The Influence of TV on Preschoolers

When I  was visiting 3 year-old Will, he requested that we have a “scavenger hunt.” Now I have been known for my “candy hunts” I conduct on family vacations where I send kids off with a set of clues to find the final tin can of candy. But, I wondered how Will knew what a scavenger hunt was. It turns out that he has been watching “Dinosaur Train,” a clever kids’ show that teaches about plants and animals from the dinosaur age through a set of interesting clues delivered in rhyme.

On the left are my clues. Next time I will give them in rhyme but I wanted Will to be able to “read” them. The final clue, “Go to the Rescue Center” is a little blurred because it was hidden in the bath tub! Will loved the adventure of going up and down floors and finding his clues to his prize. Try making up clues that rhyme, leave off the last word and let your child guess the rhyming word. Now it becomes a literacy activity too.

What stories do you have about kids bridging the information from a TV show to their experience? Share them below.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Language, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

When to Correct Kids’ Speech

I get this question a lot. Just yesterday I was at a house and the mom asked me whether she should be concerned about her 3 year-old Eli’s speech. I asked about specific sounds, saying he should be able to say, t,d,p,b,m,n,w, but other sounds aren’t established until he is older, like s,l,r.

Often, parents are expecting too much of a preschooler–that he should be speaking perfectly and understood all of the time. The fact is, he isn’t expected to correctly produce all sounds yet and we shouldn’t correct him or call attention to the mispronunciations or he might feel like he isn’t a good communicator, and even start talking less.

In the case of Eli’s mom, she was noticing that he was mispronouncing sounds that she knew he could say. Mom said, “He says, nilk for milk, and I know he can say “m”. Sure enough, little Eli said he wanted more “nilk.” Sometimes kids hang on to random words that they have mispronounced since they were little and even though they are capable of saying those sounds, the word persists for a while. In this case, continue to affirm him with, “Yes, MMMilk.” Emphasize the mispronounced sound in your own speech. Later when you are brushing teeth or playing around, make some fun sounds and include the “m” with a few “milks” thrown in.

Never draw attention to these sounds that your preschooler can’t make. Maybe they are in a word as a blend which is much harder to say and will take a while for him to learn. If you are still concerned, find a speech language therapist through your school system, ASHA’s website or your pediatrician’s recommendations.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Articulation, Birth-3 year-olds | 2 Comments

Speech Therapy at McDonalds

One thing I like about my job is that no two days are the same! Yesterday, I had a first. I got a message on my phone as I was going to Reagan’s house for speech therapy. Their house is on the market and a realtor had called to make an appointment to show the house during our speech time. Would I mind meeting the family at McDonalds for therapy? Sure.

I arrived and my little friends were waiting. I brought lots of games and toys for Reagan and a bag of dinosaurs for her 2 year-old brother (who would really rather play with us). At first Reagan was a little self-conscious but I told her to look around. I pointed out that it was a bunch of grandmas and grandpas in there with us and they probably really enjoyed seeing her.

We got chocolate milks for the kids and a vanilla shake for me and we were on our way. The session went very well and I would recommend McDonalds to anyone in a bind for a place to play with your clients.

Mom graciously took a picture with the golden arches behind us to mark the event!

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

Putting Little People in Preschool Play

I have several parents who encourage me with their application of ideas that I have taught them. I am always trying to teach parents what to look for in a toy that builds language and how to set up great toys so a child can narrate stories and play creatively.

Yesterday I was with one of my favorite moms who shows me she “gets it!” She had bought two little vehicles from the “Cars” collection–the helicopter and mail truck. She and her son had been playing with them before I arrived. She mentioned that they didn’t come with people which is one of my first criteria for an effective language toy. Children need people, animals or figures that they an animate to get the conversation going. They practice dialogue, taking turns, formulating sentences and questions and narrate solving problems.

This mom stated that there weren’t any people that came with the truck so they made their own. I looked over at the truck and there was a stick man drawn on a little piece of paper, sitting int he driver’s seat! If only toys manufacturers were so ardent about providing people for kids to play with.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Language, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Building Flexible Play with Children on the Autism Spectrum

One of the challenges of working with children on the autism spectrum is to model, encourage and teach flexible play. Children with ASD tend to get “stuck” on a topic, toy or animal so they want to continuously play with that object or play out the same scenario. Since I work with several preschool boys, I want to introduce topics that typically developing boys are interested in so my little clients can be appropriate play partners.

