Announced Top 10 PAL Picks 2013 Today On NBC CT TV

Today I shared 8 of our Top 10 PAL Picks for 2013, Holiday Gift Guide. Here are some favorites we featured on our segment today but be sure to check out all of our Top Picks below for easy holiday shopping!

Play On Words LLC, led by highly respected speech therapist Sherry Artemenko, announces Top 10 PAL (Play Advances Language) Award Picks for 2013. This recognition is the toy industry’s only program directed by a credentialed speech-language expert recognizing the language learning edge in exceptional toys, games and books. Distinguished by unique design, quality and character, these PAL winners can generate rich play that advances language. Sherry’s 35 years of child development experience with over 15,000 hours working with kids empower her PAL selections, popular blog, private practice and media appearances.

The word for My Top 10 PAL Award Picks for 2013 is flexible play. These winners can provide hours of fun and learning as kids reconfigure the toy, play with it in a new way and construct new scenarios.  Parents and grandparents have told me they put the list on their phone for shopping!

Fairy Tale Blocks by PLAN Toys (3 and up, $30 ) Click here

  • kids set up scenario for happily ever after–create castle, turret, carriage pulled by horses, moat, and towers.
  • blocks have a hint of their purpose but are open-ended for creative play and changeable stories: 1 piece  became a bathtub, top of turret, and swimming pool in a child’s story
  • prince and princess add element of people and dialogue, ever changing story

Walk-A-Long Snail by Hape ( 1 and up, $30) Click here

  • Goofy, buggy eyed- snail tags along behind a toddler, while his shell rotates and comes off for some shape sorting play.
  • Good baby and toddler toy should provide a lot for parents to talk about, modeling the language of colors, shapes, position words, and action

HABA Puppet Theater (3 and up, $130) Click here

  • invited 3 sisters over, an explosion of talking when I unveiled this–they grabbed their own puppet and started the dialogue
  • Easy set up  transforms into a shop with 2 boxes to hold fruits and vegetables, cupcakes or money…flip the sign to say you are open for business!

New York City Christmas Puzzle by Ravensburger (14 and up, $19) Click here

  • puzzle is multigenerational activity
  • great way to invite conversation with teenagers

Smartmax Tommy Train by Smart Toys and Games  (3 and up, $23) Click here

  • Trains so popular with kids and take on language learning with face, animated
  • Kids were constructing and changing their train so fast, experimenting
  • magnetic bars and balls attract and repel,
  • compatible with other sets

That’s It! by Gamewright (10 and up, $10) Click here

  • Great party game or learning tool for teachers
  • 200 topic cards, players shout out answers until they get the one named on card
  • “What gets backed up?” sewer, plumbing….traffic
  • rapid naming of words within a category

Wonder Whale Kicks and Giggles Gym by Infantino (infant, $60) Click here

  • discovery, cause-effect, as baby kicks the whale, the sea animals wiggle
  • right in reaching area for babies to grab and explore and vocalize
  • parents describe sounds, textures, patterns and colors
  • tummy time with whale pillow and underwater filled cushion with sea animals

Smaland Doll’s House by Lundby (3 and up, $99) Click here

  • Kids rushed in the room, started re-arranging furniture and assigning roles–lights up
  • Floors and walls decorated in patterns with more options on their website to download wallpaper, newspapers, or learn how to make your own picture frame
  • Modern design of this Swedish dollhouse, takes the family through it’s day of pretend

Here is our complete Top 10 PAL Pick for 2013 list:


