Organize the Playroom for Pretend Play

kid's toy binOne of the things that I consult with parents about is organizing their playroom. Often I see multiple deep baskets or bins that the toys are scooped up into at the end of the day.

Today I was at a house where things are getting organized for play. I commented on this great see through, three-sectioned toy bin and Mom went over to her 3 year-old and asked him what went in each section. He said, “Cars, animals and instruments.” I love how you can see into the bins so you know what options there are for play. When toys are organized by category, kids can more easily select objects for play and it helps them build these language categories.

If play is a child’s job, aren’t we all better at our job when we are organized?

Mom got this bin at Target.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Elementary School Age, play, Preschool, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Books to Use with Children With Autism

I am always looking for good stories that have a simple, fun story and clear illustrations to begin working on describing pictures, re-telling a story and answering questions about the content.

Some professionals who work with children with ASD asked me for book ideas so they can fill out their library of books to use with kids. I will be continuing to add to this list but here are some I have used recently (since September)  that fit my critieria:

Popcorn by Asch

Queen of Halloween by Engelbreit

Autumn Leaf by Emerson

Halloween Mice by Roberts

Aaaarrgghh Spider by Monks

Red, Red, Red by Gorbachev

Knuffle Bunny by  Mo Willems

Bobo and the New Neighbor by Page

Max Cleans Up by Rosemary Wells

Timothy Goes to School by Wells

Lucille Camps In by Dathryn Lasky

First Snow by Emily ARnold McCully

Snip, Snip…Snow by Nancy Poydar

Mrs. Armitage on Wheels by Quentin Blake

Bright Stanley by Matt Buckingham

Before I can ask a child who is language delayed to do a picture walk, I introduce stories, modelling telling the story in different ways each time, so I am not encouraging repetitive language. After several readings and talking about the story, then I ask the child to “read” the story to me. I find that kids enjoy bringing a book to “read” to me and enjoy describing the pictures. When their language is limited I simply add on a word like “so” or “and” or “then” to prompt them to continue the sentence. I also use a gesture with my hand which is like the sign language for “want” meaning, give me more language. They learn that I love more language!

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

Choosing Toys to Encourage Language Development, What Not to Buy

When I work with parents of children with language delay, I advise them on what toys are helpful to encourage language development. It is fun to watch as they start to understand the characteristics of good language toys and are more discerning about what they buy for their child.

I had advised one mom of a 2 year-old to get some play sets with people that are around a theme that is within the experience of her child–a farm, a playground, a car wash or gas station. She understood but apparently the grandparents didn’t!

After a visit there following Christmas, I found out that both sets of grandparents gave their grandson the Leapfrog Tag Junior Book Pal. I tried it out. You place the book pal on a picture or text and it reads the words, asks questions, says a rhyme, or talks about the picture. According to the product features on, “The Tag Junior book pal encourages toddlers to explore while helping build confidence with books.” I just don’t get it. I think toddlers love to explore a well-written, beautifully illustrated book for what it is–especially if an adult reads it or narrates the pictures. I found as I followed the pictures on the page with the “pal” it was almost disjointed, with an animal sound followed by a rhyme or text. The flow of the book was lost.

Let me know what you think of products like these and if they have been beneficial to your kids. I am open to changing my mind!

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

Choosing Educational Toys for Speech Development

preschool pretend playToys do make a difference in stimulating a child’s speech development. I am constantly reminded of this as I work in homes and see what toy selections some kids have. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on toys, but carefully select toys that will encourage talking and creative play.

Recently I was in the home of a 16 month-old who was not talking. She responded beautifully to our first few sessions, using jargon to ask for me to repeat actions like starting a car, blowing bubbles or playing music. When I asked mom to bring out her favorite toys so I could show her how to use them to encourage talking she said her daughter really likes her laptop.

