Using your Elf on a Shelf to Promote Your Child’s Communication Skills

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There’s a lot of hype about Elf on a Shelf.  You’ve likely seen numerous posts about the popular Elf on a Shelf on many social media outlets.  Many teachers use them in their classrooms.  Some parents love them.  Some parents….well, not so much.  We’re not suggesting you rush out and buy your child an elf, but if you do enjoy your family’s elf we’d like to suggest some ways you can use your elf as a fun way to practice and improve your child’s language and articulation skills.

1.  Ask lots of questions!  This helps your child understand and answer wh- questions.  Where is the elf?  Who is he with?  What is he doing?  Why is he doing that?  Model appropriate responses.

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2. Encourage your child to use action words to describe what your elf is doing….swinging, playing, eating?  If you child is learning to combine words or formulate sentences, use those action words in a sentence.  Elf is eating!  Elf is playing!

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3. Is your child learning spatial concepts?  Put your elf in, on, under, beside, behind, in front of things and talk about where he is.

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4.    If your child is working on articulation or phonological skills, put those skills to work when she tells you about her elf.  Listen for the sounds she is practicing in therapy, and praise her when you hear her say her sounds correctly.  Ask her to tell her father or her siblings about the elf using her good sounds!  Pour on the encouragement and praise!  Children who practice regularly at home tend to progress more quickly and won’t spend as much time in therapy.

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5.  Use your elf to target predicting and making inferences.  Where did elf go last night?  What did he do while he was gone?  Where do you think he will hide tomorrow?  What do you think he wants us to do with the mixer and cookie cutters?

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Have fun with your elf! Working on speech and language skills is so much more successful when it’s done in a fun way.  We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.  Many blessings to you yours.

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Superhero Fun! Using Superhero Toys to Develop Speech and Language Skills

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Ok.  Superheroes are hot right now.  Several superhero movies are out in theaters.  Kids are buying up superhero toys and superhero dress-up.  Many children are having superhero birthday parties.  Boys have always loved them.  Now even girls are getting in on the fun!  Our box of superheroes is one of the most requested toys being used in our clinic lately, and here is how YOU can use the superhero toys from your home to develop your child’s specific speech and language skills!  These are general tips.  A speech-language pathologist can help guide you in how to use these toys to help your child meet their individual goals.  The most important thing to remember is to have fun with this activity and talk slowly and simply about your superheroes as you play together.

ImageIf your child is learning to talk in single words or using sign language to request:

Put your superhero toys in a clear bag or box out of their reach.  Our box contains a variety of superheroes as well as different forms of transportation such as Spiderman who fits in his airplane, Batman and batmobile, Ironman and his motorcycle.  Sit down with the box and your child.  Model signing and asking your child to say or sign open.  Use hand over hand assistance to teach this sign to your child if he or she is not independent with it yet.  Then, open the box and give them one toy and close it.  Model signing and asking your child to say or sign more.  If your child is communicating with sign language, remember to always say the word as you are signing it.  Repeat until the child has all the desired toys out of the box then have fun playing!  If your child is learning to imitate sounds, emphasize these sounds during play: vroom, beep, pow, wow, weee, up, bye, ouch.

Image2.  Try using superheroes to practice the following language concepts:

Answering who/where questions such as Where is Batman? Who is this?  Where is Ironman?  If your child doesn’t answer, model the correct answer for them.  Put the superheroes on top of the box, in the box, under the table, on the floor, etc to introduce spatial concepts such as in, out, on, off, under, beside, etc.

Superheroes are full of action and this is the perfect activity to teach your child action words such as riding, flying, racing, crashing, fighting, driving, falling.  The same action words  could be used to teach past tense verbs.  Simply ask your child using the past tense form, “What happened?  He fell!  What did they do?  They raced!”

3.  If your child is working on articulation/speech sounds:

If your child is learning to produce bilabial sounds /p, b, m/ model and emphasize these words during play: Batman, Robin, Lightning McQueen, Mater, Buzz Lightyear, mask, cape, open, more.

