys, I’m always fascinated entering the land of pink. A six-year-old girl that I work with is one of three girls so the playroom is full of glitter, tiaras and all things baby doll. This week I got out my Fairy Dressing Up Set by Galt, and we started by choosing outfits for sleeping, swimming, party time and play. Working on/sh/ we took turns saying, “She should get the green party dress” and so on. The pretend play, lead by my little friend,  moved to nighttime as we took off to get her doll’s bunk bed, and acted out the “little sister” getting scared and joining her older sister in her bunk! I wonder where she got that idea??? Then it was time to get up in the morning and get dressed for our party, being transported by that cool Fisher Price Happy Family sports car. Kids love it because you can hide many accessories in the working trunk like a take along dog, blanket or beach bag.

All in all it was a successful day in the life of the fairies and just one more day of articulation therapy.

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Grab the Mail for Speech Therapy

mail for speech therapyMy mail delivery is getting smaller and smaller these days, comprised mostly of brochures and advertisements but even those can have a second use as materials for speech therapy.

I am working with a student on conversational skills– commenting more and asking fewer perseverative questions. So when this colorful brochure arrived, advertising a community offering and picturing boating, horseback riding, eating, biking, swimming and more, I decided to use it to spark some conversation and even brainstorming in categories like what we would like the chefs to make for us (steak, pasta…) or when did we go horseback riding (Hole in the Wall Camp) and so on. Because my student is in middle school but is more limited cognitively, it is hard to get appropriate materials some times so the mail delivered just what I needed and he enjoyed it!

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