- Elf Grenadine’s Heart by Corolle

- Grow-With-Me Activity Gym and Ball Pit by Infantino

- Mighty Mini Band by Hape

- NogginStik by SmartNoggin Toys

- 1.2.3 Take Along Fire Station by Playmobil

- See ‘n Spin Alphabet Rack by B kids

- Stack ‘n Squirt Pals by B kids

- Trampili Elephant Music by Steiff

- Walk-Along-Snail by Hape

- Wonder Whale Kicks and Giggles Activity Gym by Infantino


- Bebe Bath and Accessories By Corolle

- Easy Turn Coupe by Step2

- Fairy Tale Blocks by Plan Toys

- Fire Station by Hape

- Puppet Theater by HABA

- Little Hedgehog Puppet by Folkmanis

- Racing Round Stacking Pyramid by Janod

- SmartMax Tommy Train by Smart Toys and Games

- Story Circus Baby Train by Janod

- Take Along Modern Doll House by Playmobil


- Alpaca Puppet by Folkmanis

- Artzooka! Recycle Sticker Creations by Wooky Entertainment

- Artzooka! Surprise Match Boxes by Wooky Entertainment

- Base Kit by littleBits

- Friends Heartlake City Pool by Lego

- Nancy B’s Science Club Microscope and Activity Journal by Educational Insights

- NYC Christmas Puzzle by Ravensburger

- Western Fort by Playmobil

- Smaland Doll’s House by Lundby

- Super Sized Floor Puzzle USA Map by Ravensburger


- Animal Soup The Mixed-Up Animal Board Game! by The Haywire Group

- Bugs In The Kitchen by Ravensburger

- Disney Jake and the Neverland Pirates Shipwreck Beach Treasure Hunt Game by Wonder Forge

- Disney Sofia the First Magical Tea Time Game by Wonder Forge

- Disney Sofia the First Royal Prep Academy Game by Wonder Forge

- Hello Sunshine! by ThinkFun

- Loco Lingo Kindergarten by HABA

- On The Farm Who’s In The Barnyard? by Ravensburger

- Skunk Bingo by Gamewright

- The Great Cheese Chase by Peaceable Kingdom


- Doodle Jump by Ravensburger

- Justice League Axis of Villains Strategy Game by Wonder Forge

- Ooga Booga by Blue Orange Games

- Qualities by SimplyFun

- Rhyme Out: The Triple Rhyming Game by Educational Insights

- Rory’s Story Cubes Voyages by Gamewright

- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Clash Alley Strategy Game by Wonder Forge

- That’s It! by Gamewright

- What’s It? by Peaceable Kingdom

- WordARound by ThinkFun


- A Home For Bird by Philip C. Stead

- Alphabet Anatomy: Meet The Capital Letters by Linda Ann Jones

- Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

- Little Red Writing by Joan Holub and Melissa Sweet

- Magic Forest Friends by HABA

- Penguin And Pinecone by Salina Yoon

- Pig Has a Plan by Ethan Long

- Red Cat Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond

- The Ant and the Grasshopper by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley

- Up! Tall! And High! by Ethan Long










Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 14 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

NogginStik by Smartnoggin Toys Specializes in Learning

793573104830_2.jpgIf you are involved in early intervention therapy, a parent of a typically developing child or one with special needs I want to recommend our newest PAL Award winner, “Nogginstik” by Smartnoggin Toys. Speech therapists love toys with a face because babies are naturally drawn to a face and talk more to them. Now add that the face changes color every time you or baby move it! Designed by early intervention therapist, Marcia Haut, Nogginstik engages kids and can be used to build speech, physical, cognitive and sensory skills. Her instructional learning  booklet for parents is excellent, making this toy perfect for carryover at home.

Here is my full review:

Aware of an increased emphasis on the learning potential of infants in the first 3 years of life, new parents are looking more closely at toys that can encourage interaction and development. NogginStik is just that–a smart toy for baby that entertains but is also filled with features to encourage language development (as well as sensory, physical and cognitive skills). His smiley faced head lights up in green, red, and blue, activated by baby’s batting or shake of the hand,  capitalizing on the fact that all babies are naturally drawn to faces and vocalize more to a face. As a parent or caregiver moves NogginStik from side to side, a baby practices visual tracking which is a critical pre-literacy skill. Listening to the rattling encourages babies to locate sounds, building listening skills important for preparing for first words. Lift up NogginStix and peek in the mirror with baby to have a chat or play peek-a-boo. Rarely do I see such an outstanding parent learning guide associated with a toy to maximize learning through play. Parents won’t run out of activities with this little friend!

Available at Smartnoggin: Click here

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

PAL Award Submissions Donated To Bridgeport Rescue Mission

Rescue Mission preschool

New preschool

People always tell me how much fun my job must be to get all these new toys and be able to play with them with kids. Actually one of my favorite parts of the PAL Award process is being able to donate many of the submitted toys, books and games to several non-profits that serve moms and children in poverty. Monday I packed up my car and drove to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission’s new Women’s Guest House, designed to house women AND their children who are homeless. Linda Casey, Director of Development, met me there for a tour. One of the moms helped me unload the toys and was so thankful as they have just started a preschool for the children of the moms staying there. I met the little 4 year-old who didn’t know her colors, shapes or numbers when she arrived a few months ago. She was sitting at the table, identifying concepts in a puzzle as her teacher reinforced her learning!