If your child is learning to say three syllable/multisyllabic words target the following during play: Batmobile, Spiderman, Motorcycle, Ironman, Superman, Buzz Lightyear.

Is your child learning to make final consonant sounds?  Target these words during play: help, ride, shoot, man, run, hide, out, in, cape.

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Beyond Sandcastles: Fun with Kids at the Beach

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Summer is here and that means beach vacations for many families.  We are fortunate to live within a few hours drive to several beaches and many families in our area take numerous trips to the beach, including day trips.  We all know kids don’t stay still for very long, and the beach is no exception.  Want to keep your family happy at the beach?  Check out our list of activities that go beyond sandcastles and searching for seashells and can help stimulate and encourage your child language and motor development.  

1.  Nets can be used to catch a variety of treasures and critters such as fish, crabs, shells, and seaweed and will keep your child entertained for hours!  They can be used in shallow tidal pools and in deeper parts of the ocean.  Look for bug nets at your local dollar store.  These work well.  

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2. Scavenger Hunts are great for older children.  I have seen families doing this on the beach and really enjoying it!  You can make it as difficult or as easy as you want.  Make a list of items you need to find such as shell, stick, stone, sand dollar, seaweed and the first person (or team) to find all the items wins!  

3.  Roll Ball is a cross between bowling and golf.  Bring a ball of any kind.  Dig a few holes that the balls will fit in.  Roll the ball into the holes.  The holes can be worth different amounts of points, or you can keep it simple by having one hole.  

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4.  Spray bottles keep you cool and are a fun alternative to water guns and are great for hand strengthening.  Spray designs in the sand or just spray your friends!  

5.  Bubbles are wonderful at the beach and if you have read any of our previous posts, you know we use bubbles to target many oral motor and language goals.  Target vocab: more, open, pop, blow, please, big/small, wow, yay, all done, thank you.

6. Take plastic toys your child really enjoys playing with at home such as figurines, trucks, and plastic tea party sets.  You will be amazed at the way that these favorite activities will be enjoyed in a new environment!  Build race car tracks and bridges for trucks in the sand, army and super hero forts for figurines, and ask others to join you for your tea party!  

 

 

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7.  Ready to put your feet up?  Have a seat with your little ones and play a game of I spy or tic tac toe (using a stick or your finger in the sand).  Write letters, words, and messages in the sand using sticks or fingers.  Great for developing fine motor skills!

8.  Lawn games such as ladder ball and bocce ball are fun and easy to transport to the beach.  These are great for developing gross motor skills.Image9.  Simple games such as Simon Says and Red Light Green Light and Hop Scotch are great for listening and following directions.  Let the children take turns being Simon, and put your feet up for a while!  

10.  Bring a frisbee or a velcro throw and catch game and work on those gross motor skills!

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11.  Large shovels are best for digging in the sand and don’t just dig holes!  Bury your feet, your brother, or your dad!  Sand is great sensory play!  Talk about how the sand feels…rough, smooth, hot, wet?  Target spatial concepts and wh- questions by asking where things are such as…where are your toes?  UNDER the sand!  Where are mommy’s toes?  ON top of the sand!Image

12.  Seashells are fascinating little objects to children and can keep them busy for hours!  Search for them, sort them, match them, make patterns with them, stack them, and use them to decorate your sandcastles!  Talk about their similarities and differences.

13.  Boogie boarding and skim boarding are difficult and require patience and practice but boy, is it fun!

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14.  Fill the bucket relay races are exciting and fun!  If you have two beach buckets and two smaller cups that are the same size, bring them with you to the beach.  Position yourselves a little ways from the water and create teams or compete individually to see who can fill their bucket up with water first, walking to and from the ocean.  

15. Evening can be a wonderful time to spend time on the beach.  This is a very peaceful time of day at the beach and may be the perfect way to end your day.  Not only is it cooler, but also tends to be less crowded.  Bring flashlights and search for crabs.  Bring your camera along this time.  The lighting at sunset makes beautiful pictures!  Bring a picnic or a kite!  

