pigs

Not By the Hair of My Chinny Chin Chin

Who says our kids need pretend playtime? It’s really a lot less demanding on us as adults to read them books or let them look at books (thought this is obviously important as well), let them watch TV, or play those educational games with iPads. Why should we go to all the hassle of providing props, setting up the environment, sometimes teaching our kids how to go about pretending and even occasionally engage in this play with them?

In an article posted in Psychology Today on line, Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman writes, “The research reviewed by Berk, Mann & Ogan, (2006) and Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer (2009) suggest that make-believe games are forerunners of the important capacity for forms of self-regulation including reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy. When children use toys to introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally. Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy (Hughes, 1999).”

When our group of 5 and 6 year olds act out the Three Little Pigs,  the social and life skills practice is evident. After reading The Three Little Pigs, the acting out came naturally to our 4 boys. They first chose roles and built their own homes. They chose to play this game repeatedly even during free playtime. Once they practiced a few times, they were completely independent in their negotiating roles, setting up the environment, and cueing each other. The play changed over time as the boys began to build homes together to make them more elaborate. They created different endings as they problem solved various ways to keep the wolf out of the house.

So, let’s examine how this one play scenario can help kids develop self-regulation as described by Dr. Kaufman.

agressive kid

Reduced aggression – What happens when a child doesn’t get the role he wants? Does he lash out? Refuse to play? Some of our 3 little piggy players did just that at the beginning of this activity. It took lots of explanation, opportunities to sit out and watch initially, and practice for them to learn that they may not get the role they thought they wanted but they could have fun all the same.

Delayed gratification – Once kids learned that we would act out the story over and over and over again, they relaxed about the roles and houses they were assigned. They knew that at some point, they would be able to have the role they wanted.

Civility – Learning to enjoy and even compliment each other is a really hard but important lesson for children, young and old. As kids acted out their parts in their own unique ways, rather than saying, “No, that’s not how you do it”, they learned to appreciate the uniqueness of their peers and support one another in their differences.

Empathy – The actual story of the three little pigs exemplifies empathy. When one piggy’s house is blown down, the others don’t laugh, they say, “Come to my house. I’ll help you stay safe!” Sometimes the kids even showed empathy toward the wolf and ended up inviting him in for cookies if he promised not to eat them!

Understanding multiple perspectives – Why does the wolf want to blow the houses down? Why does he talk in a mean way to the pigs? Why are the pigs afraid? These questions can lead to some pretty sophisticated discussions about our preconceived ideas about people and how we can listen to one another and try to understand.

planning

Communication – Initially, kids wanted to jump into the story. Over time they learn that some talking time is necessary to plan. They become much better and more efficient and almost formulaic about planning. For example, the kids now say, “Who wants to be the wolf? Who wants to be the first pig?” Next they ask, “Where will you build your house? Mine will be here.” etc.

Problem Solving – This one is obvious but I must add that in the beginning, kids are so anxious about making sure things so “their way” that very little problem solving occurs without adult intervention. We’ve written about this before but the value of acting out the same story over and over again is that anxiety goes down and problem solving emerges.

Enjoy make believe play. It’s fun to join in as an adult to throw the kids some unexpected changes and see how they manage. This is also a fun activity with finger or hand puppets. Please check out Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman’s article as it is refreshing and informative.

Image by: Will Sawney

 

 

 

 

 

 

medal lion

The Lion and the Mouse

Title: The Lion and the Mouse

Author: Aesop’s Fable

Age: preschool, early elementary

Description: A familiar story about helping one another in surprising ways

Goals/Concepts:

  • Helping others
  • Prediction
  • Perspective Taking
  • Not being a bully
  • Dramatic Play

Why I like this book: It’s a great story about not picking on people weaker than you and a reminder that little ones, even kids, can be smart and act kindly.

Ideas for Use:

  • Before reading the story, talk about what kids know about mice and lions – What size are they? What do they like to eat? Are they fierce or mellow, brave or fearful?
  • As you read the story, have the kids predict what the lion will do when it catches the mouse. This often can lead to discussions about bullying.
  • This is a great book to delve into expected and unexpected behaviors and the consequences of each. The lion released the mouse, which freed him, made him happy and resulted in the mouse freeing the lion on another day.
  • This is a great story for dramatic play. With a group of 3 – 5, have the kids take on roles of different small animals such as a mouse, bird, rabbit, or snake. Have them think about and act out how each of those characters might free the lion.
  • Acting out the story creates opportunities for motor play as the kids set up their animal homes and move like various animals.
  • When kids act out this story, they are working on self-regulation. The lion must be careful not to grasp the mouse too hard and when the lion is released from his net, he must figure out how to not struggle too hard.
  • If the motor planning element is too challenging and the kids can’t tell the story while they move, try using finger puppets or making paper bag puppets to use for a puppet show.
  • The best part of the story is that if we help someone, they may come back to help us later, and what a good feeling that is for everyone!

