PAL Award Top Ten Picks To Be Announced on NBC CT TV Today!

I’m excited to share some of my  2014 “Top 10 PAL Award Picks” today on a segment on NBC CT TV with Keri-Lee Mayland. I wanted to get my list up so those who watch will imgres-1have all the details of these outstanding language learning products. Click on the company to read my reviews and see where to purchase the product:

Disney Palace Pets Royal Pet Salon by Wonder Forge (3 and up, $20.00)

  • Little girls love choosing their pets
  • Spin to move through the 7 rooms, sudsy spa, tiara fitting, hair styling and collect cards
  • Find where that object is located, hair brush, kleenex or nail polish
  • Learn vocabulary within categories, great pretend play

839499295282eCook’n Serve Kitchen by Hape (3 and up, $150) accessories are sold separately.

  • Little chefs can pull this kitchen on wheels to any spot and start cooking
  • Reminds me of popular food trucks
  • Backside has 2 blackboards to announce changing menu, specials of the day
  • Pretend play has several  options to start a story, practice in oral and written language

imgres-4Ostrich Puppet by Folkmanis 

  • Kids are drawn out using puppets, take on a persona, here an animal
  • Facts of interest–3 pounds of rocks in his gut to grind her food–imagination going, start for story, twist and turn in the story builds language skills
  • set up show and sell tickets

PrintuKloo Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game (7-9 years old, $18)

  • Newest addition to uKloo family of fun treasure hunt games that promote reading
  • Agonizing time for some parents as their kids are learning to read
  • Fun “If there is rain or snow or sleet, put these on to protect your feet,” (boots)
  • Kids compose their own riddles, problem-solving and thinking

imgresPaint a Tea Set by Galt ( 5 years and up, $13)

  • Make-and -play toy provides a double opportunity for creativity as kids design the toy that becomes central to pretend play.
  • After the paint dries, let the storytelling begin, preparing little ones for later reading and writing
  • Invite dolls and teddy bears to the party
  • Add paper and pencil and now it’s a store, adding pre-reading skills to the pretend play 

imgres-4-1Mon Premier Bebe Calin Maria by Corolle (18 months and up, $42) with Stroller and Diaper backpack sold separately

  • First hispanic baby doll for mommies 18 months and older
  • Cuddly soft bean bag body fits into a child’s arms so realistically
  • Burping, hugging, changing and walking
  • Kids learn from imitating their world

imgres-7Fort Magic by Fort Magic LLC(51/2 and up, $200)

  • Perfect name, durable
  • Seen kids build castle, airplane, rocket
  • Critical thinking, group collaboration, problem solving
  • 165 straight and curved rods, tools to follow their imagination
  • Great prop for pretend play
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Learn the Language of Math in new Tiggly Cardtoons App for Preschoolers

IY7GRbIwNG2hBs0RDhnsk2CxzLMTj_AjfEGqrG3bx4gYou need to get to know Tiggly, as they are developing fun learning apps for preschool and up. Two PAL Award winners, “Tiggly Cardtoons” and “Tiggly Shapes” which interact with the toy counting rods and shapes, “Tiggly Counts” and “Tiggly Shapes” respectively are full of language learning fun. Their latest app, Tiggly Cardtoons, has 25 mini -stories related to the number of dots counted out from 1-5 in each activity.

imgres-2 “Tiggly Counts” is an incredibly creative, yet simple beginning counting game that rewards counting 1-5 with the corresponding number of digital cardboard scraps that band together to form the characters and props for a story. Kids have the option to use the cool “Tiggly Counts”–rubberized counting rods, representing digits 1-5, to place on the iPad for interaction, or their fingers to drag and drop dots that count out and display the number. No prizes needed here. The reward is in the learning as the colored cardboard scraps move to form a dinosaur eating 4 leaves, 5 cute kittens rescued by a firetruck from the top of a building, or 4 flies atop a garbage truck that help the stuck load to dump–”Home smelly home,” as they disappear into a hole in the pile. Kids couldn’t get enough of this app and Tiggly has integrated the hands-on builds as well as a cute story to encourage fun learning. As kids get older they are increasingly required to tell the “how” and “why” of how they got their math answers so why not add the language learning starting at the preschool level? Best yet, the app is free or buy the counting toys to solidify number concepts. Note that Tiggly Cardtoons is the youngest in a series of 3 apps whose siblings,Tiggly Chef and Tiggly Addventure, combine numbers while cooking recipes and crossing bridges!

Available on iTunes. Click here

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

Happy Halloween to all Blakcats and Gostes!

caroline's ghost pictureHappy Halloween to everyone! Hope you have fun trick-or-treating and have as safe holiday.

Here was one of my treats that I found after our trip to Michaels for Halloween stickers that the kids requested. Caroline loves to make books so I found several of these pages taped together and couldn’t resist sharing it. We did get into a big discussion with little brother about if ghosts have legs. Good question.

I love to see her invented spelling and watch her sound out her words. Learning to read and write are an exceptionally exciting stage for parents and Caroline's black cat picturegrandparents to watch.

Here’s hoping you see some ghosts and black cats tomorrow night!


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5 Ways To Build Language Skills, Playing With A Puzzle

Galt farm puzzleParents don’t typically consider a puzzle to be a language learning toy. Sure, it’s great to build fine motor, and spacial relationship skills but how does language fit in? When parents join the play, it ups the level of learning as long as we stay in the passenger’s seat and let our child drive the play.

My 4-year old friend brought out his favorite Galt giant floor puzzles, “The Farm” and “Dinosaurs.” Let’s look at the farm. I sat down on the floor next to him and started the conversation. Soon he was leading and asking me the questions. So how can we strengthen language skills while playing with a puzzle?

  1. Asking questions. I started out with, “Where is the rest of the roof of the chicken coop?” or “Where are the purple stripes?” He joined in with “Can I have the tractor?” when we had  assembled the pieces around the shape of the missing tractor. “Where are the rest of the bales of hay?” as we looked to see what might be continued on the missing puzzle piece.
  2. Building vocabulary. After we finished our farm puzzle, my friend started to take out the animals one by one, “Wanna see this one?” and had me name them. Then he chimed in with the associated sound the animal makes, “bak bak bak” for the chicken and “neigh” for the horse. While assembling, I am talking about the  pasture, silo, chicken coop or clay flower pot.
  3. Describing. I like to describe what I am looking for. I need the front part of the pig, an animal with orange spots, the scarecrow’s body or the wooden doors of the barn. Kids start to follow that model and describe what piece they are searching for too so there is some nice chatter as they assemble their puzzle.
  4. Relating the objects and theme to life experiences. Start by talking about how the pictures related to your recent experience or something you might have done together like visiting a petting farm, seeing a cow, or maybe just growing a plant. As kids enter school they are asked to relate “books to life,” meaning tell what they have seen or experienced that matches a character, object or event in the story. These connections build language skills as children start weaving their world together and explaining the connections.
Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Language, Strategies to Encourange Language Development | Leave a comment

How Parents Can Discourage Their Kids From Reading

Reading In WilmingtonIt’s always interesting what sparks interest in social media. One of the most popular posts I shared on Facebook recently was “Eight Ways Parents Discourage Their Kids From Reading”. As school gets into full swing, after school time is crammed with activities and homework–some of which is to read. I thought this article had some valuable insights as we all can slip into caring if our child is in the blue or green reading group, are they progressing fast enough, or how much more can I do to help at home etc.

Tips like letting the child choose what is interesting to read (even if it seems gross or silly to us), provide the right reading level materials for success and enjoyment of reading and don’t over-correct an over-practice. I found the last one most valuable for me as I listen to kids read and have to bite my tongue so I don’t correct too much. Now when they read “pizza” instead of  “prizes” it is helpful for comprehension to have them try that word again. Although to kids, maybe a pizza is better than a prize! Take a look and I think you’ll find these helpful.

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

Fun Halloween Jokes For Kids

Halloween-jokes-for-kids-with-printable-1I’ve heard more knock knock jokes this week while staying with my grandkids. Kids tell jokes in the cafeteria, in the hall, on the bus,  at the breakfast table and with playmates! Here are some cute Halloween jokes to print and put in their lunch box!

I guess I have morphed to the mind of a 6 year-old because I think they are pretty funny and have been trying them out on my husband. Here are a few:

How do you make a witch itch? You take away the W.

Why was the jack-o-lantern afraid to cross the road? He had no guts!

Okay I’ll stop but you’ll be pretty cool in the eyes of your kids if you try a few on them this week AND there is a little play on words in a some of them so here’s to a good language activity too.