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16.  If you have a toddler, try bringing plastic stackable cups.  Or just a stack of solo cups.  Fill a beach bucket up with water and let her pour water in and out of the cups.  Toddlers love to pour and you will be amazed at how long your little one will stay with this simple activity!

 

What are your favorite things to do at the beach?  Comment and let us know! 

Our Favorite Apps!

Christmas has come and gone and I bet many of you (and your children) have new tablets. How exciting! At our clinic, each therapist has an ipad and boy, do we use them!  It can be a fun and motivating way to teach and reinforce new skills.  We have already had many parents ask us for app recommendations, so our therapists have compiled a list of our favorite, most loved and used apps to share with you.

But first, here are a few things for parents to keep in mind about tablets.  For young children, playing with good old fashioned toys is the BEST way to learn, so limit screen time especially for this age.  Also, if you download lots of apps that aren’t educational or appropriate, your child will likely discover these and may prefer them to the more educational apps.  And you will be amazed at how easily and quickly young children learn to navigate an ipad and open all the apps.  So, try to download only apps you want your child to have access to and you won’t have to battle them over which games/apps they will play. You should also invest in a protective cover if you haven’t already.  Tablets are expensive and children are prone to dropping things so protect your investment!  We use Otterbox Defender cases and they have worked well for us.

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Simple apps for young children and early learners:

1.  Kindergarten.com apps are great for introducing new vocabulary with simple, beautiful photos.  Our favorites are Actions, Emotions, Play, Wear, Eat, Which Go Together, Receptive Identification by Class, What Rhymes.  Many are free!

2.  Peekaboo HD is a barn/farm animal app says the animal name and makes the animal noise as the child touches the tablet to uncover the animals.  Also teaches cause and effect.

3.  Kids Songs has great songs for children and we do love music at our clinic.  If your child is learning to sign or talk, teach them to sign or say music to request this app.  Or, after each song teach them to sign or say more to request more songs!

4.  Pocket Pond-children are fascinated by this app!  Touch the water for water sounds and scare the fish away.  A great reinforcer.

5.  Musical Hands

6.  Tap a Tune

7.  Doodle Buddy

8.  Doodle Dots

9.  Blow Bubbles/Bubbles and Balloons

A few of our favorite interactive books:

1.  Monster at the End of This Book is a classic book and the interactive version is just plain funny and will make your child giggle!

2.  Tickle Finger (pocket story)

3.  Pete the Cat is a fantastic book with great music and a wonderful message about the power of positive thinking.  As you’re reading these interactive books with your child, ask questions about the book.  What is happening in the pictures?  Where is Pete?  What is he doing?  I should specify that this is a book, not an app.  There are Pete the Cat apps that go along with the book, but the book is not included in the apps we have tried.  You can download this book through itunes and find it in your iBooks.

Fun Preschool Apps:

1.  Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

2.  Toca Boca apps-We LOVE these!  Toca Tea Party, Birthday Party, Hair Salon, and Toca Kitchen are our favorites.  These apps are fun and language rich!  So much to see and talk about.  Play these with a friend or family member and talk about what’s happening.

3.  Bugs and Bubbles, Bugs and Buttons-These two apps include SO many fun games in each app.  Lots of bang for your buck.

4.  Easy-Bake Treats, Cake Fun-So many foods to make and talk about.

5.  Puzzle Farm, Puzzle Pals

6.  Nick Jr Draw and Play

Apps to encourage speech and language skills:

1.  Different Roads To Learning-What goes together, Cleanup are two that we use a lot.  Helps children learn language by function, feature, and category.

2.  All About Sounds is an inexpensive app that is good for articulation practice.  Pick your sound and play a matching game.

3.  Injini-a great, comprehensive app with many games and language skills targeted.

4.  Buddy Bear apps by LinguiSystems are marketed to children with autism spectrum disorder, but are great for any child who is working on answering questions, problem solving, etc.  A very simple yet popular app.  There is a LITE version you can try for free to help you decide if it is worth the money for the full version.

5.  Talking Friends-Talking Tom Cat, Talking Ben are a few.  Pick your favorite character.  If you haven’t seen these apps yet, you MUST try one.  A fun way to get people of all ages talking!

6.  Alligator Apps Flashcard app has many language cateogories to choose from including animals, emotions.

7.  Cotton Candy Maker, Milkshake Maker are fun apps that teach food/kitchen vocabulary, actions, and sequencing and more.

8.  Elmo’s Monster Maker is updated each season.  This is a wonderful, funny app that targets so many things including body parts and actions.  Make your own monster by touching the screen then talk about what your monster and Elmo are doing….dancing, laughing, scaring, etc.

9.  Choice Board Creator.  Create customized photo choice boards in minutes.  Perfect for children who are not yet verbal.

10.  Smarty Ears Oral Motor app is a fun way to practice oral motor exercises at home.

A few apps for older children:

1.  Feel Electric by the Electric Company introduces children to 50 words related to emotion such as stressed, anxious, astonished.  This app incorporates games, photos, facial expressions, and much more.

2.  Model Me Going Places has videos that model and discuss general social skills such as going to the grocery store, mall, doctor.

Sign Language Apps:

1.  Baby Signs ASL app uses videos to teach signs.  If you are signing with your child, how convenient to have this app at your fingertips when you need to look up a sign quickly!

2.  Signing Time ASL dictionary flashcards.  This app uses pictures/photos rather than video.

What’s your favorite app?  Please share with us in the comments below!  We’d love to hear from you.

Holiday Activities to Encourage Your Child’s Development

Christmas is a magical time of year for most children.  Make the most of these last few weeks before Christmas by trying a few of these activities with your child.  These are kid and therapist tested and approved!

1.  Have a snowball fight.  It rarely snows where we live, so we have to improvise.  Snowball Fight in a Bucket is available for purchase (such as the one seen below) but you could easily make your own with balled up paper or socks and use any bowl, basket, or bucket you have on hand.  You will find older kids as well as young kids enjoy this activity which targets some great gross motor skills.  It also encourages eye-hand coordination and turn taking, an important prerequisite to expressive language.  You might find the adults enjoy this game just as much as the children!  Oh, what fun!

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2.  Make Cookies.  So many language and motor goals can be targeted when making cookies.  Use your hands to stir, pour, roll, sprinkle, and press into shapes.  Parents can facilitate language by describing different shapes, tastes (hot/sweet/rich/chewy/crunchy) and action words as you are baking, stirring, eating, pouring, smelling, etc.

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3.  Make snowflakes.  This is another activity that has been around for a long time but kids STILL LOVE IT!  Yes, it makes a mess but you can quickly sweep the bits of paper away.  Just fold plain white paper and cut out small slits, triangles, squares, etc.  Some children may enjoy decorating them further by drawing on them with markers or crayons.  Hang them up and decorate your home!  This activity targets cutting with scissors, an important fine motor skill, and will keep your child busy for HOURS.  Talk about your snowflakes and describe them using words such as big, small, white, round, etc.

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4.  Visit Santa.  If your child is old enough, have her write a wish list for Santa.  This targets many fine motor goals such as handwriting and proper grasp.  Now, go visit Santa with that list and target those communication goals by TELLING him what you want for Christmas.  Don’t forget to encourage your child to make eye contact, tell Santa hi/bye/thank you important social skills for young children to learn.  

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5.  Play with nativity toys or holiday sets.  Nativity and holiday toy sets such as those sold by Fisher Price Little People and Melissa and Doug facilitate holiday vocabulary and imaginative play.  Target holiday and Christmas vocabulary such as reindeer, Santa, Christmas tree, snowman, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherd, angel, etc.  Put them away when Christmas is over and pull them out each year and it will feel like a brand new toy each year!  

