NBC CT Announcing Spring PAL Award Winners on Friday

Tomorrow on NBC CT,  I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s Spring winners that spark great fun and can keep language skills sharp over the summer–encouraging exploration and open-ended play. Here are the new products I am going to share:

All about flexible, open-ended, play using great toys and games that can teach too!

princessPrincess Palace by Janod (4 years and up, $50)

  • Open up your suitcase, reveal a palace complete with kitchen,bedroom, dressing room and garden room surrounding great hall.
  • 28 accessories: set your banquet table for 10 people, host a birthday party with cake, give your princess a ride on the horse drawn carriage
  • 16 pieces of interlocking path
  • Portable story telling
  • Available here

group-lo-resWorry Eaters by Haywire Group (3  years and up, $16-$23)

  • These friends can spark a conversation about worries and fears,
  • Kids write down their worries or draw them, put them in the mouth and zip shut
  • Worry Eater hangs on to the worries for them
  • Terrific language learning tool to start a conversation about what is concerning your child
  • using, learning, building emotional vocabulary
  • Available here

sq-579B_Jungle-Fun-ABC-PlayMat_frontangle-300x300Jungle Fun ABC Playmat by Alex Toys (1 year and up, $50)

  • Kids loved popping out the letters as they named them
  • Even used the plastic zippered case to put them in as named them
  • Corresponding animals Z is for zebra, B is for butterfly
  • Pictures to describe to build language: the duck is on the crocodile’s back
  • Available here

Bakery Shoppe WThe Bakery Shoppe Set by The Queen’s Treasures (8 years and up, $130)

  • Who doesn’t like a trip to the bakery with your favorite 18” doll?
  • Girls got right into role-play as one took over the cash register with money
  • treats are sold separately, but even come with a bakery box
  • great for role play, dialogue and story telling
  • Available here

imgres-2Maker Studio Construction Set by ThinkFun (7 years and up, $20)

  • very innovative company, great price point for all the learning included in this set
  • Box full of parts and gadgets, instruction booklet using elementary science and engineering concepts
  • create your own toys
  • made a well with a winch out of oatmeal container
  • learn problem solving, vocabulary of engineering–spool, connector, gear, rod and purpose
  • challenges-rescue a toy out of the well
  • Available here

shoppingHucklebee by MindWare (18 months and up, $20)

  • Parents ask me most frequently for toy suggestions for toddlers
  • Hucklebee is great because it comes with 50 suggested activities for interaction with  this cute bee,
  • following directions to shake Hucklebee and then shake yourself all over.
  • colors, shapes, counting, body parts, action words and pretend play
  • Available here

imgres-3The Painting Teepee by Pacific Play Tents (3 years and up, $170)

  • kids saw the teepee and couldn’t wait to personalize it with the paint tubes
  • moon and stars to warrior on a horse
  • really sturdy for pretend play, can handle several children
  • discussed designs and started up their story
  • Available here
Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Birth-3 year-olds | Leave a comment

Delivering Speech Therapy Backwards

Hape Beauty kitEvery now and then we are challenged with a child who just can’t seem to produce the target sound, even when we try all our tricks. I was faced with just that the other day, as a 3 year-old has not been able to produce /t,d/ in spite of requests from her DADDY, who was GaGa!

I have used Pam Marshalla’s techniques for getting a production of /s/ from /t/ so I decided to work backwards since this little girl had an approximation of /s/. We were playing with my popular Hape’s beauty kit when Katie took off her shoes so I could “paint her Toes.” She couldn’t imitate /t/ so I just started bombarding her with /s/ sounds as I gave her a pedicure. She kept repeating and then I changed to a /ts/ with lots of emission of air and eventually moved to /t/. Next thing you know, she was repeating /t/, /t/, /t/ as we painted her toes!

This is what continues to excite me about being a speech therapist, that I have to be creative in accomplishing goals.

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Jimmy Fallon Campaigns for DADA as First Word From Winnie

imgres-8Okay let’s take a look at the combination of two things I enjoy when I get a chance– watching Jimmy Fallon and reading Parents Magazine. I think Jimmy Fallon is so clever, funny and kind. That’s why I like to watch him. And since he has become a parent he makes parenting a laughing matter too.

The most recent Parents Magazine included an interview with Fallon about the first children’s book he authored since becoming a dad, “Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA,” about the importance he placed on daughter Winnie saying  “Dada” as her first word. He claimed to try to trick her into saying “Dada” first, by labeling everything “Dada”  from “bottle to diapers to strawberries.” Now  we know that isn’t the way to build language skills but it certainly might get a child to say Dada if she hears that word exclusively, and gives us a laugh in the process.

I can’t wait to get the book and post a review. Just have to wait until June 9 to get a copy! Stay tuned.

