“Go! Go! Sports Girls” Dolls by Dream Big

When visiting the International Toy Fair, I was attracted to simple but effective dolls for promoting healthy pretend play. I saw my share of dolls who cry, whine, eat, and make a variety of noises, but my favorites left the fun up to their little owner.

The story behind a great toy is what often fascinates me. Go! Go! Sports Girls dolls was launched when founder and mom, Jodi Norgaard realized she couldn’t find an age-appropriate doll for her 10-year-old daughter that reflected a positive image for young girls, was proportioned properly and sent a message about a healthy lifestyle and giving back to others. So Go! Go! Sports Girls was begun.

Designed to encourage girls to be all they can be–physically, mentally and emotionally–through sports, each doll has “Dream Big” embroidered on her tummy to remind girls to set goals and strive to attain them. An added secret message corresponds to each girl’s sport, as Cassie, the speedy soccer player, has “Score Goals” as her big dream. Her backpack strapped on her back contains a little soccer ball and exercise towel to achieve it.

This multi-cultural gang of healthy girls includes participants in golf, soccer, running, tennis, gymnastics, dance, softball, swimming and basketball. Girls love the zany hair, soft grabbable take along body, huggable friend and backpack of fun. The Go! Go! Girls’ message prompted a discussion with some little girl friends, aged 7-11. What does it mean to dream big? What are your dreams? How are you going to attain them? Little Brooke said, “To make a big goal, like if you shoot a goal with five seconds left and you make it!” “I want to be the best defender.” After reading Cassie’s bio she said, “Speedy, just like me!”

Go! Go! Sports Girls Dolls donates a portion of its profits to Girls, Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to “inspiring all girls to be smart, strong and bold,” teaching our young girls the added message of giving to others to strengthen young women.

What a wonderful companion to a little girl, growing up learning the merit of exercise, generosity and healthy eating and living.

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. Go! Go! Sports Girls doll” was provided for review by Dream Big Toy Company. 11-year-old Brooke McKenna, star forward on the Fairfield Black Diamonds, contributed to this review.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Great Dolls for Pretend Play, Less is More

When visiting the International Toy Fair, I was attracted to simple but effective dolls for promoting healthy pretend play. I saw my share of dolls who cry, whine, eat, and make a variety of noises, but my favorites left the fun up to their little owner.

The story behind a great toy is what often fascinates me. Go! Go! Sports Girls dolls was launched when founder and mom, Jodi Norgaard realized she couldn’t find an age-appropriate doll for her 10-year-old daughter that reflected a positive image for young girls, was proportioned properly and sent a message about a healthy lifestyle and giving back to others. So Go! Go! Sports Girls was begun.

Designed to encourage girls to be all they can be–physically, mentally and emotionally–through sports, each doll has “Dream Big” embroidered on her tummy to remind girls to set goals and strive to attain them. An added secret message corresponds to each girl’s sport, as Cassie, the speedy soccer player, has “Score Goals” as her big dream. Her backpack strapped on her back contains a little soccer ball and exercise towel to achieve it.

This multi-cultural gang of healthy girls includes participants in golf, soccer, running, tennis, gymnastics, dance, softball, swimming and basketball. Girls love the zany hair, soft grabbable take along body, huggable friend and backpack of fun. The Go! Go! Girls’ message prompted a discussion with some little girl friends, aged 7-11. What does it mean to dream big? What are your dreams? How are you going to attain them? Little Brooke said, “To make a big goal, like if you shoot a goal with five seconds left and you make it!” “I want to be the best defender.” After reading Cassie’s bio she said, “Speedy, just like me!”

Go! Go! Sports Girls Dolls donates a portion of its profits to Girls, Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to “inspiring all girls to be smart, strong and bold,” teaching our young girls the added message of giving to others to strengthen young women.

What a wonderful companion to a little girl, growing up learning the merit of exercise, generosity and healthy eating and living.