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6.  Pass out gifts.  It is tradition in my husband’s family to have the children pass out the presents under the tree.  This is so much fun for young children, even those who can’t read (with a little help)!  And what a great way to target listening and following directions (“Give this to Daddy”).  Who passes out the gifts at your house?

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7.  Decorate the tree.  So much to do and talk about when trimming the tree.  String popcorn for garland, make homemade ornaments, target holiday vocabulary such as lights, ornament, tree, garland, tinsel, tree skirt, star, etc.  Tell your child about the special ornaments on the tree.  Turn on the Christmas music!

8.  Make a gingerbread house.  Target vocabulary can include household vocabulary such as door, window, roof, shutters and action words such as spreading, tasting, decorating.  You can also target colors, candies, basic concepts such as top/bottom, more/less, mine/yours.

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Do you have a favorite holiday activity for young children?  Please share in the comments!

Our Favorite Toys!

Christmas is quickly approaching!  What are your little ones asking for this year?  We’ve had many families ask us for toy suggestions for their children, so our therapists have put together a list of our favorite toys for young children that encourage speech/language and fine/gross motor development.  And, guess what?  This list doesn’t include any toys marketed as educational/learning/electronic toys.  We love the basics!  Here are a few toys we love that encourage your child’s development:

1.  Farm Set.  You don’t have to live in the country to enjoy playing with barns, animals, and tractors!  There is so much to talk about it.  Focus play with your child on the following concepts: animal names, animal sounds, and concepts such as in/on, open/close.  Describe the animals.  Ask questions about each animal?  Where is the animal?  What does it say?  What color is it?

2.  Baby Doll Set.  Go ahead, get the accessories!  Don’t just get the baby doll.  Include bottles, brushes, clothes, bibs, blanket, and pacifier.  Baby beds and strollers are nice too.  There are so many goals you can target with this language rich toy…clothing, body parts, action words such as sleep/eat/cry/hold/hug/kiss and feelings such as hungry/thirsty, hot/cold.  You do not need a brand name doll to make your children smile!  Children in our clinic LOVE playing with our doll sets that we purchased at discount stores.

3.  Puzzles.  Young children love puzzles and doing things with their hands.  Puzzles in our clinic are used by OTs and SLPs alike.  Start with simple knob puzzles.  Puzzles that include pictures of early developing vocabulary such as animals, toys, and foods are wonderful for improving receptive and expressive language skills.  Try taking the puzzle pieces out and having your child find the one you name.  Or, put the pieces in the bag and have them close their eyes and pull one out.  Then, talk about the puzzle piece.  What is it?  Describe it!  Do you have an active child?  Put a few puzzle pieces across the room and have them run and pick the piece you name.  Puzzles are a fun way to target both receptive and expressive language and fine motor skills at once!

4.  Books.  It is NEVER too early to start reading to your child!  Start with board books that have mirrors, textures, and large, simple photos.  As your child grows, try books with flaps and books that tell simple stories.  If your child doesn’t have any interest in listening to the story, that’s ok!  Point to pictures and talk about the photos and illustrations.  The goal here is to encourage your child’s interest in books, and expose him to new words.  Reading builds listening, memory, and vocabulary. Stop once in a while and ask questions about the book, make silly sounds and voices.  Show your child that reading is FUN.   You can never have too many books in your house!  Keep some in each room and you will read them more often!  Look for books at discount stores, thrift stores, and visit your local library.  Libraries have board books for young children available for checkout too!

5.  Dress-up Clothes.  Girls AND boys will love playing dress up and dress up clothes have the benefit of working on motor skills (dressing, buttoning, etc) as well as language skills not limited to just clothing vocabulary but also body parts and concepts such as off/on, clean/dirty, mine/yours.

6.  Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.  This toy has been around a LONG time and targets some important skills including body parts and clothing vocabulary, eye-hand coordination, requesting (I want…), and can also be used to target spatial concepts such as under/beside/behind/in/out.

7.  Balls.  Oh, the number of balls we have in our clinic is ridiculous!  We have everything from HUGE bouncy exercise balls to a giant ball pit to bumpy/sensory balls and even balls that pop up!  Balls are wonderful for developing motor skills as well as expressive and receptive language skills.  You can target following directions/listening (“throw it! roll it! bounce it!”), concepts such as in/out, up/down, big/small, counting, and of course motor skills such as throwing, catching, and running are developed as you play!  Balls also encourage turn-taking and social skills.

8.  Boxes.  Save those cardboard boxes your toys come in!  Climbing and crawling in and out of the box targets gross motor skills, and throw those balls in the box for some additional motor activity!  Where are the balls?  In the box?  Out of the box?  Beside/behind/under the box?  Grab some markers and work on proper grasp while you color on the box!  Hide something in it for even more to name and talk about.  If you are lucky enough to snag a really large box, turn it into a house, rocket ship, or puppet theater!  Those large boxes are priceless and encourage so much creativity and imagination.

9.  Mini-trampolines.  Trampolines are not only good for gross motor development and spatial awareness but also used in our clinic by SLPs who have found that children are more motivated to request when this toy is around!

10.  Slides.  Obviously, playing on slides targets gross motor skills.  You can also use slides to target action words such as climbing, sliding and spatial concepts such as on/under/in front/behind.  Is your child minimally verbal or a late talker?  Use repetitive words such as “weeeee! up up up! yay!” while you play.  Don’t have room for a slide in your house or yard?  Take a trip to the park and target these goals there!

11.  Cars and trucks.  Boys who are reluctant talkers may enjoy making cars go, crash, beep, zoom, and race fast/slow.  Use a variety of cars to teach concepts such as big/little and to make requests (red, please).  Play with cars and trucks also encourages turn taking, an important pre-requisite to expressive language.

12.  Easels.  Do you have a budding artist?  Encourage fine motor development with this toy.  Use it for painting, drawing with chalk or dry erase markers, or finger painting.  Many are magnetic!

13.  Blocks.  Playing with blocks targets eye-hand coordination, visual processing, cause and effect, counting, colors, and the list goes on….  We also use these in our clinic to request verbally or with sign.

14.  Toy Kitchens.  Toy kitchens provide SO very much to talk about.  Food vocabulary, utensils, dishes, stirring, baking, tasting, pouring, cleaning, eating, drinking, open/close, hot/cold, more, all done…to name a few!  And what a social activity cooking can be!  Encourage your child to ask others what they would like to eat.  Do you have a house full of boys?  Don’t shy away from a toy kitchen!  Enter any preschool classroom and you will likely find boys in the kitchen fully enjoying themselves.  A toy grill is a similar alternative that is popular with little boys and targets the same goals.

STOCKING STUFFER IDEAS:

1. Play Dough, Modeling Clay.  Fine motor development fun!

2. Bubbles.  We like the no spill tumbler pictured in the photo at the top of this post.  Kids can shake it and turn it upside down and it won’t spill!  Bubbles are perfect for targeting bilabial sounds /p, b, m/ in words like bubble, pop, big, mine, more, and for making requests (more bubbles, my turn).

3.  Balloons.  Balloons are such an inexpensive and fun way to play with and teach your child.  Young children need your help to blow up balloons, so use this to work on requesting help/blow/more/please.  You can talk about throwing/popping/blowing and concepts such as colors, and big/small.  Obviously, you don’t want to play balloons with children who still mouth objects, and always supervise young children.

4. Crayons, Markers.  Crayola Pipsqueak markers and crayon rocks target proper pencil grasp.  Work on grasp and name your colors.  Request the color you want!  Try drawing pictures of items for your child to name such as flower, car, bird, tree.

5. Coloring Books, Dot-to-Dots, Mazes, Hidden Pictures.  More fun with writing and drawing!

6.  Stringing beads.  

7.  Craft Projects.  Keep them age appropriate.

8.  Toy phones.

9.  Toy microphones.

And a few of our favorite games: Cootie Bugs, Ants in the Pants, Pick up Sticks, Perfection, Twister, Bop It, Let’s go Fishin’, Mancala, Connect Four, Candyland Castle, HeadBanz, Guess Who, Memory, Pop-Up Pirate.

