Best New Toys to Develop Speech and Language

It’s spring–I think! New flowers, new buds, and new toys. I have tested so many new products for the PAL Award in these past few weeks that I want to share some favorites that stand out for having the potential to build language skills. Here we go:

Faber Castell Creativity Can girlThe Big Creativity Can by Faber–Castell. I set this tub of fun in the middle of table and watched 3 sisters aged 6, 7, and 9 go right to their projects after examining the clay, wheels, stickers, styrofoam shapes, wiggly eyes, feathers, bells, pom poms, paper grass, mesh tubing and more. They were busy in their own corner making a hot air balloon and “salsa dancer” (pictured to the left) as well as a bouncy toy. They offered advice, asked for help holding pieces as they stuck them together and showed off their creations. There is plenty in the box to make up a toy, figure or animal or object but you can also offer household items like paper towel rolls, or oatmeal boxes to stretch the imagination. Do it in a group and listen to the language. Here is my full review.

Let’s Make Pom Pals Pom Critter Kit by PomTree. Phew! That is a lot of “poms” but this tub of fun is filled with several sizes and colors of pom poms, wiggle eyes, foam shapes, felt stickers and chenille stems to make your animals. No glue is necessary as little squares of double-sided sticky tape keep your pal together. This make and play craft quickly turned into some wonderful creative scenarios as the pom pals came to life.  Open-ended play that relies on the child as director,  encourages language development as kids make up the format! Here is my full review.

Playful Chef Deluxe Cooking Kit by MindWare.  Kids learn the language of cooking, as they tie on their aprons, follow the color-coded directions for measurements, and learn about cooking gadgets and  fun facts about ingredients. (I learned a thing or two also!) The 14 kid-sized tools are nice quality, especially the flexible star cake pan which was a hit.  This child-parent/adult activity makes it special as kids learn their way around the kitchen. Here is my full review.




Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toys | Leave a comment

Spring, Time To Grow Language With New PAL Award Winners

Crocuses popping up, dogwoods blooming and peepers whistling in the neighborhood pond remind me that spring has arrived and the landscape is alive again. As we look at new growth and new beginnings what about checking out some great toys and games, just introduced, that can grow language? Children are invited into play by fantastically fun toys that encourage growth as kids meaningfully add on to a story, make up riddles, complete early reader words, and step into pretend play.

Here are some of my new favorite PAL Award winners:

Say the Word by Peaceable Kingdom

Peaceable kingdom Say the Word“The Repeat-After-Me Silly Story Memory Game!” says it all. In Peaceable Kingdom’s new cooperative game, everyone is the story teller, adding on a zany phrase or sentence using a word card in their hand, recalling what was previously said.  The Story Master monitors the round, chooses a character card (we chose “My Fairy Godmother,” “Quintuplets,” and “The Zombie”), deals 3 word cards to each player (ranges from wiggle, donkey, or bumpy to bunny slippers, tarantula or afro) and the story begins.  What a delightful, funny way to build language skills as players must use a new word to relate to the ongoing story line. Kids learn vocabulary, how to advance a story using a controlled set of words, and strategies to memorize meaningful chunks of language.

Available on Amazon: Click here

 uKloo Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game by uKloo

ukloo_riddle_on_whiteheader-1024x462The uKloo family is growing and they’ve done it again– introduced us to yet another fabulously fun treasure hunt game that promotes reading, thinking and now problem solving! Parents hide several riddle cards and the hunt begins.  “If there is rain or snow or sleet, put these on to protect your feet,” sent them off to peek inside the boots sitting at the front door. Learning extends beyond the game as our friends started making up their own riddles.  The Riddle Writing Tips encourage brainstorming, describing, using adjectives, homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms and using figurative language. Who had a clue that stumping your friends could be such “smart” fun!

Zingo Word Builder by ThinkFun

imgres-4Zingo™ is back! First it taught us matching pictures, then sight words and now spelling and reading. Something about sliding that red device back and forth for “the reveal” captures kids’s attention and they can’t get enough.  My beginning readers took a letter tile and placed it in each empty spot on their word-builder card and slowly sounded out the words. They were thrilled when they said a word that made sense. Kids were doing just what they’d been taught and found great gratification and fun in the process. Learning to be an independent reader opens up worlds of language learning.