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. Go! Go! Sports Girls doll” was provided for review by Dream Big Toy Company. 11-year-old Brooke McKenna, star forward on the Fairfield Black Diamonds, contributed to this review.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, play, Toys | Leave a comment

“The Field Guide to Insects” by Silver Dolphin

Get ready for an expedition through the cloud forests of Central America, discovering thriving insects from eight inch butterflies, battling beetles, munching praying mantids  or jewel scarabs, the gems of the cloud forest. Written in the form of a journal, Randal Barnes’ recorded observations teach about eight exotic insects, and offer cardboard models to assemble from 58 pieces. Open the book to the pages about an insect and you are greeted with a visual feast of maps where the insects are found, beautiful color illustrations, diagrams for model assembly, and closeups of wing scales, camoflage, or eggs cases. Delivered with small bits of content reinforced by visual pieces, this guide works well with children who have a shorted attention span, are visual learners, or need text broken up into smaller chunks to keep them motivated to read and learn. An “active” book,  The Field Guide to Insects,  keeps kids engaged and teaches at the same time.

Kids love the models which might require some parent involvement, depending on the age of the child. After a little boy finished his model he ran to tell his mom, “You won’t believe all these pieces in one small book!” Then he asked me if he could take his model to school tomorrow.” That’s quite an endorsement.

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. “The Field Guide to Insects” was provided for review by Silver Dolphin.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Elementary School Age, Reading, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

Lessons Through Making Dinosaurs

I have several early elementary aged boys on my caseload and am always looking for interesting materials to keep them actively involved in the therapy session. Silver Dolphin’s The Field Guide to Dinosaurs fascinated them! One little boy left the room and yelled to his mother, “Mom, you can’t believe how many pieces are in one small book!” He was referring to the 8 dinosaur models made up of 70 pieces that slide together with A-B-C instructions, just waiting to be assembled by kids. Then he looked at me and said, “I can’t wait to show this to my dad.”

Known for their “active” books, the publisher designs books with smaller bits of information and some hands on activity to keep children engaged who might be less inclined to attend to a book. They lend themselves to reinforcing acitivities during a speech therapy session. If a child is practiciing an /r/ sound, read the information about the dinosaur and practice his words while putting together a model. If he is working on languge goals, summarize, predict, write a story about finding the fossils, or develop a paragraph with three supporting details. There are lots of visuals to reinforce learning and get the discussion going.

Written in the form of a journal, as paleontologist Jackson Foster searches from Arizona to Alberta, Canada to uncover fossils from little known dinosaurs, this guide could also serve as inspiration for students who journal their real-life experiences or take on a character and develop events to complete a make believe story.

An added treat is the diorama located at the back of the book which pops out easily to make a backdrop for the dinosaur models.

“The Field Guide to Dinosaurs”  was provided by Silver Dolphin. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author.

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

Reading to Children on the Autism Spectrum

Yesterday, I met a mom and a little boy whom I will be working with. He is relatively newly diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Mom had a lot of questions. We started talking about reading and she said he loved books but wanted the same one read to him each night. It happened to be a rhyming, repetetive book.

One of the advantages of being a speech therapist in private practice is that I meet with children in their homes so I get to know the family and can “teach” the parents too. I look forward to helping this mom learn what books are beneficial in building her child’s language and “how” to read to him to the best advantage.

First of all, choose books that have a simple story that your child can relate to within his experience (going sledding in the first snowfall, having a Halloween party and making popcorn, going camping, eating, sleeping, playing etc.). Make sure the drawings are simple enough not to distract from the story. I have provided a list of good books I have used here. Set aside some of the fun and wacky Dr. Seuss type of books where kids tend to memorize them and repeat phrases from the book. Instead, offer some books with interesting stories, something to laugh at and keep their interest. Try using dialogic reading which is talking ABOUT the page’s illustrations, not reading the text exactly each time. Since the goal for many kids on the autism spectrum is to generate flexible language, we want to model that for them. Tell the story in a little different way each time, using various describing words and finding a new detail to talk about.

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

Bible Lesson, Five Loaves and Two Fish

Five loaves and two fish craftI was volunteering in a children’s Bible class this week and loved sitting back watching someone else manage the lesson. I was assigned to help in a 4 year-old class whose lesson was the story of Jesus’s miracle of feeding the five thousand. The kids gathered around a table and started to make their own picnic basket like the little boy who offered his lunch. They were given five cut outs of loaves of bread, two fish and a red checked table cloth, as the teachers told the kids that in Bible times they didn’t have a zip lock bag so they wrapped their food up in the cloth.