What boys aren’t fascinated with dinosaurs? One little boy I work with is very interested in marine animals, particularly sharks and seals. In order to move him to new topics, I started out playing with him on the playground as we acted out marine animals of his choosing. Then I told him we were going to be dinosaurs. I got out my little books that briefly described different dinosaurs and asked him to pick which one he wanted to be. Then I had him select one for me. WE read a few facts about each on so we could act out their life. I was to be the stegosaurus with the bony plates up my back and the spike on my tail. He was a T Rex, the large meat eater who I would have to watch my distance with since I was a plant eater. Our other play partner was a Triceratops with his “frill” which got caught on the beam above the slide when he was at the top, ready to come down. I was wielding my spiky tail if anyone came near me.

These little books offered just enough information to fill in our pretend play scenario and add some relevant information for this little boy to play with his peers. The next day we read about some other dinosaurs and added a new one to our group.

To round out the dinosaur theme, we read, I Wish I Had a Dinosaur by Anggabratra and When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Lise Broach.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Autism, Books, Language, play, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Kids’ Dollhouses From Homes to Treehouses

Kids’ dollhouses provide a wonderful backdrop for pretend play, as children re-enact their common experiences of eating, dressing, cleaning up, going out to play, taking naps and bathing. Dollhouses come in all sizes and levels of complexity. I have used Fisher Price’s “My First Dollhouse” with children as young as 2, moving up to “The Loving Family Dollhouse,” for realistic homes and figures to act out imaginative play.

Moving  from people to animals, Calico Critters just introduced its Country Treehouse for the characters’ indoor and outdoor play, building on a child’s interest in acting out scenes from their lives.

Gather your furry friends for an afternoon in the treehouse. Don’t worry, there is plenty of room for everyone, big and small. With multiple play vignettes–a deck, hot tub, lake, pagoda, water slide or rooms with a view–several kids can play at once. Hop aboard the canoe to cruise the lake, drop the trap door to slip down the slide, munch on a picnic under the pagoda, or relax in the hot tub.

Add your own critter sets and furniture suites to the two monkeys and boat provided with the treehouse. Plenty of stickers are included to personalize your new woodland home. Hang your pictures, stack your books, display your best dishes, and throw down the “Welcome” mat and it’s time to invite friends over for imaginary play. Once the props are assembled, kids just rotate around the circular, three dimensional play land, lost in their world of pretend.

Check out the newest family of Hedgehogs who look quite at home in the forest. Kids love their stand-out hairdos and combs to tame their locks.

Mothers told me that the treehouse is best played with on a short, small table so several kids can play alongside each other, absorbed in one of the mini-scenarios. One side lended itself to outdoor play with the water slide, lake and alfresco eating areas, while the other side brought little hands indoors as they arranged and re-arranged furniture and accessories in the rooms.

Parents should be the producers of play, setting out the critters and their props, letting their child direct the action at the treehouse.  Language and play skills are built and reinforced as kids are in charge of their play.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Calico Critters Country Treehouse” was provided for review by International Playthings.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Elementary School Age, Language, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 1 Comment

Meeting Little Friends at the Art Show in Westport

It is always fun to see children and families whom I have worked with in the past. Over the weekend, I went to the Art Studio’s annual spring show to see the work of Helen Werngren. Helen had contacted me when she was pregnant with her twins, to advise her on how to raise her children to be bilingual. It turned out to be a fun connection as I got to know the family, watch their kids grow physically and in their command of  two languages, English and Swedish. We were even the subject of an article on “The New Well Rounded Child,” in Westport Magazine in when the twins were about 2 years old.

Yesterday, I saw Helen and her husband Dave and their lovely family. They told me that the kids are so adept at speaking Swedish that when they visit Sweden, no one thinks they reside in the United States and the kids actually prefer to speak Swedish over English! I use this family to illustrate how wonderful it is to raise bilingual kids if you have the opportunity and the will to do it.

The backdrop of our visit was the beautiful studio that serves as creative space for 6 local artists–Birthe Ehrling Bennett, Nell Waters Bermegger, Angela DiNapoli, Katherine Evans, Veronica Hofstetter and Helen Werngren. They are all talented and work in different mediums but there is a connection with the fresh, and joyful use of color throughout the exhibit. I was excited to hear that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their art is being donated to MACH/Neighborhood Studios, a nonprofit school of the arts in Bridgeport, founded in 1977 to enhance the lives of children and adults, particularly students with special needs, the economically disadvantaged and those artistically gifted.

My readers know how much I love art and write about the connection between art and language. Just last week I blogged about enhancing the reading of a book by encouraging your child to illustrate the story after reading. I am glad that these gifted artists are contributing to the artistic education of those less fortunate.

If you missed the show, call 203-918-6800 for an appointment to get that special picture and meet the creative women behind the art.

The Art Studio, 170B Post Road East,
Westport, CT


Posted in Bilingual, Birth-3 year-olds | Leave a comment

Getting Your Child to Talk About School

Recently, Heidi Stevens  , the Features Editor at the Chicago Tribune contacted me because she liked my article on “Nine Tips to Get Your Child to Talk About Her School Day,” and wanted to interview me for an article she was writing on that topic.

Last week, her article, “Kids Won’t Talk About School? Experts Reveal How to Get Kids of All Ages to Talk To You About Their School Day,” ran in the Chicago Tribune and featured some of my suggestions as an expert.She mentioned my points that you should know your child’s friends, what they are doing in class (read up on the class Web site) so you can be an informed conversationalist about her day. Many kids say that recess is their favorite subject so be a student of recess. Know what games they play with the kick ball or what equipment is popular with your child. If snack is important to them, be able to talk snack.Avoid a lot of questions but start some open ended statements and pause for your child to fill in. One of the other experts quoted in the article, Jim Fay, of Love and Logic Institute, suggests a 30 mintue rule which I like. “Make your first half hour together question free.” Let your child relax, get a snack, unwind after his day. Then get the conversation going.

Respond to complaints by problem solving together and working through soluntions, giving your child the words to work through difficulties.  If your child says, “I hate math, I’m no good at it,” you might respond by saying, “I’m sorry. I can see you are frustrated. Show me your math book and let’s see what is hard.”

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

Calico Critters Country Tree House Invites Hours of Fun

Gather your furry friends for an afternoon in the tree house. Don’t worry, there is plenty of room for everyone, big and small. With multiple play vignettes–a deck, hot tub, lake, pagoda, water slide or rooms with a view–several kids can play at once. Hop aboard the canoe to cruise the lake, drop the trap door to slip down the slide, munch on a picnic under the pagoda, or relax in the hot tub.

Add your own critter sets and furniture suites to the two monkeys and boat provided with the tree house. Plenty of stickers are included to personalize your new woodland home. Hang your pictures, stack your books, display your best dishes, and throw down the “Welcome” mat and it’s time to invite friends over for imaginary play. Once the props are assembled, kids just rotate around the circular, three dimensional play land, lost in their world of pretend.

Check out the newest family of Hedgehogs who look quite at home in the forest. Kids love their stand-out hairdos and combs to tame their locks.

Mothers told me that the tree house is best played with on a short, small table so several kids can play alongside each other, absorbed in one of the mini-scenarios. One side lended itself to outdoor play with the water slide, lake and alfresco eating areas, while the other side brought little hands indoors as they arranged and re-arranged furniture and accessories in the rooms.

Parents should be the producers of play, setting out the critters and their props, letting their child direct the action at the tree house.  Language and play skills are built and reinforced as kids are in charge of their play.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Calico Critters Country Tree house” was provided for review by International Playthings.


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

Read a Book to A Child and Illustrate It

After reading a book to your child, extend the experience with an activity–talk about how the story relates to your life and your child’s experiences, act it out with props or draw a picture.

Recently I read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, using the cute plush pigeon who yells, “Let me Drive the Bus” when you squeeze him. Little Elle loves Mo Willems books and has used them to learn to read. She got so excited when I finished the book, that she got out her markers and drew this darling picture (minus the toes on one foot!) I can tell what details she took away from the story by her drawing.

Use your child’s illustration to launch a discussion and re-tell of the book. Talk about what happened at the beginning, middle and end. What changed? What was the problem and how was it solved?

As we encourage kids to think about a good story in a picture book, the sequence of events and how they relate to one another, we are helping kids to think like storytellers and writers.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Language, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment