Learning Language Lessons With “The Very Greedy Bee”

child drawing of a beeCertain books make it easier to teach language. Give me beautiful, clear illustrations, a simple but engaging story and I can use it to work on many different language goals.

The Very Greedy Bee by Steve Smallman is the story of a not so nice bee who spends his time “gobbling pollen and guzzling nectar!” Landing in a meadow of juicy flowers, he declares them his own, with no intention of sharing. As the day progresses he gets fatter and fatter and fatter until he falls fast asleep. Awakened in the dark, he found it impossible to fly home due his rotund tummy. Two friendly fireflies came to his rescue to lead him home, only to encounter another obstacle where the greedy bee had to rely on helpful friends. This turnaround story ends with a honey party and a not so greedy bee!

I used this story with kids on the autism spectrum as well as typical kids working on their articulation skills. The following language goals can be addressed:

  • answering wh-questions-How did the fireflies help with the leaf” “What did the ants do?”
  • completing statements– “The bee couldn’t fly because…
  • talking about emotions and descriptive adjectives: happy, sad, disappointed, greedy, helpful, sharing
  • prediction–“What do you think the lights are? A monster?”
  • descriptions–tell what you see happening on a page
  • beginning, middle and end–tell what changed as the story progressed
  • application–When are you greedy? When do you share? How does that make you feel?
  • preliteracy–point out the fun words in bold print that get kids laughing like “Slurp! Slurp! Burp!”
Reinforce the story with a picture. LIttle Duncan drew a wonderful greedy bee with 13 legs, two circular wings, two antenna (yes the ones on either side of the upper wing), a big smile and he insisted on making a beehive with honey.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “The Very Greedy Bee” was provided for review by Tiger Tales.

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

“Large Zoo by Playmobil 123”

The toddler-preschool set is delighted to be able to participate in pretend play with Playmobil, just like their big brothers and sisters. Thanks to playmobil 123, the little ones have their own vehicles, people and animals to ride, feed and visit. Take a trip to the large zoo with double fence enclosures to keep the zoo and farm animals contained. Designed for kids 1 1/2  and older, everything stands up and stays put–from fences to people–to eliminate little ones’ frustration and keep the story building. The zoo animals (zebra, giraffe, elephant and monkey) and farm friends (horse, sheep, donkey and bunny) have smooth chunky, realistic bodies for toddler hands to manipulate. Adding flexible items for storytelling like grass and flowers for feeding, drinking troughs, a tractor to pull a detachable wagon, a park bench for resting, trees for climbing and a tunnel to drive through or perch on top, this set has all the components for beginning imaginary play. Kids loved the tunnel, riding through it, and were able to easily manipulate the one-step figures who can stand or sit with one bend of their bodies. The zoo set sparked creative play that only a toddler could conjure up. Figures stood on the flat tree branches, rode in the wagon and slid down the sides of the tunnel. That’s the best endorsement for a toy–that kids invent and play differently with it each time!

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. “Playmobil Large Zoo” was provided for review by Playmobil.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | 1 Comment

Interactive Pop-Up Books to Build Language Lessons

This generation of children is used to accessing information through multi-sensory, fast-paced, ever changing digital media.  How does a simple book compete?

I’ve seen elementary aged boys leave their video games to explore 3-D Close Up Animal Camouflage and Animal Homes by Silver Dolphin. Moving from insect cities to water homes, nest builders and underground burrows, Animal Homes is half detailed illustrations and photographs and half supporting text to engage the visual and auditory learner. A pop-up beaver lodge reveals the main entrance tunnel and the emergency exit while illustrating the hollowed out lodge to protect from predators, while the meercat’s desert network of underground tunnels provides sleeping chambers and housing for companion animals.

Filled with language lessons, these books can be used to encourage children to explain “Why?” coherently putting their thoughts together to link cause and effect such as “Why does the meercat need long claws and muscular back legs?” “Why does he need protective covering on his eyes?” “Why is a beaver safe from a wolf in his lodge?” “How is the grey squirrel’s nest different from a baker bird’s? and Why?” Learning and talking about how animals plan, build and use their shelters starts a lively discussion in comparison, prediction, and cause-effect. These books can be used for writing first reports about an animal, gathering facts and supporting with detail. The short chunks of text make it easier for kids to get at the facts and develop a main idea.

Use animal habitats and disguises to develop language lessons for learning.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Animal Camouflage” and “Animal Homes” were provided for review by Silver Dolphin.

