Costumes Transform Toddlers to Imaginary Land

Buzz Lightyear CostumePretend play begins after a child’s first year as they offer an empty cup to a teddy bear or cover him up with a washcloth to stay warm. Little kids love to act out their everyday experiences, copy Mom and Dad and enter a land of pretend.

The next step is taking on a characters and dressing up. Usually, that has been left for the preschool set as they transform into pirates, fairies, firemen, or princesses. They love to act out characters seen in movies, books or in their everyday experience of going to the doctor, buying groceries or playing in the park. At three years of age, children are capable of more abstract thought and can generate elaborate stories to act out as they rule a kingdom, chase the monster, or live in fairy land. Kids practice dialogue, bravely enter new worlds and learn to negotiate with other children as they decide on the story line, costumes, props, and solve problems.

Younger siblings want to get into the act, watching big brother and sister. When it is time to try on the costumes, toddlers trip over the longer costumes and can’t keep up. The newest costumes from Jakks Pacific are designed for the 2 year-old and up so younger brothers and sisters can join the dress-up play and not be dragging the costume behind them.

Buzz Lightyear is timely as “Toy Story 3” was just released and little boys want to blast off to save the toys of the world. Sized for the smaller set, the soft top has enough padding to puff out Buzz’s chest for extra strength, a red button to activate his wings (kids’ arms), and a shiny purple hood for fast blasting. Silver trim on the pants streamline the flight,

Buzz’s constume was slipped on first thing in the morning over pajamas! When I saw my little friend breeze by, I  pressed his red button and Will’s arms shot up, ready for takeoff “to infinity and beyond!” Comfortable for takeoffs and landings, this costume took a little boy through rescues and adventures, tumbles and flights.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Buzz Lightyear costume” was provided for review by Jakks Pacific .

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | 1 Comment

Play-Doh Uses in Speech Therapy and Play

Once again, I saw the advantages of having a ittle Play-doh on hand.

One of my more creative players, Duncan, was setting up his Playmobil boat, van and trailer, As he was requesting the Mom figure and then the Dad to be seated in the front of the van, he started to ask for a CD. I looked at his mom since this was totally out of context. No one had been talking about a CD, but Duncan listens to them in the car so he wanted one in his pretend sequence.

His mom who is a wonderful “producer” of his play disappeared and returned with a can of Play-Doh, a large piece of paper and some crayons. She said, “Duncan, would you like to make your CD out of  paper or Play-Doh? He chose the Play-Doh and went ahead and took a little square of it and mashed it against the dashboard! He had inserted his CD for playing:)

Later the Play-Doh was used to make a lake and a pile of rocks when the family disembarked from the boat to collect rocks.

Once again, my favorite toy added to the story line and allowed expansion to new themes for play.

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

Getting Ready for Toy Story 3

I have heard from several families that they are “cramming” before the opening of Toy Story 3. They are showing Toy Story 1 and 2 to their kids so they can remember the story and be ready for the sequel. I will admit, I watched number 2 last night to refresh my memory. What a lot of good, clean, clever fun for kids and adults.

The stores sure are ready with “exclusives” at places like Walmart and Target, featuring such items as figures, action sets, sleeping bags and even Adirondack chairs. What a craze.

Actually, you don’t have to buy all the toys. Be discerning. Which ones will provide many hours of new, original play and not be tossed aside as a “one event” type of toy? Certainly just a pack of figures will provide your child with open ended play as they re-enact scenes from the story and expand on the action. Sometimes less is more.  I will be reviewing what I think are the best ones in the next few weeks.

Simple toys and figures from a popular movie can be helpful to a child with special needs who is challenged with social skills. Kids in preschool and early elementary school are going to be talking about characters and phrases from the movie, acting out scenes and using themes in their pretend play. In order to participate with typical peers, children with special needs can learn from parents and therapists who model play with the figures and themes from the movie. In the same way, I have introduced topics like dinosaurs and insects with preschool boys with autism so they can “speak the language” of their typical peers who love to act out play on those themes.

