Splat the Cat Lesson Plan for Preschoolers in Speech Therapy

Splat the Cat snow manThis winter just never seems to end (we’re home AGAIN with schools closed and this beautiful fluffy stuff coming down all day), so the opportunity is ripe for a story about snow! I love Splat the Cat books because they have a simple but relevant story line and lots of humor–poor Splat.

“Splat the Cat and the Snowy Day Surprise” had Splat and Seymour getting ready for a snowy adventure, making a snow cat. After getting on all their snow gear ( good vocabulary lesson for the season), they decide to sled down the hill to a spot for making their snow cat. Spike has another agenda as he pounded the two opponents with snow balls. As Spike tried to hurl one back at him, it missed and started to gain size as it rolled down the hill. All is well at the end as they have a ready-made snow cat. This book is great for:

  • answering wh-questions, who, what, where?
  • answering yes-no questions
  • naming snow clothes
  • describing simple actions: pulling, throwing, getting dressed
  • story re-tell

At the end, we made our own snow cat out of playdoh, pipe cleaners and wiggle eyes.

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Using YOXO Construction to Liven Up Speech Therapy Sessions

YOXO robotI got a “Wow,” and “Can I keep that?” just by taking the YOXObot Orig out of my therapy bag. My friend is working on his articulation goals and we set up the session that he had to say a few productions and then take a turn building (much the way I use games). YOXO has a limited number of pieces–Y, O and X with tubes to connect pieces also. Our robot was finished off with a chest plate, face and stickers for his many eyes, according to my creator.

Bringing block sets, simple construction sets or magnetic pieces to therapy can liven things up as kids get motivated to keep practicing their sounds or language structures and takes some of the repetition out of the activity as the construction project takes shape. In this case we ended our hour with an 18″ robot for pretend play!

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Koala Capers Brings New Fun To Speech Sessions

prod3414_2_lgI’ve already tried out some new products that I got at the Toy Fair last week. Nothing like spicing up therapy sessions with some new games in my bag! The kids loved both new games I got from Educational Insights:

Koala Capers Game is like last year’s Raccoon Rumpus with each player “dressing” his koala whose 3D head anchors the cut-out outfit cards. Roll the dice to find what card to collect, shirt or pants, zig zags, checks or flowers. Of course the funniest part of the game is when your die lands on the underwear and you have to dump all your outfits so your koala is down to–you guessed it–his underwear. That always gets kids giggling and engaged. Dressing your koala involves pattern recognition and memory but once the outfit is on, we can talk about where your koala has traveled, describing the background which can include snakes, pyramids, kangaroos, a magnifying glass and shovel or  an iceberg and penguin. My kids looked at the surfer and said an island, saw the penguin and said North Pole while the bat and lantern elicited “cave.”

I used this game for goals on:

  • Fluency. Use a cloze phrase like, “My koala is wearing_______” or for a harder task of answering a question, “Where is your koala?” He’s on an island, in the desert or in Egypt.
  • Articulation. Again you can use the cards on many levels, whether repeating a model phrase like, “a shirt with flowers,” or sentences, “I need a shirt with flowers.” Pick a carrier phrase according to the child’s target sound and they love to add the rest.
  • Word-finding. Talking about vocabulary within a category of location.

Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game  gets kids filling orders from Frankie’s truck full of foodtastic shapes–circle, square, triangle, rectangle, heart, oval, heart, star and moon. Spin to see what shaped food you can select to fill your five-course meal. If the spinner lands on the fly in your soup, return a dish to the box, while the hand grabbing a dish allows you to steal a card from another player. Kids love to chat while they are deciding what goodie to take for their shape. Usually, they asked me what I liked and then they grabbed it! I had a hard time holding on to my pink frosted donut. Here are some ways I’ve used the game to meet goals:

  • Fluency. Again using a cloze phrase like, “I got a ________(shape)” or “I want_____” If you are at the level of generating a phrase or sentence they might tell about their choice, “I love watermelon” or “I don’t eat chocolate.” (true response–are they crazy??)
  • Articulation. Repeating a carrier phrase with their sound like, “I can see______” or “I pick_____”
  • Nasality. I used this game in the same leveled way for a child working on oral emission instead of nasal emission where appropriate.

