Thank you Sherry! You are a BIG help and Max adores you.Maria, mother of a 5 year-old boyFairfield, CT
Sherry, thanks for giving us back our son. We are so grateful for everything you did for Ben and our family. Not seeing you every week makes me feel that something is missing… but we look forward to a summertime walk! We miss you,Nicole, mother of 2 year-old boy who was dismissed from therapyWestport, CT
Sherry, thank you so much for working with my girls for so long. Your kindness, thoughtfulness, insight and professionalism made our experience so meaningful. My husband and I appreciate all you have done for them. Let’s keep in touch. Thanks again.Mother of 3 and 5 year-old girlsGreenwich, CT
Okay you heard it here…Crayola is retiring the dandelion color from its 24 crayon box. I sure hope its replacement is bright yellow because kids need that for sunshine faces! Tomorrow is National Crayon Day which my husband just said is synonymous with National Crayola Day. There is nothing quite like getting a brand new set of crayons and judging by all the adult coloring books in prime real estate at Barnes and Noble, adults are finding joy in coloring too.
Setting out a box of crayons and plenty of paper is a wonderful open-ended activity for kids and helps build fine motor skills for writing as well as language skills as kids create stories with their illustrations. Some children find writing a story challenging but will get inspired because they can draw the illustrations.
You know I like to feature projects that speech pathologists or in this case grad students in speech pathology, are involved with to help their clients. A team of grad students from NYU developed a free cookbook filled with yummy recipes for individuals living with dysphagia. The recipes are from a cooking challenge that enables masters students to create recipes that are both appetizing and accessible for those with swallowing disorders. Here’s a short review:
Dysphagia is a swallowing disorder that can affect patients of all ages under a variety of medical conditions. According to the ASHA, one in 25 adults in the United States experience swallowing problems. However, since the disorder spans across ages and medical conditions, research indicates that its prevalence may be underestimated.
When working with patients with dysphagia, the role of a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is to diagnose and manage patients’ dysphagia. However, a recent project from Speech@NYU – NYU Steinhardt’s online master’s in speech-language pathology – sheds light onto not only how SLPs can do more for patients with dysphagia, but also how patients with dysphagia don’t have to let their medical condition impact their eating experience.
Dining with Dysphagia: A Cookbook is a collection of recipes that are both easy to follow and easy to swallow. Based on the NYU Steinhardt’s annual Dysphagia Iron Chef Competition, the goal of these recipes is to make eating an enjoyable experience for individuals with all levels of dysphagia.
You know how much I love the NogginStik and Moms and babies do too. Here is their latest developmental rattle that also teaches eye tracking, grabbing, reaching and cause effect but also object permanence–the object is still there even if you can’t see it. Watch the little balls circle down the striped tube and disappear, all but one. Then tip the rattle upside down to empty the tube and there they are again!
Did you hear the results of the election?? No, not THAT one, the voting to determine what 8 tokens would round the Monopoly board in the next generation of players. The thimble, boot and wheelbarrow were voted out while T-Rex (came in second overall) , a rubber ducky and penguin joined the ranks of tokens for this classic board game.
What I find fun is that Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly, polled fans in more than 100 countries with over 4.3 million votes and it sparked some “online campaigning from outside forces, … Zipcar, the car-sharing company, advocated for the survival of the car token by asking fans to #SaveTheCar. The New England Aquarium got in the spirit by tweeting photographs of their penguins to #VotePenguin, and hosting a Facebook live event to Monopoly’s nearly 11 million Facebook fans,” according to the New York Times. With all the concern about the increased time kids and adults are spending on entertainment associated with technology, there’s still a huge fan base for an iconic classic game like Monopoly which transcends generations of family play!
I’m always on the lookout for great new preschool games that teach while little ones are having loads of fun. A good preschool game has an element of pretend play to engage the children such as playing in a vegetable garden, literally showering a puppy dog, or pretending to be a super hero, collecting clues.
Alex Brands Janod preschool games combine a familiar kids’ theme with activities related to the story of a circus, a pesty mole loose in the vegetable garden, making a pizza or walking trough a forest of trees and animals. So many times during speech therapy sessions with kids, I’d be playing a fun game with cute, inviting props and suddenly the child would have left the game play and was spinning a little creative story with the game pieces. I call that a successful play time as kids learned some game play as well as exercised their imaginations and language story telling.
Here are some of my favorites for 2017 that caught my eye with the skills that they can promote:
Acrobat: Come watch the balancing act of the acrobats as you roll the die to get a color, and place an acrobat on the matching dot on the circular level. Place three acrobats on a level and then balance the next floor on top and keep building up! Kids learn colors, matching, counting and fine motor skills.
Beware of the Mole: Roll the die to get a color and choose the corresponding colored vegetable to slide into your garden. If you roll the mole, you are stuck until you roll him again to put him back in the garden. Kids learn beginning game play and consequences for negative circumstances like rolling the mole. Patience, attention span and vocabulary are all tapped during this fun family game.
Speed Pizza: Build your own pizza quickly as kids learn matching and food vocabulary.
Happy Tree: As they play this fun new take on a memory game, kids have to remember the vertical sequence of the 3-part trees with animals on the branches. Memory, pre-literacy skills and sequencing are all tapped as kids giggle their way through constructing the trees correctly.
Talk about a compact piece of equipment that can offer some movement, sensory input, motor exercise and fun, the Gorilla Gym can attach to the doorframe of a classroom or home. I would have liked an option to get up and swing or climb a rope ladder in the middle of working hard in class and I can think of several classmates that would have benefitted from it!
In light of my recent blog about new research linking vigorous exercise in boys 6-8 years of age and their higher reading skills, I wanted to share a new company I found at The International Toy Fair in New York City. Invented by a dad, this indoor gym installs easily in a doorframe and offers add-on accessories such as a swing, rope ladder, rings, or yoga sling among others that would be useful in a therapy session for physical, occupational or speech therapy. When I worked in the schools, there were many collaborations between therapists, “co-treating” kids using physical equipment to get kids to move and talk.
I certainly enjoyed getting “regulated” in the middle of the Toy Fair Show as I relaxed on the swing!
As I walk through the aisles of the New York Toy Fair, I get hit with the amazing ingenuity of toy designers. This year it was evident that there are still new ways to build a child’s memory, vocabulary, concepts and listening skills through fun preschool play. Here were some of my favorites:
Peaceable Kingdom’s “Blue Plate Scramble” is a new cooperative game designed around a popular real-life and play theme, ordering at a restaurant. Players have to remember which foods go together (building association skills) on a plate ordered at the Blue Plate Diner. Don’t get them wrong or you have an angry customer! Peaceable Kingdom’s games were always favorites in my speech therapy sessions as kids have to work together to win, building social skills too.
Mindware’s “E-I-E-I-GO” is another combination of pretend play that matches kids’ interests as a preschooler. Shake the silo to see what animal the players must match. They roll their dice until they get 3 matches and make the animal’s sound to win a token. Active play is fun play!
Janod’s “Happy Tree” by Alex Brands is a new take on a memory game. Kids have to remember sequentially the sections of a tree and what animals are hanging out on each branch, building memory, sequencing, positioning vocabulary, and pre-literacy skills.
“PJ Masks Night Sight Game” by Wonder Forge is a creative memory, role-play game as kids wear masks of their favorite characters to be able to secretly “read’ the toy tiles they have placed on their toy shelves. Take off the masks, turn over Romeo tiles and try to match them to the correct row of toys. Put masks back on to see if you win the tiles or Romeo steals them. The role-play and cooperative nature of this game makes it a winner for teaching social skills and language.
Spinmaster’s “Soggy Doggy,” game where players race around the board washing the doggy (spraying him in the shower) until he decides to shake himself dry–sending you back to start–generates a lot of wet laughs, while kids learn first game play and following directions.
Speech therapists can use these games to strengthen the skills I’ve mentioned or adapt them to be a reinforcement for other speech and language goals. Let me know how you have incorporated these games in your therapy session so we can all learn.
There’s been a lot of debate about the value of physical activity as it correlates with higher cognitive skills and attention. New research from the University of Finland now suggests that “high levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and low levels of sedentary time in first grade were related to better reading skills in grades one to three among boys. Conversely, boys who had a combination of low levels of physical activity and high levels of sedentary time had the poorest reading skills through grades one to three, said researcher Eero Haapala, Ph.D.”
Interestingly, time spent in sedentary activities versus vigorous physical activity did not have the same effect on girls’ reading and math scores.
Are we implying that a fast game of tag or kickball at recess could up boys’ reading skills in the early elementary school grades? Maybe research like this could help in the fight to bring back recess. The growing trend to steal time from recess for added academic subjects has been growing as I see the pressure build to push out free play to be replaced by more structured attention to the ABC’s beginning in preschool.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes the benefits of recess for the whole child, physically and mentally: “Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize.8–11 After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively.12–16 In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment.8,11,17”
As an educator/therapist, I certainly can agree with the benefits of physical activity breaks for better learning as well as incorporating movement activities within the speech therapy session. One of my most successful sessions with a young boy was doing articulation therapy while playing soccer in his back yard. It was a bit tricky keeping my word lists in hand and managing my soccer strategy but we had fun as well as made progress on his sounds!
My husband likes Sunday to be a day of rest (he is right) so I declared last Saturday a day of exploration. Since we moved to Wisconsin in the last year I am still finding fun spots in the area. After an amazing donut at Roecks Bakery in Kiel Wisconsin we headed to Sheboygan on Lake Michigan. This smaller city boasts the best kitchen store, “Relish.” I warned my husband that I always find something to buy. So as I was checking out with my terra cotta lined garlic container and butter dish I saw this “Stay Clean Scrubber.” As I was squeezing it, owner Jane told me a teacher bought several of them to give to kids standing in line who have ADHD. It helps them regulate their sensory system and be patient while waiting.
Then I went on to “The Nest” which is a beautiful gift shop on 8th Avenue in Sheboygan too. I always check out the children’s section of stores and found the cutest little mice that would be a perfect addition to a reading of “The Tooth Mouse,” one of my favorite children’s picture books by Susan Hood. All you need is a mouse and cigar box!
My husband has always said the best part of your job is the people. I would certainly agree and I have had the privilege to work with an amazing group of professionals in the school system–teachers, speech, occupational and physical therapists as well as psychologists. Now in the Toy Industry I find the people I work with are creative, fun and have a little of that child spunk in them that spawns fun. I also like the story behind companies, how they started, who conceived of the idea and so on.
This week I enjoyed my visit with SCS Direct’s CEO and President Howard Greenspan. Howie’s passion to provide toys that encourage classic playful learning is evident in his drive to design many dimensions of learning in his toys for lasting play value. When we were talking about one of his newer games, “Tall Tales”, he mentioned that he is giving away a game to any teacher of therapist that requests it. All you have to do is email your name, school name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org requesting the game and you receive one free! A “game of infinite storytelling,” Tall Tales comes in a cute drawstring bag holding 50 3D game pieces and 24 story cards with various settings. Stories can be told singly or cooperatively with 5 options for play. Sounds like a perfect addition to the therapy bag for generating language or for the classroom teacher to work on oral language or writing. Often kids freeze when the teacher says they should think up a story to write but if they have some visual/tactile prompts the ideas start to flow.
So let’s all thank Howie Greenspan for his support of educators and his generosity in making this offer!