In this interview, Sherry Artemenko tells News 12 Connecticut about the latest toys that can help children’s development and learning. See more Sherry’s news... ►
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
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
I had some fun sharing my pictures and a few new toys from Toy Fair 2014 in therapy this week. The little boys I work with who love legos added my pictures to their “Speech Boxes” in the SpeechBox app and repeated any phrase, just to get a sneak peak at the new Chima “Ice Mammoth Stomper” or “Flying Phoenix Fire Temple!” Somehow they managed to think of a phrase using their sounds that described the new toys.
Playmobil is celebrating its 40th birthday with some commemorative sets like “Princess Island Compact Set and Romantic Gondola. They gave out free figures of a villainous viking and a princess carrying her birthday sign. One of my especially creative play partners immediately sat her upon a stegasaurus to give her a stately ride to her castle. He hid her “special birthday surprise” in a cupboard in the castle. I love to see what kids do with a toy!
I guess the point is that it’s just plain fun for my students as well as me to have some new toys to work/play with. One little princess and photographs perked up my sessions all week. Thanks to all the great companies that think like kids and make some amazing products for creative play.
Okay, here I am trying out some more ideas and modifying some from Pam Marshalla’s book, “Carryover Techniques in Articulation and Phonological Therapy.” I have several boys from 5-8 years old who are in the last stage of therapy and need a big nudge (some more than others) to use their newly acquired sound out in the real world. I am faithfully giving the kids and parents homework and am constantly saying this will help us finish up speech. I am reminded of a very successful technique for moving a student from proficiency in the therapy setting to carryover at school and home–the parents offered him a dirt bike if he finished up speech! That happened only one time but does illustrate the power of a parental bribe:)
Here are three suggestions from Pam’s chapter, “Games and Activities to Promote Carryover.” I have added the apps and at times prefer to lean more heavily on reinforcing the positive, rather than pointing out the negative. Here’s what I tried out today:
Collages: make a collage of pictures containing your child’s sound(s) or take pictures of objects around the house and outside that contain your child’s sound(s). The app, PicCollage is fun for this activity too.
Chips: give a few plastic poker chips to your child and yourself. Talk about your day or describe something in the room. They earn a chip if they make a correct sound and lose one if they make an incorrect sound. You can earn chips the same way and they will have to listen for your errors too! One mom said, “They never ask about my day!” to which I responded, tell them anyway and have them listen closely to your sounds.
Clicker: Use a counting device (Here is a free app for the iPhone: http://www.pediastaff.com/blog/txtools-is-here-download-our-very-first-and-free-app-for-idevices-8534) You can listen and click when you hear your child’s correct sound and eventually transfer the clicking responsibility to them so they are tuned into their sounds. I give double clicks if they correct themselves without it being pointed out to them, because that makes me especially happy! I will say that competitive little boys LOVED this tallier by Pediastaff and parents loved that the app is free.
Competing with Barbie for Sports Illustrated cover:)
Phew! I made it through all four days of the International Toy Fair, talking with over 100 companies and seeing hundreds of great new toys and games. Now that I’ve got my feet up and can digest some of the images–remote controlled floating sharks, a 12″ tall laser peg Pegasaur, life-size lego Dora and Friends, and my encounter with Barbie on the Sports Illustrated cover, I can share some of my highlights and takeaways from the show.
Monday I blogged about the trends that I saw at the show. The following day, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) held a press conference to share their top 6 toy trends of 2014. I can’t help but share the language learning and storytelling within each category:
Larger than Life: from plush to play sets and building toys, these toys engage kids in imaginative role-play activities which generate lots of language and fun! One of my favorite new companies I found was “My Friend Huggles” who make life size rag dolls “to teach beauty from the inside out!” It warms my heart just to talk about them, and it doesn’t hurt that I had a life size rag doll with the same yellow yarn hair when I was little (mine had elastic on the feet so I could slip it under my feet and dance with her). Let’s tell the story about being kind, forgiving, fair and grateful.
RC Rampage: playtime shifts into high gear with an influx of innovative remote-controlled vehicles. I was constantly buzzed overhead while at the show with mini helicopters and inflatables. Not my usual go-to toy to encourage language but I bet a therapist or two have used remote-controlled vehicles to engage kids:)
Full STEAM ahead: You can’t miss this trend with science kits, math games and engineering toys everywhere! TIA added the “A” (Arts) in STEM saying, “Toymakers are increasingly incorporating storytelling and other artistic components into science, engineering and building toys to get more kids than ever on board with STEAM.” Manufacturers known for craft kits even added science kits to their product line. One of my favorite STEM companies is “Roominate,” the original wired dollhouse building kit. I had fun talking with engineer founders, Bettina Chen and Alice Brooks about childhood play experiences centered around early engineering skills (since I was surrounded by electrical engineers in my family). From sewing to constructing, girls should be encouraged to pursue activities that build STEM skills in a fun creative way. Make a dollhouse, the Golden Gate Bridge or an airplane and then start a second stage of pretend play with your newly engineered project! Let’s tell the story about empowered girls inventing, creating and using their new projects.
Frightfully fun, zombies, monsters and more: Okay I’ll admit this isn’t my favorite trend. I don’t get it but I know kids are attracted to the dark side. I saw a monster head for tweens to decorate with several sets of ghoulish eyelashes and hair chalk but quietly passed by. One of the only products I liked that might loosely fit in this category was “Lyla Tov Monsters” in the Launchpad area of the Toy Fair which features new start-ups. I couldn’t help but stop to visit these engaging characters hanging on a display as I rounded the corner. Designed by a 3 year-old to be protectors of a good nights sleep, they come with a book about how they can calm sleep fears. Let’s tell the story about overcoming our fears at bedtime.
Retro/Back to Basics: parents and grandparents love to play old-time favorites with their kids and grandkids. I found myself being reminded of my childhood play many times whether it was sewing my own doll clothes like those provided with Kathie Kruse dolls or journalling and scrapbooking to chronicle a little girl’s experiences, trips and friendships at PomTree. Let’s tell the story about our day.
Custom built: the trend adds to the construction rage, now encouraging kids to make their own jewelry, action figures or cars, customizing with personalized detail. A new company I found this year at the show, “Lille Huset,” Norwegian for “little house,” was started by designer Alyson Beaton. Each house has its own story, and kids are encouraged to write their own story about their house after constructing it, decorating and making accessories. These “green” houses, made in the USA fold flat for take-along play and are fully customizable by little decorators. Let’s tell the story about our home.
As usual, I had fun seeing what others don’t as I took my language lens and explored the show. It’s a joy to see all the innovative and creative people following their passion to produce great toys for kids to engage in completely fun play while learning, solving problems, creating and collaborating.
We had a fantastic first day at the 2014 International Toy Fair in New York City. We started outside the show with Laser Peg’s “Pegasaur” and met the designer whose team took 4 weeks to assemble this dinosaur. It’s prettier than the picture–dare I say a dino is pretty? The countdown began with a parade led by the Power Rangers and capped off with Alicia Keys cutting the opening ribbon to the show. Here’s what the buzz is as I see it:
STEAM is the hot word this year. The Toy Industry has added the “A” for arts to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as we ramp up learning in these areas to improve overall proficiency and test scores. I saw many companies adding science kits, and science companies adding art kits to their product lines. Ravensburger added to its new series of science kits that were introduced last year including “Fueling Future Cars” which teaches about alternative fuel and includes a solar panel. Faber Castell’s Creativity for Kids expanded its line of Creativity Cans, containing objects for open ended play, discovery and projects. Now let’s just add the “L” to STEAM to highlight the importance of language skills which are integral to learning all those disciplines.
Licensed products continue to be popular from Disney princesses and pets to Doc McStuffins and Cars. One of my favorites is Wonder Forge’s Royal Pet Salon Game with is a matching, pretend play game where players look for items associated with the different rooms in a Disney pet’s home. Look for the mirror, ring, or perfume. Little girls will love the cute pet figures and these girls did.
Play schemes are popular. Smart Toys and Games introduced three new SmartMax sets that incorporate a play scheme with more features and detail to round out the sets. They added shutters to the house in “Home Sweet Home” and chutes to the factory in “Factory with Car.” More detail and features spark a child’s imagination and take their story in new directions for language learning.
Multi-function toys contain depth of learning and more play potential. HABA makes excellent learning toys that require some exploration and inquiry by the child. Their new “Matching Game, Who Lives Where?” contains several stand up chunky wooden animals with different sized cardboard houses to match. Children can nest or stack the homes by number and house the animals according to clues drawn on the outside of their homes. Hape introduced a darling kitchen on wheels that is portable and collapses to a smaller size for tiny play spaces. What I like is they included chalkboard surfaces to write menus or even allow the kitchen to become a restaurant announcing specials of the day and prices.
Make and play is still popular, especially with the new promotion of the arts in toys. From Käthe Kruse dolls with their own set of clothes to make (the stitching is done for you, just cut them out of the cloth) to Faber Castell’s “Connector Pens” that cleverly use markers with an added connecting piece, turning an art tool into a construction piece. One of the highlights today was chatting with the artist who created a dinosaur out of the pens and some paper (see on the left of his desk)!
I realize as I work through this excellent resource, that after over 35 years of working with kids, I still feel confident on the specialized steps in teaching sounds but am appreciating being reminded of the critical steps to achieve the final stage of articulation therapy which is carryover. Somehow I feel sort of “finished” when a child can easily produce his target sounds in all positions of a word in sentences and even structured conversation. Some kids easily step over into using their new sounds daily while others need a step by step process to listen, monitor and correct their errors.
Pam makes the point that auditory monitoring should be taught early in therapy and continued throughout. I must say one of the first things I do with a new little client is see if he can distinguish correct and incorrect productions of his error sound. They really like pointing to one or the other of my hands as I speak into them.
How do we practically teach this? Today I applied Pam’s approach of teaching self-monitoring of speech through conscious awareness, which is key to carryover. Pam talks about asking your student why they have come to speech? They should be able to verbalize the purpose of their therapy–to fix their /r/ or correct their /s/ for example. I thought I was clear in my intentions and shocked today when I posed that question to a 5 year-old whom I had seen for a few months. He didn’t immediately come up with the sounds he was working on (actually he said a sound we had mastered first a few months ago). Embarrassed! So I stepped right in to help him write the letters for his sounds in glitter glue and discuss what he was learning to do to specifically make his sounds correctly. Phew. He was able to verbalize that! Then I read on about the importance of “checking devices” to record the number of errors they make in a certain amount of time to help build self-awareness. I being a more positive person believe in recording their correct productions, so I combined a few of Pam’s suggestions in one activity, and of course my little friend, adapted my exercise to make it even better!
We were assembling a dinosaur puzzle and adding my 3-dimensional figures, describing the “stegosaurus,” “T-Rex” and others as I slipped in some of his error sounds. I had asked him to be listening for them and correct me. Soon he was looking up, shaking his head, was repeating the correct model and then slapped his hand on the floor! (In previous weeks we had employed that technique of tapping each other’s arm when we heard a good target sound produced by that person, which Pam calls “Speech Tag”). I love how my friend put it all together to build his self-awareness and monitoring. I invited mom to watch our session as he was so deftly playing and listening to my speech and his.
The book table at Barnes and Noble is filled with Valentine’s Day books. I tend to pass up the series books in favor of those with unique stories but here is one of each:
The Biggest Kiss by Joanna Walsh and Judi Abbot is one of my favorites because of the perky text and charming illustrations. It sets the playful tone from the beginning, “Kisses on noses, kisses on toes-es. Sudden kisses when you least supposes.” (drove my spellcheck crazy but kids love it!) The story goes on to tell who likes kisses with a frog at a kissing booth charging $1 for a smooch, worms kissing underground or fish kissing with a “splish, splosh, splish.” The simple story has quick turns from making comparisons with opposites, having some fun with word play, changing the source of the kisses from animals to raindrops, and kissing to mark the start and end of the day. Use this book to teach opposites, describe the kisses, or talk about how other animals might give a kiss (high, low, big or little).
Pete the Cat Valentine’s Day is Cool by Kimberly and James Dean. Although I like the stories in several of the Pete the Cat books, this one is very simple–about making valentines cards for his class, forgetting some important people, and what to do about that. What adds to the book is it includes a large poster with Pete the Cat wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day (might look nice on your therapy room door) as well as 12 valentine’s Day cards and a page of stickers. Clever speech therapists will find a way to use these extra activities to enhance the story and bring about conversation on what they celebrate and like in each friend.
Excitement is building as everyone is getting ready for the Toy Fair starting next weekend. Although we don’t have our own meteorologist like the Super Bowl committee, we are all watching the weather as last year got a bit of a late start for some due to a snowstorm!
Here are some of the highlights I have been hearing about:
Lego is apparently topping its impressive Lightning McQueen from last year with a 15-foot tall, 10-foot long dinosaur that will be greeting guests at the entrance of the 2014 Toy Fair convention this weekend. “A team of four people spent over a month building the mammoth creature that is illuminated in shades of purple, yellow, green and red by the thousands of LED lights that are encased inside each tiny Laser Pegs piece used to build it. ”
If that’s not enough, we just got word that Snoopy is taking a trip to NYC for New York Toy Fair this week! According to their press release, “International toy manufacturer, Schleich, will be bringing a life-sized Snoopy to the city along with the announcement of their new Peanuts line. To celebrate, Snoopy will be “snooping” around New York Feb. 15 to some of his favorite spots. Fans can join the fun by snapping photos and sharing on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #SnoopingNewYork.” He’s been a favorite of mine since childhood so I may have to get him to pose in a picture:)
I love using great picture books in speech therapy or simply reading a fun book to kids. Here are some of my new favorite books celebrating love and friendship for Valentine’s Day and beyond:
I Love You More by Laura Duksta and Karen Keesler.This clever book celebrates the love between a mother and her child as they each claim half of the flip-sided book to compare their love to touching comparisons in rhyme, “I love you higher than the highest bird ever flew, I love you taller than the tallest tree ever grew.” The little boy counters with experiences of his own, “I love you bigger than the biggest bubble ever blown. I love you freer than the freest kite ever flown.” Use the story as a springboard to a lesson on comparisons, poetry or adjectives.