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

Kids Inventing A Halloween Cat From Hape’s Packaging

Caroline with halloween cat

Halloween Cat from Hape boxes

“Do you know what happens when you make a toy? It helps the world!” That’s what 6 year-old Caroline told me as she worked on her Halloween Cat toy, made from Hape’s “Minimals” toy packaging. It was fun to watch her creative mind work as she began after dinner to start cutting apart 2 boxes and the plastic covers to make the body, found a large roll of clear packaging tape and cut it apart to make the legs decorated with halloween stickers.  She finished up the cat this morning while it was still dark outside.

We had a nice discussion about being an “inventor” and what that means. I loved that I was not involved one bit in this project. Caroline has a craft drawer in the kitchen (One of the biggest drawers) that holds paper, markers, tape, duct tape, and scissors. She was self-sufficient in her creative Caroline's halloween catprocess. Isn’t that what we want our kids to be? Have great materials and toys available so they can take off and lead the play. That’s how they learn the most.

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

I’m Mystery Reader In The Classroom This Week

Reading to Sam's classI love reading to my grandchildren and watching them learn how to read. This week I have had the opportunity to read to two of their classrooms with the kids “helping” me. Sam’s 3 year-old preschool class was so helpful as I read “Skeleton Hiccups” and they joined in on “hic, hic, hic,” as the skeleton hiccuped his way through many activities, trying to rid himself of those pesky jolts. Nothing seems to work–holding his breath, pouring sugar down his throat, or holding his nose. Ghost has a better idea as he searches through the attic trunk for just the right solution. Each page has “hic, hic, hic” repeated until the last page when the hic’s jump away for a final “hic, hic, hooray!” Perfect for a preschool read-aloud. In our followup discussion about halloween, the teacher asked the kids what is inside the pumpkin and a little girls said, “Guts!” Don’t you just love this age?

Today I was the Mystery Reader in Caroline’s 1st grade so I chose some Halloween Caroline's mystery readerfavorites. They have been working on a unit about bullying so I thought “Hallo-Weiner” would be a good choice. Poor guy, Oscar was made fun of by his friends for his homemade lovingly made by his mom–“Weiner Dog” they yelled and had a good laugh. Well, when he came to their rescue from a giant monster, the dogs changed their tune and re-named him their “Hero Sandwich.” The kids were such good listeners that we read 2 more books including “Skeleton Hiccups” and “T. Rex Tick or Treats” After we finished, we asked the kids how the last 2 books were alike (book to book, text to text comparisons–a great language building exercise) and they came up with 8! Such a special class.

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

Getting Creative with Faber-Castell Connector Pens

Connector pens dino

Faber-Castell Connector Pens Elephant

All I had to do was dump out the can of 50 Faber-Castell Connector Pens and the kids started building a flute, dinosaur and robot arm. This is the kind of toy that I love. Do you want to draw? or build? My little friend said, “Let’s be creative!” She could be part of the marketing team. The markers came in handy as the kids drew faces for their creations. Just cut them out and tape them on.

Before breakfast the can came out again. Cooper made a boat with a mast and oar–actually more like a raft. The construction is pretty linear but that makes the kids think harder about what they can make.

The elephant in the picture was made by the inventor and displayed at the Toy Fair this year.

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A Precious Week With My Grandchildren, Take A Look at Home Schooling

Sheshe with Ben and SamThis is such a special week as we get to spend time in the lives of some of our grandchildren. So far we have participated in home-schooling, surfing, reading to the preschool class, conducting science experiments, playing math games, catching fish and going to the book store.

This is the first year that one of the families is home schooling. It is amazing to watch as learning goes on all day in many formats, starting early as they review verb forms on the bed, learn their history timeline, Home schoolingsing in latin while making legos and learn their state capitals. We went along to their morning of Classical Conversations which I had heard about but didn’t understand  until we joined the home schooling families as they reviewed and learned new dates and events in history, added hand signs and songs and then recited it in latin! My husband came out of one the classrooms where he had been observing 1st grade and said, “I just had a whole day of school!” The fast-paced, fun delivery of organs of the body, grammar, state capitals and latin vocabulary gave us a packed morning. As a speech-language pathologist, I appreciated all the rich vocabulary that was introduced. As they first used their tin whistles in music time, they learned “cacophony” (which was applicable to their first notes!), harmony, melody, symphony and fipple (the hole in the mouthpiece)–who knew?

Short presentations to the class are started at an early age to teach kids to be confident in public speaking. Later when they have a foundation of historical events and the classics they will be equipped to discuss and debate ideas.

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