Mom brought out Thomas the Train Learn and Explore Laptop by VTech. This mini-laptop with over 30 games to teach numbers and letters, and a little screen, is designed for children 3-6. No doubt it is fun for that age range, but a 16 month-old simply enjoys pushing the buttons and watching the screen being constantly bombarded with repeated phrases of good job and bye bye. The little girl who had been so vocal was preschool pretend playsuddently mesmorized by a toy beyond her age and was silent, unless I tried to get her attention away from it. I suggested that mom put the toy away until she is older and look for toys that are more exciting for stimulting language.

Here is what to look for:

  • Toys where you can hold back an action or music until the child verbalizes or attempts a word. (Fisher Price Piggy Bank, where you can hold back the coins and give them as the child makes a sound or word, you can wait to open or close the tummy on command too.)
  • Toys that are inherently reinforcing. (such as bubbles where you can model “open top” or “off” to open the bubbles and then say, “blow” or “ready, set..go” to start blowing bubbles, and “pop” as you pop them. Kids love bubbles and try hard to ask for more
  • Toys where you can repeat simple actions using the same core vocabulary such as pounding blocks through shape sorters so repeat, “block” “bang” “drop” and “clunk.”
  • Toys with flexible parts that you need to manipulate to continue play. (such as the Fisher Price Garage with the gate to open and close to let a car run down the ramp)
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Language, play, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler, Toys | 1 Comment

“God is With Me Through the Night” by Julie Cantrell

God is with me through the nightAfter family laughs, snuggles and kisses, going to bed alone in the dark is a little scary. Reading God is With Me Through the Night, arms your little one with spiritual principles in the face of fear.

Pairing a simple sentence, “I start to feel afraid,” with animals illustrating the same emotion–a little dog looking forlorn in the dark–each page builds on the reassuring spiritual truth, God is always with me, “Just like when God kept Daniel safe from the lions.”

Encouraging your child to declare God’s comfort and assurance, the animals insist, “I say out loud, ‘I am loved!’ or “I roar like a tiger, ‘I am safe!'”  Just enough language for a toddler or preschooler to master, each short statement comforts a child, reinforced by a  Bible verse, “Do not fear for I am with you. Isaiah 41:10

What to do:


  • Name the animals and the sounds they make, describe their actions and feelings–snuggling lions, nuzzling seals.
  • Relate to God’s creation.
  • Repeat the comforting phrases: “I am loved,” “I am safe!” “God is with me through the night!” so your child can remember them.

Preschoolers and early elementary ages:

  • Describe the pictures using rich vocabulary.
  • Relate the pictured activities to your child–we played in the snow like the polar bears, our family likes to cuddle too.
  • Relate the emotions to your child–When do you feel afraid? What noises are scary? What do you do when you are scared? Model sharing by expressing when you as a parent are scrared  and how you rely on God to protect and comfort you. Do you sing a song or repeat a verse?
  • Have fun shouting out the comforting phrases: “I am not afraid” and “I am safe.”
  • Encourage emerging literacy skills–point out the words of the short phrases as you say them, “I am loved.” and “God” that is differentiated in bold color.
  • Memorize the Bible verse together.
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Strategies to Enhance Language | 1 Comment

New Years Resolutions for Speech Parents

preschooler in king costumeOkay it’s time to write down those resolutions, throw them in the fire and hope for the best. I’m actually not one for making resolutions as much as setting goals for myself. Maybe it’s the same thing but goals seem more attainable.

Here are some new years resolutions for parents of children in speech therapy:

  • Become more involved in the therapy process with your child
  • Communicate more with the therapist. This is easy if you receive services in your home and attend the sessions, but takes more work if your child receives services at his school or a clinic. Therapists work hard at keeping you up to date on goals and progress so be sure to give them feedback too. What are you seeing carried over at home and what is still hard for your child to master?
  • Practice daily what your child is working on. If your therapist doesn’t give you something to reinforce at home, ask for it. You might have a word list to practice, or certain language functions to reinforce like questions, pronouns etc, or you might be assigned to help your child engage in conversation with another child in the neighborhood.
  • Appreciate your child’s therapist for their hard work and interest in your child. People who chose this field of work are usually caring, concerned, creative people who love kids.
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All!

