Using Toys to Extend a Story Book

preschooler reading with stuffed toyCuddle up with a good picture book, add a plush character from the story and you have literacy plus play! I introduced Opal from Toot and Puddle: The One and Only, by Holly Hobbie to little Caroline. She immediately tucked sparkly Opal, in her double pleated voile tutu, under her arm in anticipation of the story.

Bubbles seems to think everything Opal does is peachy. Her admiration comes in the form of mimicry as she copies Opal’s every move. If imitation is the highest form of flattery then why protest, but Opal’s friend, Daphne can’t stand it! Finally there is something that Bubbles can’t copy–the dance steps for their “May Extravaganza.” Opal must save the day and teach Bubbles the steps. In the end, everyone knows that Opal is the only “one and only!”

Leading the reader through the holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s day, the author delights children with her drawings of piggies dressed up in costumes and Opal and Bubbles drawing a “Cupig” for Valentines Day. Two year-old Caroline loved the humor in a silly word that is close, but off target. But her favorite scene was where Opal taught Bubbles the dance steps to “Hop, step and kick.” chiming in with the dance directions, Caroline activated her Opal doll to the chant of, “Hop, step, kick!”

Kids love a stuffed toy and better yet when it is a character in the story who they can relate to. Children act out parts of the story with their figure and then extend the story by inviting their Opal to a tea party with other friends or taking a nap with favorite stuffed animals. Using the toy to carry on conversations builds language skills and encourages turn taking while talking. When Opal steps out of the book, she becomes real. Wouldn’t any little girl want her name embroidered in pink on her ballet tutu?

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “The One and Only” and Opal were provided for review by Yottoy.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Playmobil’s “Family Van and Boat With Trailer”

Summer vacation never looked so good. Load your family of four into their SUV, hook up the boat trailer, pack a picnic and grab the sand toys. This new Playmobil adventure sethighlights the company’s incredible engineering and attention to detail in their props for pretend play.

When you arrive at the beach, unwind the winch and watch the speed boat lowered off the trailer to launch into the water. Mindful of engaging accessories, the creators have provided life jackets, flip flops, hats and sunscreen for the kids, as well as a bucket, sand screener, pitcher, shovel, rake and sailboat for play. Mom and Dad have a roller suitcase to hold their belongings as well as a duffel bag. Cups and a picnic basket transport lunch on the boat. After a day on the water, just hook up the boat and watch it slide back onto the trailer.

The fun in the sun theme appeals to both girls and boys who played with this set. With each added accessory, a child’s pretend play was extended–a water bottle for a drink, a suitcase to plan packing for a trip, cups to create a meal, sand toys to cast in the beach, and a dog to add to the mix.  Kids invented rich stories with these props, and were mesmerized with each new action or participant.

We floated our boat in the water but my next move is to get the Playmobil motor to attach to the boat so we can take our story on the water.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Family Van with Boat and Trialer” was provided for review by Playmobil.

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Playmobil’s “Family Van With Boat And Trailer”

Summer vacation never looked so good. Load your family of four into their SUV, hook up the boat trailer, pack a picnic and grab the sand toys. This new Playmobil adventure set highlights the company’s incredible engineering and attention to detail in their props for pretend play.

When you arrive at the beach, unwind the winch and watch the speed boat lowered off the trailer to launch into the water. Mindful of engaging accessories, the creators have provided life jackets, flip flops, hats and sunscreen for the kids, as well as a bucket, sand screener, pitcher, shovel, rake and sailboat for play. Mom and Dad have a roller suitcase to hold their belongings as well as a duffel bag. Cups and a picnic basket transport lunch on the boat. After a day on the water, just hook up the boat and watch it slide back onto the trailer.

The fun in the sun theme appeals to both girls and boys who played with this set. With each added accessory, a child’s pretend play was extended–a water bottle for a drink, a suitcase to plan packing for a trip, cups to create a meal, sand toys to cast in the beach, and a dog to add to the mix.  Kids invented rich stories with these props, and were mesmerized with each new action or participant.

We floated our boat in the water but my next move is to get the Playmobil motor to attach to the boat so we can take our story on the water.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Family Van with Boat and Trialer” was provided for review by Playmobil.

