Educational Toys–The Best of New York Toy Fair, 2009

Step2 play picnic tableI wanted to share some observations I made as I viewed my favorite booths, specializing in educational toys, books and games for the birth-8 year old set.

  1. In keeping with the economy, I saw some “downsized” versions of old favorites that are just as much fun but more affordable. Playmobil is introducing a pirate ship about 2/3 the size of the large version as a good price. 
  2. To add value to the toy, I saw companies advertising 2-steps to infant toys, Continue reading
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Games, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | 2 Comments

New Educational Toys, Books and Games at the Toy Fair

New York Toy Fair 2009, Blue Orange ToysWow! Talk about a kid in a candy store–try spending the day at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City, being captivated by all the new toys created for this year’s International Toy Fair. I am going to write a series of blogs on my impressions, new great finds in books, toys and games and some fun stories about the inventors and creators of the toys and games.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be photographed with my friend, Pengoloo as well as Blue Orange president, Julien Mayot. As you know, I love games from Blue Orange, a toy company who values creative play as well as the environment, donating two trees for every one that is cut down to make their innovative, charming wooden characters and toy pieces.

This year’s newcomers for the younger set are “Chickyboom” and “Gobblet Continue reading

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

New Award Winning Books from ALSC


Mo Willems, Are You Ready to Play Outside? children's readerThe Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) presents several awards to new books, including the Newbery Medal that honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children and the Caldecott Metal which honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. Many other medals are awarded including The Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal that “honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.” This year’s winner was Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems.

The ALSC recently announced its newest award winners and they are listed on their website.

I am in the classroom a lot since I service some of my kids within the class. I see that teachers are using wonderful childrens’ literature to teach writing skills, critical thinking, vocabulary and themes. This month is Black History Month, so teachers are searching for great read-alouds to teach about individuals, their culture and experiences. If you are a parent of educator–teacher or therapist–use this list as another resource for good books to read to your children.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age | Leave a comment

Free Kids’ Valentines–For Home or Therapy

I will admit that Valentines Day was not my favorite holiday when my three boys were growing up. Guys just didn’t look forward to “”making” valentines and it was like pulling teeth to get them to print the names of their classmates on all the envelopes. I hear that now the teachers have gotten wise and told kids not to put names on the outside so it’s simpler to put them in random bags for the students in the class. 

Anyways, as I have worked with preschool and elementary aged children this week, particularly the girls have loved my bag of art supplies–red glitter blue, foam hearts, stickers and valentine pictures. Here are some free downloadable valentines that were a big hit. If you don’t have a color printer, there is a black Continue reading

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, play, Preschool, Speech and Language Delay | 1 Comment

How To Motivate Your Preschooler to Practice Speech

First of all your preschooler should not be told he has to practice speech or any other direct way of implying that there is something wrong with him that he needs to change. I figure I am doing things right when I hear a squeal of delight when I ring the doorbell, or my little client thinks I am his playmate, bringing exciting toys, games and books each time. Speech practice should be play and above all FUN. 

Your speech therapist should give you specific things to work on that your child is now able to do, whether it is to make the sound of a car going, a /p/ sound or use correct pronouns. Practice is for repeating tasks that your child has begun to master. The therapist’s job is to introduce and teach concepts, the parent’s job is to reinforce things learned. Learning a new word to use, or place to put his tongue when speaking takes many repetitions before it is generalized Continue reading

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

Designer of Playmobil Figures

Playmobil little people, pirates, knights, soldiersCall me crazy but I find the obituaries in the New York Times each weekend fascinating. There is a special story behind the people who shape our world.

Friday’s paper included the obituary of Hans Beck, the designer of the little Playmobil figures. My kids and I have spent countless hours creating stories around the pirates, policemen, Indians, soldiers, life guards and knights. These little people and their minute accessories provide the start for every child’s imagination.

Mr.Beck was the original designer of these captivating figures. According to the article, Beck was originally a cabinet maker and was “hired as a toy maker after showing executives there the model airplaines he had designed.” In the early Continue reading

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

Early Diagnosis of Apraxia of Speech

Recently I seem to be getting calls to test kids from 2 1/2-3 years old who have had a history of speech therapy for about a year. Their original diagnosis had been “apraxic like speech” or apraxia. Now that they have improved their ability to imitate and produce sounds at will, they don’t fall into that diagnosis.