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Easy Gingerbread Houses for Speech Therapy Activities

kid gingerbread houseOkay, that might be a misnomer–gingerbread house, since the first one I want to tell you about is made from cardboard!

I was raised making gingerbread houses from scratch until I realized you could buy them already made and still have the fun part–decorating them. I’ve read the story of the gingerbread man, acted it out, made a little man out of play-doh and ran him through the town. We made little houses by frosting small milk cartons and placing graham crackers on for siding. But I have to admit, I was fascinated by the “gingerbread” house (minus the gingerbread) that I encountered at a child’s house last week. It was too easy to resist telling you about.

Mom got the idea from Easy cut outs from cardboard save the hassle of baking the forms and waiting for the next steps. This mom cleverly added her child’s picture peeking out of the front door! Luckily her frosting stayed a bit soft so her son can sample the goodies whenever he wants!

gingerbread house kitJust in case you want to do a lot more work and bring out a little Martha Stewart in you, I will share my traditional way of making one from scratch. I use a Gingerbread House Bake Kit that includes large cookie cutters for the walls and roof. Four batches of icing later, it is together and the fun begins. I only decorated half of it in anticipation of 3 year-old Will helping me put the candy on.

So have some fun and reinforce the story with some gingerbread gingerbread house bake kitpeople and a house for them to go home to!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, play | Leave a comment

Christian Books for Preschoolers as Christmas Gifts

God is With me through the dayAs a speech pathologist, I am always interested in what others in my profession are producing besides doing therapy. I came across these delightful books called, God is with me Through the Day, and God is with me Through the Night that are authored by speech pathologist, Julie Cantrell. Perfect for toddlers and up, God Is With Me Through the Day, takes a child through the apprehensions of their day and night, as they leave the safety of family laughter and mom’s kisses and run out into the world, alone.

Pairing a simple sentence, “I start to feel alone,” with a matching picture of an animal seemingly feeling the same emotion–a lonely raccoon peeking out from behind a bush–each page builds on reassuring spiritual concepts of “God is always with me,” and “Just like when God kept Jonah safe inside the whale.” Cheers of “God loves me,”  “I am safe!” and “In God’s hands I am strong!” give little ones something to say in the face of fear, relying on God.

Just enough language for a toddler or preschooler to master, each short statement comforts a child, leading up to the final Bible verse, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

God is with Me Through the Night is a perfect sequel, taking your child from the comfort of evening family fun, goodnight kisses and snuggles, to feelings of loneliness and fear. Encouraging your child to declare God’s comfort and assurance, the animals encourage, “I say out loud, ‘I am loved!’ or “I roar like a tiger, ‘I am safe!'”

These books are adored by children and would make a great Christmas present.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Preschool, Reading, Toddler | Leave a comment

Encouraging Parents of Children with Speech Delay

One of my favorite things about writing a blog, is the people I meet through my posts. Last week I blogged about some artists I met through our local Art Trail, a tour of artist’s studios. One of the artists I met, learned that I was a speech pathologist, and wrote me the following:

Hi Sherry,

What a wonderful website!  Interestingly, my middle child (who is now 15) was speech delayed.  His motor skills and spacial awareness was very developed though at an early age.  I was able to take advantage of Birth to Three’s services, which were very helpful.  I am sure that the info on your site proves to be a great resource with parents faced with these issues.  (fast forward 13 years:  My son Ryan is a straight A student…..and is in the high school math club with a boy who shared  speech pathologist sessions with him…..This boy was the national scrabble champion when he was a middle schooler!)

Sometimes it’s good to hear about what happens on the other side of therapy. Does anyone else have some encouraging words to share with parents who are just starting the process of speech and language therapy with their child?

Posted in Speech and Language Delay | Leave a comment