Cat in the Hat-I Can Do That! Game

Who let the Cat in the Hat back in the house? This sojourner of silliness has arrived to play a game guaranteed for fun and learning. Flip over a red, blue and yellow card to get your instructions for wacky maneuvers like, “Slide under the Trick-a-ma-stick with a fish under your chin!” Or, “Take four giant steps with the cake between your elbows!” Learn colors, numbers, prepositions, counting in order, problem-solving and following directions to complete your challenge. Announce if you think, “I can do that,” or toss back your cards and get an activity you feel confident to complete. Step, spin, crawl, walk, or tip-toe to success.

Inspired by the book and using game pieces from the story, “The Cat in the Hat-I Can Do That!” challenges kids while getting them moving, laughing at themselves, encouraging others to succeed, and playing independently. Every funny step involves learning–even putting the three instruction cards together is a mini-puzzle that has to be right for the directions to make sense.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-languge pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “The Cat In the Hat, I Can Do That” was provided for review by I Can Do That Games.  For more information about this product, please visit www.icangothatgames.com.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Games to Reinforce Speech Therapy, Horton Hears a Who!

play Horton Hears a WhoWhen you keep kids engaged and entertained, they don’t even know that they are practicing their speech! I had two new kids this week who were playing a game with me and after about 30 minutes they looked up and said, “Let’s do it without the words.” (Meaning, let’s just play and not practice words!!) Of course there has to be a little work in a session but if done right, kids aren’t very aware of it.

Last week I took the game, Horton Hears a Who! by I Can Do That Games. It was a real hoot. I played it with from one to three kids from age 3-7. They loved it. The best part is hiding the clovers around the room and when you land on a clover piece on the game board, you put on the elephant face and have to pick up a velcroed clover with the tip of your trunk! Kids quickly catch on and want to get a chance to be Horton. It’s a great reinforcing game after several practice turns for articulation or language goals. Or, use it for carryover and get the whole family to join in if you deliver your services in the home.

“Horton Hears a Who” was provided by I Can Do That Games.The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Articulation, Games, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Easy Cut-Up Cakes for Kids

Nemo cakeLet the party begin! Oh, but what about the cake? If you need some inspiration, pick up a copy of Melissa Barlow’s Easy Cut-Up Cakes for Kids.

Even if you feel a bit artistically challenged, you can create cute, simple, cakes to delight your child. Made from cake mixes, using just a few standard baking pans, these creations can vary from a pirate ship to a clown fish, or football. Simple patterns and instructions guide you through cutting and assembling your masterpiece to present at the party.

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Baby Einstein Videos Co-Founder Challenges Research

This past week, the The New York Times reported that William Clark, co-founder of the company that produced “Baby Einstein” videos, has asked a judge to  release information from the University of Washington studies that showed the negative influence of TV viewing on young children. Clark is asking for the raw data and analytical methods used in the studies since “other research studies have not shown the same outcomes.

Clark and his wife started the company the produced the Baby Einstein videos but no longer have a financial stake in the company, after selling it to Disney in 2001. Last October, Disney offered refunds for those who bought the DVD’s, due to the “threat of a class-action lawsuit due to unfair and deceptive marketing suggesting that the videos boosted baby brain power.

According to the article, “the Clarks said they went to court to protect their legacy.”

What are your thoughts on the Baby Einstein videos? Did you see learning occur with your child? Did you even show them to your baby? I know what the research says but I also know what some parents have told me. This is a hot topic. One of the top viewed blogs of last year concerned the topic of Baby Einstein videos on the Wall Street Journal’s blog, Juggle.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Toddler, TV | Leave a comment

The Importance of Child Language

I was talking to a mom the other day who has a child with a language disorder. She described a breatkthrough with her child that illustrates the importance of language and communication for a child.

This is a soft-spoken, loving mom who saw that her child was getting up from the dinner table before he even started. She asked him to return, he got upset, she asked him more firmly and he returned, crying. Finally he said, “Can you wipe off my meatball?” Wow, she realized that he didn’t like the sauce but couldn’t initially communicate that.

She reinforced his communication by saying, “Thanks for telling me what you needed, so I can help you.” Saying a simple phrase like that not only reinforces his using his words, but also tells why it is important, the cause-effect of the situation. “When you tell what is wrong, then I can help you.” Obviously this mom had no idea what was troubling her son when he didn’t want to sit at the dinner table. Sometimes we can infer what the problem is and model the words for our child to repeat and praise them, “I don’t want to eat the peas.”

It feels so good to communicate!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Autism, Birth-3 year-olds, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 2 Comments

Parents Observing Speech Therapy

preschool pretend playIt has always been my objective to have parents involved in their child’s therapy process. Sometimes I feel like I get almost twice the progress when parents watch, learn and implement my strategies for their child’s speech and language goals. It is important to work with the child and explain to the parents as you go along, what words, pauses, and methods you are using to encourage their child’s language. Explain how you are getting their child to practice certain sounds or language concepts.

At times, I pull back and have the parent work with the child in the same manner that I have modeled so when I am gone and they are playing, the parent is confident in the methods to elicit speech and language.

Occasionally, it doesn’t work to have a parent sit in on the sessions. For whatever reason, the child is less cooperative, wants to sit in mommy’s lap instead of play with me or is distracted. In that case, I ask the parent to leave the room (usually they sit around the corner so they can hear what we are doing) and they see the benefit as their child is settling in and responding. I use the last few minutes of the session to invite the parent back and show what we were doing.

