Hape dollhouseWow! Summer is speeding by and parents are getting a little worried about “summer slide,” asking me for fun toys and activities to keep kids’ language and reading skills sharp. First of all, toys and games have to be fabulously fun and second have some great learning potential embedded in them. We want to keep kids talking, reading and writing over the summer. Spending a little time each day playing a game or adding a prop to pretend play can reinforce skills for an easier transition back to school.

Reading and Writing Essential to Play Scenarios:

XL Graffiti Black White Board by Janod


Get out the pad and pencil or black/white board and introduce it to your playroom and watch kids integrate some reading and writing into their play. On Janod’s easel, an author and illustrator can work on either side as they write and illustrate a story, write out the menu for a restaurant or make a sign of items for sale at a store. A pad of paper and pencil can serve as a doctor’s prescription pad or homemade tickets for the puppet show. Integrating reading and writing into play in a meaningful way encourages learning.

Available at Janod. Click here

Letter Slide by Simply Fun imgres-2Learning to read is loads of fun as kids dip into the “Letter Lagoon” and draw their Word Card showing 2 letters missing as they race to complete as many words as possible with their letters. With successful words, players fill their inner tubes on the game board. What a fun way to learn spelling, reading, letter-sound association and sound sequencing as kids race to be the first down their water slide!

Available at SimplyFun. Click here


“Shadow FX Color Projector” by Crayola

Crayola FX projector

Add a child’s creativity to the simple contents in this box–a clear drawing panel with gel FX markers, a shadow shapes sheet of props like an astronaut, alien and a lightning rod and the colored light projector–and the light show stories are limitless. Kids loved to draw on the clear panel to set the scene for their action story, add characters, objects or toys, dim the lights and switch on the LED lights for the show. How exciting to turn out the lights and project your story onto the wall in red, green and blue moveable LED lights. All the essential pieces of a story were integrated with the setting, characters, solving a problem and the action plan–while kids were enthralled with the medium in which it was presented.

Available at Crayola. Click here

“Doorway Puppet Theatre” by HABA USA


Set up couldn’t be easier as you adjust the top tension rod to your doorway and hang HABA’s new puppet theatre just the right height for your little puppeteers. Kids start right into a story, assuming the identity of their puppet as they slip through the parted curtains or out the peep hole on top to announce their show. Kids learn to develop a story with other characters, negotiate how the plot proceeds and add on events until the conclusion. All this language learning fun comes with a little writing practice too as kids can title their story and slip it into the plastic sleeve to advertise their show.

Available at HABA USA: Click here

Pretend Play: Fort Magic by Fort Magic LLC

Fort Magic,jpg “Fort Magic” has the perfect name as kids felt the magic, standing inside and outside of their castle, airplane and rocket as they solved design questions, negotiated how to build and created new spaces! With 165 straight and curved rods in 7 different sizes, and 5 varieties of connector pieces at their disposal, kids have the tools to follow their imagination. Our friends got right to work twisting the rods into the connecting pieces while calling out ideas and orders as to where to put the next piece. Critical thinking, group collaboration and problem solving are all higher level language skills that are tapped as kids created customized space for a bed and entry way. Kids finished their castle and slipped away to return fully outfitted in a knight’s costume, ready to defend their fort.

Available at Fort Magic. Click here


“Counting Animals” by Ravensburger

Ravensburger counting Animals

Let’s not forget our preschoolers who have been learning colors, shapes and numbers through the year. A beautifully illustrated puzzle with amusing content for the 3-4 year-old is perfect for encouraging describing and asking questions. “Where is the hippo playing tennis?” Our little friend caught on to the counting theme as he put the 24- piece super-sized puzzle together randomly calling out the next number he wanted to assemble–7 ballooning cows, 9 owls skating, 4 happy hippos playing tennis and then on to 10 flapping flamingos! This puzzle generates a lot of buzz as kids enjoy the silly scenes,  count out the animals and describe the piece they are looking for.

Available at Ravensburger. Click here

Learning Concepts:

Disney Junior Super Stretchy Game by Wonder Forge

DJ_SuperStretchy_Beautyshot 2 “Twister” with a Disney preschool spin, this super stretchy game has kids following directions to match shapes, colors and Disney characters with their body parts–elbow, foot, hand, knee and head (the hardest by far). Part of the fun was spontaneous talk about the different Disney characters and what show they were from, “Hey, there’s Clover and Amber from Sofia the First, and Izzy from Jake and the Neverland Pirates!”   Get moving in this active, fun, learning as kids are reinforcing their knowledge of preschool vocabulary and following directions, all the things teachers appreciate when kids enter school.

Available at Wonder Forge: click here

“The Multiples Early Years Set” by Realtimes Products LLC


Kids get ready to meet the Multiples and have a chat about math as they sip their milk, down their cereal or have a sandwich! Professor One Hoot, Madame Two Moos, Porky Five Bellies and Goatee Ten Beards are at the eating table to make multiplication fun. Each character has a back story relating to their number to spark conversation , while the dinnerware counts by one, two, five and ten with corresponding multiplication facts in the middle of the dishes.

Available at The Multiples: Click here