Rescue mission moms

Women’s Guest House Dining Room

Local businesses have “adopted” different community rooms at the Guest House so I was able to see the completed computer lab where moms are working on their GED and job skills. It even included a cute miniature table and chairs for little daughters and sons to “work” alongside moms.

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission is unique in its mission and impact on our neighboring towns. They are gearing up for Thanksgiving when they will feed 4,000 guests as neighbors will line up to get a turkey and warm coat.

I am  blessed to be able to contribute to this fine organization serving the hungry, homeless and addicted in Fairfield County.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Speech Therapy Lesson on the Vocabulary of Behavior, “Choice-A-Quence”

product_choice_a_quenceHere’s a new PAL Award winning game, perfect for a speech therapy lesson teaching kids the pragmatics of behaviors and their consequences. Developed by a team of educators including a speech language pathologist, “Choice-a-Quence” gets the conversation going about common situations in a young child’s life, sharing, teasing, playing nicely together and many more. Use the 4 different play options for competitive or cooperative play to build vocabulary, grammar and syntax, pragmatic skills and social language.

Here is my full review: Grab this little pack of cards for a lively, thoughtful conversation about behavior and consequences as kids can speak into a toy microphone (or pretend one for that matter) as a game show contestant, play a memory game, or choose from other options to learn and use the language or behavior. Connect the choice with the correct consequence–”lie” and “have others not believe you,” or “try something new” to “get a hug.” Color coded cards represent choices or consequences to match and discuss, some having more than one right answer to negotiate. My favorite extension of the game was to ask the child why he chose that consequence. Often it related to how a person would feel after being teased, not sharing, or playing nicely together or waiting. Why did you pair “have others not want to play with you” with “argue?” My little friend astutely said, “because he doesn’t listen and kids don’t like that so they don’t let him play” I love the blank cards to fill in with a dry erase marker for those behaviors that challenge but aren’t included. I added, “get mad when I lose a board game,” since my friend needs the vocabulary to make some different choices in that situation. Ultimately, families learn to use these cards to improve behavior, social and language skills in real-life situations. Besides having fun, a consequence of playing this game just could be some improved behavior with the words to implement it!

Available at Let’s Choose! Click here

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Halloween!

Halloween ninja turtlesI hope everyone had a happy, safe and dry? Halloween. We had lots of ninjas, teenage mutant ninja turtles and princesses come to our door in spite of the drizzle outside!

It was a special day for me as it was my birthday too. I enjoyed hearing from so many new and old friends who remembered all our costume parties growing up:)


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Preschool Articulation Therapy Lesson with 3D Dinoland Puzzle

Alex 3D Dinoland:jpgFor some reason, I find myself getting several new students this fall, all of whom are 4 year-old boys with articulation delays. Several of them come described as “mumbling” by their mothers and have overall imprecision as well as substitutions on specific sounds they should have mastered by this age. It’s time to pull out the dinosaurs!

Yesterday I told a mom that her son and I “got in our groove” as I pulled out Alex Toys’ new 3D Dinoland puzzle, a new PAL Award winner, and had continuous talking for 45 minutes! We were working on “moving our mouth,” following my model of emphasizing all the sounds in a sentence, as well as auditory discrimination between productions where we moved or didn’t move our mouth. A simple thumbs up or down showed me that Ben could distinguish the difference in my speech as well as his. Our puzzle was the perfect therapy material for providing interesting phrases or sentences for Ben to repeat.

  • First we put together the flat portion of the puzzle and talked about what pieces were looking for, “I need white dots,” or “I’m looking for a yellow tail.” It felt like a little treasure hunt.
  • We made our way around the circular puzzle describing each section, “The babies have hatched,” “Something is peaking out of the cave,” or “The volcano is erupting.”
  • Then we assembled the volcano, and each of the dinosaurs, including a Pterodactyl, T Rex and Stegosaurus repeating, ‘”I need two legs,” or “He needs hands.”
  • Magically the figures entered into pretend play, as Ben flew the pterodactyl over the volcano, avoiding lava and put the dinosaurs through their paces of eating, playing, swimming and finally sleeping, where he used the Playmobil instructions as blankets!

