Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Talking on the Go: Everyday Activities to Enhance Speech and Language Development by Dorothy P. Dougherty & Diane R. Paul

This little activity book, written by two Speech-Language Pathologists, is published by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. It's an intuitive book that offers practical suggestions on how to engage young children (birth - 5 years) in activities that are designed to enhance speech and language development. The book which is divided into age levels (birth-6 months; 6 months-1 year; 1-2 years; 2-3 years; 3-4 years; and 4-5 years) offers about 16 different activities at each age that can be used with children who are in the process of learning to talk. If you're looking for a book that provides ideas for therapy activities at home for children with specific speech and language disorders, this isn't the book you should look for. But if you want some fun ideas that will help to turn daily activities into opportunities for conversation this book offers fun and simple suggestions.

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems

Young children can clearly identify with the wide eyed pigeon who really, really, really wants a puppy.... at least since last Tuesday. The pigeon begs and pleads, he lists all of the reasons he should have a puppy, and he tries to convince you that he'll take care of the puppy no matter what. When all of his sweet attempts to get the pet of his dreams don't work he reverts to a typical toddler tactic - he has a temper tantrum "I WANT A PUPPY! RIGHT HERE! RIGHT NOW!" When the puppy actually does show up, the pigeon realizes that puppy's have teeth and are kind of big, so he decides that perhaps a puppy isn't the right pet for him..... but maybe a walrus would be a good idea! I love the pigeon books and every child I've shared them with seems to fall in love with the pigeon immediately. Face it, there's a latent pigeon inside all of us!

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Little Pea is a happy fellow! He likes to play with his friends, roll down hills, and go to the playground with his little pea friends. The only thing that Little Pea hates to do is eat candy! And unfortunately he has to eat five pieces of it every night for dinner before he can have his favourite dessert - spinach. Little Pea fusses, makes faces, and complains about having to eat candy, but Mama and Papa Pea are relentless, he has to finish his candy before he gets dessert. This is a fantastic twist on a common problem faced by many children and parents, and children never cease to be amazed that someone would actually want to eat their vegetables. It's a fun book that never fails to get a giggle out of a fussy preschooler.

Sakrada Building Blocks by Habermass

This set of 10 beechwood building blocks is a great set for toddlers. The edges of each piece is rounded and the finish is smooth so there is absolutely no chance of getting a sliver or nasty bump from the blocks. Each block is large enough for little hands to easily manipulate but large enough that they don't pose a choking risk. What I love about the blocks is that each on is kind of like a little piece of art. From reflective/metallic paint (non-toxic of course), to prisms, pearls, and unique shapes, each block is lovely all on it's own. The blocks can be combined in a multitude of ways to create all sorts of unique configurations. Strengths: This set works wonderfully with other Haba wooden block sets and is incredibly durable. Weaknesses: The price! The blocks are expensive but worth it, so if you want to find a building toy that can grow in many different ways with your child, this is a great one to start with.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Monkey Friends Tote by Fisher Price

This is a portable little toy tote that comes with a mama monkey, baby monkey, toucan, and a bunch of bananas. The mama monkey can be posed (legs click into different positions) and the bottom of each paw has a different textured pattern on it. The toucan and baby monkey are just the right size for little hands to grab and shake, and the bananas are a fun addition so you can pretend to feed the monkeys. I have found that infants between about 6-12 months enjoy the toys because they are great to chew on and easy to manipulate, older toddlers like the toys because they can carry them around apply simple play actions to the characters. Strengths: It's a toy that's easy to take with you and it can be used in different ways by children at different ages. Weaknesses: It can be difficult to get all of the animals to fit easily into the tote and sometimes the smaller toys (bananas, toucan, and baby monkey) easily fall out of the opening in the back of the tote.

What's Wrong, Little Pookie? by Sandra Boynton

This is a fantastic little book that will appeal to toddlers or any parent who has faced a crying child and can't figure out why he or she is crying! Little Pookie is in a funky mood and no matter what Mama asks him, he won't tell her what's wrong, so she starts to ask yes/no questions. "Are you cold?", "Did you fall?", "Are you hungry?" All of which Pookie answers with a resounding "No". As Mama continues to question Pookie her questions become sillier and sillier and eventually help him get unstuck and willing to talk: "Did a very large hippo try to borrow your shoes?"; "Are there five lazy frogs in your bed for a snooze?" By the time you reach the end of the book Pookie can't remember why he was upset in the first place. It's a great little book that help children learn a bit more about emotional intelligence!

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

This is a classic story that always seems to please older infants and toddlers who are just beginning to explore the wonders of reading (or being read to)! The basic story is that a child writes to the zoo and asks that they send her a pet. The zoo sends a variety of different animals that are either too big, scary, tall, fierce, grumpy, or naughty. Finally, they send an animal that makes the perfect pet! What children enjoy about this book is that they can lift the flap on each page to discover the animal that is in the box sent by the zoo. The text is simple and the flaps are easy for little fingers to open. Like most successful stories for very young children, there is a repetitiveness to the text that is very appealing and the pictures are bright and colourful!

