Let’s Teach “She” and “He”

She pronounsMore on yesterday’s topic of teaching personal pronouns to preschoolers. I had a session today with my little girl who is also working on he/she and his/her. She loved the Fisher Price Happy Family set which has many girls. I have the canoe, camping tent, campfire and frying pan, plenty of babies (which are a favorite) and chairs and high chairs. We started with lots of “she” models as we freely played with the dolls. “Should she put the baby in her carry pack?” “Yes, she should.” A few minutes into our first session, Caley was easily repeating my models without really knowing it as she loved the play. When the girl got into the canoe to paddle down the “river” we needed an alligator which we made mermaidout of playdoh. Caley promptly announced that the alligator was a girl which was convenient for me because I had another female model for the pronoun, she! I didn’t even have to put a pink bow around her neck. Now that the playdoh was out for making the alligator, Caley decided we needed a mermaid and appropriately dressed on of the girls.

I believe it’s important for kids to know what they are working on. In this case I ask Caley, “What is your word?” and she says, “She!” Putting it front and forward, helps her be more attentive to using it. I actually heard one or two spontaneous uses of she during that first session.

You have to gauge your little client as to when to introduce he as the next goal. Some kids need a longer time to establish a pronoun. I do a little bit of the opposite pronoun work she cookiesfor contrast (showing a boy doll and describe what he is doing) but mostly bombard the client with she first.

Finally, we finished up with a party as we made various food for our two female dolls. When I asked, “Who has some pizza?” she would reply, “She does, she does and she does,” as she tapped the different dolls. It helped her to hear her target word repeated over and over.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Language, Preschool, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 1 Comment

How Do You Teach Pronouns to a Preschooler?

ninja turtle toyAs you know, I enjoyed speaking to masters students in speech pathology at Northwestern University about a week ago. I really like to share ideas on how to make therapy fun and effective with the best toys. I received the following note from one of the students and thought I would share me response as it might be helpful to others. It did take me back to my days as a student when I was diligently planning for each client, looking through the materials room at what was available and then going into my therapy room with the one way mirror, knowing I might be observed–a little scary:

Hello Sherry,

I am currently a SLP graduate student at NU and heard you come speak to us a couple weeks ago! I am currently trying to teach a 4-9 year old boy how to use the correct pronouns ( he, her, his, hers, she, he, they, them). Instead of saying “she is sleeping” he will say ” her sleeping” or instead of ” they are running” he will say ” them running.” Our last session we tried playing with a mr. and mrs. potato head but he was not having it. Do you have any ideas of what toys I could use for our next session, or any recommendations on how I could help demonstrate this? 

I just started working with a little girl who has the same goals so I am right in that space too! Here are a couple of tips that might help.

  • Find out what interests your almost 5 year-old boy. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are sort of go-to therapy materials for 2 and 3 year olds but my guess is he would much rather talk about ninja turtles or legos Ninjago, Chima or super heroes. I was at a 5 year-old’s house yesterday and he shared his prized ninja turtle toy that holds his weapons under his shell (now you can work on “his” weapons!)
  • Make sure the boy and girl figures or drawings are clearly different for contrast in modeling feminine and masculine pronouns. Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head might not be as obvious as a mom and dad doll figure like the Fisher Price “Happy Family” set which has great accessories like beach bags, fire pits, camping tents etc.
  • Model one pronoun such as “she” and get it fairly established before introducing the next one, “he.” I’ve found this is less confusing and the child feels mastery over the one you are bombarding her with.
  • imgres-7Use books to model the pronoun you are working on. Read a phrase, emphasize the pronoun, “He is in the batmobile,” and your little client will learn to repeat after you. Over time you will fade your prompts and be able to point to a picture for him to describe it.
  • Use playdoh to add props to your scene, maybe a soccer ball “he” could kick or a bat that “he” could swing.


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

Happy Mothers Day!

Mother's Day watercolorHappy Mothers Day to all the amazing moms whose children I work with. Thanks for welcoming me into your homes and families!

And a special thanks to my special mom who is still one of my greatest fans. She has risen above her circumstances of 62 years living with multiple sclerosis and is my hero!!

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Use a Puzzle with Surprise Flaps to Spark Up Speech Therapy Lessons

Ravensburger shark alarmMy readers know how much I enjoy using a great puzzle in speech therapy. Puzzles can be used at a very basic level of adding a piece after a child takes a turn, repeating their target sound at different levels or a phrase with target language structures. The actual content of the puzzle can also afford an opportunity for a fun lesson too.