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

Poetry Month, Kids Writing Cinquain Poems

Encouraging kids to write poetry is a language lesson in itself. They need to compact language, using only a few words to describe their subject, feelings or its impact. Brainstorming adjectives and verbs that describe your subject can expand a child’s vocabulary.

Since it is Poetry Month, one of my students was asked to write Cinquain poems. A Cinquain poem (pronounced sing-cane) is a poem of few words that describes a noun. The order of lines is as follows:

Line 1: a one word title that is a noun

LIne 2: two words that describe the topic (adjectives)

Line 3: three action words related to the topic ending in -ing. (participles)

Line 4: four to five words expressing your feeling about the topic

Line 5: the same word as line 1 or a synonym

In introducing this new form of poems, it might be helpful to show kids the website, Kennth’s Cinquain Poems, where second grader Kenneth shares his poems complete with illustraions.

My student chose to write a poem about worms:

Worm

slimy, muddy

wiggling, eating, crawling

too wet for me

Worm

It is actually fun to be selective about words.


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

Taking Spring Speech Therapy Outside

Now that temperatures in the northeast have gone from the 50’s to the 70’s in one week, it is time to take speech therapy outside–spring is here!

This week I commented to a mom that it was so sunny on her front steps. She asked if I would like to work with James outside. Sure. We read our books, played with our props and then he took off playing hide and seek with his crocodile, asking me to count with my turtle. (We are working on pragmatic language skills through play). After hide and seek, I suggested we take our animals on a trip. We looked for a fitting airplane among the sticks and yard debris and came up with a hollowed out branch. I couldn’t have done better at the toy store. I asked him where he was going and he replied that he was going south. We chose Florida. We flew into the back yard, planning our trip as we approached his swing set. A bit ditracted, he set down “the plane” and started to swing. I said, “Wait a minute, what about the animals?” He cleverly referred to where he had ditched the animals and replied, “That’s their swinging place!”

The outdoors is a great backdrop for pretend play. Leaves can become boats, sticks can become airplanes and grass can be seaweed if you are in the ocean. Take advantage of props from outside and bring them into the therapy room if you can’t take your students outside. Fortunately, I deliver services at the child’s home, so I can utilize the great outdoors.

How do you use the outside as a backdrop for therapy? Let me know through the comments below.

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

“Truth Be Told” Game Teaches Social Language

Truth be told,  there is only one honest player at a time in this zany game of pretend to know your friends. Designed for kids to adults, beginning at age 12, “Truth Be Told,”  is fun and insightful as players try to bluff their counterparts in answering questions.

Walking by Buffalo Games at the International Toy Fair, I was recruited to join a game of “Truth Be Told.” I was easily convinced since I am a fan of Buffalo Games, having used “The Last Word” with lots of children to build their vocabulary and categorization skills. Back home, I brought it out for some adult fun, gathering family who thought they knew each other. The appointed Host for the round chose a card and read the phrase to be completed such as “I procrastinate when it comes to_______.” The Host secretly wrote the true answer on her card, while other players wrote their bluffs and passed the cards in to be read by the Host. Some of our entries were, “everything”, “homework” and “vacuuming.” The giggles began as players enjoyed their entries, some with a shred of truth and some completely silly. After the Host read the answers, players voted for the true answer on their paddles. Flipping their paddles over, everyone revealed their guess. The Host read the truth and players received points for guessing the truth or fluffing their friends. Our rounds were the funniest when the question closely matched the Host, such as Lauren, a saver,  getting “I own five of______” as we’ve all participated in trying to get her to throw anything away.

We  agreed that writing on erasable paddles and cards made us feel like we were game show contestants! The best  endorsement is that when we finally had a winner with 15 points, another player said, “Are we done? I’m not done. I wanna play more.”

Lots of language is embedded in this game of bluff. Using the game with older children, they have to complete a sentence and give an answer that is credible and related to the player. When playing with children who are building their social language skills, you might read the question and then discuss the Host and their likes and dislikes so the other players can more easily come up with an answer. Or, relate the question to themselves such as “I think I would get the award for “The World’s Best________.” Using the cards informally and modifying the game can be helpful to kids who need more help brainstorming answers to these kinds of questions.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Truth Be Told” was provided for review by Buffalo Games.


