Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs: The Pros and Cons

From time to time I like to feature guest posts by either Speech language pathologists or those in other fields working to positively impact kids and parents. Today I want to introduce you to Jackie Nunes, from Jackie is a former pediatric nurse who has first hand experience educating her child with special needs through homeschool. Here’s her helpful advice:

There’s a special anxiety that comes with sending your son or daughter with special needs off to school. You hope more than anything that the other kids will be kind, the teacher will be firm but patient, and there will be plenty of resources and support. But that isn’t always the case. It can be gut-wrenching to see your child come home unhappy and know things aren’t going well – especially if your child can’t tell you why.

Homeschooling has a lot of advantages for kids with special needs. You can really focus on their strengths and weaknesses, design lessons that interest them, take breaks when needed, and create a comfortable, sensory-friendly learning environment in your home. Your child benefits from the individual attention and you can plan your school day around doctor appointments, therapy, or family obligations without racking up absences. Another huge win is waving goodbye to meltdowns during drop-offs and not having to worry about playground bullies.

Unfortunately, there are resources available in a public school system you no longer have access to if you teach your child at home. It’s hard to replicate the structure of formal learning, athletic fields, science labs, access to a full-time nurse, and the insights of an entire teaching staff in your living room. Many districts have full-time speech therapists and reading specialists who work with students who have disabilities.

Before pulling your child out of school, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of homeschooling your child with special needs. We’ll also look at the experience from the perspective of a child with cerebral palsy, blindness, autism or another learning difficulty. When daily tasks are mentally and physically challenging, it’s easy to see how frustration and other emotions can take over once in a while.

Advantages of Homeschooling Children with Special Needs

The biggest benefit of homeschooling is flexibility. While it’s important to have a routine, if your child is having a bad day, you can cut your lessons short. If a teachable moment arises, you can take advantage of it. It’s OK to double-dip in your parent and teacher duties. Go ahead and turn measuring ingredients for dinner into a science or math lesson. A trip to the dentist can quickly incorporate a lesson on different types of teeth and their purposes. Alternately, bring a reading book along so that you don’t lose the time. Here are some of the many benefits of home learning:

  • Reduced anxiety. Basically, homeschooling your child with special needs decreases anxiety thanks to a quieter environment in a familiar setting. Removing performance pressure decreases frustration and outbursts.
  • Hone in on strengths. If you’re used to reading remarks at the end of the day or week that highlight your child’s unusual actions, it will be refreshing to document progress from the perspective of their strengths. You are there for every win and can comfort them if anything goes sideways.
  • Set the pace. Spend as much time as you need on concepts or skills that are hard for your child.
  • Be creative. Children have different learning styles and sometimes music or movement are better than sitting still and listening. There are different teaching approaches you can use. Find the one that works best for your family.
  • Quality social opportunities. You can join local groups that encourage kids to related to one another on their own terms. One mom talks about her positive homeschool experience and gives 101 reasons it works for her child.

Disadvantages of Homeschooling Children with Special Needs

Of course, there are challenges to consider before deciding to homeschool your child with special needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Less structure. You probably won’t be able to replicate the structure of a traditional school environment. Children with special needs thrive on predictable routines and can become easily upset or frustrated over small changes. Some kids might benefit from remaining in the more structured public school. Unfortunately, the only way to find this out is to give it a try and constantly reassess what the best environment is for your learner.
  • Fewer resources. School districts never have as much money as they’d like, but they do usually have accessible facilities, art and music equipment, gymnasiums, sports fields, auditoriums, media centers, science labs, and more. They employ professional educators, coaches, special education experts, and school nurses.
  • Less peer interaction. Even if you arrange playdates and get-togethers on a regular basis, your child will have less contact with same-age peers. Those peers also will miss out on the chance to learn alongside a person with a disability and benefit from exposure to special needs.
  • Parental isolation and burnout. Parents who homeschool sometimes find that they never get a break. They are “on duty” from morning until night – serving as parent, teacher, coach, chauffeur, cook, therapist, referee, and more. It can be exhausting.

Focus on Things You Can Fix

There are things that you have much more top bitcoin casinos control over, but you still can’t control everything that might go wrong in a homeschool environment. Instead of thinking about the resources that aren’t available to your homeschooled child, think about how you can fill in the gaps and gain valuable skills.

  • Go online. There is an astonishing abundance of high-quality lesson plans, curricula, and special needs teaching aids online – much of it free. You can also stock up on basic craft supplies and take advantage of Pinterest and YouTube to find art project ideas.
  • Network with other families. Check out homeschooling organizations and connect with parents in your area who also homeschool. Try to arrange joint field trips and perhaps partner for lessons.
  • Participate in after-school activities. Most communities have after-school art, music, and drama programs. You can sign up for karate, swimming, youth sports, or more through local groups or Special Olympics. Many homeschooled children also participate in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.
  • Prepare for emergencies. Although there’s no nurse’s clinic to send your child to, you can keep a well-stocked first aid kit and take a CPR class to help you feel confident in case of an emergency.

Create an IEP

Each public school child eligible for special education has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). As a homeschooling parent, you may not have to have one at home, but it’s a good idea to set goals at the beginning of the year and monitor progress over time. An IEP can also help you communicate with specialists. There are free tools that can help you generate your own.

Know Yourself and Your Child

Your child with special needs could thrive under your tutelage if you have the patience and courage to lead the way. However, not all children and parents are cut out for homeschooling. Take into account your own need for self-care and your frustration threshold in general. If you’ve thought it through and think it could work for your family, do it! If it doesn’t work out, you can always return to a traditional school setting.

Jackie Nunes is a blogger at She is a former pediatric nurse and now a full-time homeschool educator. She and her husband have three children. Their middle child suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was 4. Now 11 years old, she is hearing impaired and uses a wheelchair. Jackie and two other moms created Wonder Moms as a project to share real talk, helpful information, and practical advice with parents of kids who have intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, autism, language and speech delays, deafness, chronic illness, and traumatic brain injury.


Posted in 12 years and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

Toys to Play to Learn,

Here’s my segment from today’s interview on FOX6 Milwaukee, “Being successful in school starts at home: Toys that will help you kids in the classroom,”

Being successful in school starts at home: Toys that will help your kids in the classroom


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment on FOX6, Real Milwaukee Today

I’m off to the FOX6 TV studio in Milwaukee to share my newest PAL Award winners that can help reinforce skills essential for classroom learning. Here are my Talking Points:

Play Your Way to Success in School

Background on Sherry:

Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun toys to reinforce and build skills essential to classroom success, through creative play, games aucasinosonline, drawing and interactive Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play. Information on all these toys is on my website,

Silly Street Character Builders by Mindware, 4 years and up, ($29.99)

  • Little actors stretch their story telling skills, learn elements of a story.
  • Little animals with different facial expressions front and back/ outfits
  • Add accessories like scarf, cape, apron, camera or canteen
  • Choose setting from treehouse, city, jungle, bedroom, or cafe
  • Language of emotion: is cat confused or content? Giraffe sad or excited?
  • Express their emotions through animal characters…can better relate to others and regulate their own emotions

Available at Mindware. Click here

Crayola Ultimate Light Board, 6 and up, ($24.99)

  • Kids love to draw so they can create art, write message, trace picture
  • Can help strengthen little hands for hand writing
  • Use special Mini Gel FX Markers
  • Turn on light watch the magic…LED’s built into frame make colors glow
  • Teacher wanted to use it for announcing birthdays as kids arrive to class

Available at Crayola. Click here

Fire Station by Hape, 3 years and up, ($99.99)

