video toy reviews
Video reviews of our PAL Award winners with tips on how to advance language through play • see PAL tips... ►See more video reviews... ►
Sherry, thank you so much for working with my girls for so long. Your kindness, thoughtfulness, insight and professionalism made our experience so meaningful. My husband and I appreciate all you have done for them. Let’s keep in touch. Thanks again.Mother of 3 and 5 year-old girlsGreenwich, CT
Thank you Sherry! You are a BIG help and Max adores you.Maria, mother of a 5 year-old boyFairfield, CT
Sherry, thanks for giving us back our son. We are so grateful for everything you did for Ben and our family. Not seeing you every week makes me feel that something is missing… but we look forward to a summertime walk! We miss you,Nicole, mother of 2 year-old boy who was dismissed from therapyWestport, CT
I have to laugh at the buzz around Elf on the Shelf in the last few days. I feel like every family I work with invites me in and immediately has me look for the elf or the kids take me by the hand and show me. Some love it and some are scared of the little figure. One little girl didn’t want to go downstairs to play unless I stood in front of the elf (who was sitting on the railing) as she passed by. Mom sighed that the elf was too much extra work as she had to wake up her husband that morning at 4 AM because they forgot to move the elf. Another mom said to me, “It’s too much work!” Sounds to me like the responsibility of having the Tooth Fairy come every night. I was bad at remembering to put the money under the pillow and it didn’t happen every day–I would have been lousy at remembering this.
Don’t worry, I’m a fan of fun toys, and don’t want to be a scrooge but parents and more recently a professor, have been weighing in on this.
One of the funnier (and honest) posts on “Why I Hate The Elf on the Shelf” on Blogher makes a point that I have always maintained which is “Isn’t Santa enough? to keep track of who is naughty and nice, AND you don’t have to remember to move him every night and clean up his messes (that you have to create). I like to simplify so this wouldn’t be in my routine.
Yesterday, The Washington Post’s blog was titled, “The Elf on the Shelf is Preparing your Child to Live in Future Police State, Professor Warns.” Sounds rather dramatic but the digital technology professor, Laura Pinto, is serious about her claims that the Elf on the Shelf is “teaching young people to blindly accept panoptic surveillance ” and goes on to use lots of big words I can’t pronounce. She does address some of the “creepiness” that parents have expressed as their kids are scared of the doll as well as “I don’t think the elf is a conspiracy and I realize we’re talking about a toy,” Pinto told The Post. “It sounds humorous, but we argue that if a kid is okay with this bureaucratic elf spying on them in their home, it normalizes the idea of surveillance and in the future restrictions on our privacy might be more easily accepted.”
As usual, the adults are getting all agitated about this little elf and by and large the kids love him (or her).
Parents are a great source for topics for my blogs. As you know, I love it when they partner with me and practice at home between sessions. I always see the fruit of their labor and enjoy the faster progress (as they do too!).
I just started working with a little guy who has been nasalizing certain consonants which affects his intelligibility. He is the cutest, happiest child, but sort of hard to understand when he switches back and forth between the oral and nasal cavity emission. He has made some nice progress in just a few sessions, partly due to Mom who has been practicing in the tub! They have letters on the wall, so she forms words, starting with his target sounds, and he loves to say them. It began with my first success in getting an /s/ emitted orally, by moving from /sh/ to /s/ so she picked right up on that and practiced it in the tub.
The only downside is that when I demonstrated how to use feathers on a piece of paper and hold it under his nose to get feedback for nasal emission, she reminded me that feathers wouldn’t work in the tub!
It’s such fun when a parent shares a perfect speech therapy activity with you. First it means she is practicing with her child and second it means she “gets” what you are trying to do. Today a mom went to get this book , “The Seven Chinese Sisters” by Kathy Tucker, as I started working with her son. She said there were so many /s/ sounds in it and they read it each night for practice. My little friend loved the book and started right in. Wow, she was right! There were so many /s/ sounds AND each page talked about the first through seventh sisters. Talk about a lot of /s/- /th/ contrasts to build accuracy for your /s/. This child is in the last stages of therapy and we are working on carryover with reading and playing games.
