Kids Making Their Own Language Toys

Mail truck with drawn figureOkay, it’s an ice storm in the northeast today and I am once again stuck inside, so I found myself going through old pictures. I came across this one from a therapy session that exemplifies what I am constantly teaching parents and preschool teachers–the importance of having play figures in the toy mix. This child apparently got it as she added her own drawn mailman when one wasn’t available.

Having paper, markers or crayons, scissors and tape or glue always handy is open-ended fun. Kids can “make” what might be missing in the toy box whether it is an accessory or figure to complete their story line. One time I was following a horse theme with a child who loves horses and we stopped to cut strips of yellow hay out of paper. We put them in buckets, carried them to the barn and fed the horses. At different times, we have made a leash for a dog, food for his dish and a crown. Possibilities are only limited by a child’s imagination.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Parents Let Go, Kids are Free to Write

Caroline's mudge journalI love watching the progression as kids learn to write, from their earliest inventive spelling to writing a coherent journal entry. I spent a lot of time with a little student I have, drawing pictures of the beginning, middle and end of the story we would read so he could verbalize and re-tell as well get a little practice with his handwriting. Now he is in 2nd grade and his printing is clearer than mine.

I received this darling journal entry from a budding reader and writer in first grade telling about Henry and Mudge an The Long Weekend. The “problum” was obviously that Henry and Mudge are “so burd,” seeeng as they can’t play outside and their dad tells boring jokes! The “Slushin” is that they followed mom’s suggestion to make a castle–what fun! I wrote back to mom and said obviously Dad was boring and Mom had the lively ideas to which she said, ” It just goes to show you what can happen when a controlling mother stopped focusing on her daughter’s spelling every word correct, her writing flourished!” Now that is honesty and a great tip for fellow moms.

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

The Power of a Picture Book

imgres-1I’ve gotta say there’s not much that gets me quite as excited as discovering a fantastic new children’s picture book and usually the author behind it! In the last few years, here are some stand-outs that pack some powerful messages of overcoming fear, encouraging others, finding friends among those a little different than ourselves and doing our best:

Author Susan Hood turns out to be a neighbor of mine, introduced through a fellow speech-language pathologist. Formerly an editor for Scholastic, Susan has taken off on her own and produces one gem after another. My favorite book to give little girls (and tell children’s store owners about) is “The Tooth Mouse,” the adorable story of Sophie, the little mouse who aspires to succeed the aging Tooth Mouse, who wants to retire. Susan’s “Rooting For You” is about a little seed embedded in the soil who refuses to venture out,  grow up, sprout, break new ground, go toward the light, and bloom. With the help of his cast of new friends–worms, ants, beetles and spiders–this seed blooms into the beautiful sunflower he is intended to be.

 The Pout-Pout Fish series by Deborah Diesen ( check out her latest, baby book, “Sweet Dreams, Pout-Pout Fish”) is a wonderful collection of our grumpy, grouchy fish who turns himself around in several adventures.  I’m not sure where I picked up my first Pout-Pout Fish book but was so in love that I wrote to the author. Subsequently I went on vacation and came back to a lovely hand written letter from Debbie Diesen with some little paper Pout-Pout activities. I remember telling Debbie that her book will be on the New York Times bestsellers list and guess what? It was. We even exchanged notes about the existence of a real pout-pout fish which I happened to see on a trip to our local aquarium. She is a former school librarian which explains all the rich vocabulary she includes in her books, refusing to “dumb down” books for kids.

Just last week I was reading “Two Speckled Eggs” by Jennifer K. Mann, one of my recent favorite discoveries! A tale about finding a friend who might be a little different, this book sparked a long conversation with a 2nd grade boy who had been bullied the year before. He said, “I’m different.” to which I said, “Why?” and he went on to tell me he was the best reader in class and other positive characteristics he was proud of. He obviously got the point that “different” can be “good.”

Let’s be sure to take a minute while reading a favorite picture book and talk about it, letting the lessons, experiences and feelings sink in for further conversation.



Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Books, Elementary School Age, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment Named Top SLP Blog on ASHAshpere again

shutterstock_193639475I am honored to be named to “Heidi’s Top Blogs” (Heidi Kay, Founding Partner of Pediastaff) on ASHAsphere this week. is among the 12 best SLP blogs chosen by Heidi based on “some of her personal favorites of those bloggers sharing all of their insights, opinions, tips and activities free of charge.”

I enjoy sharing ideas, therapy tips, new terrific toys to spark a speech-language session and just plain funny stories I gather through my trips to my client’s homes and classrooms.

Just this week, I saw a former client and asked her about her nanny, since we had had some conversations about that topic each week when I was working with her son. She departed this bit of wisdom, “I only hire former waitresses or nurses because they aren’t afraid to clean up crap and wipe bottoms!” I looked at her and said, “That needs to be shared on my blog!” This is partly what keeps me going, is all the interesting moms, teachers, and kids I see every day and what I learn from them.