  • Kids fascinated with fire trucks so perfect scenario to get their story start
  • Heliport, basketball court, garage, office, pole to slide down.
  • Accessories to expand the story: hose, computer desk, dog, fire hydrant
  • Ring alarm bell, come down the pole, open the garage doors for quick exit
  • Several kids can play at once to increase language learning, collaborative

Available at Hape. Click here

Blank Slate by USAopoly, 8 years and up, ($24.99)

  • Simple directions to this fill-in-the-blank fun
  • Takes some critical thinking, word association and a dab of EQ
  • Match another’s answer and win points
  • pick a word less obvious or common…
  • roller blades had 1 match but not roller skates, basketball court won over
  • Apples to Apples, try to match another player’s thinking-experiences and interests

Available at USAopoly. Click here

Leapstart 3D Learning System by Leap Frog,

  • Added new feature to its amazing interactive learning system
  • Pop up screen with 3D animation
  • Kids learn through many modalities: auditory, visual, tactile
  • Used book, “Shine with Vocabulary Language and Communication Skills”
  • Sight words, descriptive, position, nouns, emotion words/ Princess Power

Available at Amazon. Click here

Touch & Discover Sensory Turtle by VTech, 3 months and up, ($19.99)

  • VTech’s new baby products designed for enriched play through discovery
  • So much to explore and discover on this turtle
  • Maximum opportunity for parents to describe actions and parts
  • Colors, textures patterns, Peek-a-boo with legs and head hiding
  • Opposites: push/pull, long/short, in/out
  • Ball for catch, rolling grabbing
  • Yellow button: vocabulary, playful rhyming songs, sing-a-long fun

Available at Amazon. Click here

Sharingland Cardboard Playhouse Kits, All ages, ($99)

  • Could barely get this Epic Castle out of the box fast enough while 4 year-old slipped on his armor, helmet and shield, “Stand back! Slay the dragons!”
  • Didn’t stop talking the whole visit
  • Crowned himself king in charge of protecting the princesses–sister, mom
  • Dry erase marker to personalize, practice reading and writing
  • Teacher mom thought it would be a great reading nook for her classroom

Available at Sharingland. Click here

Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Games, Preschool | Leave a comment

Toys That Teach to Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Here’s the clip from FOX6 Milwaukee:

Avoid the summer slide: A look at the latest toys that teach


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment on FOX5 Milwaukee today!

Talking Points FOX6 Real Milwaukee 6-21-18

Toys to Inspire Storytelling to Keep Reading and Writing Sharp Over the Summer

Background on Sherry:

Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun toys to build language skills through creative play and storytelling, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.

Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play. Information on all these toys is on my website,

Croco Jungle Research Station by Schleich, 3-8 years, $99

  • Carrying down hall to classroom to play and kids went, “Whoa!!”
  • Set it on the table and kids immediately began to collaborate in set up and starting a story
  • “The jaguar goes in here so he doesn’t make trouble
  • So many accessories that suggest different sub-plots of the story–treasure, trap door, ranger station, pens and animals, dangerous/sick, eating/ sleeping, cooking
  • Tired takes a nap in the “Hangmock”

Available at Amazon. Click here

Kruselings by Hape, 3 years and up,  ($28-$45)

  • Beautiful doll characters are Guardians of the Dreams.
  • Personalities: Vera, child of Grace, ballerina, waves wand, things dance
  • Sophia, Child of Nature, magic flower to speak in languages of creatures
  • Girls transformed their dolls from street clothes to wings and magic accessories
  • Ended up at teacher’s desk re-enacting their story, dialogue

Available at Fairhaven Toy Garden. Click here

Trap and Gap Baseplates by Strictly Briks, 4 and up, ($24.99)

  • Wisconsin company, CEO Dad remembers the fun he had playing with trap doors and extending ramps for escape, racing or parking
  • Strictly Briks are compatible with all major brick building brands
  • Their accessories and props add new dimension to story telling
  • Design best getaway adventure, house or  parking garage
  • Open ended play where child drives the story
  • Story changes as different toys are brought to the structure