The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sperring and Alys Paterson. Let’s go through a child’s day seeing the world as shapes from beginning to end. From the shape of our mouths to what we might eat, “the shapes that pass us by…on a noisy busy street.” But, our journey through the day brings us right back to “the shape I love you with…my heart.” The bright, simple graphics engage kids and provide opportunities to learn vocabulary within categories of food, body parts, transportation etc.
Love You When… by Linda Kranz. “Do you think of me during the day?” you ask. The answer is “Yes,” as the author recounts all the simple but beautiful reminders of her loved one in the first rays of sun to cheerful little birds or shooting stars. The unique photographs include painted illustrations on rocks that describe each event. Rich vocabulary abounds in this little book, “I love you when a brilliant rainbow peeks out through the clouds after a drenching rainstorm has cooled off a sizzling summer day.” What a great opportunity to teach description and vocabulary to enliven a word picture–”gentle breeze,” “distinctive songs,” or “crisp fall air.” So many of the kids we work with can benefit from elaboration and precision in their language.
I came across this story yesterday and was so touched.
17 year-old high school senior, Esteban Barriga from Maynard, Massachusetts originally didn’t want to go to prom because he thought he had no friends. That all changed as word got around that he wanted to ask Ellen DeGeneres. He enlisted kids from his school, family, police officers, firemen, local business people and those in his circle of helpers from his preschool teacher to the woman who drives him to school. His invitation became this video with the repeated message, “Ellen, say yes to Esteban!”
The video invitation to Ellen DeGeneres was so cute and clever, but as a speech therapist it was also an amazing lesson plan for developing social skills as Esteban prepared a list of reasons she should say yes and asked whole classes to help him invite Ellen to the prom! It was a persuasive piece too.
One of the most touching parts was viewing Esteban getting a haircut with his barber, as he shaves the name “Ellen” on the back of his head. It is explained that when Esteban was younger, he couldn’t tolerate a haircut. That is progress, as many children with autism spectrum disorder have some sensory processing issues and it is very uncomfortable to get a haircut.
His mom told the Boston Globe, “It’s been an unbelievable experience because here’s this kid who thought he had no friends at high school, who thought he was on his own — now he’s suddenly the most popular kid in school.”
What a refreshing story to hear about a child with special needs getting such warm support from not only his high school but whole community and hearing what we all like to hear, “You’re not alone.”
How exciting to watch a startup company get their national ad shown on the Super Bowl last night! Kudos to Intuit for choosing GoldieBlox over the more than 15,000 small business entries in their contest for a free Super Bowl ad.
I first met founder and CEO, Debbie Sterling at her small booth tucked away at the International Toy Fair in New York last year. The buzz was already picking up surrounding her “Toys for future innovators,” based on books and projects to promote girls’ interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Sterling, armed with a degree in Mechanical Engineering/ Product Design from Stanford University, became obsessed with “disrupting the pink aisle” and went on to develop a toy “that would introduce girls to the joy of engineering at a young age,” according to their website.
GoldieBlox’s story+construction sets tap into girls’ strong verbal skills, leading them into projects that strengthen spatial skills and “tools they need to build and create amazing things.” Sterling is determined to introduce engineering to young girls and get them excited about subjects that have been traditionally dominated by boys.
GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine, Parade Float, and Dunk Tank come with a story book and related construction project. Their debut product, “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine” is for girls 4-9 and includes a belt drive, 5 animal figures, a pegboard, 5 wheels, 10 axles, 5 blocks, 5 washers, 1 crank and 1 ribbon.
Here’s the ad that ran last night during the Super Bowl–a refreshing change from all the car ads! “So come on, get your toys–girls make some noise….”
All I know is that ever since 6 year-old Will spotted my orange BLOK Pack by Madpax, he has been wearing it! Filled with books, he is ready to read wherever he goes which makes a mom happy (teachers, and grandparents, too!) The latest design to join BUBBLE, LATER GATOR, and SPINETUS REX, this back back displays “Mighty towers of power and punch that meet squares of rare.”
Infantino’s new Fresh Squeezed feeding line provides a masher, mill and puree machine to prepare nutritious homemade food for your child, including the Squeeze Station that packs yummy treats into those popular plastic pouches for on-the-go fun. Squeeze Station and the feeding line products were provided for review by Infantino.
Lay-n-Go Transports Play
Don’t we love easy clean-up that can also transport play? These activity mats in several sizes provide a play space and when it is time to clean-up or transport the play just pull the drawstring and sling the pod over your shoulder! The story continues as kids can have uninterrupted play. “Lay-n-Go Lite” was provided for review by Lay-n-Go. More wish list items… ►