The above is solely the opinion of the author. The games were provided by Educational Insights.


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

Toy Fair 2015 Roundup, Top Trends Through a Learning Lens

Crayola dragonEvery year I feel like a kid in the candy store as I span the New York International Toy Fair’s nearly half million square feet encountering a talking dinosaur, life-size lego R2D2, Worry Eater, flying helicopters and minion mobs. I’m pumped up seeing all the innovation, creativity, and energy as I search for new products with fantastically fun learning potential. Now that I can take a breath, put my feet up and digest all the new products from over 100 companies we saw, here are the trends I see:

1. Dinosaurs are hot in anticipation of the June release of the movie sequel, Jurassic World. But honestly, just take a walk through preschool and kindergarden classes and you’ll know that kids are fascinated with these prehistoric animals with or without a new movie coming out. Peaceable Kingdom’s new game, Dinosaur Peaceable Kingdom Dinosaur EscapeEscapeis one of their creative cooperative games that preschoolers love, as you race the board to get your dinosaur safely home before the volcano is constructed and erupts. HABA’s Sand Glove Dinosaur allows kids to slip on a life size digger for pretend play, while Galt Toys added a sibling to their highly popular playnest family with Playnest Dino, whose large smiling head invites conversation with little ones. Wonder Forge commands preschool games with another Eye Found It! game, where players have to spot objects in any of the 4 time periods from prehistoric (dinosaurs) to the present, learning a little history along the way.

2. Creative Design/ Customization became an extension of last year’s STEM and Goldieblox movie machineSTEAM trends. I am seeing more depth in the science, engineering kits to allow for more open ended learning and play (reinforcing language) with what kids construct. Thinkfun’s Maker Studio puts the pieces of learning in the hands of kids as they take off making it their own. Learn the concepts of friction, torque and propulsion while making your own car out of a Wheat Thins box, becoming the centerpiece of later pretend play. Love that Tegu has added magnetic blocks with a hint of a face to bring up the language level of pretend play in their Stunt Team and Future series. Goldieblox continues to intersect engineering, language and creative play with their new Movie Machine, allowing kids to create their own movies. One of my favorite new companies, Build and Imagine has 3 sets in the aquatic theme with magnetic story walls to construct and many magnetic props to add to the wall as kids invent and re-invent the story.

3. Open Ended Play thankfully is a recognized toy trend this year by the Toy Industry Haywire's Worry EaterAssociation. I wish it were on the list every year, because that’s how kids learn through play, with fewer directions and less prescribed instruction. One of my favorite new products this year is Haywire’s Worry Eater which has been wildly popular in Europe and I expect the same in the US. Kids simply write down their worries, unzip their fuzzy friend’s mouth, tuck their slip of paper in and whoosh, the worry is gone.  It can bring on a chat about feelings, naming emotions and problem-solving while building language skills. Doll play is wonderful for open-ended imaginative play, especially with a few well-thought through props. Corolle’s new Mon Premier Bebe Bath Fresh Riviera has a new retro clothing design and is ready for the beach or tub play with the Bath Accessories Kit. Plan Toys’ modular Creative Playhouse uses so many interchangeable pieces to change up the function and story. Flip over a solar panel and you have a garden or tennis court. Janod’s Princess Palace cleverly uses the box to become the palace with wooden figures to attend the feast.

4. Real Talk With Dolls and Characters. Okay I am tip-toeing through this category because the “less is more” speech therapist in me has always wanted less talk by the toy and more by the child. I’ve seen how too many automated responses in a toy can actually inhibit talking in your kids as they are stopped mid-talk, get distracted and lose their focus and attention, But now I hear that Mattel has found that the number one request from girls is to have a Barbie that talks back and forth with them and these new conversational toys have come a long way from my favorite doll, Chatty Cathy, whose pull string activated several recorded responses. My own research causes me to take note–when I showed a girl a doll this week she said, “Does she talk?” I stand open to trying these new toys and will let you know what I think and see when reviewing them with kids.  Mattel was showcasing both a talking Hello Barbie, connected to the cloud, with many branches of conversations based on a child’s response and preschool character, Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo,who has lots of recorded educational content but also records your message and turns it into a song–mine was “I love New York!”  Talk to Cognitoy’s  GreenDino (ages 4-7, available in November) and it feels a bit like conversing with Siri, although the voice thankfully has a more child-friendly feel. They’ve partnered with IBM tapping into Watson, the supercomputer.