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Let the Children Learn Through Play in the New York Times

Puppets needle felted

Needle felted puppets by petitfelt

My daughter-in law texted the link to this article before it arrived on my driveway Sunday morning. She knows I am a big proponent of play in young children for many reasons. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association just released a parent survey related to concern that young children are spending too much time on technology devices replacing time spent in face-to-face interactions where kids under 3 primarily learn language. Also, I have spent over 35 years as a speech language pathologist, conducting my therapy in a play-based manner and know what great results I can get when kids learn through play.

This article cited some fascinating research on how academic teaching in kindergarten can backfire, saying “Some research indicates that early instruction in reading and other areas may help some students, but these boosts appear to be temporary.” “Other research has found that early didactic instruction might actually worsen academic performance.” I like what David Whitebread, a psychologist at Cambridge University said who has studied this topic, ““Play is often perceived as immature behavior that doesn’t achieve anything…But it’s essential to their development. They need to learn to persevere, to control attention, to control emotions. Kids learn these things through playing.” Bravo, I agree.

Take a look at the whole article and tuck it away for when you are challenged by a parent or teacher as to why play is important for your preschooler or early elementary student. I was just faced with such a discussion with a new parent who was strongly opposed to a play-based preschool for her child. It helps to be armed with research.

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Bring Your Beauty Kit to Speech Therapy for Fun

Ruby's Beauty ShopWe have been reading “Ruby’s Beauty Shop” by Rosemary Wells for several sessions with a little boy on the autism spectrum. He loves the book, as many children do, laughing at Ruby making up Max with green eye shadow and her blonde bombshell wig.

Fast forward to this week when I’ve been opening box after box of submissions for our PAL Award and discovering wonderful new products to review. We received “Beauty Belongings” from Hape and suddenly it hit me that it would be a perfect addition to our language lesson, acting out Ruby’s beauty salon. The kit even came in a cute pink suitcase to zip in all the specialty beauty items. My little friend and his buddies in preschool (I have weekly sessions with typical peers in his class) loved the beauty set so much that one girl asked me how she could get it so we took a picture and sent it to her mother! They were putting lipstick on our Max and Ruby dolls, and each other, painting nails, spraying perfume, putting on powder and drawing colors on eyes. Then we decided to make bombshell wigs so we shredded paper towel and got out the markers to make them in yellow, green and pink.

It was a great way to re-tell and extend the story and have some fun with Max and Ruby!

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother's Day drawingHappy Mother’s Day to all the amazing moms I work with who welcome me into their homes, partner with me to improve their child’s speech and language and treat me like part of the family!

I had to include a little friend’s drawing of his teacher who is celebrating her first Mother’s Day and of course he included himself in yellow:)

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Parents Concerned About Young Children’s Time Spent With Technology?


New ASHA Survey of U.S. Parents: Significant Percentages Report That Very Young Children Are Using Technology

Usage Is Occurring When Human Interaction Is Key To Developing Strong Communication Skills

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association commissioned a survey of U.S. parents on their children’s use and attitudes towards technology. Concerns were raised about time spent on devices might take away from their children’s time spent in face-to-face interactions, which is how children best learn language up to age 3, and certainly continue to build language and social skills thereafter. Here is ASHA’s press release to coincide with May, Better Speech and Hearing Month (my comments are in italics):

“(May 8, 2015 – Rockville, MD) A new survey of U.S. parents commissioned by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) finds significant percentages reporting technology use by very young children and more than half of the parents surveyed have concerns about the potential negative impact of technology use on the ability of the young to communicate.

Conducted this past March, the survey polled 1,000 parents of children ages 0–8. Its release today occurs during Better Hearing & Speech Month, a national observance that raises awareness of speech, language, and hearing disorders—and spotlights the importance of communication health.

Sixty-eight percent of surveyed parents’ 2-year-olds use tablets. Meanwhile, 59% use smartphones, and 44% use video game consoles.

Such results raise questions about the course of the development of the very young’s capacities to communicate, according to Judith L. Page, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2015 ASHA president.

“The most rapid period of brain development takes place before age 3,” Dr. Page notes. “The primary way young children learn is through verbal communication that technology simply cannot duplicate.”

She adds: “Indeed, despite advances in technology, it remains critical that children have sufficient opportunities to develop their vocabulary and communication skills by listening, talking, reading, and interacting with their parents and others, for which there is no substitute.”

Survey respondents say technology holds positive promise. However, majorities express concern about how its misuse can harm communication health.

–55% have some degree of concern that misuse of technology may be harming their children’s hearing; with respect to speech and language skills, the figure is 52%.

 Okay, so more than half are concerned so what should we do?

–52% say they are concerned that technology negatively impacts the quality of their conversations with their children; 54 % say they are concerned that they have fewer conversations with their children than they would like because of technology.

–Parents recognize the potential hazard of personal audio devices to their children’s hearing; 72% agree that loud noise from technology may lead to hearing loss in their children.

Although it is encouraging that a vast majority of surveyed parents report putting limits on their children’s technology use, the efficacy of those steps is questionable given other survey results.

For example, 24% of 2-year olds use technology at the dinner table—a prime time for the kind of interaction that fosters strong communication development. By age 8, that percentage nearly doubles (45%).”