Available at Strictly Briks. Click here

My Story Dolls by Faber-Castell, 6 and up, ($15.00)

  • These dolls just make me smile!
  • My little girlfriends chose to make Wishful, Goofy and Happy, unique fashion style, facial expression, mood and story to express through outfits
  • Chose mood, face, and clothes–floss hair, pom poms, rhinestones, fur
  • Conversation about choices online casino go, “Which face is wishful? eyes closed, dreaming?
  • Mixing conversation and crafting is rich experience
  • Kids learn to express feelings and recognize them in others, increasing EQ and building social language skills

Available at Faber-Castell. Click here

Frog Life Cycle by Folkmanis, 3 years and up, ($68)

  • I came into classroom, “Who wants to put on a puppet show?”
  • 2 boys came back and put on a show for me
  • Starts as the egg, lenticular printed patch with tadpole swimming->
  • tadpole-> frog
  • “In a few days I’ll be a frog to play with you!”
  • Puppets can bring out shy kids to engage in dialogue and story telling

Playful Chef Chocolate Studio and Shoppe by MindWare, 4 and up, ($16-$50)

  • Cooking is wonderful language activity: sequence directions, measure, learn fractions, and here set up display for a candy shop!
  • Boys loved making chocolate hearts from mom for Mother’s Day
  • Could write out menu, prices etc for writing practice and exchange play money
  • Kid tip: chocolates harden faster in the refrigerator

Available at MindWare. Click here

Pop Oh Ver Stove by Kangaroo Manufacturing, 3 years and up, ($39.95)

  • Unfold the canvas and slip it over a chair
  • Ready for the little chef
  • Perfect for parents, grandparents, teachers with limited space
  • Cleverly designed by a mom of 7
  • Building stories as they imitate adults in their life

Available at Amazon. Click here


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

Choosing The Best Toys to Inspire Storytelling

It’s been my mission for over 35 years to teach parents how to select the best toys for fun smart play, that inspire creativity and storytelling, building language skills. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Schleich's Croco Junge Ranger Station PAL Award winner

    Schleich’s Croco Junge Ranger Station PAL Award winner

    Several categories of props with accessories to inspire sub plots within the story. Schleich’s “Croco Jungle Ranger Station” is an excellent example of this as they have created a jungle ranger station theme with several directions the story can take: work at the ranger station on the computer etc., fixing the property with tools in the tool box, preparing dinner over the open fire, eating, sleeping, caring for sick animals, penning up dangerous animals or those they are observing, or hiding treasure or people in the large croc skull.

  2. Plenty of accessories within a category to expand the story. Playmobil’s
    Playmobil's "Camp Site," PAL Award winner

    Playmobil’s “Camp Site,” PAL Award winner

    “Camp Site” is a great illustration of this concept.  Vibrant hanging plants, postcards, magazines, maps, cash register (with Euros), soft drinks and your favorite frozen ice cream treat (with labels) help you ease in to your home-away-from-home. In case you failed to bring all your online casino plates, cups, toothpaste, brush, suntan lotion and bug spray – don’t sweat it, you can pick them up at the Quik-Mart, along with canned goods, milk and OJ – all with decals reinforcing the reality. Shower, use the rest room or camp out in the cute orange tent.

  3. Sequenced props that for add-on stories. Some toy or games provide
    "Tall Tales," PAL Award winner

    “Tall Tales,” PAL Award winner

    characters and objects or setting cards to inspire a story to be told. Tall Tales provides a bag of 50 cute rubber 3D objects and characters to draw out of a velvet bag to carry on the story. 24 beautifully illustrated story cards give options for settings as kids can change up the story according various backgrounds. Kids learn story elements as they sequence their tale.

