video toy reviews
Video reviews of our PAL Award winners with tips on how to advance language through play • see PAL tips... ►See more video reviews... ►
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
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
This 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.
Okay, 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.
I 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.
I’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.
I am honored to be named to “Heidi’s Top Blogs” (Heidi Kay, Founding Partner of Pediastaff) on ASHAsphere this week. Playonwords.com 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!
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.
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, the 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.
Peaceable 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: http://
The hype is growing as we lead up to the Toy Fair. Stay tuned…
When 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.
This 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