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Typical Peers Helpful to Children with Autism in Speech Therapy

This is part two of my blog about the advantages of having a typical peer join your speech therapy session. Yesterday I talked about the impact a typical peer can have on a child with autism in play. In my speech therapy sessions, I always try  to include a time of reading books, as soon as a child will tolerate it and displays joint attention so they can follow the story.

I find that my kids that I work with who have autism, tend to show more interest, stay with the book longer and get more engaged with a typical peer in on the lesson. Last week we were reading, When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Lise Broach. In the story, to the little boy’s delight, everywhere he goes on errands with his mom-to the bakery, the doctor, the barber–he gets a dinosaur as a reward. Mom is terrified and the boy is thrilled. The story gets more complicated as he brings his new pets home. At first they are unintentionally destructive, but then mom sees a more useful tact as she deploys them to “cut” the grass and clean the gutters. With lots of opportunity to predict, and infer, this story builds language concepts. My little client often becomes less attentive about half way through the story, but his typical peer kept answering my questions and helped keep him engaged. He seemed to catch her enthusiasm and want to take his turn in talking about the story.

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

Autistic Kids and Typical Peers for Play in Speech Therapy

swingsetIt is well known that providing typical peers for play with children on the autism spectrum is helpful as they learn from models of appropriate play. Good programs for ASD children provide for “reverse mainstreaming” where typical peers enjoy the same classroom and activities for a good portion of the kids’ day. Language models are especially helpful.

I have seen the benefits of inviting a typical peer to a speech session with a child on the autism spectrum. I see a higher level of language, play, and attention when a peer is included. Last week, a little girl from preschool joined our session with a 5 year-old boy. We start out on the swing set when the weather allows. One of our activities has been dubbed “The Opposite Game” by the little boy with whom I work. I started out calling out “What is the opposite of tall? wet? fast? girl? etc” as he names the opposite. Then I pick one of the opposites and we “brainstorm” more words in that category, using the great outdoors for some of our answers. “What is the opposite of same?” “Different.” Tell me some things that are the same.” So we alternate giving answers from the backyard picture in front of us. “Those bushes are the same,” as he nods to the row of shrubs that are identical. “The chimneys are the same,” says the little girl. “The steps are the same,” and on we go. I get a lot more responses out of my little client as he is egged on by his typical peer.

Next, he went through his dialogue from Toy Story, ending with “Blast off, to Infinity and Beyond!!” So, I said, where can we blast off to? He said, “The beach.” She added, “To fairyland.” He said, “To a museum, Florida, the pool, and so on.”

I congratulated them at being so good at brainstorming. They seemed proud to be associated with such a big word! Really we were thinking abstractly, naming things by category that involved some higher level concepts.

I told mom, this little girl can come back to play with us any day!

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

“My First Baby Doll” by I-Play

Toddlers can scoop up all the essentials, including the baby doll, put them in the soft, cloth bag and be ready for take-along play.

A great introduction to pretend play that follows a child’s experience, this first baby doll comes with the props to take a baby through her day. Little ones can feed their baby, offer a consoling teddy bear, pull a wipe out of the box and change her diaper, put her bib on for a meal, feed her a bottle and tuck her in to bed with a satin blanket that doubles as a changing pad.

As you play alongside your child, narrate the steps she is taking with her baby, giving her the language that goes along with her play. “Good job wiping baby’s bottom so you can put on a fresh diaper!” Follow her lead and describe the care she gives her new little one.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “My First Baby Doll” was provided for review by International Playthings.