  4. Plenty of characters whether people, animals or animated objects to lead the dialogue.















Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment on FOX6 “Avoid the Summer Slide with Great Games and Puzzles”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment on FOX6 Milwaukee Today! Great Games and Puzzles

Great Games and Puzzles to Keep Brains Sharp Over Summer Break

Background on Sherry:

Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist and Toy Expert is here to share super fun games and puzzles to build language skills, keeping brains sharp over the summer break.

Today I am featuring some of the PAL Award’s latest winners that spark smart play.

Magicube Story Building by Geomagworld, 3 and up, ($34.99)

  • Dream product for a speech pathologist as it provides 143 characters and props for telling “The Three Pigs”
  • 5 pages of clips attach to the cubes to tell the story, changing characters’ faces as the story progresses
  • “Where is the wind blowing?(wolf’s huff and puff)
  • Builds understanding of important elements of a good story
  • Prepare for reading and writing

Bright Lights Soccer Ball by VTech, 6 months and up, ($14.99)

  • What’s summer without a game of soccer with your baby or toddler?
  • Toss the ball: encouraging phrases, songs, directions, activated by motion
  • Learn rhymes, vocabulary, concepts, opposites, counting, social language
  • Babies talk more to a face

Available at VTech. Click here

ARTributes by Simplyfun, 7 and up ($33.00)

  • Kids pick 2-3 attribute cards and draw image representing that word
  • players guess, my 7 yr. old drew “sweet” which we guessed, ice cream/strawberry
  • From jumpy, cold, gloomy, tall, busy to sparkling, wet or lazy
  • Learn vocabulary, all about adjectives and how word is associated with their drawing

Available at Simplyfun.  Click here

Acorn Soup by Peaceable Kingdom/MindWare brand, 2 years and up ($17.95)

  • Best beginner games for preschoolers encourage pretend play
  • Let’s get out our recipes and make some soup for squirrel
  • Follow the recipe, by category, counting, matching, sequencing
  • Stir it up for some pretend play

CODENAMES: Disney Family Edition by USAopoly, 8 and up, ($24.95)

  • Loved Disney movie illustrations in a grid for game board
  • Key Card shows location of their Treasure Cards to be guessed
  • Cluemaster gives clue that applies to several cards to be guessed by their teammates
  • “amber” “sizzle” “submerged”
  • “competitor “ described Merida from Brave and Lightning McQueen.
  • A mom said, “Look at the words you’ve learned!{
  • Vocabulary, association, description skills, critical thinking, all to crack the codes

Available at USAopoly. Click here

Ravensburger VW 3D Puzzle, 10 and up, ($29.99)

  • Kids couldn’t wait to assemble this puzzle
  • Wonderful opportunity for several generations to talk and assemble together
  • Play began to resemble a team as we gathered numbers by section, “I’ve got the 20’s”
  • Some were assembling by the numbers on the back of pieces while others were matching the illustration
  • All of a sudden strips of flap sections went 3D
  • Had fun as kids were surfers

Available at Amazon. Click here

 Otrio by Spin Master, 6 years and up, ($34.99)

  • Kids and adults quickly became addicted to this game
  • Seems simple at first but really requires concentration, critical thinking, strategizing offensive and defensive moves to build one of 3 configurations to win
  • Have trio of large, medium and small colored rings, ascending  descending order, 3 of the same size in a line, or 3 co-centric circles on one space
  • Players shocked when someone won, everyone started explaining their strategy–one Dad teamed up with his son when mom was the biggest threat
  • Tapping language, visual memory, spatial and critical thinking skills

Available at Spin Master. Click here

Long and Tall Puzzle 123 Rocketship by The Learning Journey International, 3 and up, ($14.99)

  • love puzzles because they have so much learning potential
  • draw the whole famiy together as being assembled
  • This 5’ rocketship was constructed by 4 year-old, siblings, grandma and mom
  • Calling out pictures from each stage associated with 1-10
  • Looking for astronauts’ feet, wrenches and “Where do the paint pots go?”
  • Identifying, naming and sequencing numbers, dscribing sections of the puzzle, using positional words: higher, top, under, next, last
  • Finished and said, “Blastoff!”

