Crocuses popping up, dogwoods blooming and peepers whistling in the neighborhood pond remind me that spring has arrived and the landscape is alive again. As we look at new growth and new beginnings what about checking out some great toys and games, just introduced, that can grow language? Children are invited into play by fantastically fun toys that encourage growth as kids meaningfully add on to a story, make up riddles, complete early reader words, and step into pretend play.

Here are some of my new favorite PAL Award winners:

Say the Word by Peaceable Kingdom

Peaceable kingdom Say the Word“The Repeat-After-Me Silly Story Memory Game!” says it all. In Peaceable Kingdom’s new cooperative game, everyone is the story teller, adding on a zany phrase or sentence using a word card in their hand, recalling what was previously said.  The Story Master monitors the round, chooses a character card (we chose “My Fairy Godmother,” “Quintuplets,” and “The Zombie”), deals 3 word cards to each player (ranges from wiggle, donkey, or bumpy to bunny slippers, tarantula or afro) and the story begins.  What a delightful, funny way to build language skills as players must use a new word to relate to the ongoing story line. Kids learn vocabulary, how to advance a story using a controlled set of words, and strategies to memorize meaningful chunks of language.

Available on Amazon: Click here

 uKloo Riddle Edition Treasure Hunt Game by uKloo

ukloo_riddle_on_whiteheader-1024x462The uKloo family is growing and they’ve done it again– introduced us to yet another fabulously fun treasure hunt game that promotes reading, thinking and now problem solving! Parents hide several riddle cards and the hunt begins.  “If there is rain or snow or sleet, put these on to protect your feet,” sent them off to peek inside the boots sitting at the front door. Learning extends beyond the game as our friends started making up their own riddles.  The Riddle Writing Tips encourage brainstorming, describing, using adjectives, homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms and using figurative language. Who had a clue that stumping your friends could be such “smart” fun!

Zingo Word Builder by ThinkFun

imgres-4Zingo™ is back! First it taught us matching pictures, then sight words and now spelling and reading. Something about sliding that red device back and forth for “the reveal” captures kids’s attention and they can’t get enough.  My beginning readers took a letter tile and placed it in each empty spot on their word-builder card and slowly sounded out the words. They were thrilled when they said a word that made sense. Kids were doing just what they’d been taught and found great gratification and fun in the process. Learning to be an independent reader opens up worlds of language learning.

Available at Thinkfun: Click here

 My Super Life Journal by PomTree

PomTree_TGC-0042 Scrapbook Journal_HRThis “Awesome, amazing, super, crazy, wonderful, lovely, adventurous, sunny, creative beautiful life journal” (and that’s just what is on the cover!) inspires little girls to celebrate all the little things in life with big splashes of color, stickers, art, words and adornments. The spiral binder holds it all–all about me, what I love, the best, dance and doodle, trips, fashion, places to visit, and favorites. Store your supplies in the vinyl storage zip bag or binder pockets, waiting to record your next adventure. I can’t think of a better way to excite kids about reading and writing as they tell about their amazing life with words and illustrations. This would be a perfect activity book for summer, to keep minds sharp.

Playpark by Plan Toys

imgres-8“Whee!” was the first word out of our little friend’s mouth as she gave one of the wooden family figures a ride down the cable car. “Use the harness for the baby,” I was instructed. Kids rode their bikes, raced down the ramp, climbed the rope ladder and took off on the glider from the launch area. Kids took turns winding the wind turbine to offer rides to their figures. Plenty of pretend play is inspired by open passageways from the ground floor up to the top level. Stories abound as kids get inspired by this toy!

Available at Amazon: Click here

Dinosaur Floor Puzzle by Galt Toys

61cps7AhmPLKids indeed thought this 30 piece dinosaur puzzle was giant and quite grand. With eight of the jigsaw pieces able to stand alone as complete prehistoric animals including some favorite dinosaurs, kids loved building the puzzle around these figures. Lots of conversation ensued as negative spaces began to show signs of a foot, wing or tail to match the creatures. The thick cardboard prehistoric figures with a wipe-off finish served as pretend play characters after the puzzle was completed. Kids couldn’t help but carry on with the story, reinforcing language skills to prepare them for later reading and writing.

Available at Amazon: Click here

Story Box-Safari by Janod
J08542_1I always like to watch kids when the packaging becomes part of the play. Our Safari Park pieces are stowed in a sturdy box shaped and illustrated like home base for the animals and tourists. My little friend set up his elephant, hippo, giraffe, zebra, lion and gazelle while the ostrich roamed free and the crocodile lazed in pretend water. The fence kept things reigned in until he started to match the animals and place them next to their pictures on the box.  Soon the monkey and ostrich were on the roof , watching as the safari train loaded its passengers and went on tour. Later he said, “Up the elevator” and lifted the figures up the side of the box to the top for a better view. This set was wonderful for pretend play and story telling as kids drove the story and used the props to direct the play. Language learning abounds when kids are given the right tools to do their work!

Available at Amazon: Click here