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!

kids in the boat

Inspired by Friendship Month

Did you know that February is Friendship Month?  We didn’t until last week when our friend Tiffani over at Special-ism let us know.  For some time now, Meghan, Jill and Karen have taken a hiatus from the online portion of all4mychild.  We moved our clinic a couple of years ago and took some time to focus on that.  We have missed our online friends, however, and felt that there was no better time to return than in celebration of Friendship Month.  We spend every day working with kids to help them feel more socially confident so that their friendship circles can grow.  Now we want our online friendships to start growing once again as well.

If you don’t already subscribe to our newsletter, you can do so HERE.  We are excited to start blogging again, to review more books, to continue to offer special promotions for our APPS  and to add more exciting features to our website. We hope you will follow along with us as we once again join this amazing online community of those who love children.

photo by David Lytle

Let’s Pretend…

Talking toys, ready-made projects, iPads, and electronic games are all super fun and enticing. However, they don’t help our kids develop communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. These are the skills that will ensure life long learning and problem solving not only through school but throughout careers and family life as well. What will happen to the next generation of kids if they don’t learn these critical life skills?

In an effort to help 4 – 6 year olds develop these skills in our Social Adventures group we read books with simple themes such as “Good-night Gorilla” and “The Little Red Hen” and act out the stories in the gym. This has been quite a challenge for our little ones as they show difficulty negotiating roles, identifying props, figuring out how to use the space available to them and staying with the theme.

To help the kids grasp early negotiation skills, we provided each child with a ball or tactile play item and when another item looked more interesting to them, they asked a friend to trade. If a friend wanted to trade, he said, “Sure”. We taught the kids to say, “In a minute” if they didn’t want to trade and then encouraged the swap shortly after.

play doh sharing

photo by

Last week, we decided to play “Grocery Store” with the 4-5 year olds in our Social Adventures groups. It happened sort of organically when one child suggested the game and the others enthusiastically agreed. In discussing roles, the kids said we needed a “Scanner”, a “Delivery man”, a “Shopper”, and a “Grocery Worker” to stack the shelves.



The food (cardboard blocks) was delivered to the store via scooter board and the child stocking the shelves organized the shelves by color. He assigned exotic names to the food such as “spicy yogurt” getting more creative as the game proceeded. The shopper used a laundry basket as a grocery cart. The Scanner chose to stand inside the upright barrel to scan the food and then send it down the slide.

The kids began wanting to change roles. Sometimes a friend would say, “Sure” and other times they would say, “In a minute”. They then surprisingly switched roles in about a minute! Each child adapted his or her roles to suit their personalities. When one boy said the grocery bill was a whopping $9.00, the “customer” exclaimed, “WHAAAAT?” and then obligingly paid up.

You may think I am overreacting but I felt this session was no short of a miracle. The kids were engaged, negotiating, planning, problem solving, collaborating, and thoroughly enjoying themselves! So let’s put the electronics on the shelf and let the pretending begin.





Every now and then on a Friday we like to post one of our favorite blogs.  This week we thought it would be fun to share this one:


The tag line for our web site is “Collaborative Tools and Technologies” and I am bursting to write about a collaborative tool that is not based in technology. Our group of 5 year-olds just finished an 8-week project that brought much delight to the kids (and, therefore the group leaders). After playing several different board games that involved dice, cards, and spinners, the kids decided they wanted to make a dice-based game. They talked about all kinds of activities and other things they liked until they happened upon something they all enjoyed – pets. We used the side of a cardboard box to draw a game board. The kids made marks on several spaces that served as the “bad things happen” spaces. The “bad things” were a T-Rex, a cage, a dark cave, and a fire-breathing dragon. Each child chose a “bad thing” which they drew and colored on the game board. It didn’t matter that the drawings were roughly depicted. The kids knew what they were supposed to be and encouraged one another.