It was fun to see how each child had such an individual approach to the craft. They were given a cut off brown paper bag with a pipe cleaner for the handle, lots of glittery fish stickers for decoration, a heart with their verse on it, and the food contents. As they progressed, some completely covered the bag with stickers, others just along the edge, and some started to plan their picnic, One little boy started gluing all his food onto the tablecloth and then added lots of glittery fish stickers. After completing his basket, he got up from the table and announced “I’m going on a picnic!”

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

Teaching Parents to Play With Their Kids

I love to see parents evolve into great play partners for their children. Part of the therapy I do with kids is to educate their parents on how to be involved in building their child’s language.

Today I was working with a 2 1/2 year-old who is working on expanding his language and pretend play skills. He really enjoys the Fisher Price Sarah Lynn Camping Adventure–as do most kids so his mom was looking into ordering it. She ran across my review that I had posted on Amazon and was commenting on how helpful it was. I discussed the importance of letting your child be the director of play, while you are the producer. As the parent, you set out inviting toys and props to get your child’s imagination going and prompt a story. This mom said it changed how she played with her child all weekend. She would ask her child, “Where are they going?” or “What should they do now?” as he was moving his little people and vehicles around. When there was a lull in the action, she might give a suggestion, but then hung back again and followed his lead.

Actually it is a lot more fun to sit back and watch your child’s imagination take over. Kids think of things that we don’t. I was just playing with a two year-old with a companion Fisher Price set called the “Fairy Treehouse.” This little girl decided that the fairy should sleep in the barn with the unicorn and share his apples. Then her fairy stood in the trees, supervising the unicorn as he went for a swing. Let your child do the work because that is how she learns.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | 2 Comments

“Feed the Kitty” by Gamewright

This “delicious game of mice and dice” keeps kids on their toes as they try to hang on to their mice–as they move from person to person or even into the cat’s bowl. With clear picture directions on the dice, a preschooler learns to pass to the left, take advantage of a snoozing cat and keep her mouse, feed the kitty or steal a mouse from the cat’s bowl. If you’re the last one to be holding on to your mice at the end of the game, you win! A great starter game to teach kids to take turns and follow directions, “Feed the Kitty” makes holding mice fun. Besides, somehow the cat and mouse competition tends to take the pressure off of who wins.

Simple enough for preschoolers to play, a speech therapist can use this game to reinforce goals a child is working on. Say a few sounds, or repeat a few sentences and take a turn to keep up interest and advance language.

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. “Feed the Kitty” was provided for review by Gamewright.


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

“Squeaky Legs Dolly” by Earlyears

A perfect first friend, Dolly features wild, stringy, soft pigtails, long fuzzy legs with pink, shiny satin shoes, and a cheerful face for baby to explore.  Her hair, hands and legs are easy to grasp for little ones looking to teethe on something or just hold and shake. Rattle her body or squeeze Dolly’s legs to get a squeak–giving multiple sensory experiences. Pop her heart out of the pocket or hide it for a peek-a-boo game. The little ring on her back insure an easy clip on ride in the stroller or car seat. Be sure to talk to Dolly or describe her features to build your baby’s language skills.

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. “Squeaky Legs Dolly” was provided for review by International Playthings.

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

“Mix ‘n’ Fix Mike” Cement Truck by WOW

Let’s face it. Kids love construction trucks–they’re attracted to dirt and earth moving vehicles of all sizes. I wanted to share some of my favorite construction toys with you if you are looking for good, flexible, fun toys to set up a scenario to encourage language development. Therapists can use these toys to build language lessons as children are interested in this theme.

I recently discovered “WOW” toys and their set of construction vehicles. Durable for hard kids’ play, and running on kid power–no batteries– these vehicles have people to get the action going. Designed for the toddler set and up, little ones just push to get these trucks going. The newest addition to their fleet, “Mix ‘n’ Fix Mike,” is the cement truck whose friction motor rotates the cement drum, complete with swirly cement design and added realistic sounds. A detachable barrier can keep the construction spot safe or be stored on the back of the truck. “Dexter the Digger” and “Dudley Dump Truck” add to the building adventure with digging and dumping action.

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. “Mix ‘n’ Mike” was provided for review by Ravensberger toys.

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