His other favorite book was “Cinderella: A Wheel-y Silly Fairy Tale” (Little Simon Sillies). Don’t rule out little kids books because this boy is in second grade and we had more laughs about the silly options for Cinderella to change her pumpkin into or what happened to her glass slipper. Tons of /s/ words provide lots of practice
It occurred to me this week that there are many extra tasks associated with being a speech language pathologist besides delivering speech therapy. As I look at my week and tuck in extra calls, blogs, reports and parent conferences, I realize the extra time I need to set aside for activities that enrich my practice. Many therapists are blogging and providing us with terrific, practical therapy ideas in articulation, word-finding, language, autism and technology. It has been fun to watch different therapists in our profession begin to specialize in an area and be the go-to blog for fresh ideas. I encourage any of you to try it, just start talking about what you did today with kids, obviously protecting their privacy, but share ideas, activities or articles that are helpful to you.
In the last few days, I went to the library to search the “new” picture books to use with several of my kids with language difficulties, word-finding and autism. Some days it’s a goldmine and some it isn’t. I scoured the New York Times’ “Notable Children’s Books of 2014.” I find this far more valuable than the NYT Best Seller List for picture books as the same authors dominate on that list, and they aren’t always the best language rich books for our students.
Today I had a conference call with a Neuropsychologist who tested one of my students who I just began working with, finished writing up an evaluation, wrote two blogs, bought Christmas presents for my students, sent a scheduling letter out to my parents and saw several kids. Phew, maybe I’ll get off the computer now:)
It is such fun to be an itinerant speech therapist during the holidays because I get a peek into all the beautifully decorated homes. Last week I was working with a second grader on his /th/ sound while his mom and little sister decorated an enormous Christmas tree. At the end of our session, we moved to the tree and played a little guessing game using our sound. We alternated choosing an ornament for the other to guess and gave clues using the /th/ sound. “This has a snowman, this has the biggest scarf,” etc. My friend and his sister had such fun with the activity that as I left they were in a heated discussion of which ornament was being described!
As I said yesterday, drawing, coloring and art projects can be very effective reinforcing activities for preschool speech sessions. Give me a pack of markers and some white paper and many kids get excited.
What I like is that the drawing can relate to the sound they are working on or not. In this case, my friend was working on overall precision and his /th/sound, never mind that he was inventing his own “robobots!” I love how creative he was although I did need an explanation for some of the features. He was happy and so was I as he worked hard and stayed engaged in his speech lesson.
Having one foot in the toy industry and the other in speech therapy, I know that anything around the theme of the immensely popular Disney movie, Frozen, will capture a child’s attention and surely make the speech therapy session exciting!
My 4 year-old friend spent the whole hour coloring Anna with her markers as we decorated her paper with target words and phrases starting with /t/. Poor Olaf was only blue but her seemed happy nonetheless. What a simple concept but I find that drawing and coloring with kids who love it, is a perfect activity to provide as a reward for saying their sounds. Here is a wonderful variety of print outs of Disney movie pictures for kids to color.
I also picked up a small coloring book in the grocery story checkout line, “Disney Frozen Sisters Forever Invisible Inc and Magic Pen Painting,” which is such a favorite that she made me promise that I wouldn’t let anyone else use it! The little book tells the story of Frozen with rip out pages as you reveal the pictures with your magic pen. They make perfect take-homes as I add a few practice words on them so parents can carry over your goals between sessions. Nice value for about $5.00.
I am certainly thankful for all of you, my readers, that keep me blogging and inspire me to keep sharing.
This will be a special thanksgiving for our family as a new grandson was born 2 days ago and we are invited for our first sleep-over with him. Hope someone gets some sleep!
Kids are fascinated with puppets as they come alive when slipped on your fingers. Folkmanis makes some of my favorites as they often allow for movement in several places–the mouth, wings, shark’s tail or beaks. The ostrich puppet that we featured on NBC CT TV announcing our Top 10 PAL winners is such a favorite around our house, that my husband asked if we could just keep it on the couch in the family room! The puppet has a large moveable mouth for talking and five digits at the end of his wings to slip your fingers in for some realistic action.
Over the years I have used puppets to get shy kids talking as they take on the persona of the puppet. Pretend play with puppets builds language skills as kids practice dialogue, story telling and gain confidence in front of an audience of any size (sometimes just the dog!).
I like the Facts of Interest that are attached to each puppet, which tell some unusual tidbits about the character that can serve as a story starter or influence the content created for the puppet show! The NBC CT interviewer had a good laugh when she learned that the ostrich has about 4 pounds of rocks in his gut to help digest food–who knew? Folkmanis also has a list available of story books and poetry about the different animals in their collection. If you select the sea turtle puppet, why not check out “How Turtles’ Back Was Cracked” or “Turtle Spring.” Bringing in literature to enhance a toy, provides lots of learning opportunities as children can discuss what is the same and different between the lead animal characters or get ideas for their own story.