Ravensburger’s new  “Finding Nemo Shark Alarm  puzzle” is just that. I introduced it to one of my little clients this week and used it for reinforcement for his /sh/ and /ch/ carryover as well as took advantage of the 9 “surprise flaps” which are on slightly larger puzzle pieces and flip open with fun facts on Squirt, Gill, Bloat, Nemo and others. I used these little personality descriptions to launch a language lesson discussing Squirt’s “fearless and easy-going attitude” “spunky personality” and “expressive eyes.” Many of the character descriptions use some abstract expressions to invite conversation such as what does it mean to “have a temper,” “maintain a sunny disposition,” or “blow things out of proportion?”

For those of us who are itinerant speech therapists, it is helpful to have a therapy tool that can address more than one goal. Although I’ve been asked if I lift weights (no it is just my heavy therapy bags!) I am relieved to lighten my load with multi-purpose materials.

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

“Finger Peeps” Puppets Can Build Language in Speech Therapy

Wooky Ent Finger PeepsI have shared several “Artzooka” make-and-play kits by Wooky Entertainment. They are colorful, fun, creative and fairly simple to assemble for pretend play and language learning. Last week I brought their newest kit to a therapy session and my little friend loved constructing his 6 puppets with the punch-out  bodies, arms, heads  and a selection of 60 accessories. The double-sided bodies were a yummy assortment–pictures of jelly beans, watermelon, leaf, and pasta–with two holes to push little fingers through for the legs. The possible characters included a lion, boy, girl, parrot, crocodile, or monster which took on personality according to the accessories a child chose. Add a guitar, skateboard, microphone, cotton candy or flute and your character takes on a theme for the story. We worked on third person singular “He wants_____” or “the lion sings.” But these puppets can be used to further a variety of articulation and language goals. Here is my full review.

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

Teaching Northwestern University SLP’s How To Choose Best Toys

Northwestern roundtable 5-14Last Friday I had the privilege of speaking at my alma mater, Northwestern University to their first year masters degree students in speech pathology. It all started when I received a note from one of their assistant professors telling me how much she liked my blog. A phone conversation ensued where we had such fun talking about our profession and how to excite students about therapy, not just courses and books! So I found myself speaking to about 60 bright students about my journey from the university through public school therapy, founding Play on Words, my private practice and then creating the PAL Award. I shared how to choose a good toy, book or game to make a speech therapy session lively, fun and effective and then took questions. I encouraged them to pick up some games and see what the player is asked to do?

  • Ask questions
  • Add on to a story
  • Describe an object
  • Name an associated object

Then I shared some specific games and companies who are intentional about developing products that are fantastically fun but also embedded with potential learning:

Say the Word by Peaceable Kingdom–Cooperative games–social language

What’s In the Cat’s Hat? by WonderForge

Who Am I? by Janod

Rory’s Story Cubes–MAX  (also the app is available) by Creativity Hub

Highlights Buzz Blast by MindWard

Roll ‘n Play by Thinkfun

After I ended the roundtable, several students lingered and started to get excited about starting a blog among the graduate speech pathology students. One student volunteered that she had a graphic design background and others had talents to contribute. I’d love to see them get this going. They realized they should be sharing therapy ideas among themselves too! So, “Wild Chats” I hope you get your blog going. I am looking forward to reading it!







Posted in Games, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 3 Comments

Best New Toys to Develop Speech and Language

It’s spring–I think! New flowers, new buds, and new toys. I have tested so many new products for the PAL Award in these past few weeks that I want to share some favorites that stand out for having the potential to build language skills. Here we go:

Faber Castell Creativity Can girlThe Big Creativity Can by Faber–Castell. I set this tub of fun in the middle of table and watched 3 sisters aged 6, 7, and 9 go right to their projects after examining the clay, wheels, stickers, styrofoam shapes, wiggly eyes, feathers, bells, pom poms, paper grass, mesh tubing and more. They were busy in their own corner making a hot air balloon and “salsa dancer” (pictured to the left) as well as a bouncy toy. They offered advice, asked for help holding pieces as they stuck them together and showed off their creations. There is plenty in the box to make up a toy, figure or animal or object but you can also offer household items like paper towel rolls, or oatmeal boxes to stretch the imagination. Do it in a group and listen to the language. Here is my full review.