Spotlight on Kirsten, Pediatric Occupational Therapist

We are spotlighting Kirsten today!  She has added so much to our practice and our families are raving about her.  Here is a little bit about Kirsten… so you can get to know her too!  Help us welcome her to the ‘boro!

Kirsten is an occupational therapist who joined the Therapy SPOT team in August 2012. She received her B.S. in Biology & Psychology from Houston Baptist University and then went on to graduate school at the University of Southern California, where she received her MA in Occupational Therapy in 2000. Kirsten has worked in a variety of pediatric settings including inpatient/outpatient rehab, acute and long-term care, traditional outpatient therapy, and academic/school settings.  Kirsten completed her NDT (Neuro-Developmental Treatment) training in 2006 specializing in working with children with CP and neurological disorders.  She is also a Certified Infant Massage Instructor (CIMI) and specializes in working with infants and children who are medically fragile, have feeding disorders or multiple impairments.  Kirsten has been employed at both Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and Texas Children’s Hospital where she was privileged to train and work with children with complex medical histories. Prior to moving to Statesboro, Kirsten spent the last four years in Dayton Ohio where she served as the clinical manager and occupational therapist of a large non-profit agency. Kirsten enjoys spending time with her husband Steve and two year old twin boys.  As a family they enjoy traveling and exploring new places.  In her free time, Kirsten enjoys cooking, reading and shopping.

How Can You Make Speech Practice FUN at home?

We love to make a road with articulation cards and race cars and trucks down it. It provides lots and lots of repetition and is always a big hit with little ones who love playing with cars!

So, you have a child in speech therapy.  I’m sure your therapist has recommended frequent practice at home.  We know that the more children practice at home, the more rapidly they tend to progress.  In fact, leading speech-language pathologists will recommend practice up to 15 times per day, for 5-15 minutes each!  Wow!  That’s a lot for busy moms and dads.  But you want to see results, right?  What kind of articulation homework are you often given for practice at home?  Worksheets with pictures of words with their target sounds?  Coloring sheets?  Does your child love them?  Probably not.  We want your child to ENJOY practice at home, and here are some ideas to help you make practice fun so that your child makes maximum progress.

What should you do with all those worksheets?  Think about what your child loves.  Does he enjoy doing things with his hands?  Have him cut out pictures and paste them on a piece of paper.  If he enjoys cars and racing, cut the pictures into strips and make a road.  Tape them to the floor.  Then join him on the floor and race those cars and trucks down the road while saying sounds.   Or, try cutting out the pictures and hiding them around the house.  When your child finds them all sit down and practice, practice, practice as you unfold them.  The more repetitions, the better.  Have your child hide the pictures from you and then you find them.  You will find your child much more willing to practice when the practice is fun and entertaining.

If you have an older child who likes to write, try having him use all the target words in a story.  The added bonus of this activity is that he can read his story, not just to mom and dad, but to siblings and grandparents and practice sounds each time he reads it.  If your child is creative, help her come up with tongue twisters with her practice words and sounds.  Try to see who can say them the fastest.  Does he like sports?  Video games?  Work those sounds in between games.  Sit down with your child and have him practice sounds between games or between one-on-one basketball games outside.

Is your child highly motivated by food?  Try using small boxes of favorite cereals or treats, and have him cover the pictures with the treats.  When the page is full, gobble them up!

We have found that for young children, bath time is a great time to practice speech and language.  What better time to practice talking than you have your child at eye level when she can’t run off?  Most children love bath time, so keep it fun and work those sounds and practice words into your daily bath routine.  Before or after meal time is also a good time to practice, when your little one is sitting still in his high chair and at your eye level.  Keep practice fun at home and your child will master those articulation goals before you know it!