Alex Dinoland pretendThis puzzle could easily be used for a language lesson too, providing and acting out language models throughout play. Enjoy!

Here is my full review:

Kids love to take over the floor to construct their 3D Dinoland jumbo puzzle. Piece together an ocean, forest, desert and mountain scenes as a backdrop for a variety of dinosaurs as the flat base for play as you build your six 3D dinosaurs and erupting volcano. Your stegosaurus, T-Rex, and pterodactyl dinosaurs can roam the land of imagination and pretend play as preschoolers provide sound effects and conversation for their models. High quality, thick cardboard pieces fit together to become durable pretend play characters to build a story and reinforce language skills.




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

6 Tips For Navigating Early Intervention Screening To Receive Speech Therapy Services

Shoe last sculpture

Shoe Last Sculpture

Last week a mom called to ask me about working with her 21 month-old little girl who had been tested by birth-Three Services twice since July and did not qualify for services. The mom reported that both she and her pediatrician were concerned with her daughter’s apparent delay in expressive language since she was only saying a few words and not able to imitate. Little Charlotte scored right at her age level for receptive language (understanding) but 2 standard deviations below the mean for her age in expressive language (talking). Unfortunately, this is a common scenario that parents come to me with, frustrated that because their child can understand, it is assumed that don’t need help expressing themselves verbally, using words.

I thought it would be helpful if I gave parents some of my tips for navigating the process to bring about the greatest success in terms of receiving speech and language services for their child. Let me preface this list by saying that although I have great respect for the professionals serving the Birth to Three Program, I do feel a parent’s advocacy can be important at several steps:

  • Be informed. Find out as much as you can about the early intervention program in your state–what scores qualify a child for services, the cost, who provides the therapy etc. In Connecticut’s Birth to Three Program, a child is eligible for services when testing reveals a standard deviation of -2.0 in one area of development or -1.5 in two areas of development.  Standard deviations between -1.0 and +1.0 indicate age appropriate development in an area (Self Help/Adaptive, Social/Emotional, Physical-Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Communication–Receptive Language and Expressive Language and Cognitive).
  • Be prepared. I always ask parents for a list of what words a child is saying before I come to test them. Write them out phonetically by sounds such as uppa/up, da/cup, or ju/juice. First of all, it’s been my experience that kids have more words than their parents think they do and when asked to listen and observe, parents find the list sometimes goes from less than 10 to 20 or more. Quite a difference. By giving this list to the testing professional, you are helping a stranger catch up on your child’s capabilities quickly and make a more accurate assessment.
  • Request the most specialized therapist to test your child in the area of concern. If you are worried about your child’s language development, ask for a speech language pathologist to be part of the team to do the testing. Seems obvious, right? I consulted with a parent today whose only concern and reason for evaluation was her child’s language delay and the Early Intervention services sent out an occupational and physical therapist to test. Mom asked questions about tongue function, based on other input and the testers said, “I’ve never heard of that.” I have great respect for all these professions but I wouldn’t want to be the the expert testing children in their fields of expertise.
  • Speak up. If you disagree with the assessment of your child (you know them the best) speak up. You want an accurate picture of your child’s abilities. If his scores are borderline, offer other information that might speak to the need for services such as behavior issues as a result of not being understood. If you disagree with the eligibility decision, ask to talk with a supervisor. This also holds true concerning how often therapy is recommended. Weekly is always better than twice a month for consistency.
  • When therapy starts, again, request that the therapist be in the specific field of your child’s deficit. Again, this sounds obvious, but I have counseled parents to get a speech therapist for speech therapy!
  • Get involved. Watch, listen, and learn how to carryover and implement the strategies that the therapist is using with your child. Continuing to engage with your child in these specific ways will bring faster progress and satisfaction in being part of the process.
Posted in Birth-3 year-olds | Leave a comment

Challenging Behaviors in Speech Therapy Within A Child’s Home

Essex Front Door

Door I liked in Essex, CT

I have been thinking a lot about how to address several situations I found myself in lately as I entered a home for the first time to meet a family and start working with their child. Maybe because it is the fall and I am taking several new children on my caseload, or that I just have had some especially challenging situations lately with little boys (hey, I’m not discriminating–I don’t have any girls on my caseload right now!) and their behavior.