Let’s Make Pom Pals Pom Critter Kit by PomTree. Phew! That is a lot of “poms” but this tub of fun is filled with several sizes and colors of pom poms, wiggle eyes, foam shapes, felt stickers and chenille stems to make your animals. No glue is necessary as little squares of double-sided sticky tape keep your pal together. This make and play craft quickly turned into some wonderful creative scenarios as the pom pals came to life.  Open-ended play that relies on the child as director,  encourages language development as kids make up the format! Here is my full review.

Playful Chef Deluxe Cooking Kit by MindWare.  Kids learn the language of cooking, as they tie on their aprons, follow the color-coded directions for measurements, and learn about cooking gadgets and  fun facts about ingredients. (I learned a thing or two also!) The 14 kid-sized tools are nice quality, especially the flexible star cake pan which was a hit.  This child-parent/adult activity makes it special as kids learn their way around the kitchen. Here is my full review.




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

Spring, Time To Grow Language With New PAL Award Winners

Crocuses popping up, dogwoods blooming and peepers whistling in the neighborhood pond remind me that spring has arrived and the landscape is alive again. As we look at new growth and new beginnings what about checking out some great toys and games, just introduced, that can grow language? Children are invited into play by fantastically fun toys that encourage growth as kids meaningfully add on to a story, make up riddles, complete early reader words, and step into pretend play.

Here are some of my new favorite PAL Award winners:

Say the Word by Peaceable Kingdom

Peaceable kingdom Say the Word“The Repeat-After-Me Silly Story Memory Game!” says it all. In Peaceable Kingdom’s new cooperative game, everyone is the story teller, adding on a zany phrase or sentence using a word card in their hand, recalling what was previously said.  The Story Master monitors the round, chooses a character card (we chose “My Fairy Godmother,” “Quintuplets,” and “The Zombie”), deals 3 word cards to each player (ranges from wiggle, donkey, or bumpy to bunny slippers, tarantula or afro) and the story begins.  What a delightful, funny way to build language skills as players must use a new word to relate to the ongoing story line. Kids learn vocabulary, how to advance a story using a controlled set of words, and strategies to memorize meaningful chunks of language.

Available on Amazon: Click here

 uKloo Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game by uKloo

ukloo_riddle_on_whiteheader-1024x462The uKloo family is growing and they’ve done it again– introduced us to yet another fabulously fun treasure hunt game that promotes reading, thinking and now problem solving! Parents hide several riddle cards and the hunt begins.  “If there is rain or snow or sleet, put these on to protect your feet,” sent them off to peek inside the boots sitting at the front door. Learning extends beyond the game as our friends started making up their own riddles.  The Riddle Writing Tips encourage brainstorming, describing, using adjectives, homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms and using figurative language. Who had a clue that stumping your friends could be such “smart” fun!

Zingo Word Builder by ThinkFun

imgres-4Zingo™ is back! First it taught us matching pictures, then sight words and now spelling and reading. Something about sliding that red device back and forth for “the reveal” captures kids’s attention and they can’t get enough.  My beginning readers took a letter tile and placed it in each empty spot on their word-builder card and slowly sounded out the words. They were thrilled when they said a word that made sense. Kids were doing just what they’d been taught and found great gratification and fun in the process. Learning to be an independent reader opens up worlds of language learning.

Available at Thinkfun: Click here

 My Super Life Journal by PomTree

PomTree_TGC-0042 Scrapbook Journal_HRThis “Awesome, amazing, super, crazy, wonderful, lovely, adventurous, sunny, creative beautiful life journal” (and that’s just what is on the cover!) inspires little girls to celebrate all the little things in life with big splashes of color, stickers, art, words and adornments. The spiral binder holds it all–all about me, what I love, the best, dance and doodle, trips, fashion, places to visit, and favorites. Store your supplies in the vinyl storage zip bag or binder pockets, waiting to record your next adventure. I can’t think of a better way to excite kids about reading and writing as they tell about their amazing life with words and illustrations. This would be a perfect activity book for summer, to keep minds sharp.

Playpark by Plan Toys

imgres-8“Whee!” was the first word out of our little friend’s mouth as she gave one of the wooden family figures a ride down the cable car. “Use the harness for the baby,” I was instructed. Kids rode their bikes, raced down the ramp, climbed the rope ladder and took off on the glider from the launch area. Kids took turns winding the wind turbine to offer rides to their figures. Plenty of pretend play is inspired by open passageways from the ground floor up to the top level. Stories abound as kids get inspired by this toy!