Available at Thinkfun: Click here

 My Super Life Journal by PomTree

PomTree_TGC-0042 Scrapbook Journal_HRThis “Awesome, amazing, super, crazy, wonderful, lovely, adventurous, sunny, creative beautiful life journal” (and that’s just what is on the cover!) inspires little girls to celebrate all the little things in life with big splashes of color, stickers, art, words and adornments. The spiral binder holds it all–all about me, what I love, the best, dance and doodle, trips, fashion, places to visit, and favorites. Store your supplies in the vinyl storage zip bag or binder pockets, waiting to record your next adventure. I can’t think of a better way to excite kids about reading and writing as they tell about their amazing life with words and illustrations. This would be a perfect activity book for summer, to keep minds sharp.

Playpark by Plan Toys

imgres-8“Whee!” was the first word out of our little friend’s mouth as she gave one of the wooden family figures a ride down the cable car. “Use the harness for the baby,” I was instructed. Kids rode their bikes, raced down the ramp, climbed the rope ladder and took off on the glider from the launch area. Kids took turns winding the wind turbine to offer rides to their figures. Plenty of pretend play is inspired by open passageways from the ground floor up to the top level. Stories abound as kids get inspired by this toy!

Available at Amazon: Click here

Dinosaur Floor Puzzle by Galt Toys

61cps7AhmPLKids indeed thought this 30 piece dinosaur puzzle was giant and quite grand. With eight of the jigsaw pieces able to stand alone as complete prehistoric animals including some favorite dinosaurs, kids loved building the puzzle around these figures. Lots of conversation ensued as negative spaces began to show signs of a foot, wing or tail to match the creatures. The thick cardboard prehistoric figures with a wipe-off finish served as pretend play characters after the puzzle was completed. Kids couldn’t help but carry on with the story, reinforcing language skills to prepare them for later reading and writing.

Available at Amazon: Click here

Story Box-Safari by Janod
J08542_1I always like to watch kids when the packaging becomes part of the play. Our Safari Park pieces are stowed in a sturdy box shaped and illustrated like home base for the animals and tourists. My little friend set up his elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra, lion and gazelle while the ostrich roamed free and the crocodile lazed in pretend water. The fence kept things reigned in until he started to match the animals and place them next to their pictures on the box.  Soon the monkey and ostrich were on the roof , watching as the safari train loaded its passengers and went on tour. Later he said, “Up the elevator” and lifted the figures up the side of the box to the top for a better view. This set was wonderful for pretend play and story telling as kids drove the story and used the props to direct the play. Language learning abounds when kids are given the right tools to do their work!

Available at Amazon: Click here









Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Happy Easter With Jan Brett’s “The Easter Egg”

imgres-8Happy Easter and Passover to all! The rain has cancelled our Easter egg hunt but that means we have had a morning reading books from Chima and Lego Movie early readers to Jan Brett’s lovely “The Easter Egg.” Little Hoppi is finally old enough to enter into the egg decorating contest along with the other bunnies. The bunny who decorates the winning egg gets to help Easter Rabbit hide the eggs on Easter morning. Brett’s beautifully intricate illustrations capture the details of the delicately decorated eggs created by the artist bunnies who decorate with wildflowers, carvings, chocolate, dyes, paints and robot parts. On his hunt to decide how to decorate, Hoppi comes upon a robin’s egg that has fallen from her nest. Putting off his decorating task to protect and care for the egg, Hoppi is rewarded in the end by the Easter Bunny. Lots of life lessons here to talk about! Happy holidays to you all.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Books, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

uKloo Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game Great For Fun Reading Practice

ukloo_riddle_on_whiteheader-1024x462I’ve been visiting my grandchildren this week and several of them are learning to read. It is like magic to watch them suddenly be able to read simple books and sound out words, feeling so proud of their new skill. In spite of their success, they don’t always want to “practice” or do their required several minutes of reading each day. The uKloo family of games and app are a terrific way to build reading skills and have a load of fun in the process. After I introduced uKloo Riddle Edition, I asked my little friends is they would like to play another round and they said, “I’d like to do 150 rounds!” That little guy greets me each morning saying, “Lets make up riddles.” This is a game that extends way beyond what is in the box. It’s a great game for summer to keep up reading skills. Here is my full review:

The uKloo family is growing and they’ve done it again– introduced us to yet another fabulously fun treasure hunt game that promotes reading, thinking and now problem solving! Parents choose 4 or more riddle cards from the pack of 75, color coded for three levels of achievement, so siblings can join in. Hide the cards with a “Surprise” card at the end. My little friends alternated between level 1 and 3 cards as kids of different ages solved the puzzles. “If there is rain or snow or sleet, put these on to protect your feet,” sent them off to peek inside the boots sitting at the front door, while “I have a face with no eyes or nose. My hands move but never close.” stumped our friends. Luckily, uKloo Riddle Edition comes with Hints for each riddle card so “Tick, tock, time to wake up” sent the kids right to the clock. Learning extends beyond the game as our friends started making up their own riddles. We composed riddles outside on the picnic table, at breakfast and in the car as kids learned to hone their clues to give just enough information but not too much! I had to put on my kid thinking cap to figure out some of their riddles. They stumped me on “I’m white and sharp and help you eat things.” (teeth) as well as “I’m part of a tree. I’m brown. Sometimes you pick me.” (bark!). The Riddle Writing Tips encourage brainstorming, describing using adjectives, homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms and using figurative language. Who had a clue that stumping your friends could be such “smart” fun!