I have also treated children starting at 16 months and older who appear to have motor programming difficulty in that they have trouble coordinating the movements of their body related to speech. They have difficulty imitating or initiating sounds, syllables and words that they want to make. In most cases, after several months of therapy, these children have been able to program the movements needed for speech and start to present as simply “developmentally delayed articulation,” meaning the child follows the typical sequence of sound development but at a slower pace. I say this because I think sometimes as therapists we are quick to label very young children as apraxic or apraxic-like when in reality we have to work with them for several months to determine if they truly are having difficulty with motor programming for speech.

That being said, there is a certain segment of the pediatric population that truly does have childhood apraxia of speech which is defined by The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) as:

“Childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) is a motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. This is not because of Continue reading

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Apraxia, Articulation, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Speech and Language Delay, Toddler | 2 Comments

Preschool Speech Therapy

preschool speech therapy in sandboxOnce again I am reminded of the importance of good communication between  preschool teachers, speech therapists working with a child in their class, and parents.

Last week a mom called me concerned about her 3 year-old son, Eli, whom I had worked with from 1 1/2 -2 1/2 years of age for language delay. I had dismissed him when his language was age appropriate. When I conferenced with his mom, I realized the issues of concern were that he is very quiet at school, doesn’t talk much and the teachers didn’t think he COULD talk much! Huh? This is a sweet, engaging, little guy who can talk in 8 word sentences. Granted he is in a new preschool this year but it is already February!

I offered to go into his preschool, play with Eli, and demonstrate his language skills to the teachers so they will expect more from him and facilitate more talking during the day’s activities. Usually as a child is starting to talk and make his needs known, I offer to do a speech therapy session in his preschool to Continue reading

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

DVD Helps Kids With Autism Read Faces

baby happy face

NPR ran an article about a new DVD produced in Britain called “The Transporters,” designed to teach children with autism to look at faces (like the happy baby face) and recognize emotions. With funding from the government, a team of researchers produced a series of five-minute stories about a gang of vehicles. Each vehicle has a human face, expressing an emotion–sad, angry, or afraid–portrayed by an actor. Since children on the autism spectrum are often fascinated with vehicles, the creators of this DVD took advantage of that interest and added large human faces that can’t be missed. Cable Car Sally or Charlie the Tram each match their facial expressions to what is happening in the story, and named by the narrator.

According to the article, “ A study found that children who watched the DVD for at least 15 minutes a day for a month became much more adept at recognizing facial expressions and the emotions behind them.” The DVD includes quizzes to test your child’s ability to read faces and emotions after viewing the episodes.

Check out the article, DVD Helps Kids With Autism Read Faces, Emotions by Jon Hamilton on NPR. You can click on a short video clip of one of the episodes. To find out more about the DVD’s visit the Transporters website.

Posted in Autism, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Valentine’s Day, Knights and Kisses

Here’s a fun book for preschoolers to early elementary students to enjoy. David Melling’s The Kiss That Missed has the spunk and silliness that gets kids to giggle.

The Kiss That Missed by David Melling, children's bookThe Kiss That Missed by David Melling

Hurrying to give a hasty goodnight kiss to his son, the King missed his prince, as the intended kiss blew right by and bounced out the window. the king commanded his royal knight, “Follow that Kiss!” Mounting his horse backwards, revealing a silly rip in his pants, the bungling knight took off through the dark, snowy forest in pursuit of the royal kiss. Coming upon a potentially frightening scene, the knight watched as the growly bears, swooping owls and hungry wolves were gently put to sleep by the swirling kiss as it passed through the branches.  The kiss did it’s final magic on a gigantic, hungry dragon, and the knight returned the kiss in time for a final bedtime story. David Melling’s comedic illustrations provide for lots of fun and commentary by kids.

Language and Literacy Building Tips:

After reading story to a 2 year-old, we played a game of blowing a kiss, he catched it and threw it “in the garage,” “under the table,” “out the door,”  or Continue reading

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Books, Elementary School Age, Preschool | Leave a comment