I know including parents is difficult in a school setting with groups of children when you have to be concerned about confidentiality.

Let me know how you therapists deal with that in a school setting. Leave a comment below.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Articulation, Birth-3 year-olds, Language, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Organize the Playroom for Pretend Play

kid's toy binOne of the things that I consult with parents about is organizing their playroom. Often I see multiple deep baskets or bins that the toys are scooped up into at the end of the day.

Today I was at a house where things are getting organized for play. I commented on this great see through, three-sectioned toy bin and Mom went over to her 3 year-old and asked him what went in each section. He said, “Cars, animals and instruments.” I love how you can see into the bins so you know what options there are for play. When toys are organized by category, kids can more easily select objects for play and it helps them build these language categories.

If play is a child’s job, aren’t we all better at our job when we are organized?

Mom got this bin at Target.

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

Books to Use with Children With Autism

I am always looking for good stories that have a simple, fun story and clear illustrations to begin working on describing pictures, re-telling a story and answering questions about the content.

Some professionals who work with children with ASD asked me for book ideas so they can fill out their library of books to use with kids. I will be continuing to add to this list but here are some I have used recently (since September)  that fit my critieria:

Popcorn by Asch

Queen of Halloween by Engelbreit

Autumn Leaf by Emerson

Halloween Mice by Roberts

Aaaarrgghh Spider by Monks

Red, Red, Red by Gorbachev

Knuffle Bunny by  Mo Willems

Bobo and the New Neighbor by Page

Max Cleans Up by Rosemary Wells

Timothy Goes to School by Wells

Lucille Camps In by Dathryn Lasky

First Snow by Emily ARnold McCully

Snip, Snip…Snow by Nancy Poydar

Mrs. Armitage on Wheels by Quentin Blake

Bright Stanley by Matt Buckingham

Before I can ask a child who is language delayed to do a picture walk, I introduce stories, modelling telling the story in different ways each time, so I am not encouraging repetitive language. After several readings and talking about the story, then I ask the child to “read” the story to me. I find that kids enjoy bringing a book to “read” to me and enjoy describing the pictures. When their language is limited I simply add on a word like “so” or “and” or “then” to prompt them to continue the sentence. I also use a gesture with my hand which is like the sign language for “want” meaning, give me more language. They learn that I love more language!

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

Choosing Toys to Encourage Language Development, What Not to Buy

When I work with parents of children with language delay, I advise them on what toys are helpful to encourage language development. It is fun to watch as they start to understand the characteristics of good language toys and are more discerning about what they buy for their child.

I had advised one mom of a 2 year-old to get some play sets with people that are around a theme that is within the experience of her child–a farm, a playground, a car wash or gas station. She understood but apparently the grandparents didn’t!

After a visit there following Christmas, I found out that both sets of grandparents gave their grandson the Leapfrog Tag Junior Book Pal. I tried it out. You place the book pal on a picture or text and it reads the words, asks questions, says a rhyme, or talks about the picture. According to the product features on Amazon.com, “The Tag Junior book pal encourages toddlers to explore while helping build confidence with books.” I just don’t get it. I think toddlers love to explore a well-written, beautifully illustrated book for what it is–especially if an adult reads it or narrates the pictures. I found as I followed the pictures on the page with the “pal” it was almost disjointed, with an animal sound followed by a rhyme or text. The flow of the book was lost.

Let me know what you think of products like these and if they have been beneficial to your kids. I am open to changing my mind!

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler, Toys | Leave a comment

Choosing Educational Toys for Speech Development


preschool pretend playToys do make a difference in stimulating a child’s speech development. I am constantly reminded of this as I work in homes and see what toy selections some kids have. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on toys, but carefully select toys that will encourage talking and creative play.

Recently I was in the home of a 16 month-old who was not talking. She responded beautifully to our first few sessions, using jargon to ask for me to repeat actions like starting a car, blowing bubbles or playing music. When I asked mom to bring out her favorite toys so I could show her how to use them to encourage talking she said her daughter really likes her laptop.

Mom brought out Thomas the Train Learn and Explore Laptop by VTech. This mini-laptop with over 30 games to teach numbers and letters, and a little screen, is designed for children 3-6. No doubt it is fun for that age range, but a 16 month-old simply enjoys pushing the buttons and watching the screen being constantly bombarded with repeated phrases of good job and bye bye. The little girl who had been so vocal was preschool pretend playsuddently mesmorized by a toy beyond her age and was silent, unless I tried to get her attention away from it. I suggested that mom put the toy away until she is older and look for toys that are more exciting for stimulting language.

Here is what to look for:

  • Toys where you can hold back an action or music until the child verbalizes or attempts a word. (Fisher Price Piggy Bank, where you can hold back the coins and give them as the child makes a sound or word, you can wait to open or close the tummy on command too.)
  • Toys that are inherently reinforcing. (such as bubbles where you can model “open top” or “off” to open the bubbles and then say, “blow” or “ready, set..go” to start blowing bubbles, and “pop” as you pop them. Kids love bubbles and try hard to ask for more
  • Toys where you can repeat simple actions using the same core vocabulary such as pounding blocks through shape sorters so repeat, “block” “bang” “drop” and “clunk.”
  • Toys with flexible parts that you need to manipulate to continue play. (such as the Fisher Price Garage with the gate to open and close to let a car run down the ramp)
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Language, play, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler, Toys | 1 Comment