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Encouraging Early Readers Over the Summer

Artie reading at B and NWe just returned from a trip to Barnes and Noble with 3 of our grandchildren and we had our usual fun outing reading new and classic picture books (we all LOVE “When the Crayons Quit” and enjoyed “The Snatchabook” and “Superworm” –more on those later). But what really interested 2 of my new readers who are in kindergarten and first grade was the display of Ninja Turtle and Lego themed early readers. I told them they could each pick out a book and they chose “Super Heros Phonics,” “Lego Movie Awesome Adventures,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Doze Control!”

I have to laugh, here I was looking for the next great picture or early reader book for the PAL Award and they all chose movie themed books to take home and read. I get it. Reading specialists have been telling me for years to just get kids reading. Kids aren’t that imgres-7different from adults in that they will read more when they are interested in the topic. I know these aren’t the best written necessarily, but there is some challenging vocabulary and the phonics books are great with the vocabulary of robot, drop, flog, lock, shot, rock, stomp and stop!

With summer coming, parents are very interested in maintaining their child’s reading level and interest. I’ve heard of parents planning camps, tutoring and outings with teachers to keep up academic skills over the summer break. Reading should be a top priority for the whole family so get ready to let your kids choose their books!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Books, Reading, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Speech Therapy with Playdoh

playdoh woodyLately I have been reminded to follow the interests of the children I am working with–almost to an extreme! My little 2 year-old friend starts saying “Dough” as soon as he sees we arrive at this door and I have a running joke with his mom to see how long he will stay with a new activity I bring before he starts pointing to my bag and requesting playdoh! I think I broke a record the other day with a 10 minute start with a mini train. Of course we moved right into making a dough track and plastering playdoh on the mommy and daddy figures that he called, “Dough face!” In order to elaborate and teach more words, I have to introduce toys where dough can be implemented into the story–Fisher Price vehicles and people (make dough blankets, food, roads or hats), trains (load dough objects into the cars), boats (make a dough lake) or puzzles (stand the puzzle pieces up in the dough). Woody is a favorite character of this little guy so we made dough buttons and belt which were perfect for modeling 2-word combinations. It’s much better to give in to a child’s interests than to plan a new elaborate activity–whew. I guess I like it better that way too.

Posted in Language, play, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Encourange Language Development, Toddler, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Articulation Therapy When You Forget Your Word Lists

Silly Cinderella titleToday was one of those days when I was packing up so many items for each child I was seeing in the afternoon that I forgot my iPad or word lists for my last client. It is one of the downfalls of itinerant speech therapy (which I love by the way) in that you have to be so organized and bring enough options to keep a child engaged and happy for an hour.

My new client is working on correcting a frontal lisp and has taken off in being able to produce a correct /s/ in all positions of the word in phrases. When I realized I had forgotten my word lists I looked at the book shelf in front of us in the playroom and told him, “Pick out a few books for us.” He chose what I thought was a preschool book that would be more interesting to girls, “Little Simon Silly Silly Cinderella bookCinderella” The story is told with a fill in the blank for each page as the child turns the wheel to reveal several options to complete the sentence. Cinderella’s step sisters got a very special…banana? It was so goofy that we laughed and laughed and he was motivated to continue. Of course there were many /s/ words in a Cinderella story so he got plenty of practice. Books should always be in my therapy bag because they are a terrific tool to interest little clients and provide practice for speech and language goals.


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

Teaching Math Vocabulary with New “Math Explosion” by The Young Scientists Club

Young Scientist Club Math ExplosionWhen was the last time you used a “Math” game to teach language? How about today?

