To follow up from yesterday's blog (June 18:  Letter Boxes), here's another great activity/resource!  Don't put the objects from your letter box(es) away yet.  Follow the simple activity below to extend the life of your letter box(es)!

Let's continue with the letter A since that's what we did yesterday.  Write out a large letter A (you could do upper and lowercase if you would like), then arrange the objects around the letter A.  Take a picture.  Once you have all 26 letters, you can put the pictures into a photo album or photo book and you have made your own letter book!  Now you can save it for years to come and look through it from time to time.

Again, if you are focusing on your child's articulation sounds, then you can make a book of all his/her artic sounds.  This will be a great way for continued practice.  Once he/she has graduated from speech, the book becomes another great way to prove to your child that hard work pays off!!  

For you speech therapists out there, this may be a great thing for you to create and add to your articulation materials!!

If your child is working on listening comprehension, then you can use the book to have your child find the pictures of the things you request.  The possibilities are endless!
What can you do with an old shoe box?  Turn it into a letter box!  This is a great way to teach kids about their letters and the sounds the letters make.  You can do one letter per week and it will take half a year to get it all done!  Pair each letter with a book that has a word with that letter in it and now you've got a whole theme for the week!

If your kids are smaller, then you can pull out different objects - most will start with the letter of the week and some will not.  Pull out the objects and let them try to find the ones that start with the "letter of the week".  For example, if we were to start with A, then you could have a plastic ant, avacado, art set, airplane, apple, apron, ambulance - or whatever other things you find.  Set them out and have the kids say the words and try to hear if they hear the 'a' sound.  Put them in your shoe box and you have a letter A box that they can play with all week.

If your kids are older, then allow them to find things around the house that start with A.  They could add one thing per day and you can see how many things you can put in the box.  If they are running out of A objects, then print pictures from the internet!

What's a good book for A week?  The Art Lesson by Tommie DePaolo!!

If your child is working on articulation and already knows his/her letters, then focus on his/her past and present artic sounds!!  
Have you been doing a little spring cleaning?  We have been here!  What are you going to do with your old clothes?  Have you ever considered setting up a dressing area for you kiddos?  This is a great way for kids to learn the names of the different clothing items (scarf, hat, shirt, purse, necklace, sunglasses, skirt, dress, shoes, etc).  It's also a great way for little hands to practice buttoning, zipping, etc.  Oh... and let's not forget about all the language that is associated with playing dress-up:  putting things on, taking them off, pretending, talking about where he/she is going to go, matching colors, matching patterns, etc.
A colleague recently told me about this website and I just got up this morning to take a look at it.  Wow!  Was I impressed!  

Help Kidz Learn is an interactive site with games, stories, activities, and a parent section.  What I really liked was that most of the games and stories are switch activated!  For those of you who don't know what "switch activated" means, very briefly it is a way for non-verbal, limited verbal output, and limited mobility children have in order to access toys.  You would use a large switch (looks like a big button that you can press) and set it up with the computer (or toy or whatever is switch activated) and the switch, when hit, will make the game/toy do something!  

Once you sign up with the website (free for membership), then you have access to the games, songs, stories, and activities.  They have a great little counting song with awesome counting activities on there, some social stories (without words) for older kids, etc.  Some of the social stories may be good for older kids who are on the autism spectrum and benefit from social stories.

One of my favorite "games" is "pick and play".  You select an instrument (there are three to choose from) and then you get to hear what it sounds like!  This is a great activity for kids who are learning to listen.  It's also a great activity for kids who are working on listening comprehension if you sit with the child and tell them which one to select.  It can also be great for kids who are learning the vocabulary of instruments.

Another great aspect of this website??  It's FREE!  They have ipad apps to download.  The apps cost money, but could be a great investment if the site works for you.  
Another great way to get your kids involved in reading is to let him/her write his/her own book!  It could be about something they did, something they want to do, or just a fictional story that they create!  Then, you can have a "story time" at your house where all of the kids get to share their book.  You may want to highlight one book each day or have everyone share at once.  That's up to you!

If your child is not reading yet, you can use an awesome set of software that will help your child read!!  Slater Software is a company that has created Picture It and Pix Writer (among other things).  With "Picture It", you can type the words that you want written and magically pictures appear above the words to help your child read the story!  Unfortunately, this company is closing it's doors on June 30th (the owners are retiring).  Therefore, if you want this software, GET IT NOW!!  (I believe the software is ON SALE, which is awesome for you, the consumer)

I made a book in a matter of minutes (literally, probably about 10 total).  I wrote up a very easy and silly story.  I pressed one button to make the words and pictures appear, and I printed it out.  I scanned it to create a .pdf file so that you can see what I mean.  I left room for the kids to be able to illustrate it themselves!  This is a great way for your child to "write" a book and have one that they can read!  Have your child tell you the story, you type it, and the pictures will help aid your child to read it when it comes to "story time" at your house.

