Making Easy Readers to Communicate with Grandchildren

Roeck's BakeryAfter visits from two of my clans of grandchildren, and listening to them “practice” their new reading skills over the summer, I decided to email them short one page Easy Readers about what I was doing many miles away. I made sure I had lots of pictures and made the type font large and kept the note short.

The first one was about the birthday party I threw for Duke, our golden retriever who turned 15. I shared pictures of our boat ride with his friend, Murphy, and the Dairy Queen cups that the dogs shared. The next one was about my favorite bakery and Thursday’s “cruller” day, a little frog that

Frog at Elkhart

was attached to the house when we returned at night and the big thunderstorms we get in Wisconsin in the summer.

Parents are trying to find fun ways to get their kids to practice reading over the summer so why not include a note from “Sheshe” or “Pop pop?”

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Happy Birthday, Duke!

Duke's 15 birthdayToday is a special day as Duke is 15! We celebrated by inviting his friend, Murphy over for a party. Our first activity was Dairy Queen treats. Duke crushed the plastic cup trying to get at all the ice cream and never mind that Murphy was completely unimpressed. On to our boat ride which they both enjoyed with plenty to sniff as we toured Elkhart Lake, situated in the middle of Wisconsin farm lands with plenty of good smells, if you get what I mean! He finished off the day with a Johnsonville bratwurst for dinner which he inhaled.

Duke on channel 12Duke’s not only a best friend but a trusted helper in my speech therapy. Over the years he has calmed kids, been a communication partner, and a walking companion as I worked with kids in my home. He has also been a favorite when the camera crew has come to film a segment on language learning and toys from News12 CT.

Happy Birthday, Duke!

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

Summer Speech Practice, Let’s Make a Calendar

Practice calendarIt’s always tricky finding a way to get kids to practice between speech therapy sessions. In summer it can be especially challenging as kids take a vacation or maybe even their speech therapist takes a few weeks off! I find if my students design the calendar, they are more apt to use it and put it in a prominent place in the kitchen where Mom or Dad can help prompt them to practice.

Last week a 7 year-old boy working on /s/ decided to use my “Tape a Doodles” to make the lines between days. He was so motivated and enjoyed designing his calendar. He Practice calendar filled inmissed a session because of being sick so when I arrived there today and asked, “Did you practice?” he said, “Yes, do you want to see my calendar?” He was so proud of his work and I was thrilled that he had followed through on practice.

In the summer, speech schedules have to be flexible as families and therapists take a break and go on vacation or just take a break. Getting kids to consistently practice really contributes to continued progress.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Articulation | 1 Comment

Coloring Pages for Articulation Activities from Lego to Frozen

Kids love to color and I am always looking for new activities for articulation reinforcement. Of all the therapies, it can get a little tedious, having kids repeat words and sentences without a fun treat after their response. I usually use games and let them take a turn on the game board after a response (and my response too! Sometimes they catch on and ask me why they have to talk on my turn). Lately I have been using coloring pages from a wonderful site I wanted to share for free printable pages from kids favorite movies from The Lego Movie to Monsters Inc. or Planes.

Here’s the link for pictures of Metal Beard, Vitruvius, Bad Cop or Unikitty to name a few or scenes from Frozen including Anna, Kristoff, Elsa and Olaf. These pictures can be used for language therapy too as kids describe the picture or what happened in that scene in the movie.


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Play-Based Back to School Prep

Hape dollhouseWow! Summer is speeding by and parents are getting a little worried about “summer slide,” asking me for fun toys and activities to keep kids’ language and reading skills sharp. First of all, toys and games have to be fabulously fun and second have some great learning potential embedded in them. We want to keep kids talking, reading and writing over the summer. Spending a little time each day playing a game or adding a prop to pretend play can reinforce skills for an easier transition back to school.

Reading and Writing Essential to Play Scenarios:

XL Graffiti Black White Board by Janod


Get out the pad and pencil or black/white board and introduce it to your playroom and watch kids integrate some reading and writing into their play. On Janod’s easel, an author and illustrator can work on either side as they write and illustrate a story, write out the menu for a restaurant or make a sign of items for sale at a store. A pad of paper and pencil can serve as a doctor’s prescription pad or homemade tickets for the puppet show. Integrating reading and writing into play in a meaningful way encourages learning.