Submitted by:  Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

There are many MANY renderings of this story. Support books4all and order this book from our Amazon Store where we have added several of our favorite versions.  Thank you!

veggie garden

Planting Seeds of Language/ Social Skills with the Dr Panda Veggie Garden App

I work with so many kids who need to work on expanding their expressive language and social skills so I am always on the look-out for new activities for motivation. Lately I have been hooked on the Dr Panda Veggie Garden App. These are my top 5 favorite ways to use this app to expand language/social skills:

  1. For the kids who use primarily single words, this app is great for expanding to simple subject-verb or verb-object phrases (e.g., sun shine, mow grass)
  2. For the kids who need to work on articulation of a common word or phrase, I use this app for repetitive practice.  For example, I use this with kids who are working on /th/ sounds by having them use the carrier phrase, “I ___ this/these _____” (e.g., I rake these leaves, I water this tree)
  3. For kids who are working on adding descriptive terms, I use this app along with the Expanding Expression Tool to help them describe the various steps in the process (e.g. the little, green strawberries are turning red, ripe and juicy).
  4. For the kids who are working on stringing sequential sentences together, I take a screen shot of each step in the growing sequence while the kids are enjoying the app and then I visit the photos app on my iPad and have the kids describe each step along with each picture. The kids love to go back and forth between using the app to grow something and then telling the corresponding story with the pictures.
  5. This app is also great to use for encouraging social interactions. While playing the game, kids can work on taking turns, helping each other figure out what to do on each page, and talking to one another about the sequence of events. This app can also be a wonderful inspiration for some sequential dramatic play.  With spring soon upon us, the garden theme is particularly timely :)

Submitted by:  Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

 

cedar-sandbox

Sand Box Garden

The Atlantic Magazine posted a wonderful article about the importance of play in helping stem anxiety and depression in kids. You can read the entire article here: All Work and No Play. Basically, kids need less adult-directed time and more free playtime together. As the weather is becoming nicer I love to see kids outside doing what they do best – PLAYING

The Atlantic article lists 5 ways play benefits kids:

  1. Finding and developing a connection to their own self-identified and self-guided interests.
  2. Learning how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control and follow rules
  3. Learning to handle emotions, including anger, fear and hurt
  4. Learning to make friends and get along with each other as equals
  5. Play is a source of happiness

In a local school this week I observed a class of 4 and 5 year olds on the playground. A large sand box with sort of dirty, wet sand elicited the creation of a garden. (Self-identified interest). Kids started digging with play shovels. When shovels ran out and kids started complaining, others offered suggestions to use sticks, wait their turn, dig with hands, or take on another job. (Solving problems). Some kids ran around collecting dirty, dead leaves to plant while others filled toy dump trucks to collect dirt and dump it on the planted seeds. (Making decisions). Kids then started talking about what plants they were growing. Some said flowers, some vegetables. It didn’t seem to matter. (Self-guided interests). When one boy began flinging dirt, the others told him to stop and to dig somewhere else. Happily, the child was able to move away and began filling a truck with sand to take to the garden. (Following rules, handling emotions). The sand box was filled with well-organized chaotic play. Boys and girls played together and all seemed to have jobs and ideas. (Getting along with each other). Best of all, they were all happy in their industrious, creative, pretend play.

throw sand

This may seem like a mundane scene that can be found on any playground. However, I wanted to highlight it here because we continue to pressure our schools and families to improve academics and keep up with children in other countries and cultures in math and technology. We also need to let the children play, for within the context of play, kids develop essential skills that enable them to flourish in the global economy. If our kids can learn to discover their self-interests and skills, make decisions and solve problems, self-regulate, handle disappointments, get along with others and find happiness, what more could we ask?

 

IMG_0681 (1)

More Than Enough: A Passover Story

Title: More Than Enough

Author: April Halprin Wayland

Illustrator: Katie Kath

Age: preschool

Description:   A beautifully illustrated story of Passover and the rescue of a special friend.

Goals/Concepts: 

  • Passover vocabulary and concepts
  • Holiday traditions
  • Sequencing
  • Early Prediction

Why I like this book: The story and illustrations provide a simple, though elegant description of Passover while the chorus “dayenu” provides the opportunity for interaction during a read aloud.

