As I was leaving to go do speech therapy the other day, I glanced down at my bag and had a quick thought that the boxes looked the same. Yes, indeed, I was off to play with kids with all games from Thinkfun!

Four new games from Thinkfun have just received the PAL Award and I wanted to share them with you. Two word games, a silly make-up-your-own-sounds-game (as I just made up a word!) and a first toddler game can all be adapted to speech therapy whether using them as a reinforcer for articulation therapy or modeling language targets as you play. Let me know how you adapt these games with your kids to advance their goals. I would love to hear.

Here are my reviews”

Leave it to Thinkfun to create a way to combine a puzzle and word-search for kids as young a 6 years old, embedding language and reading skills along the way.  Just fit the colorful Tetris-style puzzle pieces over the letters on a grid to spell words forwards or  backwards. The 40 single-player challenges progress in difficulty as words become more complex as well as the clues. “Find” clues start with a list of the exact words you are searching for and progress to pictures of the words, and harder “hints” that you are looking for words in a category such as candy, related to a cactus (plant, spine, dry, or ouch) or go with step (mom, foot, stool and two). Although “Pathwords Jr” is designed for one player, I found that doing the task together provides a lot of conversation as kids race to find the words. With all the pieces housed in a clever slide-open container, this game is perfect for travel or to throw in a therapist’s bag to liven up language lessons.

Word game lovers take note–this one you can slip into your pocket. Simple but challenging, “Mini Mouth” is 26 letter tiles in a little game-go bag. Spread out the letters face down and then turn over 2-5 tiles and race to see who can use those letters in a word. All letters have to be used but you can also employ letters that haven’t been flipped. E, Q, T could combine for “quiet,” “quite” or “quest.” With all the possibilities, players search their vocabulary to come up with an answer. Kids can play with adults as you adjust the number of letter tiles flipped over, making this a fun family game.

“Yackety Smack!” is just that–a game of silly noises and fast paced smacking to beat your opponents. Kids couldn’t wait to record their own noises in the Sound Smacker to match two of  the four corresponding playing cards of a singer, karate kid, slime or a wild card of your choice.  Shyness is not allowed as kids tried out their best vibrato, ninja cry, squish or sound effect. Something about making noises frees kids of their inhibitions and I must say boys seem to have a bigger repertoire! Once play starts, each player in turn flips over the top  card on their pile until both the cards that correspond to the recorded sounds show at the same time. Think and move fast to be the first one to smack the Sound Smacker and you win that round. Language learning comes in when kids associate sounds with images, call on their visual and auditory memory, and discuss their way through this fun, wacky game.

Toddlers can now join family game night with their own selection, “Roll & Play” by Thinkfun. This first game designed for toddlers makes learning fun. Simply roll the stuffed plush cube, identify the color on top and match it to one of five stacks of category cards–emotions, body parts, animal sounds, counting, colors and actions. Kids and parents are soon roaring like a lion, blowing a kiss, searching for something blue, or touching their belly button. Cute cartoons illustrate the actions, as Mom or Dad read the instructions. Listening, moving and language learning abound as kids take turns, roll (and sometimes throw!) the block and follow directions. An added benefit of this toddler game is that it gives parents a fun activity with their child. So many parents of toddlers ask me for toy suggestions and activities to do with their kids. They’re not babies anymore, but can’t yet verbalize and play independently like preschoolers, so parents are often at a loss for something to play with their toddlers. Moms loved that this game had it’s own packaging–just slip the category cards into a Velcro pocket on one side of the cube and you can take it anywhere!

The above games were provided for review by Thinkfun.