“Large Zoo by Playmobil 123”

The toddler-preschool set is delighted to be able to participate in pretend play with Playmobil, just like their big brothers and sisters. Thanks to playmobil 123, the little ones have their own vehicles, people and animals to ride, feed and visit. Take a trip to the large zoo with double fence enclosures to keep the zoo and farm animals contained. Designed for kids 1 1/2  and older, everything stands up and stays put–from fences to people–to eliminate little ones’ frustration and keep the story building. The zoo animals (zebra, giraffe, elephant and monkey) and farm friends (horse, sheep, donkey and bunny) have smooth chunky, realistic bodies for toddler hands to manipulate. Adding flexible items for storytelling like grass and flowers for feeding, drinking troughs, a tractor to pull a detachable wagon, a park bench for resting, trees for climbing and a tunnel to drive through or perch on top, this set has all the components for beginning imaginary play. Kids loved the tunnel, riding through it, and were able to easily manipulate the one-step figures who can stand or sit with one bend of their bodies. The zoo set sparked creative play that only a toddler could conjure up. Figures stood on the flat tree branches, rode in the wagon and slid down the sides of the tunnel. That’s the best endorsement for a toy–that kids invent and play differently with it each time!

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Playmobil Large Zoo” was provided for review by Playmobil.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | 1 Comment

“Animal Den” Play Ball by HABA

Grab on to this ball of fun and discover the animals nestled in their dens. Each of the six animals–crinkle pig, squeaky chick or smiling lion–can be pulled out of hiding on their stretchy strings, only to snap back inside for a rest. Kids love to use this toy as a ball or lesson in discovery. Toddlers enjoy the element of surprise as a new friend peeks out of his crevice to be touched, adored or tasted. With younger babies, not yet adept at manipulating the animals, parents can take the opportunity to show and describe the “spotted pink pig with the fuzzy nose,” “the squeaky, red chick with the blue beak,” or “nibble on the soft green leaf,” to fill their child with enriching language linked to their experience. Later, your child will be the operator of the animal den, when her little hand can grab the animals and play peek-a-boo.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Animal Den” was provided for review by HABA toys.


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“Hug-a-Puzzle” by Alex Jr. Toys

Alex toys is pretty new at baby toddler toys, introducing Alex Jr. in 2008, but they have positioned themselves as a leader in launching innovative infant toys, in a market that seems flooded with just one more stacking toy.

Hug-a-Puzzle” is just that–a soft puzzle in the form of a dog, kitty, bus or pig. The plush velour doggy is just firm and slim enough for a one-year-old’s hands to grab and give to someone or squeeze with a hug. Little ones were drawn to the simple face and pointed out the nose while younger kids enjoyed a munch on the ears and tail. Even I was amazed that a one-year-old could pull the pieces apart and then hand them back to me to start the game over again. “Hug-a-Puzzle” became a buddy and a game all in one.

Talk about body parts and point them out, describe the textures and colors, count the three puzzle pieces, as well as name opposites–off/on and in/out, as you use rich language to describe pulling, pushing and sliding. In talking about what your child is doing, you are teaching him language that prepares him to talk.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Hug-a-Puzzle” was provided for review by Alex toys.

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“Bon Voyage” by Alex Jr. Toys

I never thought packing the car was particularly fun until I watched a one-year-old happily stuff the picnic basket, hat, ball, umbrella and suitcases into the trunk of this squishy, plump car. Eight soft, crinkly pictures to pack delighted toddlers as they smashed the items into the little hand-sized compartment in the back of the car, shut the door and secured the silver tab to keep their prized possessions safe. As only toddlers know, it is just as much fun to take everything out as it is to put it in. Take a peek at yourself in the back mirror, open the hatch and start all over. Easily grabbable, this cushy car feels like a pillow and gets used as a rattle too.

Language building begins as you follow your child’s lead as they hand you the items or start to load them in the car. Name them, talk about their shapes, colors and what we do with them–“The goggles, we need them to see underwater.” “The picnic basket, that’s where we load our food for lunch.” Use rich vocabulary to build your child’s word base and strengthen language skills. During the first year and a half is when parents can build their child’s receptive language (understanding) in preparation for their saying words and little sentences at two years of age.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Bon Voyage” was provided for review by Alex toys.

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“Pixie Clutching Toy” by Haba

Babies loved this dynamic little toy on a ring, made with Haba’s signature bright colors and natural wood.  A six-month-old stared with fascination as he twisted the house, tree, mushroom and little person, as they bounced back into position. After exploring, a little tasting took place too with this teether. Shaking the ring to activate the rattle, a one-year-old turned it into a game to get a response from Mom. She explored the ring with her tiny fingers, and bent the objects to see the changing fronts and backs–pink doors become shiny circles and a smooth surface becomes a bumpy bell. Parents commented that this clutching toy was the perfect size, just light enough for kids to manipulate and learn from it. Small enough to pop in Mom’s pocket for outings, this toy is a great entertainer for babies and toddlers.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Pixie Clutching Toy” was provided for review by HABA toys.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Go! Go! Sports Girls” Dolls by Dream Big

When visiting the International Toy Fair, I was attracted to simple but effective dolls for promoting healthy pretend play. I saw my share of dolls who cry, whine, eat, and make a variety of noises, but my favorites left the fun up to their little owner.

The story behind a great toy is what often fascinates me. Go! Go! Sports Girls dolls was launched when founder and mom, Jodi Norgaard realized she couldn’t find an age-appropriate doll for her 10-year-old daughter that reflected a positive image for young girls, was proportioned properly and sent a message about a healthy lifestyle and giving back to others. So Go! Go! Sports Girls was begun.

Designed to encourage girls to be all they can be–physically, mentally and emotionally–through sports, each doll has “Dream Big” embroidered on her tummy to remind girls to set goals and strive to attain them. An added secret message corresponds to each girl’s sport, as Cassie, the speedy soccer player, has “Score Goals” as her big dream. Her backpack strapped on her back contains a little soccer ball and exercise towel to achieve it.

This multi-cultural gang of healthy girls includes participants in golf, soccer, running, tennis, gymnastics, dance, softball, swimming and basketball. Girls love the zany hair, soft grabbable take along body, huggable friend and backpack of fun. The Go! Go! Girls’ message prompted a discussion with some little girl friends, aged 7-11. What does it mean to dream big? What are your dreams? How are you going to attain them? Little Brooke said, “To make a big goal, like if you shoot a goal with five seconds left and you make it!” “I want to be the best defender.” After reading Cassie’s bio she said, “Speedy, just like me!”

Go! Go! Sports Girls Dolls donates a portion of its profits to Girls, Inc., a national nonprofit organization dedicated to “inspiring all girls to be smart, strong and bold,” teaching our young girls the added message of giving to others to strengthen young women.

What a wonderful companion to a little girl, growing up learning the merit of exercise, generosity and healthy eating and living.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. Go! Go! Sports Girls doll” was provided for review by Dream Big Toy Company. 11-year-old Brooke McKenna, star forward on the Fairfield Black Diamonds, contributed to this review.

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

“The Field Guide to Insects” by Silver Dolphin

Get ready for an expedition through the cloud forests of Central America, discovering thriving insects from eight inch butterflies, battling beetles, munching praying mantids  or jewel scarabs, the gems of the cloud forest. Written in the form of a journal, Randal Barnes’ recorded observations teach about eight exotic insects, and offer cardboard models to assemble from 58 pieces. Open the book to the pages about an insect and you are greeted with a visual feast of maps where the insects are found, beautiful color illustrations, diagrams for model assembly, and closeups of wing scales, camoflage, or eggs cases. Delivered with small bits of content reinforced by visual pieces, this guide works well with children who have a shorted attention span, are visual learners, or need text broken up into smaller chunks to keep them motivated to read and learn. An “active” book,  The Field Guide to Insects,  keeps kids engaged and teaches at the same time.

Kids love the models which might require some parent involvement, depending on the age of the child. After a little boy finished his model he ran to tell his mom, “You won’t believe all these pieces in one small book!” Then he asked me if he could take his model to school tomorrow.” That’s quite an endorsement.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “The Field Guide to Insects” was provided for review by Silver Dolphin.

Posted in 6-8 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Elementary School Age, Reading, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

“Feed the Kitty” by Gamewright

This “delicious game of mice and dice” keeps kids on their toes as they try to hang on to their mice–as they move from person to person or even into the cat’s bowl. With clear picture directions on the dice, a preschooler learns to pass to the left, take advantage of a snoozing cat and keep her mouse, feed the kitty or steal a mouse from the cat’s bowl. If you’re the last one to be holding on to your mice at the end of the game, you win! A great starter game to teach kids to take turns and follow directions, “Feed the Kitty” makes holding mice fun. Besides, somehow the cat and mouse competition tends to take the pressure off of who wins.

Simple enough for preschoolers to play, a speech therapist can use this game to reinforce goals a child is working on. Say a few sounds, or repeat a few sentences and take a turn to keep up interest and advance language.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Feed the Kitty” was provided for review by Gamewright.


Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Preschool, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

“Squeaky Legs Dolly” by Earlyears

A perfect first friend, Dolly features wild, stringy, soft pigtails, long fuzzy legs with pink, shiny satin shoes, and a cheerful face for baby to explore.  Her hair, hands and legs are easy to grasp for little ones looking to teethe on something or just hold and shake. Rattle her body or squeeze Dolly’s legs to get a squeak–giving multiple sensory experiences. Pop her heart out of the pocket or hide it for a peek-a-boo game. The little ring on her back insure an easy clip on ride in the stroller or car seat. Be sure to talk to Dolly or describe her features to build your baby’s language skills.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Squeaky Legs Dolly” was provided for review by International Playthings.

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“Mix ‘n’ Fix Mike” Cement Truck by WOW

Let’s face it. Kids love construction trucks–they’re attracted to dirt and earth moving vehicles of all sizes. I wanted to share some of my favorite construction toys with you if you are looking for good, flexible, fun toys to set up a scenario to encourage language development. Therapists can use these toys to build language lessons as children are interested in this theme.

I recently discovered “WOW” toys and their set of construction vehicles. Durable for hard kids’ play, and running on kid power–no batteries– these vehicles have people to get the action going. Designed for the toddler set and up, little ones just push to get these trucks going. The newest addition to their fleet, “Mix ‘n’ Fix Mike,” is the cement truck whose friction motor rotates the cement drum, complete with swirly cement design and added realistic sounds. A detachable barrier can keep the construction spot safe or be stored on the back of the truck. “Dexter the Digger” and “Dudley Dump Truck” add to the building adventure with digging and dumping action.

Sherry Artemenko, MA-CCC, is a speech-language pathologist with more than 35 years experience and founder of Playonwords.com. The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Mix ‘n’ Mike” was provided for review by Ravensberger toys.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment