A reader recently sent me this question and I thought it might be helpful to many others!

Hope you can guide me in the right direction. I need to get birthday gifts for two pre-school aged boys who are both delayed in their speech and development. I was hoping to find a game or something that would interest them. 

My answer:
Games are actually a GREAT way to get kids talking. Any games, when used properly, can really promote language development.  The key is to always ask questions, give lots of language, and make it a POSITIVE experience.  Games naturally teach turn taking on top of anything else that it will target (colors, matching, animal sounds, animal names, etc).
1. UNO Moo - it works on matching colors
2. Zingo - a matching game with simple line drawings and words. Works on labeling those objects and matching.
3. Memory (any version) is always a good one
4. Cooties - its a fun game that you make a cootie bug... it can help with learning body parts.  Of course, it teaches body parts for bugs (i.e. antenna), but you can interact with the children and also teach human body parts!!
5. Boggle JR. helps with learning letters and spelling words
6. Puppy Pals Bingo - this one works on shapes and colors (my speech kids always love this game)
Remember, you can send me an email (through the "Contact Me" section) or a fb message with a question and I'll answer it and you MAY just be featured on the blog too!
Ear infections can be so miserable for everyone involved!  Your little one isn't feeling well and you feel terrible for him/her.  I know, I've been there.  Besides the soothing and loving and nurturing and dispensing of medicine; do you know what else to do when your child has an ear infection?  If not, read on!

When a child has an ear infection, there is extra fluid in the inner ear.  Therefore, all of the sounds that he/she hears are dampened.  Also, it sounds a little like listening under water.  All speech sounds are not only muted, but also muffled.  Therefore, if your little one is just learning language, then a whole new set of challenges have been introduced.  Here are some ways you can help your child during this time:
  • Speak at a slightly louder volume, but don't yell.
  • Try to speak to your child facing him/her.  It will help for your child to see your mouth while you talk - the more information he/she can get, the better!
  • Talk a bit more slowly than usual, but still at a normal speed (too fast or too slow are both hard to understand).
  • Don't over enunciate your words and move your mouth in weird ways.  It doesn't help to over emphasize your mouth movements... just talk normally.
  • Try to cut out as much background noise as possible.  It's already hard for your child to hear - don't make him/her filter out the TV or radio while you are talking to him/her.
  • Try not to give instructions or have lengthy conversations in the car.  You can't face your child and the road noise will be a distraction.

If your child is deaf or hard of hearing and you have chosen an oral communication approach, then these practices should become part of your daily life.  
For typical development, it is expected that an 18 month old child can follow two part directions.  I've always known this little tidbit, but I actually saw it in use the other day!  A friend's child was told, "go to your room and get a book."  She had just turned 18 months in the last few days and she actually followed the instructions (first time)!  It was so fun and exciting to see the milestone in action!!!

If your child isn't following two part instructions yet, then here is a fun way to practice.  It's best if you have multiple participants (adults or "big kids").  Tell your little one to get an item (make sure he/she knows the names of the objects) and give it to a specific person (also make sure that he/she knows everyone's names).  Then you can make it a game.  Put a pile of items in a room.  I wouldn't suggest using toys because the child may want to play instead of "work."  Tell your child, "get the shoe and give it to Ms. Emily".  Ms. Emily can get very excited when she receives the item in order to give your child the positive feedback he/she desires.  

This activity is also great for kids who are working on listening comprehension.  :o)
I have realized that I am becoming a better speech therapist now that I am a mom.  I am watching a little one grow and develop first hand.  Let me give you an example.

The other day, my son was looking for a ball.  I pointed to it and said "it's over there."  I had never thought about it, but "over there" doesn't give you much information.  It tells you that it's not close to the person talking, but that's about it.  There is very little language development/learning happening.  When kids are little, they need EVERY opportunity they can get in order to learn language.  Therefore, I'm getting on my soap box and shouting from the top of my lungs (or keyboard):  NO MORE "OVER THERE".

Instead of saying something is "over there", tell your son or daughter that his/her shoes are "under the couch" or "behind the shelf" or "next to the chair" or "near their bed".  Those descriptions may be simple, but they are teaching your child different prepositions.  Your child will learn that "under" means that it is below something simply by hearing "under" and then you helping your child find the object "under" the couch.  Same thing for all the prepositions.  

The same thing goes for "I'm right here."  How much does that really tell us?  Not much.  Instead say something like, "I'm in the kitchen in front of the stove."  Give as much detail as possible to give you child as much language as possible.  If you have an older child, then teach him/her to also be descriptive.  That will help with his/her expressive language and other littles ones in the house will have another person teaching them prepositions!!!

Also, let's not forget about those who are working on listening comprehension.  This can easily be turned into a great game.  Pick out a little toy (i.e. a rubber duck, doll, block, etc) and put it somewhere in a large room.  Have the child ask "where is the ____" and respond with a descriptive answer (not "over there") like, "on the table."  The child will be rewarded with he/she sees the toy.  Then have him/her tell you where he/she found it, "I found it on the table."  What a great prepositions game!!!
Well, I got behind with my blogging this week.  It was a crazy week for us around here.  However, I wanted to make sure to blog this game.  This week we were discovering some new and different ideas for Christmas presents.  Well, this isn't really a present, but kids love games, right?  This will get their little brains working on regular plurals!

Simply print out the BINGO boards and cards (on card stock preferably), collect up some items that could be used to cover up the spaces on the BINGO boards (pennies work great), cut out the cards, place them face down and have fun!  The first one to 5 in a row wins!!!

Because this game works on plurals, it would be a great game for someone working on final /s/ (articulation), listening comprehension (must listen to all letters in the word), or plurals!

Print boards from here or on the website
Today's Christmas idea comes from Melissa & Doug. No, they are not my best friends (although that would be nice). Melissa & Doug is a company that makes all kinds of wooden children's toys. They have wooden puzzles, fake food sets, trains, etc. I'm going to talk about my favorite M & D toy - their sound blocks!!
Pictured here, we have two of their sets - animals & transportation. The animals sounds included are: dog, pig, cow, rooster, sheep, and horse. The transportation sounds included are: fire engine, motorcycle, ambulance, tug boat, airplane, and train.  These toys are great for pre talkers, early language users, or kids working on listening comprehension.

Read below for ideas!

Pre talkers and early language: the child can request which animal or transportation sound he wants to hear. If your child is a pre talker, then pointing or picking up the block is sufficient. Once an animal or transportation vehicle has been chosen you can tell the child the name of it, color, where you see it, what it eats (animals only), etc. there is so much language! You could even ask your early language user what he/she knows.  If your child can put together simple puzzles, then have your child put the blocks together appropriately.

Listening comprehension: first, you always want to TEACH the sounds before you start quizzing the child. Let the child listen to one of the sounds and tell him/her the name of the animal or vehicle he/she is listening to. It may take a few weeks for your child to really learn the sounds and language needed. Once that has happened, then you are ready to test his/ her knowledge. Have your child close his/her eyes and play a sound. The child will say what he/she thinks he/she hears. By opening his/her eyes, the child is able to see if his/her answer was correct.
I first discovered this 3 Peas in a Pod toy when it was sent to me as a present.  It is made by Lindsay Horton and sold on her ETSY shop:  Hidden Grins.  I keep blogging about the importance of TVAK (Tactile, Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic) and trying to include as many of those aspects into every lesson.  Well, it's also great if toys can include as many of these as well.  Now, I don't mean that every toy should require batteries and light up or sing songs.  Not at all!  But the 3 Peas in a Pod toy incorporate tactile (they are soft and squishy), auditory (each pea pod makes a different noise - rattle, crinkle, and sqeaker), and kinesthetic (you open the pea pod up to get the peas out) without batteries!  How cool is that?

This toy is great for pre-talkers and early language users.  First off, you can get a lot of language from the pea pod toy.  You can have the child request to open the pea pod and request a pea pod.  You can have the child discover which noise this pea makes.  Then you can give them all kinds of language so that he/she could one day explain it himself/herself.  My son LOVES this toy because the peas are balls to him and he loves to roll them all over the house!  They are great because if he throws them, they won't hurt whatever it hits (a person, dog, or object)!!  Because the toy zips up, it's also a great traveling toy.  You have everything within the pea pod and you can toss the pea pod in the suitcase, carry-on bag, or car!!

Hidden Grins also has soft blocks (that look like birds - super cute) with a carrying case.  You can read all of the blogs about block activities and see how those toys can also be fun and educational!
It's that time again... everyone is thinking about Christmas shopping.  Well, I'm here to help.  This week I'm going to blog about toys or gadgets that are great for learning (and fun too).  Some of them are nationally recognizable and some of them are found on ETSY (one of my new favorite websites), which makes them homemade and unique.

Anybook Reader
I first discovered the Anybook Reader (made by Franklin) while reading a blog.  Since I had just had my son (and my niece had been born only 7 months earlier), I started to do a little research.  This device is REALLY neat.  You place stickers from the company on ANY book you want (one sticker per page).  You then use the device and record your voice reading that book's page.  Therefore ANY book can become a recordable book.  Being a military family, we are always away from family and friends.  However, Timothy can listen to books being read by a number of family members on any given night.  I'm so blessed that I had my grandmother record a few books before she died - now we have her voice captured forever and that is simply priceless.  There are two models - 15 hours of recording time and 60 hours of recording time.  The 15 hour device is plenty in my opinion.  

The obvious factor is that the Anybook Reader has to do with reading and thus it is educational.  However, there are even more great ways to use this device!!  
  • If your child is working on articulation, then you can record your voice reading several words.  Then, your child can practice saying those words and have a good model to compare his/her pronunciation to the one recorded.  (You can always erase and re-record words so you don't have to always be buying more stickers)
  • If your child is working on listening comprehension, then you can use the stickers with pre-recorded sounds (dog barking, fire engine, clapping, rain storm, etc) and place them on a sticker.  Place the desired stickers on a piece of cardboard or cardstock (for durability).  Have your child close his/her eyes and you touch the device to one of the stickers to make that noise play.  Then, your child will have to open his/her eyes and use the device to touch the sticker he/she thinks you had touched previously!  If he/she hears the same sound, then he/she is right!  If not, your child will have to listen again.  If your child is more sophisticated then you can say something like, "find the sticker with the dog barking" and your child will have to touch the correct sticker.

This is such a cool "toy" and has so many great uses!!!
My hospital sends out e-mails to help new moms navigate the world of motherhood with topics that include: feeding, bathing, sleeping, toys, development, etc.  This is what they had to say about blocks: A set of wooden blocks may be the best toy to add to your baby’s collection now, and for many years to come. A simple set of solid, sanded blocks helps develop hand-eye coordination and spatial ability and, as children grow, enrich creative play. The 12-month-old baby is coming to or at the age when she can stack one block on top of another, making a small tower. The thrill of this feat is exceeded only by the joy of knocking it over. You can show your toddler how to stack a couple of blocks, and then watch her experiment until she is stacking three or more on her own. I was so excited to hear this because blocks can be a GREAT tool for speech therapy (and now I know the other added benefits).

Today I'm going to have two more activities to do with blocks.  I keep thinking of more and more activities... so we may need to have a second "block week" at some point.

Activity #1 - for pre-talkers
Kids who aren't talking (but developmentally should be talking), may need a little encouragement.  One way is to put some blocks in a box with a lid.  Clear other toys out of sight so that this is the most exciting thing.  You can shake the box and really get the kids excited to see what is inside!  First, start off with encouraging the child to say "open" in order for you to open the box and get out one block.  If "open" is too much for the child, then really encourage the "oooo" and you finish out the word for them.  Once they see the relationship between saying open and getting a block, the child will be internally motivated.  Once he/she has mastered "open", you can start to expand the utterance:  open please, open box, open the box, want block, I want block, I want a block, I want a block please, etc.  The more talking, the more blocks, the more fun!

Activity #2 - for articulation
When you are working with younger children on articulation, sometimes they just don't want to practice words and take a turn of a game.  Sometimes they need a little movement.  Getting out some wooden blocks with letters on them can be a fun way to shake things up.  Pull out the blocks and set the ground rules that when we come across a block with a picture or a letter that we have worked on in the past or are working on now, then we have to stop and do some work.  You can have the child say a few words, practice a word within a sentence, etc.  The greatest part is that you can be watching the blocks and pick out all the 's' blocks (for example) and pull them to the forefront as often as you need!  
Yesterday was a very busy day for me!  My husband's unit is currently "out in the field" training.  They had a "spouse's day" so we could go out with them and observe their training.  It was very neat to see them "in their glory."  However, it was also a wake-up call that our 3rd deployment is coming up in less than a year!!  (I'm an Army wife)  Anyway, all that to say, I didn't get to blog yesterday.  Therefore, you get TWO activities in ONE blog today (kill two birds with one stone - another idiom that kids don't always understand.  See my blog post about Idiom of the Week from September 20).

This week, I'm highlighting what you could do with BLOCKS!  Most people have some blocks laying around their house.  We have several kinds... traditional wooden blocks with letters on them, foam blocks of varying shapes/sizes, Duplo blocks, MegaBlocks, and blocks of varying shapes that you sort in the sorting toy.  Any blocks will work with these activities.

Activity 1:  Teaching Prepositions
Prepositions give a lot of information about where any object is.  Teaching your child this information will help when you are giving him/her instructions to go get his shoes that are IN his closet ON the shoe rack.  Maybe little Sammy is looking for his blanket and you tell him to look UNDER his bed or AROUND the laundry basket.

Getting started:  With little children, I start off with two prepositions that are opposites (in and out).  I will use a bucket or a bowl or container of some kind and the blocks.  I ask the child.  "Can you put the block IN the bucket?"  (using Auditory Highlighting for the word IN)  Then I'll say, "Let's put it IN.  Great job!  You put it IN."  I repeat this and may try to get the child to also say "in" until all the blocks are in the container.  Then we work on OUT.  At this point, I'm not testing the child - I'm giving the child the language and showing him/her what IN and OUT actually mean.  

If your child is a bit older, then you can take a block and put it somewhere.  Then tell your child where it is.  The block is ON the table.  The block is UNDER the chair.  The block is BEHIND the couch.  When your child knows most prepositions, then you can make it a game.  Put a block somewhere and ask him/her where the block is located!!!

Activity 2:  Find the block (a listening comprehension game)
Listening comprehension can be challenging for many children.  The practice, the better!!!  Place a block somewhere  while the child is closing his/her eyes (no peeking!).  Then, tell the child, "find the block.  It's on the table."  The child has to listen to the message and then retrieve the item.  If he/she goes directly to the block, then you know that your child not only knows the word table, but understands it when it is heard.  This is a great activity for deaf children who are learning to listen because they really only need to be listening for a few words - the location of the block - but are hearing two sentences.  It will help them filter out the important information.

These activities can be used with anything - stuffed animals, snacks, balls, crayons, etc.  I'm simply highlighting a few activities using blocks this week... but you are definitely NOT limited to only using blocks if you don't have blocks in your home.