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!

IMG_1532 (1)

Let’s Play Animal Doctor

Animals get sick and hurt and go to the doctors – simple theme but oh… so many sensory, motor and social experiences to practice!

Choose Your Role

We like the kids to have any role they choose and we fill in the empty roles. Sometimes they like to be the pet, sometimes the vet, the assistant, the owner of the animal, the pet ambulance driver, and so on. Later, they will have opportunities to play different roles and add variations to the theme, building complex pretend play skills along the way. It’s important to have them be the role they initially imagine. Sometimes that’s all they can visualize.

Move to Play


After the negotiation of roles, we build in some motor and sensory experiences by having kids create buildings and spaces. We find the story often results from the active creation of these spaces. For example, as the kids build a home using a blanket over a table, we talk about what happened to the animal at home. If they say the animal got stuck up a tree in the back yard, we talk about why the animal was climbing the tree, who found her, how did it get down, why did it have to go to the vet, etc.? Once the kids decided to create a circus and have one of the circus animals get hurt! You can imagine the wonderful motor activities built into that play: tight ropewalkers, tumbling acrobats, lion tamers climbing on and off large blocks, and horses prancing around a circle!

IMG_1315 (1)

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

One of the greatest challenge for our group kids seems to be maintaining their roles. They all want to be the ambulance driver, not just the one sitting in the back. Once the animal gets to the vet, they all want to handle the doctor kit equipment, not just hold the pet. We spend a lot of time working out the concept that everyone plays his or her part and each part is very important. Rather than grabbing the doctor kit materials, one child can ask the “doctor”, “Can I give you the doctor tools when you need them?” or “What do you need now?” rather than grabbing the syringe and giving the dog a shot without “doctor” approval. The kids develop impulse control, attention, perspective taking, patience, responsiveness, sequencing and collaboration in this child-driven, thoroughly enjoyable pretend play experience.

Now it’s time to change roles and do it all again!

Check out our Amazon Store for some basic doctor and vet kits

fireman small

Fireman Small

Title: Fireman Small

Author: Wong Herbert Yee

Age: preschool, early elementary

Description: One tiny firefighter works hard all day to help his friends when they are in trouble.


  • Rhyming
  • Auditory Memory
  • Sequencing
  • Prediction
  • Perspective Taking
  • Helping others
  • Dramatic Play

Why I like this book: The catchy rhyme in this book grabs kids’ attention and the simple plot line is great for inspiring dramatic play.

Ideas for Use:

  • This story contains a repetitive rhyme that recurs several times within the story. Have kids complete more and more of the rhyme each time it occurs to encourage auditory memory skills
  • The problems related in the story have rather obvious solutions so this is a great book for introducing the idea of problems and solutions within a story.
  • This book can also be used to introduce the category of community helpers. Discuss the different roles that each community helper plays in our community and then play a round of the Bag Game to reinforce those concepts.
  • The narrative structure of this story lends itself very well to use with the Story Grammar Marker App. Have kids retell the story with particular focus on the “kickoff” (initiating event) for each problem, the accompanying emotion, the “plan” and the resolution.
  • This is a fantastic story for promoting group pretend play. Using small people figurines and dramatic play materials, the kids can set up a fire station and props for each of the story components. Kids can then take turns with each of the characters.
  • Kids can also act out the story with themselves as characters and gross motor materials as props. Acting out the story in this way provides a wealth of opportunity to experience movement, deep muscle input and tactile sensations. Using a scooter board or platform swing as a fire truck, a soft barrel as a well and/or a climbing pole as a tree provides lots of different sensory input while fostering representational ideation and play.
  • Fireman Small’s friends really appreciate him. Use this story to talk about thanking friends when they are helpful and how good it feels when we help others. Social Thinking Behavior Maps provide a great visual aid for talking about the connections between our actions and our emotions.

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.


A Tale of Two Beasts

Title: A Tale of Two Beasts

Author: Fiona Roberton

Description: A little girl rescues a strange beast (a squirrel) in the woods and brings him home to take care of him. The “beast” is not happy and escapes, and tells his own version of events. The book is broken up into 2 short stories to illustrate these two perspectives.

Goals/ objectives:

  • Perspective Taking (social language skills)
  • Narrative Language
  • Friendship Skills
  • Grammar: adjectives
  • Why Questions
  • OT/SLP goal: pretend play (ideation, motor planning, etc.) 

Why I like this story: The two perspectives are wonderful for discussion, and the story is really funny and entertaining. Kids of all ages will love this.

Ideas for use:

  • Have kids tell from the 2 different perspectives. Using a tool like the Story Grammar Marker from Mindwing Concepts to tell from the little girl’s perspective and then from the “beast’s” perspective. Discuss their different “kickoffs” (initiating events): little girl was walking through the woods when suddenly she saw a strange beast stuck up a tree…” vs. “I was hanging from my favorite tree singing happily to the birds  when I was ambushed…”
  • Great for social language discussion around how different interpretations of the same events can happen
  • Do Compare/Contrast of their perspectives, and even their lives. Tie in curriculum around habitats, and animal behavior. Discuss WHY the squirrel may not have liked what the girl was doing to him (i.e. bathing, walking on leash, dressing).
  • At the end of both “tales” they come to realize maybe the other wasn’t so “strange”- great for discussion with social groups about friendship and staying flexible and open minded.
  • Grammar: there are lots of wonderful examples of use of adjectives and adverbs to make sentences more complex and engaging: strange little beast, whining sadly, lovely bath, gorgeous new hat, beautiful house, etc. You could have students find synonyms for these words as well as compare to what adjective the “beast” would use (likely antonym).
  • In a group or dyad, act out the story! Would be great to have kids use various objects to represent the setting and events. What could be the woods? What could be the bath? Who can be the “beast?” Have students sequence events, narrate, negotiate roles and props, etc. Have them generate their own story with 2 perspectives, using the same frame of the story
  • Write their own version of story using different characters, but following this frame. Use apps like Book Creator to generate a story.

Submitted by Meghan 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.

Crepes by Suzette Interactive Book App


Title: Crepes by Suzette

Author: Monica Wellington (See another story by Monica reviewed on all4mychild here

Description:  Suzette, the main character of this story, is a Parisian crepe maker and street-cart Vendor, who travels throughout Paris selling her delicious dessert. This app has wonderful interactive components throughout the story that including a labeled map of Paris with Suzette’s travels, videos and photos of real life experiences in Paris complimenting the story, and highlighted vocabulary provided in various languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese). The story can be read yourself or to you in these language as well.

Goals/ objectives:

  • Narrative language with a focus on “character” and “setting”
  • Pair with Curriculum Concepts of: cities and maps; Paris, France; art/artists/museums
  • Sequencing
  • Play

Why I like this story: This interactive story app is so engaging, with endless possibilities for children. The music and pictures are appealing as well, and make the entire story experience quite enjoyable.

Ideas for use:

  • Narrative Language goals: Suzette travels all around Paris: Parisian streets, street markets, Luxembourg Gardens, the Seine River, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Tuileries Gardens, Place Vendome, Palais-Garnier (opera house), carousels, and the Eiffel Tower. Use these places to work on understanding of “setting” and setting descriptions. Pair with the Mindwing Concepts Program and/or iPad App setting description (see below). The story lends itself well to describe all the senses that could be experienced.
  • IMG_1584
    • Retell the story focusing on the sequence of events. Add in temporal markers: first, then, next, after that, etc. 
  • Curriculum Concepts: The various landmarks described above could be expanded on with the Google Earth app. This would provide an excellent context for more description and understanding of Paris and/or the “city” concept. See Sean Sweeney’s informative post on Google Earth here and here for more info on the advantages and uses of this app.
    • Use Google maps and “street view” as well. Can you use Google Maps to get from one of Suzette’s locations to the next? Can you compare the map provided in the app (see image below) to Google Maps directions?
    • Would be great to pair with concepts of Maps and directions (north, south, east, west left, right, map keys, streets, bridges, etc.)
    • You could create a map and story in another major city. Can they generate new characters, describe new settings, etc.
  • IMG_1585
  • Sequencing Goals: Use pictures of the various locations (screen shots or google images) and sequence the events of the story. Pair with story retelling.
    • Make Crepes! There is a recipe and video of crepes being made in action. Discuss the various steps and order while following the recipe. This can be “real” or through pretend play! They can use the video examples to make their own “how to make” crepes video (use iMovie or the video recoding app on the iPad/phone)
  • IMG_1586        IMG_1587
  • Play Goals: Act out the story. Kids can be Suzette with their very own cart. They can use a cash register, cooking materials and “take orders” from their customers. More than 1 student, have them “be” the various customers that come to Suzette’s cart. Can they negotiate and plan out the play and the events? Pair with the Mindwing Concepts symbols to assist with the planning states and various “characters” and settings.” Can they generate their own ideas for a different day? A different city?
  • Submitted by Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP
  • A promotional code for this app was given to all4mychild, however, the review are my ideas alone.
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.