Available at The Learning Journey International. Click here

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Toy Fair Trends New York 2018, Lots of Learning

What fun to step right into the parade lineup as I started my adventure through the New York Toy Fair last week! The opening ribbon cutting ceremony unleashed thousands of international buyers and press to see what’s new in the toy industry. I was pumped up with the excitement, energy, innovation, passion and fun generated by seeing the hottest new toys, games and entertainment products come to life. I loved discovering more companies intentionally building learning opportunities into their products, and calling out the skills on packaging, in lesson plans and parent guides!

After walking the nearly half million square feet, it was evident to me what was trending among products that can deliver an outstanding playful learning experience, with rich repeat play potential:

STEM +Story: STEM is STEAMing ahead with many products designed to build science, technology, engineering and math, even for babies and toddlers. What’s new is many companies are now adding a creative story element (read that “language/literacy  learning”) to their building and construction play. Build and Imagine and Wonderhood Toys have been favorite leaders in this rich pairing. Thankfully more companies have stepped up this year to deepen the learning by inviting kids to author the story as they build. Thames and Kosmos introduced Pepper Mint (“The Great Treehouse Engineering Adventure”) who visits her scientist aunt in the rain forest, equipping their tree house with mechanical equipment using pulleys, winches, and gears, and even light up the jungle with a string of LED lanterns! Geomagworld engages preschoolers with their Magicubes, adding magnetic blocks to combine for people, animals and jobs, expanding mix and match story-telling opportunities.

Portable Play: After visiting companies specializing in larger play schemes, I saw an emphasis on sliding parts, and fold up play products for easy storage or take-along play. I know my Grammy friends were very interested in several of the larger pretend play toys that could be minimized for storage when the grandkids go home. One of the most innovative products I saw (and others were talking about it too) was Kangaroo’s “Pop-oh-Ver’s”  Stove and Market, a fabric stove, oven and microwave that is so cleverly designed by a mom of 7, that it fits over a chair! Talk about lots of pretend play potential that you can fold up and put away. The microwave door opens to a clear pocket to insert your bacon. So many of Simplay3’s products have design elements for take-apart packability. Their “Carry and Go Track Table” is fun ready to happen. The sturdy vehicle track has play options on both sides–race and train tracks, and an easy to carry handle. Kids bring the cars and people to the set for their own story.

Strong EQ:  EQtainment is leading the toy movement with outstanding new products every year for parents and teachers to provide excellent content for kids’ learning to name, regulate and understand emotions, while building kindness, compassion and understanding. This year’s “Moment AR App,” utilizes AR technology, helping children to identify their feelings and emotions with the use of unique 3D images of characters representing emotions, in the palm of their hand. Guidecraft’s Kai Kai and Xin Xin dolls have facial expression features to add to the face that can change the doll’s emotions, inspiring discussion about how one is feeling. Faber Castell’s “My Story Dolls Express Your Mood, “  starts with a clothespin, as kids choose a face that reflects their mood–calm, happy, sad, determined etc. and then decorate the doll with fabric clothes, tape, stickers, embroidery floss hair, and rhinestones to communicate emotions. What a creative beginning to bringing about a conversation about feelings! Hoyle’s “Super Me” memory card game teaches kids empathy, helping others and social skills as they match an emergency situation with the appropriate superhero response.