Posted in 12 years and up, Elementary School Age, Games, Language, play, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 2 Comments

Haiku About Nature by Kids

Many classes study poetry in the spring. Maybe because poetry calls on our creative side and spring reminds us of new life.

Kid's haikuI was working with a third grader on writing a haiku poem about nature. We started with reading several offerings on chipmunks, the beach, squirrels and daffodils. We counted out the syllables to get the 5-7-5 pattern of beats per line and then brainstormed on what topic she wanted to write her poem about.

Concepts that a child needs to understand to build her poem:

  • matching her phrase to the number of syllables required per line
  • lines don’t need to be complete sentences but can be a thought, description or feeling
  • the poem needs to hang together in thought through the three lines
  • eliminate unnecessary words to keep the writing compact
We talked about how to add word or syllables if we didn’t have enough for the particular line. In her Frog poem, she added “clear” to “the cold, clear pond,” when she was one beat short. Maybe more difficult is to eliminate words when your line is too long.
Before writing, practice saying lines about a topic and get a feel for the length. Add or subtract words to get the lines 5 or 7 syllables long. Brainstorm phrases that describe your topic like, “The damp, dreary rain is grey,” Little drops tickle my hands,” or “Storms let raindrops go.” This is a fun group project for a  class in preparation for writing your own haiku poems.
Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Elementary School Age, Language | Leave a comment

Kids’ Creative Play Starts With The Right Toys

A good language enhancing toy will spark a child’s imaginative play.  It is a delight to watch them build on their story as they take a prop and change the action, surroundings and storyline.

Yesterday, I made a “Silly Roller” critter with my little four year-old friend, Duncan. Choosing from the three roller options–a pineapple, ladybug or elephant, Duncan chose the pineapple car to make, complete with a banana for headlights, grapes for the exhaust, a pear man to drive and a blueberry girl as passenger. The double-sided cardboard shape, made by Alex Toys,  came with lots of stickers and punch-outs to assemble the car, as well as a set of wheels to pop on the completed vehicle. Assembling the car was just the beginning of the language fun. Talking about where the pieces go, what their function was and asking for the next piece spurred on conversation. When Duncan’s pineapple car was complete, I sat back and watched him enter a land of imagination for an hour.

He stepped outside and sat down with his car. He rolled it across the patio, through puddles to make tracks, down steps to the grass, over sticks, down the slide and past a rock. Grabbing a piece of blue chalk, he started drawing a line on the big rock, declaring it a road for the pineapple car which then navigated the craggy rock. Back down the rock, the pineapple car rolled across the lawn to more puddles.

When it was time for me to leave, Duncan was asking for the glue so he could add some small sticks to decorate his pineapple car. More ideas–more action to come.

Mix a little art and creativity and you’ve got a great language learning and play day.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Silly Rollers” were provided for review by Alex Toys.

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

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

I wish you all a wonderful holiday. I love how my neighbors include each other in the passover celebrations and Easter egg hunts. We all learn so much from each other.

I thought I was so clever filling my plastic eggs with cheese and graham cracker fish as well as jelly beans. Silly me–the dog ate the real hard boiled eggs and the kids only wanted the jelly beans. I’ll have to remember for next year.

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Tomorrow is World Autism Awareness Day

Tomorrow, April 2, is World Autism Awarenness Day! Autism affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. Celebrate the day by learning more about autism and its signs on Autism Speaks, or contribute to current research funds by participating in the many community activities to raise awareness.

If you are out tonight and notice your city lit up blue, that is part of the Autism Speaks’ “Light it Up Blue” campaign on the eve of World Autism Awareness Day. According to their website, “participating buildings include: The Empire State Building, the New York Stock Exchange and Radio City Music Hall in New York,; the new Meadowlands football stadium in New Jersey; Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) in Chicago; the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia; Toronto’s iconic CN tower; Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and the Bell Tower in Perth, Australia.” That is pretty impressive!

Posted in Autism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment