Spring PAL Awards on FOX6 TV

Had a fun interview on FOX6 TV last Thursday, sharing STEAM toys that encourage language learning.

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STEAM PAL Awards Winners on FOX6 Milwaukee Today

Full STEAM Ahead with Language!

The STEM/STEAM trend is really hot in the toy industry! Sherry Artemenko, Speech Language Pathologist with over 17,000 hours working with kids can help parents choose toys full of learning while advancing knowledge in science, technology engineering, the arts and math. Language arts is increasingly emphasized in school assignments as children are asked to explain their work, predict outcomes, solve problems and draw conclusions.

Sherry’s PAL Award winners are at playonwords.com

Here are some of Sherry’s Spring PAL Award winners in the STEAM category:

SmartMax My First Safari Animals by Smart Toys and Games (1-5) $19.95

  • Magnets are magic to kids
  • Soft touch front and back click together with the body rod
  • Didn’t take long for my preschoolers to create variations with feet sticking up, and combo animals
  • SmartMax sets are compatible so kids added more rods and magnetic balls, calling it a slide and animate and play pretend with their animals

Bunny Trails by Alex Toys (4 and up) $39.99  

  • Part of a new series of games, Future Coders
  • Help bunny find a path through the garden
  • Progress through levels on the cards
  • Break it down into little steps like telling a story
  • Plan to avoid obstacles and get Bunny to the carrot
  • Thinking, planning, problem solving, creative play

Brio Builder Activity Set (3 and up) $69.95

  • 211 pieces–screws, nails, wheels, nuts, blocks
  • hammer, screw driver, wrench
  • to build projects it’s a great parent-child activity at 3
  • make and play, animate with talk and play

Meccano Micronoids by Spinmaster (8 years and up) $29.99

  • Robots are hot this season and we have “Switch and Basher” who have 3 mode functions along with programming options
  • question mode ask yes, no questions
  • dance and coordinate when closer
  • autonomous–giggle, babble, dance, sing, sneeze..silliness
  • buttons to program your own walking sequence, record your voice
  • creative play, alien voices, made up their planets

Dig it Up! Discovery Kit by Mindware (8 and up) $34.95

  • Science kits are popular
  • This one has 12 solid projects for little paleontologists to learn about dinosaurs and insects.
  • Use facts about t Rex and Triceratops to make prehistoric battle scene, placing bones according to how it would happen
  • Amber casting with insects
  • “This is way cooler than the science we do in class!”\
  • Learn, discover and tell a story from the evidence

KNEX Education STEM Explorations Roller Coaster Building Set (8 and up) $39.99

  • Who doesn’t like a roller coaster?
  • Kids can build it, play with it and perform experiments, recording their observations
  • Part of KNEX’s STEM education, for classroom, maker spaces,
  • 3 experiments, test your predictions, analyze your data and record your findings
  • critical thinking, analysis, comparisons–language skills
Posted in 12 years and up, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, play, Preschool, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

When a Preschool Game Becomes a Puppet Show

A great preschool game has the DNA to teach taking turns, concepts, vocabulary, listening skills and syntax to name a few learning objectives but when kids take off from the game format and launch into pretend play, I know it has that extra special element to spark creativity.

I was playing Peaceable Kingdom’s new PAL Award winner, “Where’s Bear?” designed to encourage meaningful moments of connection between a 2 year-old and his parents. The kids I played with loved this game. My two-year old friend was excited each time his older siblings told him to close his eyes while they hid the bear under one of the blocks. Then we asked, “Where is Bear?” After a few rounds, he became very possessive of Bear and liked him so much he made off with him and acted out some fun in the kitchen, “I go find a bear.” “Put up up up,” as Bear walked up the refrigerator and “I walk” as he moved along the kitchen floor. “Look Bear, come back!” Next his four-year-old siblings announced they were going to have a puppet show and left to gather blankets, earphones, tablets and of course the star of the show, Bear. They proceeded to put on a clever “puppet” show with Bear talking and entertaining. The show had to be short because the two-year-old wanted his Bear back!

A board game set-up can be a backdrop for specific pretend play scenarios too, so inviting that kids take their pet doggies, princesses or farm animals and take off from the game to engage in some pretend play. Wonder Forge is known for their creative use of the packaging and props to create a 3D house visited by the Cat in the Hat, an airport or doggie pet salon.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Games, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddler, Toddlers | Leave a comment

Saying Goodbye to Old Speech Therapy Friends

It’s been a year since I packed up all my therapy materials and PAL Award business and moved to Wisconsin. Anyone who does a big move knows that it’s “tedious and disruptive” as one of the movers said. I thought I did a good job but basically got the boxes to Wisconsin but then forgot about a lot of what was in them. So today I went through them all and found old friends. I found Tommy Toot, a little horn by Ambi Toys that helped produce a simple first toot for kids, my Kaufman Treatment Kit and Books that seemed so simple yet worked like magic with my apraxic kids. It was so against my method of speech therapy to “drill” words with picture cards but the kids loved them and showed wonderful progress as we used them. Two of my oldest friends from my clinical practice in graduate school at Northwestern University were my “30,000 Selected Words Organized
by Letter, Sound and Syllable”
and Therapy Kit. The book of words was invaluable before word lists were prolific on the internet and posted by SLP’s offering free lists for all of us. Apparently others recognize its value too because it goes for $2,371.01 on Amazon.. Ah but their copy must be in better condition than mine. My “Therapy Kit” was loved and cared for as I carried it from place to place doing speech therapy. Amazingly versatile and useful, it opens to a triangle with sides of pockets for picture cards, felt for attaching story pieces, and a large mirror. Of course now we use our iPhone as as mirror in therapy. This friend is no longer mentioned on the internet. Anyone remember it?

Friends who are downsizing and moving have told me about a book I should read (in my spare time??) about saying goodbye to possessions and thanking them for their use. So I am officially thanking my old friends who entertained, taught, and made kids laugh while progressing on our speech therapy goals. I will pass them on to continue the good work im other hands!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Apraxia, Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

Crayola retires color on National Crayon Day

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.

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

Speech Pathologists Develop New Cookbook, “Dining with Dysphasia”

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.

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Smartnoggin Introduces Latest Developmental Rattle, NogginSeek

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!

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Monopoly Tokens Chosen to “Pass GO”

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!








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Great New Preschool Games for 2017

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.
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Games, Language, Preschool, Preschool Class, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Gorilla Gym Offers Physical Movement for Kids with Special Needs

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!

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