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Speech Therapy Games, “S’ Match” by Thinkfun

I use fun commercial games for speech therapy all the time. Some are valuable as a reinforcer after a turn of saying a sound, practicing a language structure or using appropriate social language. It is helpful if they are fast paced and turns are quick to keep the session going. But some games have a bit of language learning embedded in them too. I have blogged about Richard Scarry’s Busytown and Mystery Garden for learning association and categorization.

A new game that just came out, S’ Match, by Thinkfun, can be used as a reinforcer or to learn language categories. You have to know the story behind the invention of this game. When I was at the Toy Fair, I spoke with Thinkfun’s Education and Curriculum Specialist and she said the Staples Easy Button and a salad spinner inspired the pop up spinner kids love that turns the dial to point to one of three attributes: color, number or category. Players turn over two cards and try to match images according to the attributes, making this a more complex memory game.

I first used the game with a little girl working on her /s/ sound. Every time we got a match we said, “S’ Match!” and each time we spun the wheel we said, “Spin the s’match.” When it stopped, we said, “I spun color, or category.” Interestingly enough, when kids didn’t make a match according to the spinner, they still called out the kind of match they got. For instance, if they had to match by category but uncovered two orange cards, they would say, “Smatch for color,” making a verbal note of where to find that match should they need it in the future. To reinforce categories, we would say, “a s’match for vehicles,” naming the category. Each sturdy cardboard card has the image as well at the words to encourage literacy.

Don’t forget to always look for a little language in a game.

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. “S’Match” was provided for review by Thinkfun.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Games, Language, Preschool Class, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 6 Comments

“Baby Blessings,” By Michael Jordan’s Mom

I always look at the display of brand new books at our public library when I go. Today I was attracted to Baby Blessings, A Prayer for the Day You Were Born, by Deloris Jordan. It is a precious story of the blessing we receive in a newborn baby, with a parent’s desire praying that he will be kind, touch the world in a special way, believe in himself, look for the good and trust in God and his promises of blessings. I originally picked up the book because my friend had asked me to suggest some picture books that featured African American kids for her child to enjoy. Ever since I have been on the lookout for wonderful stories that picture kids of diversity.

Taken with the story, I was showing it to my husband when he asked who the author was. I opened the book jacket and realized that Deloris Jordan is the mother of Michael Jordan, an advocate for children and families, and author of several books. Illustrator James Ransome’s oil paintings depict a parents’ glow at each step of their child’s life–first smiles, learning to walk, riding a bike, discovering a book, gazing at the sky, being thankful, and venturing off to school. I am not always a fan of celebrity authors but this book is a gem. Take a look and be thankful for your blessings.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Toddler | 2 Comments

“Animal Den” Play Ball by HABA

Grab on to this ball of fun and discover the animals nestled in their dens. Each of the six animals–crinkle pig, squeaky chick or smiling lion–can be pulled out of hiding on their stretchy strings, only to snap back inside for a rest. Kids love to use this toy as a ball or lesson in discovery. Toddlers enjoy the element of surprise as a new friend peeks out of his crevice to be touched, adored or tasted. With younger babies, not yet adept at manipulating the animals, parents can take the opportunity to show and describe the “spotted pink pig with the fuzzy nose,” “the squeaky, red chick with the blue beak,” or “nibble on the soft green leaf,” to fill their child with enriching language linked to their experience. Later, your child will be the operator of the animal den, when her little hand can grab the animals and play peek-a-boo.

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. “Animal Den” was provided for review by HABA toys.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Hug-a-Puzzle” by Alex Jr. Toys

Alex toys is pretty new at baby toddler toys, introducing Alex Jr. in 2008, but they have positioned themselves as a leader in launching innovative infant toys, in a market that seems flooded with just one more stacking toy.

Hug-a-Puzzle” is just that–a soft puzzle in the form of a dog, kitty, bus or pig. The plush velour doggy is just firm and slim enough for a one-year-old’s hands to grab and give to someone or squeeze with a hug. Little ones were drawn to the simple face and pointed out the nose while younger kids enjoyed a munch on the ears and tail. Even I was amazed that a one-year-old could pull the pieces apart and then hand them back to me to start the game over again. “Hug-a-Puzzle” became a buddy and a game all in one.

Talk about body parts and point them out, describe the textures and colors, count the three puzzle pieces, as well as name opposites–off/on and in/out, as you use rich language to describe pulling, pushing and sliding. In talking about what your child is doing, you are teaching him language that prepares him to talk.