Available at Janod. Click here

Letter Slide by Simply Fun imgres-2Learning to read is loads of fun as kids dip into the “Letter Lagoon” and draw their Word Card showing 2 letters missing as they race to complete as many words as possible with their letters. With successful words, players fill their inner tubes on the game board. What a fun way to learn spelling, reading, letter-sound association and sound sequencing as kids race to be the first down their water slide!

Available at SimplyFun. Click here


“Shadow FX Color Projector” by Crayola

Crayola FX projector

Add a child’s creativity to the simple contents in this box–a clear drawing panel with gel FX markers, a shadow shapes sheet of props like an astronaut, alien and a lightning rod and the colored light projector–and the light show stories are limitless. Kids loved to draw on the clear panel to set the scene for their action story, add characters, objects or toys, dim the lights and switch on the LED lights for the show. How exciting to turn out the lights and project your story onto the wall in red, green and blue moveable LED lights. All the essential pieces of a story were integrated with the setting, characters, solving a problem and the action plan–while kids were enthralled with the medium in which it was presented.

Available at Crayola. Click here

“Doorway Puppet Theatre” by HABA USA


Set up couldn’t be easier as you adjust the top tension rod to your doorway and hang HABA’s new puppet theatre just the right height for your little puppeteers. Kids start right into a story, assuming the identity of their puppet as they slip through the parted curtains or out the peep hole on top to announce their show. Kids learn to develop a story with other characters, negotiate how the plot proceeds and add on events until the conclusion. All this language learning fun comes with a little writing practice too as kids can title their story and slip it into the plastic sleeve to advertise their show.

Available at HABA USA: Click here

Pretend Play: Fort Magic by Fort Magic LLC

Fort Magic,jpg “Fort Magic” has the perfect name as kids felt the magic, standing inside and outside of their castle, airplane and rocket as they solved design questions, negotiated how to build and created new spaces! With 165 straight and curved rods in 7 different sizes, and 5 varieties of connector pieces at their disposal, kids have the tools to follow their imagination. Our friends got right to work twisting the rods into the connecting pieces while calling out ideas and orders as to where to put the next piece. Critical thinking, group collaboration and problem solving are all higher level language skills that are tapped as kids created customized space for a bed and entry way. Kids finished their castle and slipped away to return fully outfitted in a knight’s costume, ready to defend their fort.

Available at Fort Magic. Click here


“Counting Animals” by Ravensburger

Ravensburger counting Animals

Let’s not forget our preschoolers who have been learning colors, shapes and numbers through the year. A beautifully illustrated puzzle with amusing content for the 3-4 year-old is perfect for encouraging describing and asking questions. “Where is the hippo playing tennis?” Our little friend caught on to the counting theme as he put the 24- piece super-sized puzzle together randomly calling out the next number he wanted to assemble–7 ballooning cows, 9 owls skating, 4 happy hippos playing tennis and then on to 10 flapping flamingos! This puzzle generates a lot of buzz as kids enjoy the silly scenes,  count out the animals and describe the piece they are looking for.

Available at Ravensburger. Click here

Learning Concepts:

Disney Junior Super Stretchy Game by Wonder Forge

DJ_SuperStretchy_Beautyshot 2 “Twister” with a Disney preschool spin, this super stretchy game has kids following directions to match shapes, colors and Disney characters with their body parts–elbow, foot, hand, knee and head (the hardest by far). Part of the fun was spontaneous talk about the different Disney characters and what show they were from, “Hey, there’s Clover and Amber from Sofia the First, and Izzy from Jake and the Neverland Pirates!”   Get moving in this active, fun, learning as kids are reinforcing their knowledge of preschool vocabulary and following directions, all the things teachers appreciate when kids enter school.

Available at Wonder Forge: click here

“The Multiples Early Years Set” by Realtimes Products LLC


Kids get ready to meet the Multiples and have a chat about math as they sip their milk, down their cereal or have a sandwich! Professor One Hoot, Madame Two Moos, Porky Five Bellies and Goatee Ten Beards are at the eating table to make multiplication fun. Each character has a back story relating to their number to spark conversation , while the dinnerware counts by one, two, five and ten with corresponding multiplication facts in the middle of the dishes.

Available at The Multiples: Click here


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Making Up Stories With A Shadow Light Show

Crayola FX projectorOne of my favorite showrooms at the Toy Fair this year was Crayola. Maybe because of the artist in me, my love for markers of all kinds, or the many creative products I’ve used to help kids learn language and tell a story. For many kids, physically drawing can draw out a story and reinforce it visually. As I moved from one product demonstration to another, I was invited into a dimly lit room showcasing their new Shadow FX Color Projector. As they drew on the clear panel with special gel FX markers (doesn’t that name just make them cool?) and the drawing became life-size on the wall, I knew this would be such fun in speech therapy.

So I packed the projector in my bag and took off to see several kids working on articulation and language goals. As I emptied the box of the few simple props—a clear drawing panel with markers, a shadow shapes sheet of props like an astronaut, alien and a lightning rod and the colored light projector–kids got really excited. They immediately started to draw faces, aliens, trees, and jets to project on the wall. We dimmed the lights, turned on the colored LED light pods and I heard a few gasps. Red, blue, green and multi-colored light options expanded and varied the lines but we till needed our cut-out props to animate our story. The alien was most popular as he sat down, flew through the sky and stopped off for a bite to eat during a lightning storm. This story-telling venue is so much fun that kids are excited to work on their oral development of setting, characters, problem, actions for a solution and conclusion as they add on to their shadow and light show. Now that they know how to use the projector, I think it would also be a great tool for taking time to plan a story, ensuring all parts are included. One little guy was so excited he invited his mom down to the basement wall which was our big screen to hear his creation.


The above opinions are solely those of the author. The Shadow FX Color Projector was provided for review for the PAL Award by Crayola.



Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment Announces Our Summer 2014 PAL Award Winners

Congratulations to all our outstanding PAL winners:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 8.55.50 PM

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Volvo of Westport is Special to All Kids

Volvo with James

Rob, James and Lee

It’s summer and time to take speech therapy on the road. One of my favorite companions for our “outings” is James. We have been planning and talking about our outings for several weeks and I decided to start at the top of his list for visits, Volvo of Westport. We had had such a great visit last year that James wanted to return to see Lee.

We were treated so kindly as Lee showed James the new cars and Rob (General Manger) gave James a bag, a Volvo t-shirt, just like the mechanics were wearing, a hat and water bottle. James had a chance to talk to Lee and Rob about how much he wants to work there and they told him he should come back Volvo garage with Jameswhen he is older. They do employ a young man right now with special needs as part of his work-study program.

As we were talking, Kyle the service manager,  appeared and asked if we wanted to see the shop. We were excited to peek at what goes on behind closed doors, so to speak. As we opened the door, James stopped and Kyle picked up on the fact that James didn’t like the loud noise level so he kindly asked each mechanic for “no noise” so we could continue our tour.

James did a great job of communicating a problem I was having with my car, asking about future employment and sharing about his outing with our pictures after we got home. Kids learn best when they are interested in the subject. James was at the top of his game.

Thanks to the staff at Volvo of Westport for being so welcoming, attentive, and sensitive to ALL kids.

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30 Year-old Legos Excite Speech Therapy Kids

Lego ship-Bill's
As you know, I find myself with several 5-8 year-old boys on my caseload and they are wild about legos. My little friend ran upstairs this morning to pour over his lego catalogue with me, showing me that the picture had the same “Chima” stick as I had in my pile of 30 year-old legos from my boys. After hearing all the details of the Lego Movie (I don’t even have to go, I know so much), I picked up the easy reader books which are also a staple in my therapy bag. But the real hit is a zip lock bag of legos I’ve grabbed from a huge tub my kids played with 30 years ago. It didn’t occur to me that they were so special until several boys asked me if these were “old” legos. “How can you tell?” “On, my dad lets us play with his and he has some of these same pieces.”

lego space-Bill's legosLately they are the toy of choice in my therapy bag for reinforcement as kids practice their sounds and work on fluency. We have discovered that “old” legos can fit right into the current Chima theme, although I had to fish out all the clear green pieces for chi, and several pieces like the long grey arm and white flat piece that opens in three sections are exciting to kids because they aren’t in their repertoire of new legos.

Effective therapy is so much about making sessions fun and having rewards for kids that are meaningful. AND I am always changing up what is in my bag and learning something new from my little clients.

Who would have known that I would be an expert on Chima and Ninjago legos?

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

NBC CT Interview, “Summer Play To Keep Language Skills Sharp”

IMG_6869Here’s the live interview clip from my interview at NBC CT TV last Thursday with Kerri-Lee Mayland. It is always fascinating and fun to watch their hour long morning show being produced from Bob Maxton, the weatherman who does his sweeping gestures in front of a completely blank green screen (which looks like a map to us) to a couple of guys getting interviewed on how to make good summer drinks.

I shared some of my favorite PAL Winners:





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