Many of you know that I worked in the public and non-public schools for 16 years before going into private practice where I travel to homes and deliver services at the kitchen table, on the floor, in the playroom or basement. When I had my own therapy room, I set the rules, kids knew what to expect and what the consequences were for not following those rules. The first rule was to have fun of course. It is a different setting when I walk into someone’s home and I can quickly see who rules, the parents, the kids, or some combination thereof. Stephanie Dowling, MA, CCC, SLP
recently blogged on this topic for Advance Magazine and said it well,

“In the home care setting, the scenario is much different. In this situation, you are entering into someone else’s home and long before you showed up, rules (or no rules) were set. The biggest challenge for me occurs in this setting when I see a child’s true potential not being met because of how behaviors are or are not being handled. We have been sent to this person’s home to address their child’s speech and language delay/disorder, not their behavior. However, as any seasoned therapist knows, how a child behaves can and will directly affect their ability to communicate and vice versa.”  

Of course, after 35 years working with kids I am a master of distraction and can usually get them to forget their obstinance and engage in a fun game before they know it. But sometimes parents, unknowingly can get in the way and actually reinforce noncompliant behavior.

Yesterday turned out to be pretty funny but when I arrived, I wasn’t quite sure how I would resolve the situation. The little boy I had come to meet was already saying, “I don’t want a teacher,” “I’m not doing any work,” (without laying eyes on me) and moved on to “I don’t play games that aren’t mine” after he looked in my bag. It was actually so silly that it was funny. I let him rant a bit and got some history from mom, as he started to get a little more interested in my “Who Shook Hook?” game. By the end of a productive session he was asking me if I could come every day. Phew!

I’m actually going to repeat a few of Stephanie’s tips and add to them:

  • Be consistent. No matter what the situation in the home, I try to make my little space my therapy realm and stay consistent with expectations. Often with little ones (sometimes up to 3rd grade) I offer the model, “Sure Sherry,” when they are being obstinant. Somehow it stops the negative comments and moves to the positive, AND it gives a little alliteration which is fun.
  • Have fun. Kids need to see that therapy is fun when they cooperate. I bring great games, crafts, and books and they can’t wait to get their hands on them. Stephanie talked about “Being Fair” which is part of this that we don’t want to be so tough that kids can’t relax and do their best.
  • Learn what the child likes. Recently, several of the boys who challenged me at the beginning turn out to love art, drawing and even writing. I am using all these activities to motivate them and the negative behavior is diminishing. Alex Toys and  Wooky Entertainment offer great craft kids broken down into small steps to use for speech therapy session reinforcement.
  • Take it slow. Sometimes I am trying to get the most accomplished and jump right into therapy and really I should devote the session to getting to know my new friend, with a little more chat and not so many expectations.
  • Consider asking the parent to listen from the other room and see if the child focuses more on you and the therapy activity. Often this helps the child keep their focus, without two adults present. Then I invite the parent to join us for the last few minutes to “Show off” what we did.

The bottom line is I am a speech language therapist, not a behavioral specialist, (although I have had training and learned from some great co-workers), and need to have a cooperative child to get the most progress to build their speech and language. The longer I work with a family, the easier it is to partner in that process.

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

Language-Gap Study Bolsters Push For Pre-K, Article in NYT Today

Ben in capeThe front page story in the New York Times today has a fascinating article on a new study reinforcing the results of research two decades ago, finding that children of higher income families hear a greater quantity of words than those in low income families, and the gap widens beginning at 18 months. Here is a recap of the article, thanks to my husband who took great notes! It reinforces the idea that as speech pathologists we need to continue the drumbeat to educate ALL parents on how to talk and play with their preschoolers to encourage language development and reading.

Language-Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K by M. Rich, NY Times, 10/22/2013

  •  90’s study showed that low income kids have heard millions fewer words by age 3
  • New study shows a language gap as early as 18 months
  • “Professional” parents speak 30 million more words to their kids by age 3
  • Reading challenges persist where oral language and vocabulary are anemic
  • As income disparity widens, literacy/language gaps widen and are hard to undo
  • Literacy experts have documented the importance of:
  • Early vocabulary strength links to later success in reading comprehension
  • Natural conversations with children (versus memorizing flashcards)
  • Asking questions while reading books
  • Helping children identify words during playtime
  • The best fix to these problems may be surprising
    • Study showed < 15% of classes had effective teacher-student interactions
    • Generally unrealistic to put kids in a “program” to fix vocabulary/literacy, without teacher training
    • School based in-class interactions and programs not the cure-all
  • Is it ALL about income gaps?
    • NO! … A study showed that among 29, 19 month-olds, all from low income households, some heard as few as 670 “child directed words” in one day, yet others as many as 12,000 (and the those in the“more” group were able to understand words more quickly and had larger vocabularies by age 2)
    • TO ADDRESS THE LANGUAGE GAP … engage verbally at home.

“Even in families that are low income and perhaps don’t have a lot of education, there are some parents that are very engaged verbally with their kids, and those kids are doing better in language development.” Adriana Weisleder, Stanford


SUMMARY: Kids are language driven computers from very early on, and the quantity and quality of input counts. Kids who are intentionally engaged through social interaction, reading and play respond consistently with better understanding, larger vocabularies and stronger reading comprehension, all tied to the quality of their lives and the development of their capacities. Cognition starts early, input is directly proportional to output, the results of a lack of input, or poor input is well documented, as are the rewards of intentionality.

REFERENCES: Anne Fernald, psychologist and graduate assistant, Adriana Weisleder, Stanford University; Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund; National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University; David Dickinson, Vanderbilt University; Catherine Snow, Harvard University; Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research; Anne E. Cunningham, a psychologist and literacy specialist from the University of California

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Language, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 1 Comment Announces Fall 2013 PAL Award Winners Presents Their Fall 2013 PAL Awards – Best Toys, Games and Books That Spark Language Development Through Play

Play On Words LLC, led by highly respected speech language pathologist Sherry Artemenko, announces 2013′s Fall PAL Award Winners, the toy industry’s only recognition directed by a credentialed speech-language expert recognizing the language learning edge in exceptional toys, games and books. Sherry’s 35 years of child development experience with over 15,000 hours working with kids empower her PAL selections, popular blog, private practice and media appearances.

  • Share on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail a friend

Sherry Artemenko, PAL Founder, and NBC-CT anchor Kerri-Lee Mayland sharing “High Tea,” with PAL Award Winning Wonder Forge creation, “Disney Sofia the First Magical Tea Time Game.” (September 9, 2013)

I just love to see what [toys] you bring, because it’s so different every time and you do not disappoint. – NBC-CT’s Kerri Lee Mayland

Southport, CT (PRWEB) October 22, 2013

Play On Words LLC, led by highly respected speech language pathologist Sherry Artemenko, announces 2013′s Fall PAL (Play Advances Language) Winners. This recognition is the toy industry’s only program directed by a credentialed speech-language expert recognizing the language learning edge in exceptional toys, games and books. Distinguished by unique design, quality and character, these PAL winners can generate rich play that advances language. Sherry’s 35 years of child development experience with over 15,000 hours working with kids empower her PAL selections, popular blog, private practice and media appearances.

“I’m excited to see companies integrating language learning in their products to stretch students to collaboratively solve problems and work toward solutions whether creating a project with circuit modules or cooperating on a preschool game to find hidden pirate treasure. Science tools designed for girls 8 years and up include an ‘activity journal’ to record observations and comparisons or create a song or poem describing the moon, building cognitive and language skills while requiring writing. Since PAL winners exhibit intrinsic learning qualities, kids enjoy great play, unaware they’re engaged in practicing communication skills.”


EARLY DEVELOPMENT: Sherry’s daily experience in pediatric speech therapy gives her an eye for the best products to build attention, vocabulary, and concepts through play, preparing children for their first sounds, words and sentences. From listening and learning patterns through a musical gator, pulling a shape-sorting snail or exploring a magic forest of friends in a soft fold-out book, kids learn essential language skills.

  • Busy Bead Maze – Mermaid Adventure by Alex Toys
  • Grow-With-Me Activity Gym and Ball Pit by Infantino
  • Linda Lamb Pull Toy by Steiff
  • Magic Forest Friends by HABA
  • Mighty Mini Band by Hape
  • Musical Gator by Alex Toys
  • Rolling Busy Bus by Alex Toys
  • Sensory Pals by Infantino
  • Touch and Feel Critter Ball Set by Infantino
  • Trampili Elephant Music by Steiff
  • Walk-Along-Snail by Hape
  • Wonder Whale Kicks and Giggles Activity Gym by Infantino

LANGUAGE STRUCTURE: These outstanding products can build language structure, often teaching vocabulary, concepts or grammar while delivering fun. Problem solving, predicting, collaborating, and negotiating while creating working electrical circuits or journaling the dynamics of the moon over time, all strengthen communication.

  • Animal Patterns Puzzle by BigJigs
  • Base Kit by littleBits
  • Disney Eye Found It! Hidden Picture Game by Wonder Forge
  • Disney Jake and the Neverland Pirates Shipwreck Beach Treasure Hunt Game by Wonder Forge
  • Disney Sofia the First Royal Prep Academy Game by Wonder Forge
  • Disney Sofia the First Magical Tea Time Game by Wonder Forge
  • Doodle Jump by Ravensburger
  • Freeze Up! By Educational Insights
  • Justice League Axis of Villains Strategy Game by Wonder Forge
  • Nancy B’s Science Club Moonscope and Star Gazer’s Activity Journal by Educational Insights
  • Nancy B’s Science Club Microscope and Activity Journal by Educational Insights
  • Nancy B’s Science Club AquaScope and Underwater Wonders Activity Journal by Educational Insights
  • Ooga Booga by Blue Orange Games
  • Rory’s Story Cubes Voyages by Gamewright
  • Stuffed Full of Fun Small Sticker Tubs by PomTree
  • That’s It! by Gamewright
  • Spot It! Basic English by Blue Orange Games
  • What’s the Racket? by HABA

(PRE)READING: Learning the parts of a well-written story in a clever adaptation of a famous fairy tale or meeting the capital letters through poems designed to help remember letter forms, children pick up essential skills to promote reading and writing.

  • Alphabet Anatomy – Meet The Capital Letters by Linda Ann Jones
  • Jumbo Bananagrams by Bananagrams
  • Little Red Writing by Joan Holub and Melissa Sweet
  • Peppa Pig and the Busy Day at School by Candlewick Press

STORY-TELLING/ PRETEND PLAY: Whether preparing dinner in a dollhouse with micro-light fixtures, coupling magnetized cars to animate a train, applying bandaids to make a patient “all better,” or picnicking in a gingerbread cottage, children enter the world of pretend, creating their own stories with a variety of flexible props to guide their imagination. Oral story-telling precedes writing as kids learn the steps to create a good narrative.

  • 3D Dinoland by Alex Toys
  • Disney Doc McStuffins All Better! Game by Wonder Forge
  • Doc McStuffins Get Better Checkup Center by Just Play
  • Fire Station by Hape
  • Gingerbread Cottage Playhouse by Win Green
  • Little Baby Trampili Elephant by Steiff
  • Little Floppy Sissi Piglet by Steiff
  • Mocky Hippopotomus by Steiff
  • Nanoblock Under the Sea by Ohio Art
  • Robo Creatures Assortment by K’Nex
  • Rural Road and Rail Set by Bigjigs Toys
  • Smaland Doll’s House by Lundby
  • SmartMax Tommy Train by Smart Toys and Games, Inc.
  • Take Along Modern Doll House by Playmobil
  • Tickey Toc Talking Tallulah/Tickety Toc Talking Tommy by Just Play
  • Tinkertoy Pink Building Set by K’Nex

SOCIAL LANGUAGE: Pairing closely with pretend play, social language blossoms when children play with toys that encourage extended social interactions. Working cooperatively to fell the teenage mutant ninja turtles balancing in a game, wearing a t-shirt that carries a save the planet pet in the pocket, or assembling a beautiful puzzle with grandma promotes group interaction.

  • Bugs In The Kitchen by Ravensburger
  • Dressing Girl Puzzle by BigJigs Toys
  • Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Flying Attack Skill and Action Battle Game by Wonder Forge
  • NYC Christmas Puzzle by Ravensburger
  • Planet Buddeez Tees and Hoodies by Planet Buddeez LLC
  • Santa’s Workshop Puzzle by Ravensburger
  • Skunk Bingo by Gamewright
  • Walkie Talkies by Backyard Safari

To see all Playonwords PAL Award winners, go to:

Share on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail a friend



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