So, it looks like this blogger is still running. Get ready for some interesting posts beginning next Saturday as I enter the Jacob Javits Center and walk miles through the Toy Fair. Can’t wait!

Posted in Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

Two Speckled Eggs by Jennifer Mann, Lesson Plans

I’ve started up my video reviews, giving language boosting tips to parents, using favorite PAL Award winning toys, books and games. I couldn’t resist sharing this gem of a book, “Two Speckled Eggs” by author/illustrator Jennifer Mann.


As a parent, you can up the language level of your book time with a few tips such as

  • Talk about the book. Don’t feel bad about pausing on a page to talk about what is happening. I call it “hanging out on a page.” Research actually shows that children show greater gains in language skills when an adult talks about the story as well as reads it. It is called Dialogic Reading.
  • Check out facts about the author and illustrator. Kids love to hear about where they live, if they have a pet that might have inspired the story, or in this case the fact that the author and illustrator are the same person. Jennifer Mann was an architect before she wrote children’s books.
  • Thinking, reasoning, questioning. How is an architect related to an illustrator? One little boy told me, “An architect makes things and an illustrator colors them.” He was close! As I began to read the story and he saw Lyla Browning off by herself with a magnifying glass he said, “She’s like an architect, discovering things!” Relate the author’s inspiration from life experiences to the story. How does it connect?
  • Relate the book to life. Kids were making fun of Lyla Browning because she brought in  a curly hair tarantula for show ‘n tell. “Blecchh! Disgusting, gross.” What could we say that would encourage Lyla? What can we do when kids are mean?
  • Name their feelings. How does Ginger feel when the kids are wrecking her games? When they don’t like her cake? When Lyla offers a ladybug? Mad, sad, disappointed or frustrated?
  • Comparisons. How was Lyla’s present different than the others? One child compared the wrappings, “Lyla’s was in a plain box with the top open and the other ones were brought in a special way, gift bags, bows and ribbons.”
  • Go beyond the story. My little friend launched into telling me about his friend, Lane, who ruined his 5th birthday party because he broke all the presents and made him sad. And, Lane’s dad didn’t do anything about it which he didn’t understand. Wow, there was a lot to talk about after he shared his experience related to the story. He also started talking about being different and said he was the only different one in his class. As I probed a little more, as to why he was different, he said, “because I’m the smartest and I read the best.” He clearly gets the concept that “different” can be a good thing.

Click here for my full review.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Book Review, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

Sneak Peek at New Games Debuting at New York Toy Fair

10411742_786615528040756_2922957804707997368_nBlue Orange (they brought us the fun Spot It! game series) has a big surprise for you…

They tell us,” We  will release our  first “heavy” board game this year. We have long sought after a gem of this quality to enter this genre, we hope you have as much fun discovering this game as we had developing it.”

In New York 1901, relive the historic years of the founding of New York that led to what the city is today. Build bigger and higher skyscrapers on some of Lower Manhattan’s most iconic streets (Wall Street, Broadway, Nassau, Cedar and Pine). Raise one of 4 legendary skyscrapers, the Park Row, the Singer, 10931317_10152986926314002_6614871837762385102_nthe Metropolitan Life or the mythical Woolworth and make one of them the crown jewel of your real estate empire!

I’m a fan of Rory’s Story Cubes and their language learning and creative story telling potential. Rory tells us to look out for their new licensed Rory’s Story Cubes sets – Batman and Moomin, sets  designed to bring new members into the Story Cubes family and appeal across generations.

20708_10152954901431166_4542092461044163863_nPeaceable Kingdom makes fantastic cooperative games for preschoolers and early elementary aged kids. They’ve given us a preview of their new Cauldron Quest, where you can help save the kingdom from an evil wizard! Cauldron Quest has players working together to get the three correct ingredients into the Cauldron before all six of the paths are blocked.The game is for kids ages 6 and up, and is fun for 2-4 players. If you know anyone who loves spells and potions, Cauldron Quest is for them! Check it out:

The hype is growing as we lead up to the Toy Fair. Stay tuned…


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Make Sure to Visit Your Student in Their Preschool Class

Ben's preschool classWhen I’m working with preschoolers, I often mention to the parents that after their child gets “settled” in therapy, it would be helpful for me to see him in his preschool setting. I wait a few weeks until he is making significant progress and I can share what he is capable of with his teacher.

I find it best for the mother to email the teacher and copy me on the note, asking permission for me to come and observe and share how to best help my student from both sides, the therapy session and the school setting. It can be a bit delicate, because I want teachers to know that I am not coming to evaluate them or their program but to collaborate for the benefit of our shared student. Several schools are now familiar with my visits and welcome them because I offer some fun suggestions for them to better help the student too.

Last week I made such a visit and again it was so helpful for the teacher, parent and me. I wouldn’t expect a classroom teacher to get the same responses from a speech and language delayed or disordered child that I can get in a 0ne-on-one situation so I like to share what he is capable of–whether it is using certain sounds, grammatical forms, following directions, or using  pragmatic language skills. And it is so valuable for me to see the set-up of the room, schedule of activities and how my little client responds to open play time, structured activities, circle time and outdoor play. Collaborating with other professionals teaching my little guy is essential to get the most progress.

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

A New Friend for Marmalade Offers Lessons on Friendship

imgresThis newest PAL Award winner for 2015, provides so many opportunities for language learning. A tale about friendship and acceptance,  the story teaches us that we can be friends with those who don’t necessarily do thinbgs the way we do. Annoyance turns to acceptance.

Ella, Maddy and their little cat, Marmalade, are best friends busily carrying out several creative projects, building a playhouse in the sandbox and creating a sandcastle city, when they are interrupted by Toby. Walls, towers, rivers and moats were constructed only to be destroyed as the little boy from across the street came flying through with his cape and scooter.In his attempt to help the girls, Toby offered to fill the moat as “the lawn erupted into fountains of water.” Marmalade seems to be the only one who appreciates Toby’s exuberance. Reynolds’ use of descriptive words packs some punch in this brief story as Marmalade “slunk” farther out on a tree branch, “chasing the last rays of sun,” as the branch “trembled” in the breeze. Who is going to save Marmalade? Toby offered his cape as a safety net to catch Marmalade and gain the appreciation and acceptance by the girls.  Now guess who is wearing capes? This book can offer a classroom teacher or parent a starting point for a fun discussion about friendships, acceptance and tolerating others with different preferences. What do you like to do when your friend comes over? What does your friend like to do? What if you don’t like playing with super heroes? Or take a look at all the descriptive verbs: scowled, frowned, stroking, twisted, leaped, or erupted. Pointing our these words in a picture book can help kids be more intentional in including descriptive words in their writing.

Available at Amazon: Click here

Posted in 3-6 year-olds | Leave a comment

Kids’ Character Dress Up Builds Language

Will and Ben dressup as KnightsWhen I was looking over a recent Pinterest post on great storage ideas, I saw this cute, portable costume holder for the playroom. I’ve been in playrooms that also had a series of pegs on the wall to hold the alligator, fireman and spaceman outfits. Costumes and props should be kid-friendly so they can concoct the character they want AND they can easily slip over their pajamas!

Kidding aside, a dress-up corner is a playroom and preschool room must so kids can take on a persona and act out their story, creating dialogue as they use the voices of their character. They build their language skills as they think of what comes next in the story and use objects in an abstract, pretend fashion such as a banana for a telephone. I love when kids spontaneously dress up and come around the corner in their pretend world, almost surprised to see me!

1.43Several companies make nice preschool costumes that are reasonably priced such as Melissa and Doug and Aeromax. Some kind of hooks or hangers lets the kids see the outfits rather than a pile in a bin. After Halloween clearance costumes are great to add to the pile too.


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

Practice Charts for Articulation Therapy, Try Singing

Artic practice chartSometimes kids magically take that last step to carrying over their articulation sounds into conversation and they are ready for dismissal. Other times it seems they can be very accurate during their weekly speech therapy session but can’t jump to the step of using their new production most of the time outside of therapy.

Well, I am working with a second grader who falls into that second category. We play all kinds of games, talk about many subjects, read and explain “how to’s” but he STILL doesn’t carry over this /s/ outside of therapy. I have repeatedly given home practice ideas so finally resorted to a chart (made by him) which seems to motivate him. We put 3 circles for each day for him to fill in the three times he practices throughout his day–before and after school and before bed. I talked to mom about an inexpensive but rewarding prize for him. Of course when I told him to write “prize” at the end of the chart, he said, “It would be really good if it could be a dog!” Oops, wasn’t thinking quite that big. We’ll let mom deal with that.

Artic practice chart ideasThen we brainstormed activities he could do for practice and he came up with 9 ideas: play I spy for /s/ words, describe a picture, tell about his day, play a game, tell about a school activity, call out things in the room beginning with /s/, read out loud, practice lines from a play he is in, and then he added singing.

I asked him to sing a song from the play he is in and he completely forgot to use his /s. I was shocked because he is Mr. Perfect in all the activities we do in the session and he completely forgot his /s/. What a perfect place to practice! Certainly it’s hard to remember the words and tune to a song as well as your /s/ production so now we have some effective homework!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Articulation | Leave a comment