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

“Clap and Sing!” by Amazing Baby

Amazing Baby’s sing along board book, “Clap and Sing,” includes a bonus CD with songs of each of the nursery rhymes. Lots of repetition and beat keep your little one engaged with the music and lyrics for 30 minutes. The songs vary in style–a slow gentle lullaby to “Row Row Row your Boat,” a zippy “One Two Three Four Five” and a gospel like flow to “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Semi-circle tabs with a characters representing a rhyme on that page–dog, bear, lamb or spider–offer easy flipping of the pages with your baby. Simple, black outlined drawings complement the rhymes. “Baa Baa Black Sheep” has the face of the master, dame and little boy who lives down the lane with 3 bags to count. “Old Mac Donald Had a Farm” illustrates simple line drawings of the farmer, cow, duck, pig, dog, horse, and sheep with their corresponding sounds, each offering opportunities for your baby to learn new words in the context of a nursery rhyme.

Recommended for 6-18 months

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Amazing Baby Clap and Sing!” was provided for review by Silver Dolphin Books .

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Super Pop-Up Picture Book of “Peter Pan”

peter pan pop up bookWhen I was first given Peter Pan, I was amazed at the beautifully crafted cut out models of pirate ships, Peter Pan and his friends flying over the clock tower, and the crockodile opening his chops to chomp on Captian Hook. As I opened the pages, music, clock chimes, children’s laughter, Captain Hook’s hounting laugh, and the crock’s clock ticking accompanied the story. I wasn’t sure if that would be distracting to children listening to the story of Peter Pan.

Children showed me that the sound effects and musical accompaniament to the story actually drew them into the book. Their interest and attention span seemed to grow with each showing of the book. First we just opened each page, looked at the pop-ups and listened to the voices, music or sound effects. We talked about them a bit. My littlest friend, a 2 year-old, kept saying, “Can you do peter pan pop up bookit again?” as I opened to a new page. Then we started to read part of the story as they lingered on a page. Finally, I was able to read the whole book as I filled in the story between the beautiful illustrations.

The strength of this book is the amazing three dimentional renderings of the scenes from Netherland, Captain Hook’s pirate ship and Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and the kids flying out the nursery window over the city and the sounds bringing Netherland to life.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Peter Pan” was provided for review by Silver Dolphin Books .

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Books, Language | 1 Comment

Encouraging Articulation Practice

If you want a child you are working with to make progress in his/her articulation goals, you have to inspire them to practice between sessions. Make some fun stationery to list their practice words or sentences on and encourage parents to post it in a prominent place. Have parents and kids post stickers or write stars after each practice so they can “show off” their hard work the next time the therapist sees them. One Mom added “Speech” to her child’s responsibility chart and it became part of her daily routine.

Often I tell parents to keep practice sessions short, fun and frequent. It can be helpful to “warm up” a child’s speech before they head off to school. A reminder of using that /s/ or /r/ sound while talking at the breakfast table helps a child key into their sound. Let them listen to you and point out good and bad productions of their sound. They love to catch adults doing it wrong and it builds their auditory discrimination skills to monitor their own speech.

I realize I have an advantage over a school therapist in that I see parents during or after each speech therapy session AND they are paying for my services so I tell them, “If you want to spend less and finish speech faster, make sure your child practices!” It seems to work. They are anxious to get “new words” for practice after each session and the parents get more invested in the process. If kids are older, let them take responsibility for practice. I have some 7 year-olds who are working on /r/. They are motivated to practice simply by my offering to bring a special game of toy if they comply. One mom was to e-mail me the night before to tell me if her son practiced that week and I would bring the Playmobil Egyptian pyramid. Certain toys are reserved for good speech  behavior:)

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

Recommended TV Shows for Boys on the Autism Spectrum

Last week I was in a collaborative meeting regarding a 5 year-old boy I work with on the autism spectrum. We discussed what play topics were hot among his typical peers so we could introduce them in a way that he would find interesting and therefore be an engaging play partner with his peers.

Since many little boys and girls talk about and act out scenarios or pretend to be characters seen on TV, we got on the topic of what TV shows were popular with boys his age. His mom said he had started to outgrow Diego and had started watching Looney Tunes. She asked for other ideas for shows that would be creative but not silly for her 5 year-old to watch. I wanted to know what you, my readers, might suggest?? What interests your boys at that age?

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