5. Tweens’ Crafts are everywhere, sometimes taking over a booth that had much more variety last year. How many pieces of jewelry can a girl make? Apparently a lot! One of my favorites is Wooky Entertainments’ Charmazing kits where tech meets arts and crafts as girls customize their do-it-yourself charm bracelets that name their attributes. The free app gets the conversation going with other fashionistas and encourages trading charms.

6. Several big names in infant/baby lines are featuring a Toned Down Infant Kathe Kruse bearPalette when it comes to baby equipment and toys. I’ve seen the move to “grey” nurseries  in the homes I’m in each week, and get that parents are the ones buying the products and desire something more serene to fit into their home decor. But, let’s not forget that babies and kids love and are attracted to bright contrasting colors. Who knows, maybe they sleep better without all the high impact jungle, forest and circus themes. I will say Hape’s Kruse, the beautifully re-branded line from German doll maker Kathe Kruse has added their signature “K” organic fabric stuffed animals, nickibabies, and blanket babies in Tiffany-quality boxes with silver K charms to other colorful collections.  I was delighted to see Yookidoo again as each of their baby and preschool toys have a special learning edge AND they still believe in bright colors. Their Gymotion Activity Playland (I declared, “Finally something new in baby toys!”) sports a motion track buggy over the top that can come to ground level too to transport any of the soft characters and move those that baby wants to swat.

This year I had fun shooting about 21 short videos of the learning edge I saw in new products. Stay tuned as I will start posting those next week. Here’s a sneak peek:

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Babies, Elementary School Age, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toys | 1 Comment

Reading Carryover for Older Articulation Therapy Students

Geronimo Stilton bookI have found that kids enjoy reading or repeating phrases from books they are interested as they progress past preschool games. This week I asked a 2nd grader what books he is reading and he got so excited he took off to get them for me.

He brought me his Geronimo Stilton books, adventures about the lead mouse who was born in New Mouse City, Mouse Island. He is the editor and publisher of The Rodent’s Gazette, New Mouse City’s most widely read daily newspaper. He told me he Geronimo Stilton pageloves when his mom reads him these stories at night so I started reading it, having him repeat phrases with his target sound in them. I knew it was a high interest activity when I asked him too get his book and he came downstairs with a stack of 10 books in the series! “A robot vehicle called Solar will only allow one mouse to be its driver” certainly passes the test for having lots of /l/ words for practice and sparks the interest of a 7 year-old boy.



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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Heart shaped mochaHappy Valentine’s Day to  you all! I will be spending Valentine’s Day with my sweetheart at the International Toy Fair in New York City.

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What Articulation Norms Do You Use?

Melted crayonsThis is a great question and I often pose it to other private therapists that I meet with so I am keeping up to date with the latest. I regularly use norms to point out what is typical development for parents, nursery school teachers and pediatricians. I do notice quite a variance between what different therapists consider “typical development” for expected acquisition of sounds and run into therapists who are working on a sound earlier than I would.

So it was with surprise (and always great respect and admiration) that I read Pam Marshalla’s answer to this question because she has devoted her SLP career to becoming an expert in articulation and phonology. After citing research on vowel and consonant acquisition she makes this statement in her “Speech Pathology Answers and Advice:”

“Using the norms as a basis of deciding when to enroll clients in therapy is a remnant of an earlier age. Stimulability and readiness are more important determining factors today.”

However, she goes on to list the most recent research on norms if you have to use them.

Somehow, I found her advise somewhat liberating in an age of “evidence-based” practice and the pressure to produce research to back therapy decisions.



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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.

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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