Ideas for use:

  • While reading aloud, ask the children to join in the chorus of “dayenu.” The rhythm of the story provides cues for the timing of this.
  • If using this book as an introduction to Passover as part of a broader discussion of various spring holidays, use the glossary to assist in teaching the vocabulary and other concepts introduced in the book.
  • To use this book as an opportunity to practice sequencing events, make reduced-size copies of each page, present them out of order and have the children put them into the correct order. Use temporal markers such as, first, next, then and last to support the sequencing structure.
  • This book depicts a large family and could be used to introduce extended family members such as grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
  • If using this book to prepare a child for attending a Passover feast, read one time as an introduction and then read it again and encourage the child to predict what comes next in the sequence of events while reading the story.
  • For older children, explain the connection between rescuing the cat and the story of Passover.

Submitted by: Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

Rosies Walk Cover

Rosie’s Walk

Title: Rosie’s Walk

Author: Pat Hutchins

Age: Preschool, Early Elementary

Description: Rosie the hen goes for a walk around the farm. Little does she know that there is a fox following her.

Goals/Concepts:

  • Early narrative
  • Simple sequencing
  • Farm vocabulary
  • Basic concepts/prepositions (around, over, under, etc.)
  • Early perspective taking
  • Early prediction (Will the fox get Rosie? What do you think will happen?)

Why I like this book: The story is simple, and kids love it. Great pictures, and simple humorous ending.

Ideas for use:

  • Great introducing of “setting” (the farm) from the Story Grammar Marker. Discuss other settings, and describe them (what do we see here, hear, feel, etc.)
  • Use “Braidy” (www.mindwingconcepts.com) for a simple sequence story to have kids retell.
  • Use the pictures in the story, and have kids be “the teacher.” Encourage temporal markers: first, next, then, last.
  • Practice prepositions. Have kids “act” out what Rosie does. Have a toy hen (or have them be Rosie!) and have them walk around, through, under, over. Use props.
  • Act out the story. Have a dyad…one child is Rosie, and one can be the fox. Help them make a plan and act it out. If 3 children, have one be the “narrator.”
  • Discuss why Rosie doesn’t know that the fox is behind her. How do we know? Point out body language, where her eyes are, how the fox is likely moving and sounding, etc. Why doesn’t he want her to know…

Submitted by: Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

Please support books4all and order this book from Amazon.com.  Thank you!

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

 

lemonade stand

Who Wants Lemonade?

I always struggle to find good activities to address higher level language concepts such as inferencing, predicting and problem solving. I often know what I want to work on, but finding the right tool that is motivating is another battle.

But of course with the iPad…anything is possible.

Recently I found the app Lemonade Stand. I can’t remember who recommended this to me (probably the genius Sean Sweeney at www.speechtechie.com), but it any case I’m grateful.

lemonade stand 2

Today it became an app that I used individually and in the group setting. The app is essentially a virtual lemonade stand, where you are given conditions (a weather report, and potential events in the area), and then you are to decide how much lemonade to make, how to make it, how to advertise, and how much to charge. An obvious lesson in basic economics…but that is NOT what my focus was (I steer clear of math if possible). Instead, we brainstormed ideas for what would make people want to come to a lemonade stand (weather, good tasting lemonade, fair price, good signs, etc.) and what would keep them from coming back. We then created our own lemonade sign, which was a great perspective taking activity (and in a group- teamwork and flexibility activity). What information needed to be on the sign (and why!) and how it should look was a session all on it’s own!

Using the app to build language skills

We then played the app. In a group, a great opportunity for negotiating language, flexibility, and tone of voice as you discuss your ideas. Individually, great for discussing “why” you make changes to your plan. For example, “I added more lemons because I wanted the lemonade to taste better so more people buy it,” or “I charged less for the lemonade because the weather is yucky and I want to sell some.” There are no really right answers, as long as they support their idea. The app provides some “tips” in their information section which is great to have kids refer to if struggling. There are lots of opportunities for therapy….and it was lots of fun too.

Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

If you found the ideas in this blog helpful, you will definitely appreciate the activity ideas in the Social Adventures app available on the Social Adventures - all4mychild

felt food

Critical Elements of Make-Believe Play

“Research provides more and more evidence of the positive effects that well-developed play has on various areas of child development, such as children’s social skills, emerging mathematical ability, mastery of early literacy concepts, and self-regulation.” writes Deboral J. Leong, PhD and Elena Bodrova, PhD. in NAEYCE article, Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play

Dr. Leong and Dr. Bodrova include a clear guide delineating critical elements and stages in make-believe play. Please read their article as it includes wonderful and accessible information in helping us guide our children in play.

During our Social Adventures food theme weeks, our kids love to play deli with pretend food so I’ll use that theme to illustrate portions of Drs. Leong and Bodrova’s framework for the stages of pretend play.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 5.38.10 PM

Plan: Initially our kids required a great deal of help to plan their play. They were then able to move into planning roles leading to planning scenarios. For example, the deli person initially knew he needed to stand behind the meat counter. He eventually planned words and actions such as, “Would you like cheese on your sandwich?” or “Would you like a drink with that?” He began to ask if his customer wanted the food here or to go and was able to tell the customer how much his meal cost. This was a far cry from initially standing behind the counter!