I had a great time with first graders who I am pre-teaching curriculum vocabulary due to word-finding difficulties. The classroom teacher has been very cooperative in giving me a list of vocabulary words by subject, including math. I wrote the words out by operation–addition, subtraction, multiplication and division–and as our friends explained their words, they proudly put a check next to the word they used as they solved the problem for their answer. This is a great group game as you can download math facts for different levels from their website so players of different abilities can compete. The prize for the winner at the end is to pour the little spoonfulls of baking soda he collects into the mouth of the volcano that is holding vinegar. Magic happens and eyes are wide open as the volcano “erupts” for the finale of the game. Here is my full review:

Kids had a blast with “Math Explosion” by The Young Scientists Club. First we created our customized math fact cards which can be accessed from the online fact creator so players of different abilities could compete on a level playing field, set up our dormant volcano with 2 ml of vinegar in the top and placed our colored measuring cups at the start position. Players have 2 versions to choose from–a speedy game board or extended version. Players take turns listening to their math fact and attempting to get a correct answer. If right, the player moves his measuring cup ahead a space. Every few spaces a favorite spot to stop is on the picture of spooning some baking soda into your measuring cup. One little friend almost passed up a bonus card (that often offers to skip ahead spaces) because he didn’t want to miss getting some baking soda and being the first to reach the volcano, add his powder and explode the volcano. Math and science are nicely seamed together in this game of computation. Since children are increasingly required to give the “How?” and “Why?” for their answers, we played the game with some verbal narration. I gathered the math vocabulary of first graders, listed the words and listened to my players verbalize as they got their answers, using the language of math. Spillover, tens, ones, combine and grouping became integrated in the problem solving for addition and subtraction, while equal groups, altogether, each, multiply and multiplication sentence were woven into multiplication answers. Kids always benefit from strong language skills within the STEM curriculum, and certainly gain when there is a fun venue like this game for learning. “Can we play one more time?” was called out after our first round which was a nice endorsement!

Posted in 10 and up, 12 years and up, 6-8 year-olds, 8 years and up, Games, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

Bringing Science Into Speech Therapy

clifford-animalscience-235STEM is hot right now as we put the spotlight on science, technology, engineering and math. What is exciting to me is that language is right in the center of STEM, as curriculums increasingly require kids to tell the “why” and “how” they came to conclusions. When they solve a math word problem, they record in their math journal what worked and what didn’t and why. Because of this new push for building STEM skills I thought I would try out some great new science products in my speech therapy sessions.

Yesterday, new PAL Award winner, “Clifford the Big Red Dog Animal Science” came along with me to a session with a 5 year-old boy who is in the carryover stage of articulation therapy. I could have just as easily worked on language goals with all the talking that evolved from using this kit. We loved talking our way through the experiments, making edible play dough to form our animal tracks and using the little animal figures to learn about what they eat. Kids learn some great vocabulary along the way that might just be coordinated with a science unit for language delayed kids. Here is my full review:

The Young Scientists Club invites children 3 and up to joining Clifford the Big Red Dog and pal Emily to perform 14 fun experiments, learning about animal science. Not only do kids learn the language of general science like lab tray, measuring and magnifying but also vocabulary specific to animal study–habitats, animal tracks, fossils, bugs, camouflage, life cycle, carnivores and more.What do you see in the habitat? Is it wet or dry? is followed by an “Explanation” section which provides parents with great topics for further discussion located at the bottom of the activity page.  My little friends loved the activities which included putting reusable stickers on the window of the 6 habitats while placing associated animals in them, mixing and making edible play dough to cast an animal track, creating  their own fossils, hiding cut-out animals for camouflage hide and seek, discovering the inside of an egg, making a bird feeder and habitat diorama. Most of the props and ingredients are included in the box which makes moms happy. After a few experiments, my friend declared, “I want to do more science!” Isn’t that just what we want to hear as language skills are exercised in learning new concepts and vocabulary, making predictions and observing changes through experiments?

Available at Amazon: Click here


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

Speech Therapy News, New Autism Rates

Oil painting of beachI thought it would be fun to talk about what was in the news this past week that relates to us SLP’s. Probably the most fascinating, disturbing, confusing news was the new autism statistics: the condition is thought to affect one in every 68 8 year-olds, up from just 88 two years earlier. What is driving that huge increase, up 30% between 2008 and 2010 and more than doubled since the turn of the century, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?

Many experts believe the increase is largely due to better awareness and diagnosis. As a practicing clinician I would agree with that to some extent. It is in the back of  many new parents’ minds when they are asking about their child’s development. When I spoke to the new mothers’ groups at Greenwich Hospital (babies were about 3-12 weeks old), I could always count on a mother raising the question of how to look for autism. Parents also often call me to request an evaluation, hesitant to tell me why they REALLY called, until it comes out that they have some fears that their child might be on the spectrum.

Experts agree that we just don’t know the answer–aging parents, environmental factors–as to why there is this rise in children with autism.

What can we do about it? Ramp up research and pour ourselves into early identification and remediation which we DO know works!


Posted in Autism | Leave a comment