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. “Hug-a-Puzzle” was provided for review by Alex toys.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Bon Voyage” by Alex Jr. Toys

I never thought packing the car was particularly fun until I watched a one-year-old happily stuff the picnic basket, hat, ball, umbrella and suitcases into the trunk of this squishy, plump car. Eight soft, crinkly pictures to pack delighted toddlers as they smashed the items into the little hand-sized compartment in the back of the car, shut the door and secured the silver tab to keep their prized possessions safe. As only toddlers know, it is just as much fun to take everything out as it is to put it in. Take a peek at yourself in the back mirror, open the hatch and start all over. Easily grabbable, this cushy car feels like a pillow and gets used as a rattle too.

Language building begins as you follow your child’s lead as they hand you the items or start to load them in the car. Name them, talk about their shapes, colors and what we do with them–“The goggles, we need them to see underwater.” “The picnic basket, that’s where we load our food for lunch.” Use rich vocabulary to build your child’s word base and strengthen language skills. During the first year and a half is when parents can build their child’s receptive language (understanding) in preparation for their saying words and little sentences at two years of age.

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. “Bon Voyage” was provided for review by Alex toys.

Posted in Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Pixie Clutching Toy” by Haba

Babies loved this dynamic little toy on a ring, made with Haba’s signature bright colors and natural wood.  A six-month-old stared with fascination as he twisted the house, tree, mushroom and little person, as they bounced back into position. After exploring, a little tasting took place too with this teether. Shaking the ring to activate the rattle, a one-year-old turned it into a game to get a response from Mom. She explored the ring with her tiny fingers, and bent the objects to see the changing fronts and backs–pink doors become shiny circles and a smooth surface becomes a bumpy bell. Parents commented that this clutching toy was the perfect size, just light enough for kids to manipulate and learn from it. Small enough to pop in Mom’s pocket for outings, this toy is a great entertainer for babies and toddlers.

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. “Pixie Clutching Toy” was provided for review by HABA toys.

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

DIR, Floortime Seminar With Esther Hess, PhD

Since we speech pathologists are required to participate in 30 hours of continuing education every three years, I am always looking for excellent courses to attend. I have shared about Pam Marshalla’s seminar on Persistent Articulation Errors and I want to recommend a seminar I attended yesterday in Long Island, NY.

Summit Professional Education sponsored “DIR/Floortime, Developmental Relational Treatment of Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder,” presented by Esther B. Hess, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and Senior Clinician for Stanley Greenspan M.D. The course covered how to conduct a clinical assessment and move to a diagnosis, approaches to and principles of intervention, and intervention with severe disorders of relating, communicating and thinking.

As the founder and executive director of The Center for the Developing Mind in Los Angeles, Dr. Hess had a wealth of examples from her work at her clinic on how to work with different kids. She had an effective delivery as she opened with stimulating questions like, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of a diagnosis of autism?” As audience members participated, she asked what their professional affiliation was (OT, PT, SLP, special educators or parents) and then repeated their answer by saying, “Your OT colleague said…” thus  building collaboration among the varied professionals in the room.

Without giving you the content of her material, here are some take-aways I thought were important to share:

  • New studies on brain plasticity suggest that we are capable of generating new brain growth throughout our life. More than once, as we were watching a video tape of a successful session with a child, Dr. Hess said, we just generated new neurological growth. That’s an inspiration to us, therapists.
  • Dr. Hess offered great word pictures to illustrate her points. She talked about living in Southern California where the weather is great but earthquakes are a possibility. In the case of an earthquake, residents are instructed not to make local calls with their cell phones because the signal will be intermittent at best. Instead, have a mutually agreed upon contact across the country to call to say you are safe. She likened the intermittent signal to how kids on the autism spectrum receive information and how frightening that must feel. I have already used that illustration with a neighbor, trying to get her to understand a child in our neighborhood. She got it.
  • We must make great dates with the kids we work with. How much do we love a great date as adults? Great dates validate their experience, they are fun and meaningful.
  • Playdates with typical kids are essential. When typical kids are involved in learning with kids with autism, the typical kids’ emotional IQ goes up. That is certainly something to look forward to with the present generation that is being raised with children with special needs mainstreamed into their classes and activities.
  • Encourage parents to take time with their neuro-typical kids. Go on a great date alone.
  • Our job as therapists is to educate and inform parents, not make decisions for them.
  • Follow the lead of the child but don’t let the child escape from the interaction
I would highly recommend this seminar if you have one in your area. I actually drove two hours to hear this and it was well worth it.
Let me know of other Continuing Education Seminars that you have found to be great in the comments below.
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Autism, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment