Will BackpackAnticipating the start of a new school year is both exciting and daunting. As a parent and school speech therapist, I always felt the promise of a fresh start with new teachers, classmates, bulletin boards, pencils and backpacks. In my speech room, I made addotional folders for new kids, researched fun games to address goals and worked on lesson plans. As a parent, I began to prepare my three boys to transition from a free flowing summer to earlier bedtimes and a bit of routine anticipating the start of school.

Spending time each day in the few weeks before the start of school, enjoying a learning experience with a game, toy, book or journal can help prep the mind for back-to-school.

1. Play a fun learning game:

Ooga Booga By Blue Orange Games

imgres-1Gather up your tribe (teens included!) for a few rounds of this hilarious game of tribal chants as players add their cards depicting prehistoric words or gestures, lengthening the string of nonsense words to be remembered and recited like ANI, IGA, GLOO, IGA, HA!  Not only does Ooga Booga tap visual and auditory memory, but requires reading and pronouncing nonsense words which builds literacy and decoding skills.

Loco Lingo Games by HABA

imgres-11Get your listening ears on for HABA’s “Loco Lingo” series of games. This trio, Kindergarten, Building Site, and Fastgrasp, share learning skills as players spread out wooden figures or pictures cards.  As a story, rhyme, poem or group of riddles is read, players race to be the first to grab the picture or object being said or described. These games can help kids to focus and listen for words and context clues, as well as practice generating their own stories with the many options provided in the instruction booklet.

2. Turn up the talk about the alphabet:

Alphabet A-Z by Plan Toys

imgres-2“G is for grapes,” said my little friend as he set down the alphabet tile and lined up the letters.  Lots of language learning happens as children can trace the indented letter on one side of the tile, flip it over and feel the indented image of a word beginning with that letter. We lined up the alphabet and took turns asking, “What’s under the letter___?” and had fun brainstorming other words that began with that letter. Learning letters can be a challenge for children but is the foundation for reading and later language skills.

3. Make an art project that can stimulate pretend play:

Artzooka! Recycle Sticker Creations by Wooky Entertainment

imgres-4Recycle Sticker Creations was a favorite with my little friends as we collected toilet paper rolls, cans and plastic bottles for play! We chose from 250 stickers in the 8 page booklet to create a submarine from a plastic bottle, castle and pirate from toilet paper tubes, a turtle from a paper plate and a house from a paper cup.  Each creation brought an opportunity for creative play and language learning as Batman hid in the castle while the submarine sailed through the house with appropriate sound effects!

4. Write a review of a favorite game or book:

I obviously enjoy reviewing games and toys for my PAL Award so I often involve kids in my reviews. I ask them to tell me what they liked the best about the game or what they didn’t like. This is a great activity for any age. Preschoolers can dictate to Mom or Dad who can “write” their review while the child might draw an illustration of the game being played.  Older children love this concept because they enjoy giving their opinion.  Writing an opinion piece requires some critical thinking and analysis, while keeping  writing skills sharp. Recently I played the new Disney Sofia the First Royal Prep Academy game by Wonder Forge and asked the players who took different roles which they liked and why.

Disney Sofia the First Royal Prep Academy by Wonder Forge

sofia-prep-lifestylePlayers  assemble the impressive three paneled Royal Prep Academy and assign a Princess Sofia and “Hider” to sit on opposite sides of the school. Flip over tiles to hide specific charms behind windows that Princess Sofia later slides open to search for her dance shoes, teapot, school book, magical amulet and more. Of course a princess needs a little jewelry, so the game comes with a charm bracelet to collect the charms that are found.

5. Discuss your child’s summer reading with them:

Ask for a summary of the plot, what characters they liked best or how they would rate the book and why. Often teachers use the summer reading to launch a writing piece or start a conversation at the beginning of school.