Frog & Dog pdf book  I have to apologize now.  The scanner that I used created a line along the bottom of the pages.  Also, it will only scan in black and white.  However, Picture It will give you great color pictures above the words.

Do books have to have words in order to be effective?  No!  The wordless book that first comes to mind for me is The Snowman.  I know my mom used that in speech therapy with her little kids when she worked in an Elementary School.  
Try letting your child who can not read yet pick out a book without words.  You can try the following activities with him/her:
  • Describe the pictures on each page
  • Have your child make up the story as she goes along
  • Have your child write a word or a sentence (he/she may need help) for each page
  • Have your older kids write down what your little one says (this will get everyone involved)
  • Save the book so your child can have a book that he/she "authored" at a young age!
Create a family book club this summer.  Although a "book club" doesn't sound interesting... you can make it really fun!

For a family with older kids, you may choose a longer book and meet once a month.  If their summer reading titles overlap, then it would be perfect to pick some of those.  If there are books that are similar (i.e. 1984 and Animal Farm) then maybe you could have them read separate books and then compare and contrast throughout the discussion.  You want to make this night different and fun.  Therefore, you could:
  • Discuss the book around the fire-pit and make smores
  • Allow the kids to set the menu (complete with some of their favorites that you never make)
  • Eat something that the characters would eat
  • set-up a Jeopardy-like trivia game about the book
  • Allow everyone to come up with one question to ask the group
  • Allow the kids to pick the next book

For a family with younger kids, you may want to choose a shorter book and meet once a week.  Allow your child to read that book (or you read that book to your child/children) every night so that they really have something to contribute.  You could also do the following throughout the week to bring to the book club meeting:
  • Type up the words from the book and have your child illustrate the book himself/herself
  • Have your child pick his/her favorite part and then illustrate it
  • Have your child change the ending (or any part of the book) and illustrate it

Get creative and have fun has a family!
I can remember our summer reading list starting when we were in Middle School.  The summer between 5th grade and 6th grade was the first time that I had an assigned summer reading list (complete with assignments and tests upon arrival to the 6th grade).  Have your kids gotten their assigned reading list yet?  Here are some good tips to help him/her this summer:
  • You should also pick up the book and read it so that you can have discussions.  This will help solidify your child's understanding of the book.
  • Pick up the "cliff's notes" of the book AFTER the child has read the book.  This will help point out some of the symbolism that you two didn't hit upon in your discussions.
  • Have your child complete the assignment (if one is already known) after reading the book.
  • If you don't have the assignments already (or if there will be a test when school starts), then have your child write about the book to help refresh his/her memory once school starts.  You could either do this as a journal while the child is reading or as a report after the book is complete.

No matter when your child's first required reading list comes out, you can start implementing summer reading programs at home as early as Kindergarten or first grade!  The key is to make it fun and interesting.  I will be blogging all week about fun ways to get kids involved in reading this summer!
Once a child can write (or use inventive spelling), it's time to hook him/her up with a pen pal!  A pen pal could be someone his/her age that moved away, a relative (possibly a cousin), or even just a family friend who lives across town!  It's a great activity that has so many learning qualities to it.  

Your pen pal may be an electronic pen pal.  What I mean is that you send emails back and forth.  The only caution that I will throw out here is that since the response time can be quick, sometimes the fun wears off quickly.  Also, watch out that your kids don't get into "texting" lingo (lol, yw, ty, lacking punctuation, etc) while emailing.

Your pen pal may also be the old "snail mail" kind of pen pal.  You will be teaching your child to answer questions in a previous letter, writing complete sentences, spelling, punctuation, good handwriting skills, filling out an envelope properly, and patience!!

If your little one is too young to write an entire letter, then have him/her draw a picture about something he/she did recently and write a sentence or two.  If you are a speech therapist or teacher, think about contacting another SLP or teacher in your district to set up a pen pal system for a few kids!

I was given a pen pal when I was in the 4th grade.  Her name is Ashley.  We began writing because our teachers were sisters-in-law!  She lives in Wisconsin and I was in Texas (at the time).  We continued to write through middle school, high school, college, graduate school, she came to my wedding (that was so awesome), and we still write today.  It was so wonderful to have someone to tell all my secrets to (she couldn't tell anyone there that would care) and it has been so nice to form a relationship over the past 20 years!!!  We don't really use email or fb - we still write.  There is something about getting a letter in the mail that is hand-written.