Pictures of animals were cut out and glued around the game path to keep things cheery. Game pieces were made by stringing small beads on pipe cleaners and closing them in a circle to become pet collars. The kids talked about making a “good thing” square so they glued a star on the board. If you landed on the star, you got to jump to the other star placed further along the path. They decided that everyone should be able to finish the game, so when they reached the end, their pieces were placed on a “bench” drawn by one of the kids, to watch and wait until everyone completed the game.

Pride, simple joy, companionship, feeling supported, being supportive, winning gracefully, losing gracefully, fun, successful, and happiness are all words that come to mind as I picture the little faces of the kids as they played their original game. Oh…and let’s not forget collaboration!

This 8-week Collaborative Project is one of 4 outlined in our Social Adventures Apps. Find our more HERE.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L



Do you know kids who:

  • say “I don’t know” a lot
  • copy the behaviors of other children
  • wait until another child offers an answer or idea and then agrees
  • appear a little reticent to play
  • rarely initiate
  • don’t suggest things to do or games to play in a highly engaging environment
  • have trouble sequencing simple steps to a project or physical activity
  • have difficulty remembering what they did last week or yesterday or this morning
  • cannot predict what will happen in a story as it’s being read

All of these behaviors exemplify children who have trouble with ideation; a concept that plays an enormous role in all aspects of life.  Two of my favorite definitions are:

1.  Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas… Ideation is all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization. (From Wikipedia)

2.  the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Ideational challenges make learning, social interactions, and physical activity problematic and negatively impact self-confidence and self-esteem.

Here are a few ideas we have tried with children in our groups with moderate to significant success:

  • Practice visualization.  Have the kids talk about and describe things that are familiar to them.  My co-worker, Sue Savoy, MS, CCC-SLP asked kids to describe Dunkin’ Donuts (If you are from New England, you can find a DD just about every 2 blocks!).  As the kids talked, they were able to “see” and describe more and more details such as the color of the sign, where the donuts are displayed, the color of the sprinkles on the donuts, and the people in line.
  • Follow the visualization exercise with a story without showing the pictures.  Have the kids describe the picture in their minds based on the words.  If the story is about a witch with stockings, what color are her stockings?  How old is the witch?  What does her hair look like?
  • Acting out stories is always fun.  Once a story is read, the kids can pick parts and picture where they will be acting out scenes and what they might use for props.  If they haven’t seen the actual pictures of the story, they will feel less like there is a “right” and “wrong” way and will be free to imagine and express themselves.
  • When kids are getting ready to transition from one room to another, take a moment to have them picture and describe the hall – what is in the hall?  Is anything on the walls or a rug on the floor?  What does the room they are going to look like?  Have the kids describe items and location of these items in the room with as much detail as possible.  Tell the kids where you expect them to go when they enter the room and have them visualize themselves going there and sitting down.  See Cognitive Connections and Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP at for good information on executive function and visualization.
  • Before playing a familiar game, ask kids to close their eyes and imagine themselves playing the game.  What color is their piece?  With eyes closed, have them describe details of the game board.  The kids can then describe how to play the game – a nice sequencing activity.  While they are imagining themselves playing the game, talk about how they are cooperating with each other and having fun to reinforce the good sportsmanship.
  • Visualization for relaxation can also be helpful.  See for lots of ideas and resources to help kids practice visualization.
  • Before asking a child to remember what activity they did last week or what they want to do this week, have them close their eyes while providing them with leading cues.  “Let’s see, we were in the gym with the rainbow mat last week and there were big cushions in the room…” If they can visualize the environment, they may be able to “see” themselves there, giving them the context for the activity.
  • Practice “spin offs” of familiar games and activities.  Play tag and then have a child change one small thing about the game such as using a base or playing freeze tag or team tag.  When children with ideation challenges experience success in being original in this small way, their anxiety goes down and self-confidence soars.

A final personal thought:   we are inundated with visual images that are thrust upon us at every turn.  I know…we are all sick of hearing about the negative impact of TV, computers and other technological devices.  However, if we don’t provide our young children the physical, mental, and emotional space and opportunity to create their own images in their heads, how will they develop the capacity for “the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas”?

Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Photo by: ralmonline alm

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.


What, So What, Now What?

The theme of the first group with our 3rd and 4th grade Social Adventurers was change; how difficult it can be, how resistant we can be to change, and yet, how important it is to learn how to manage ourselves in the midst of these transitions. Change is a fundamental part of each new school year… new teachers, different classmates, new room, new rules, new everything! And our students have a really hard time with change! When I googled “resistance to change” I came across a business presentation that used the words: “What?” “So What?” and “Now What?” as a model for introducing change within an organization. I found it rather fascinating and decided to try it with our group. We use what we call, “Social Catch Phrases” to help our kids remember important principles of social interaction so these simple words fit right in with our typical style.

Meghan and I introduced a group project using the three small questions:

WHAT?: What are we doing? We are building ONE tall structure as a group using clay and tooth picks.

SO WHAT?: We are doing this activity to practice working together as a team. It is important to learn how to do things with other people, how to listen to our friends, respond to our friends, appreciate their ideas, be flexible, and take turns. We want our friends to do the same thing for us and all this takes practice. We are doing this activity to practice these skills in a fun way.

NOW WHAT?: Now we need to plan. What are the steps? How are we going to accomplish this goal?

Then we set the kids loose. There were a couple kids trying to direct everything but basically, each child began building a structure directly in front of themselves with their own materials. We held up the “WHAT?” card and reminded them that the activity was to build only one structure. As they continued to work and become frustrated, the question emerged, “Why can’t we just build our own structure?” We then held up the “SO WHAT?” card, reminding them that they were learning how to work together as a team, to be flexible, etc. The kids began to work together which resulted in some heated discussions over where to put pieces, whose creation would be on top, and where to add elaborate pieces (that did not in fact lead to the ultimate goal of creating a tall structure). The kids’ attention was directed to the “NOW WHAT?” card as they were asked to pause and talk about how they could use what they have already built to produce a tall structure. Is it important that one child’s piece is on top or that the pieces below could support the top and have it stay up? What could they do now to accomplish the goal?

There were a few tears along the way, and definitely some frustration but in the end, the kids accomplished the goal and all seemed pleased with the result.

by Jill Perry, MS, MHA, OTR/L

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.


Pepo and Lolo and the Red Apple

Title: Pepo and Lolo and the Red Apple

Author: Ana Martin Larranaga

Description: Two friends spot a delicious apple hanging from a tree. The problem is they can’t get it unless they work together.


  • Social Skills: teamwork and collaboration
  • Speech production: bilabial and alveolar sequences, /l/
  • Early Language: verbs, early utterances
  • Early narrative
  • Retelling

Why I like this book: Although a very simple story, I have found this book quite versatile for speech and language goals from very young to early elementary. There is also something special about the illustrations that kids (and adults) love:)

Ideas for this book:

  • A perfect simple story to act out. If in an individual session, read the story and pair with pretend play. If you have a toy pig and toy chick you’re all set. It’s a very simple sequence story so great for teaching pretend play sequences, incorporating dialogue, etc. If in a group/dyad, you can physically act out. There are 2 characters but also a couple ants that can be incorporated. Have kids come up with the props: what could be an apple, a tree, apple cores? Focus on the collaboration process, body language/facial expressions, etc.
  • Great for discussion around working together to solve problems. Pair with advocating and negotiating ideas from our Social Adventures App. Help break down this skill for children using social catch phrases like “I have an idea…”. Stress how they can’t complete the task without working together
  • Create thinking and speaking bubbles for the characters in the story. What are they thinking/feeling? Why?
  • Speech production: Great for motor planning kiddos for bilabial and alveolar sequence practice (i.e. pepo, lolo (I also change the chicks name to “bobo” if focusing on bilabials), apple, “no way” (when can’t reach the apple), “help me” (says animals),boom-boom, oh man (when apple falls) too-tall (can’t reach apple), one-two, big-pig, ti-ny, big apple,  you get the idea…)
  • /l/: lolo, apple
  • Given the simple nature of the story great for early language concepts: simple verbs, agent + action, etc.
  • Given the simple nature of the story, I use to introduce story grammar elements. There are simple characters, setting, problem (kickoff), internal response,events and resolution. Great when introducing the Story Grammar Marker through Mindwingconcepts
  • For earlier narrative skills a great story to have kids “be the teacher” and retell the story encouraging temporal markers (first, next, then, etc.). Pair with the Story Patch App or other story retelling apps.
  • Tie to curriculum: apples, planting seeds, composting, etc. Use sequencing cards to sequence these concepts, write sentences, etc.