This is disturbing to me. We all know the value of gathering the family (and their attention) at the dinner table, even if for a few minutes to talk about our day and listen to what kids are dealing with. Maybe families should use the method some people are using when they go out to eat where they “Stack Up” their cell phones and the first one to grab their phone and use it has to pay for the meal! Obviously there would have to be another more appropriate consequence for kids but I like the idea behind it. We don’t have time for it all and one clearly replaces the other–undivided attention to live conversation or interacting with your device.

 Also, by age 6, 44% of kids would rather play a game on a technology device than read a book or be read to. By age 8, a majority would prefer that technology is present when spending time with a family member or friend.

Clearly from the survey, parents are concerned about time spent in personal conversation competing with interacting with a device so maybe more emphasis should be placed on setting limits on the latter so real life chat gets a better chance. I know how hard it is to implement these boundaries, especially if you have a child who is exceedingly interested in technology, but who said parenting is easy??

In addition, more than half of parents surveyed say they use technology to keep kids ages 0–3 entertained; nearly 50% of parents of children age 8 report they often rely on technology to prevent behavior problems and tantrums.

ASHA President Page encourages parents to set and enforce meaningful and healthy limits early and understand that usage rules need to be adapted as children get older and acquire new interests in technology.

Noting that the majority of polled parents report that their kids use technology devices on car trips, Page says the coming summer season presents unique opportunities to engage kids.

“If a long vacation drive is in store, parents may want to use the time to converse with their children. Such opportunities seem to be getting harder to come by in this busy world. It is important to take advantage of every chance to build strong communication skills.”

I agree. You have your kids captive in the car and what an opportunity to enjoy some conversation. If you want to gather up some ideas before a trip, check out these Car Ride Activities for Speech and Language, which are fun ways to get kids talking.”

Parents can learn more at http://IdentifytheSigns.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 182,000 audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders. www.asha.org/



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

New Folkmanis Puppets for Conversation and Story-telling

seaserpent_3049_sI’ve had my head down reviewing so many fantastic new products submitted for the PAL Award this spring and now I need to catch up and share them with you–my fellow professionals who work with kids AND parents and grandparents looking for great gifts for their kids.

Puppets just open up the world of communication, especially for that hard to reach kid or one that might be a little shy. I took my 4 new Folkmanis puppets in my therapy bag to share with kids last week and they lit up. The 4 PAL Award winners, “Sea Serpent,” “Frilled Lizard,” “Dragon in Turret” and “Winged Dragon” appealed to different kids for different reasons but all sparked conversation and storytelling which reinforces language, reading and writing skills. Kids loved discovering “extra” places to insert their hands or fingers to make the puppets come to life. The Sea Serpent slithered around with the help of a second hand in his tail to wiggle through the mist, the “Frilled Lizard” took a quirky stance as he stood up and puffed up his pleated collar, moving it forward and back, the Dragon popped out of the Turret and the “Winged Dragon” flapped his wings. Folk tales are included with the imaginary characters while interesting facts are included with the “Frilled Lizard” to support a story and explain when and why he flaps his collar.

After playing with each puppet, kids asked if they could keep it. I think that is a good endorsement of the fun these puppets provide while encouraging imaginations, pretend play and dialogue.

For my full reviews click here.

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

Fun Speech Activities for Poetry Month

Poetry Month-pocketAs I am working with several elementary aged kids, I am planning my lessons around their poetry units associated with National Poetry Month. When I visited our public library yesterday I came upon several “pockets” throughout the building, stuffed with poems to share. One could easily adapt this to the classroom as kids choose their favorite poem, make copies and take home to share them with their families.

My students have enjoyed Jeff Foxworthy’s books, “Dirt on my Shirt” and “Silly Street.” I imgreshave used the poems to illustrate poetry vocabulary– personification, onomatopoeia, metaphor and simile– as well as inference. What is the main idea or theme of the poem?

Also, I found helpful sites for age appropriate definitions and examples of the above terms:

Brainpop Educators


Great Books for Teaching Similies


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

Using “What’s Wrong?” Games in Speech Therapy

Silly picture EasterThis week we used a student’s Easter card for some fun carryover as my student is working on overall precision, “moving his mouth” as well as slowing down his rate. Kids love finding what’s silly in a picture (and I do too) so he would point to something and then have to describe what is silly, “Ice cream cones for flowers in the flower box,” a whistle for a doorknob” or “balloon for the car wheel.” 

Often I pick up good ideas for therapy activities from workbooks or toys at a child’s home. It keeps me fresh as to what is entertaining for a certain age. This is the same house where the little boy asked me if we could do “Hidden Pictures” and we spent the whole hour finding and coloring in hidden objects as reinforcements for correct productions.

Here are some free  “What’s Wrong?” activities from Highlights where kids have to follow the clues and find as many odd, weird, or wacky things as you can. Since I work with so many 5-7 year-old boys this is right up their alley.

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