Large Tangiball by Discovery Toys

Finally there is a large Tangiball by Discovery Toys! I've used the smaller, turquoise one for years and have always loved the soft, pliable feel of the ball paired with those wonderful little bumpy knobs that cover the surface. This is an excellent ball for young children who are still in the process of mastering ball skills like catching, kicking, and rolling. It's large enough to aim for but light enough so it's not difficult for little hands to hold. Strengths: Just about everything! I really like this ball and have found it to be a popular play choice for many of the children I work with. Weaknesses: Like the smaller version of the Tangiball this one is scented. The small ball smells like vanilla and most of the children I work with really enjoy that sensory aspect of the toy. This ball smells like strawberry and initially the fragrance can be a bit over whelming. I work with one little boy who is very sensitive to scents and I have to leave this ball outside of my room when I work with him because he gags when it's in the room. He's fine with the vanilla ball, but the strawberry scent seems to be a bit over powering for him. It will probably dissipate in time, but when the ball is new the scent is a bit much.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Play and Learn Snail by Discovery Toys

This is a really engaging and interesting toy for an older infant to explore. The snail actually has velcro on all of the removable pieces so they can easily be pulled apart . The flower in the centre can be pulled out and the circle on the snail's back can be detached. There is a shaker, squeaker, and rattle attached to the snail and the flower has crinkly petals. Although the cause-effect aspects of the toy are simple, they are very appealing to young children. Not only is this a great toy to cuddle with, it can also serve as a simple 3-D puzzle that will help young children engage in simple problem solving activities as they take the toy apart and then later learn how to put it back together. Strengths: It's filled with all of the sounds and sensations that babies find interesting. Weaknesses: Initially the flower is a little bit hard to remove from the circle on the snail's back, but as the toy gets more use it becomes much easier to get the pieces apart.

The Sensory Processing Disorder Answer Book by Tara Delaney

For every parent who has ever wondered "Why does my child like to (1)hide in tight spaces, (2) pile all of his toys and blankets of top of himself, or (3) only wear one shirt day after day?" or any other behavior that seems to be related to processing information in the world around them, would find this book to contain a wealth of information about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPA). The Occupational Therapist who wrote the book takes families through understanding what a SPD, recognizing the disorder, getting a diagnosis, finding viable treatment options, and other important aspects of seeing how your child's behavior may meet the criteria for a SPD. A mother of a child I work with actually recommended the book to me and since that time I have shared it with a number of my other families. It's written in family friendly language and offers some very practical suggestions on how to manage a child with SPD and other related disorders.

Oonga Boonga by Frieda Wishinsky

This is a great book for an older sibling who is having a difficult time adjusting to a new baby in the house. Baby Louise cries all of the time and nothing her parents or grandparents do can make her happy. But when her older brother Daniel comes home and starts to whisper funny words into her ear she stops when he says "Oonga Boonga!" Baby Louise is all smiles when her brother is around, but as soon as he goes out to play she starts to cry and again, and even though her parents and grandparents try to say "Oonga Boonga" in just the right way, she won't stop crying until Daniel comes inside and whispers new phrase into her ear. The book offer a wonderful lesson about how important siblings can be to one another and why a big brother or sister can be the best friend a baby can have.

Cookies: Bite Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This is a charming little book that is a
delicious collection of defined and illustrated vocabulary words that focus on teaching manners, and other life lessons, to young children. By using chocolate chip cookies as the unifying theme, Rosenthal teaches lessons about concepts such as greed and generosity (i.e., Greedy means taking all the cookies for myself. Generous means offering some to others) and proud and modest (i.e., Proud means, my chin is high, and I sure do like the way my cookies turned out; Modest means you don't run around telling everyone you make the best cookies, even if you know it to be true). I think that one of the most wonderful aspects of this book is that although it teaches children important lessons about how to treat other child, it also respects their ability to understand complex concepts when they are presented in a whimsical and meaningful context.

Gyffy the Inflatable Hopping Giraffe by Gymnic

If you have a child who likes to bounce, jump, or generally just be on the move, Gyffy is the giraffe for you! This sturdy rubber giraffe is the perfect toy for an active or sensory seeking child. It is incredibly durable and is actually advertised as being able to hold even adult weight (the box said up to 400 pounds!!!) The basic idea of the toy is that children can sit on Gyffy's back and bounce away the hours, but there is so much more that this adorable friend can do. I've had the children I work with give Gyffy a shaving cream bath, we've bounced him like a ball, sat on him, pretended he was out pillow, and I even have one little fellow who likes to use him as a glorified punching bag! Now a part of every child's therapy session is spent with Gyffy. He has become highly popular with the young children I work with. Strengths: Gyffy is almost indestructible and can keep up with even the most energetic of children. Weaknesses: Because he is made of very sturdy rubber it's easy for a big bounce to carry a small child off in a direction they didn't expect to go. The unpredictability is definitely part of the fun, but I think that it's best to closely monitor play especially with younger children. I also feel that Gyffy's ears, which are meant to hang on to when bouncing, are a little small, but none of my kids seem bothered by that! Gyffy is definitely more fun than a traditional rocking horse and as I've said he has been a big hit in my therapy sessions.

Chiming Charlie by Discovery Toys

This soft hanging toy is a cuddly friend for young infants and is a great toy to attach to a stroller! Each tentacle is made out of a different textured fabric and stuffed with materials that crinkle, squish, and jingle! There is a mirror on the bottom of the toy, so babies have lots of wonderful parts to explore! Strengths: It's a wonderfully interesting toy that is easy to attach to a mobile or stroller and it provides infants with a wide range of sensory activities. Weaknesses: It's a little bit on the big side and might be difficult for little hands to easily manipulate. But overall it's a fun toy that should provide babies and toddlers with hours of exploring fun.