I am reminded it is Back to School time as I see empty busses practicing their routes, parents running around with lists in their hands looking for that specific folder, paper and binder that the teacher requested, and kids cramming to get their summer reading done! Of course as a speech-language pathologist I’m in that “scheduling” mode, playing that game of chess where I move my little clients around my week’s calendar, hoping to get contiguous appointments that are also semi-close logistically as I drive to their homes! All fun of course as we are glad to see one another again after our summer break.
Speaking of which, I took a bit of a break from blogging which makes me really eager to share fun experiences, therapy tips and toys and books I have discovered that hone language skills while having fun. Check in for some helpful tips and share some yourselves!
Back to School seems to focus on the kids going to “real” school, beginning with kindergarten but let’s not forget our preschoolers. This summer I’ve had a chance to play with some wonderful 2,3 and 4 year-olds with great products to encourage pre-literacy skills, playing with letters, sounds and words. Here are some of my favorites:
Thanks to Alex Toys, learning letters is fun! Kids need lots of repetition to remember the alphabet so why not make it a game? My little friends loved picking up one piece of the 2-part puzzle per letter, identifying the picture and searching for the other half. Where are the buttons for B? Dots for D? or Cars for C? Favorites were E for eggs (kids love food!), U for Umbrella and R for Rocket. Many letters became the shape of the object like “Owl,” “Monster,” and “Ice cream.” Several levels of language and literacy learning are tapped as kids see the letter, a corresponding word that begins with that letter, and start to associate the letter with its matching sound for later reading success. Oh, did I mention they liked climbing up the ladder on the L, and cooking up the E in their kitchen for some eggs? Who knew it would spark some pretend play too!
- Busy Builder Wagon by BKids. Toddlers gravitated right to this wagon full of learning among a playroom of toys. They got right to work pushing it around the floor to get things moving. It even went along on a walk outside in the street! With little rings to twirl and gears to turn, the wagon kept their attention when they finally took a rest stop. The 12 blocks each have an animal pictured and 3 letters or numbers so they can learn to recognize and name a zebra, hippo or whale while locking them together to build a tower of ABC’s and numbers. As kids get interested in letters, these blocks are a perfect venue for practicing how to say them, increasing their repertoire of sounds as well as naming the alphabet. The wagon served as a carrier for favorite objects too like their water bottle and stuffed animals.
- Giant Floor Puzzle ABC Monsters by Janod. Janod got it right when they combined some popular themes for early learners–ABC’s and monsters! Kids loved assembling this giant 50 piece puzzle of fun and fuzzy, silly toothed characters. “I need a pink A with glasses” and “D is a dragon (I thought his teeth looked like piano keys!)” commented my little friend and we searched for the next letter. “C is wild and look how many eyes F has.” Lots of fun observations and chatting went on as we put together our ABC puzzle, talking about the quirky monsters. My friend loved opening the box and finding a nice size poster of the alphabet we were trying to duplicate. Kids learn their letters through experience and a lively puzzle is perfect for some ABC talk, as they build language and literacy skills while having fun!
- ABC Puzzle by Ravensburger. Sounds simple enough, but an 80 piece puzzle ups the challenge for a 5 year-old and up. Luckily the alphabet theme is cleverly woven throughout the puzzle to give location clues for pieces based on letters, matching objects and people, and the printed word corresponding to images. My little friend found a piece with the bike first and said, “I need a B.” and “The B is blue, can someone help me?” after consulting the drawing on the box. Then I hear, “R is for robot,” as he searches for the letter and parts of the figure. After assembling different letters and corresponding pictures, he started to order them according to the alphabet. He finished the puzzle declaring it, “Pretty cool,” and declared, “I wish D could be for drums, because I play drums. This puzzle gets kids thinking on the language level besides working on fine motor and spacial skills. With three possible clues for each segment, the letter, corresponding picture and written word, kids get a literacy work-out too as they link sounds, letters and objects and figures to the written word.
- Tiggly Words by Tiggly. Meet the newest member of the Tiggly family, “Tiggly Words,” designed to help kids discover the love of reading as they “play” with their hands-on vowel toys interacting with their tablets. A,e,i,o, can be used with 3 apps, Submarine, Tiggly Tales and Tiggly Doctor. Take a tour of the ocean with your submarine to find a blue hexagon to start up your letter game. An elevator, underwater tree house, octopus pad and circle of coral need vowels to reveal words beginning with or using a,e,i,o,and u. “A” reveals alligator, astronaut, ant or an ax who cleverly comments,”No way, time to split.” while an egg cracks and a tiny dinosaur swims out. Elk says, “Wrong floor, this isn’t the lodge,” adding a little humor for parents listening in. Tiggly Tales is my favorite as it is simple and entertaining in its content and graphics, focusing on the learning of letters and their associated sounds. Beginning and ending consonants are literally loaded onto the deck with a space in the middle for kids to drag or stamp their vowel sound to complete the 3 letter word. h__g reinforces correct responses, hug, hog and hag (depicted by a witch flying by on a broom which kids loved) while incorrect letters inserted medially are ejected by a spring. Kids liked the quick success they could achieve as they experimented with vowels and were rewarded with cute illustrations. It was fun to see them quietly sounding out their possible words before selecting a vowel–just what we want them to do! B__g was completed to say bug, bag, big and bog, with cartoons appearing to tell kids their answers were correct. Tiggly again has combined traditional and digital play to encourage emergent readers to learn through fun discovery!