Expanded Play set Props: I am always excited to see some of my favorite toys I’ve used in therapy be surrounded by new playset props to expand and inspire story telling.  Schleich has added beautifully detailed “worlds” on the Farm and at the Horse Club, with characters, buildings and props to their collection of animals for work, play and secret getaways.  These play sets offer a starting point for kids to take off and be the director of their play, enriching the learning experience.  Planning, critical thinking, negotiating and reasoning skills are tapped as kids join together in pretend play. Corolle, known for its huggable,  sweet scented dolls, has stepped up the pretend play factor providing accessory packages for “A Day in the Life of a Toddler.”  With breakfast props (the toast pops up), and snacks, kids can exercise cognitive language skills through imitating real life. Park your car at  Plan Toys’ new “Parking Garage,” and get some extra reading and writing practice as the road surface is friendly to chalk messages. Kids can write directions, name a service or even the price to park.  Strictly Briks, is rich with new accessories to expand open-ended brick building play, from tracks, cubes, and 3D bricks including their newest “Trap & Gap Baseplates,” inspired by the CEO’s play as a child.

Games and Puzzles Rule: Games and Puzzles continue to be the fastest growing category of toys as families seek more quality time with the kids. Thinkfun’s “Shadows in the Forest” is a game played in the dark.  A team controls the movement of cute little Shadowlings who freeze when exposed to the light by the Seeker and need to be freed by collaborative effort. There has been much written lately about kids’ declining social skills due to increased time on their phones and devices rather than face to face interaction. Assembling a puzzle can be a wonderful opportunity to gather around the table and connect socially.  “Volkswagon T1 Campervan 3D puzzle by Ravensburger appeals to the adventurer and surfer dude in all of us. I can’t wait to watch and listen as some brothers work together to assemble it. The Learning Journey’s “Glow in the Dark Pirate Ship” puzzle takes you through a day in the life of a pirate with lots to talk about.

Pet Play: “Cutie Paws Puppy Stroller” by VTech is sure to be popular with the preschool set, as they take their doggie for a ride. Alex Toys’  “Snap-To-It Vet” looks like a traveling vet van that opens up to all the accessories for grooming and a good exam with props that are attached to the fabric book with button like snaps for kids to set up the scene. Folkmanis’ “3 Stages of a Frog,” will delight kids just like their caterpillar to butterfly puppet did. Perfect for learning in and outside the classroom, this 3 part puppet teaches metamorphosis from the egg to the tadpole to the frog.



Posted in 10 and up, 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Elementary School Age, Games, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Calling out the Learning in Toys

Those of you who know me, know that it is part of my mission to get companies to call out the learning potential in their toys and games for parents and educators. Let’s face it. This also helps sell toys and games when retailers can be helpful to customers looking for the learning in their products.

The first company I saw to do this effectively and comprehensively was ThinkFun who originally had a chart (which I helped advise on) that checked off different skills for each game. Now you go to their products and sort by skill–Word and Language skills, Logic and Problem Solving, STEM and Creative Thinking, and Visual Perception and Reasoning. Their games are loaded with fun learning and they were innovators in having a former kindergarten teacher, Charlotte Fixler,  on their staff to advise on skill building potential in products.

Brackitz has a wonderful grid broken into 13 skills, including “Representation and Storytelling.” They get it. Language is an integral skill in STEM/STEAM activities as kids are solving problems, negotiating, reasoning and often creating a story or structure for later pretend play.

So many companies fail to identify the language learning in their toys and games. Is it just too obvious? Language underlies all learning but kids are are getting less opportunity to interact face to face, practicing these social and cognitive skills as tablets and devices are stealing time from free creative play.

Educational Insights has been my go-to company for great games to use in speech therapy over the years, Their skill breakdown is evident under the “Education” category on their website. I’ve played “Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game” with kids and they loved it, while according to their website, learning:

  • Practices identifying geometric shapes
  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Improves strategic thinking skills
  • Encourages social skills and turn-taking

I only wish these skills were identified for ALL of their games, not just those deemed “Educational.”

I’ll be at the International Toy Fair in New York City in a little over a week and be on the lookout for more companies making it easier for parents to find a great toy or game that can help build specific skills for kids who might need some extra practice or strengthening in an area.




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