Available at Amazon: Click here

Dinosaur Floor Puzzle by Galt Toys

61cps7AhmPLKids indeed thought this 30 piece dinosaur puzzle was giant and quite grand. With eight of the jigsaw pieces able to stand alone as complete prehistoric animals including some favorite dinosaurs, kids loved building the puzzle around these figures. Lots of conversation ensued as negative spaces began to show signs of a foot, wing or tail to match the creatures. The thick cardboard prehistoric figures with a wipe-off finish served as pretend play characters after the puzzle was completed. Kids couldn’t help but carry on with the story, reinforcing language skills to prepare them for later reading and writing.

Available at Amazon: Click here

Story Box-Safari by Janod
J08542_1I always like to watch kids when the packaging becomes part of the play. Our Safari Park pieces are stowed in a sturdy box shaped and illustrated like home base for the animals and tourists. My little friend set up his elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra, lion and gazelle while the ostrich roamed free and the crocodile lazed in pretend water. The fence kept things reigned in until he started to match the animals and place them next to their pictures on the box.  Soon the monkey and ostrich were on the roof , watching as the safari train loaded its passengers and went on tour. Later he said, “Up the elevator” and lifted the figures up the side of the box to the top for a better view. This set was wonderful for pretend play and story telling as kids drove the story and used the props to direct the play. Language learning abounds when kids are given the right tools to do their work!

Available at Amazon: Click here









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

Happy Easter With Jan Brett’s “The Easter Egg”

imgres-8Happy Easter and Passover to all! The rain has cancelled our Easter egg hunt but that means we have had a morning reading books from Chima and Lego Movie early readers to Jan Brett’s lovely “The Easter Egg.” Little Hoppi is finally old enough to enter into the egg decorating contest along with the other bunnies. The bunny who decorates the winning egg gets to help Easter Rabbit hide the eggs on Easter morning. Brett’s beautifully intricate illustrations capture the details of the delicately decorated eggs created by the artist bunnies who decorate with wildflowers, carvings, chocolate, dyes, paints and robot parts. On his hunt to decide how to decorate, Hoppi comes upon a robin’s egg that has fallen from her nest. Putting off his decorating task to protect and care for the egg, Hoppi is rewarded in the end by the Easter Bunny. Lots of life lessons here to talk about! Happy holidays to you all.

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

uKloo Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game Great For Fun Reading Practice

ukloo_riddle_on_whiteheader-1024x462I’ve been visiting my grandchildren this week and several of them are learning to read. It is like magic to watch them suddenly be able to read simple books and sound out words, feeling so proud of their new skill. In spite of their success, they don’t always want to “practice” or do their required several minutes of reading each day. The uKloo family of games and app are a terrific way to build reading skills and have a load of fun in the process. After I introduced uKloo Riddle Edition, I asked my little friends is they would like to play another round and they said, “I’d like to do 150 rounds!” That little guy greets me each morning saying, “Lets make up riddles.” This is a game that extends way beyond what is in the box. It’s a great game for summer to keep up reading skills. Here is my full review:

The uKloo family is growing and they’ve done it again– introduced us to yet another fabulously fun treasure hunt game that promotes reading, thinking and now problem solving! Parents choose 4 or more riddle cards from the pack of 75, color coded for three levels of achievement, so siblings can join in. Hide the cards with a “Surprise” card at the end. My little friends alternated between level 1 and 3 cards as kids of different ages solved the puzzles. “If there is rain or snow or sleet, put these on to protect your feet,” sent them off to peek inside the boots sitting at the front door, while “I have a face with no eyes or nose. My hands move but never close.” stumped our friends. Luckily, uKloo Riddle Edition comes with Hints for each riddle card so “Tick, tock, time to wake up” sent the kids right to the clock. Learning extends beyond the game as our friends started making up their own riddles. We composed riddles outside on the picnic table, at breakfast and in the car as kids learned to hone their clues to give just enough information but not too much! I had to put on my kid thinking cap to figure out some of their riddles. They stumped me on “I’m white and sharp and help you eat things.” (teeth) as well as “I’m part of a tree. I’m brown. Sometimes you pick me.” (bark!). The Riddle Writing Tips encourage brainstorming, describing using adjectives, homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms and using figurative language. Who had a clue that stumping your friends could be such “smart” fun!

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