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

Please support books4all and order this book from  Thank you!

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

Collaborative Stories – An Adventure in Flexibility

As in most social groups, flexibility is the challenge. In one of our recent groups, we decided to use some Rory’s Story Cubes – dice with adorable illustrations on them, to create a “teamwork story” that required a lot of flexibility, and also allowed us to work on narrative language skills which is always a plus :)


I started the story (which always helps to establish a character, setting and initiating event…another great activity to tie to Mindwingconcepts) by rolling the die. I created a beginning of the story, and then said “beep” and passed a die to the child on my right (this allows the child to be in charge of their own contribution. If they are struggling they can keep it short). He then added on to my story, with the rules being that he had to “connect” the two ideas. This alone is a challenge in flexibility. He then added his part, and said “beep” when he was ready, and I handed another die to the next child, who added on. Jill as my OT co-leader and MUCH better drawer, kept track of the story using a white board, which provided visuals for the kids to help connect the story.

The story went on like this until everyone had a turn to add. Jill ended the story to provide a clear resolution. Throughout the story making process lots of skills were addressed.

  • Keeping it “short and exciting” versus going on and on and on. This encouraged them to read their friends’ body language. Are they  bored? Excited? Should I wrap it up or keep going?
  • Listening to their friends. They had to stay “part of the group” in order to add on to the story and have it make sense
  • Being flexible. The story may not be going the way YOU would have it go
  • Commenting on their friends ideas

We then decided to illustrate the story- but we added a twist. You didn’t get to illustrate your own addition to the story, but the part that happened after you. The kids had to then check in with their friend, and have them describe what THEY were picturing. This lead to great discussion, question asking, description and again, you guessed it….flexible thinking. We always find drawing helps our kids stay regulated as it is inherently therapeutic. An added bonus as we ended our group, and sent them off to their classrooms.

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


Pushing Buttons Part II

Last week I wrote about an activity to help kids understand that it is not affable to purposely annoy or bother our friends.  We may think it’s fun but they do not.  This week Meghan and I tried to concretize the concept by using actual buttons.We asked the kids in the 2nd grade group to recall their friend’s buttons from the previous week.  The first step in not annoying others is to learn and remember what annoys them.  Surprisingly, the kids quickly stated each other’s buttons with better recall than I could claim.Secondly, we explained that we needed to practice playing and working together while being respectful of each other by NOT pushing buttons.  We prepared a mancala game board with the first initial of each child place in one of the mancala board pits.  We placed a handful of buttons in the larger pit at the end of the board.  The kids were told that a button would be placed in their pit if one of the adults observed them pushing a friend’s button.

It was time to play a game.  We used a favorite app, Scribblenauts, which required turn taking, impulse control, listening, ideating, negotiating, collaborating, flexibility, and teamwork.  We truly expected the challenge to maintain considerate behavior would be too great as the kids became involved in this exciting and challenging activity.

I am pleased to say that Meghan and I were in awe as we witnessed the kids supporting each other and working together, controlling their impulses and bodies, and accepting the ideas of others WITHOUT pushing each other’s buttons.  We ended up with only a few buttons in the pits.  There were no other consequences and we pointed out how respectfully they behaved.

We recognize that this activity involved only one hour out of the many hours in a day and we can’t expect this friendly behavior to persist at all times.  However, we also believe the practice, success, and warm feelings the kids experienced is a big step in the right direction.

Jill Perry MHA M.S. OTR/L

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