Roles: Our little players initially bounced back and forth between roles. For example, the customer grabbed the food to make his own sandwich and the deli person gave money to the customer. Over time, the kids learned that each child had a role with rules. For example, the customer never grabbed the food from the counter.

Props: In the beginning, the kids needed to have objects represent themselves. The play food was play food, the cash register was a cash register. As the play became more involved, they began to imagine other types of props they wanted but didn’t have access to. So they used other objects representationally. If they didn’t have a ketchup bottle, they grabbed a red beanbag to represent ketchup. Eventually, they were able to imagine items without holding anything concrete in their hands.

Extended time frame: This is one of my favorite aspects of pretend play. Initially, kids only played for a few minutes. For example, a customer entered the deli, ordered one sandwich and left – end of story. However, as the kids played day after day, week after week, switching roles, they began to imagine and elaborate on the story. One customer planned a birthday party and came in to make a large order. The deli person didn’t have enough food so had to call and order more from a delivery person. They then decided they needed a party store for additional supplies. When kids are able to play the same pretend play theme over time, they really get into it!

In conclusion, our 3-6 year olds don’t just WANT to play, they NEED to play to grow, learn and thrive. Let’s keep play in the forefront of their education! As the NAEYCE article concludes:

“Mature make-believe play is an important and unique context, providing opportunities to learn not afforded by other classroom activities. It should not be considered something extra that can be cut to accommodate more time for academic skills…” Dr. Leong and Dr. Bodrova

Check out our amazon store for some favorite pretend play food

The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)

Title: The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza)

Author: Philemon Sturges

Age: preschool, early elementary

Description: A fun modern twist on the classic story of the Little Red Hen with an unexpected ending.

Goals/Concepts:

  • Categorization
  • Sequencing
  • Prediction
  • Perspective Taking
  • Helping others
  • Dramatic Play

Why I like this book: The story is familiar so kids think they know how it will end so they really appreciate the twist. The simple plot line is great for inspiring dramatic play.

Ideas for Use:

  • Each time the Hen needs something, she goes to a store. She buys what she needs along with a few more things. This provides an excellent opportunity for generating items within categories (e.g., hardware store, grocery store, etc.).
  • Once kids are comfortable generating items within categories, play a round of the Bag Game to reinforce verbal descriptions of those items.
  • The narrative structure of this story lends itself to group interaction. Each time the Hen asks for help, have the kids chime in with “not I” and reinforce the body language that goes with it.
  • This is a fantastic story for supporting dramatic play. Have the kids act out the story with themselves as characters. It’s important that kids get to play each of the roles to practice perspective taking skills.  Using realistic props like pots and pans and a pretend pizza can add to the fun
  • Throughout the story, the other characters are busy doing something else outside each time the Hen asks for help. Follow up the reading of this story or dramatic play with a game of charades related to outdoor activities. Playing charades provides a great opportunity to work on motor-planning, ideation and salience.
  • The ending of this story is a little different from the classic. Have a discussion about the similarities and differences among the two stories. Have the kids generate their own “Little Red Hen” story using a common everyday sequence and brainstorm different endings.
  • The ending to this story reinforces the idea that friends sometimes act in unfriendly ways, but that they can always turn things around by making a new more friendly choice.   Follow up with a discussion of ways to “make amends with friends.”

Submitted by:  Karen S Head, MS, CCC-SLP

Support books4all and order this book from our Amazon Store Thank you!

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

 

pet doctor

The iPad and Beyond – Pet Doctor Inspires Collaborative Play

The iPad and Beyond – Pet Doctor Inspires Collaborative Play

We love using apps in therapy and in our Social Adventure Groups but we are all too aware of how kids can get over-focused on them. We have taken to using some of them as inspiration for play. One of our favorites is Toca Boca Pet Doctor. This adorable app introduces kids to some unexpected pet problems, such as a beaver who needs his teeth brushed and a bird who is stuck in gum. Playing this game for a few minutes before we start dramatic play can really get the kids thinking.

Once the kids have some ideas about what could go awry with their pets, we give them some time to work together to pick equipment to represent a house, a pet doctor’s office and an ambulance. Then the fun begins! Kids never get tired of taking turns calling 911 about their pet problem, riding in the ambulance to the pet doctor of course using all of the fun doctor kit items to take good care of that pet.

Just a few minutes with this wonderful iPad app leads to many more minutes of creative, collaborative dramatic play!