Me and My Dragon

Title:  Me and My Dragon

Author and Illustrator:  David Biedrzycki

Age:  preschool, early elementary

Description:  A boy describes all the things he could do with a dragon and how he would take care of this new and unusual pet.


  • Perspective taking
  • Body language
  • Early prediction
  • Trying new experiences
  • Managing the unexpected
  • Pretend play
  • Trickery

Why I like this book:  Incredible illustrations practically come alive!  Characters on each page, including the dragon, show a wide range of emotions such as happiness, confusion, fear, remorse, concern, curiosity, sneakiness, and surprise.

Ideas for use:  

  • Before reading the book, discuss what kind of unusual pets kids would like and what they would do with them
  • Read the book to tap into the children’s imagination, then talk again about unusual pets and see if they can come up with different suggestions
  • Before turning the page, ask the kids to predict what will happen next
  • Discuss how each child, adult, or dragon is feeling by noting facial expressions and body language.  Have the kids act out different characters while the others guess which character they are mimicking
  • Help preschoolers with regulation and deep breathing by taking deep breaths and blowing when they see the dragon breathe fire
  • Have kids practice impulse control by holding bubble blowers and only blowing when they see the dragon breathe fire
  • Play open-ended dragon games.  Have the kids make up new ways to play with or take care of a pet dragon
  • Create a dragon with craft materials as a group project

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

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.


play tent

Bag the Plan and Let the Creativity Begin!

I have been an OT treating children for (gulp!) 25+ years and still enjoy thinking about my clients and planning the “perfect” session. Sometimes, it seems that the best sessions are the ones that happen if I am willing to let go of MY play. Yesterday was one of those days in our Social Adventures group.

Karen and I planned to continue working on the skills we emphasized the previous week with our 5 and 6 year olds. However, when 2 of the 6 children were out sick, the make up of the group changed. In addition, one girl spontaneously began crying and couldn’t tell us why and another tents boy explained that he was tired while a third child suddenly had to leave to go to the bathroom. Karen and I decided to let the kids have “buddy play” time in the gym rather than follow through with our plan since the kids all seemed to need to experience some freedom and success.

I don’t know how, but a camping theme emerged as each child began creating their “tent”. When the girls chose the play tent, the boys began finding items around the room to build their tents. Cardboard blocks, blankets, furniture, and mats all magically became. The kids found items to use for a campfire ring, fishing rods, butterfly nets, and a lake for swimming. They picked berries and cooked, swam and climbed. They worked alone or in pairs at times but always called the others over to share a meal or activity. When it was time to sleep, they made sure everyone was ready to sleep at the same time and to wake up together. The planning, organizing, sequencing, and sharing of all these actions, and using their bodies in space while moving constantly around each other was fantastic! Practice using objects representationally and
sometimes miming as in charades was so helpful to these kids who struggle with visualization and imitation.

Conflicts arose as they usually do when kids play together, however, these conflicts gave us the perfect opportunity to work on all of their goals. We worked with the kids on initiating interactions, helping them ask to join another child’s activity if they didn’t know what to do. We worked with them on advocating and compromising when 2 kids wanted to use the same materials or tent space. The kids practiced negotiating space, as their swim noodles became fishing poles. Throughout the session, each child seemed to need some time alone. We worked with the others in respecting their friend’s need assuring them that the friend would come back when he or she was ready… and they always did! Theory of mind was tackled often from both the cognitive and emotional perspectives. Why is that child mad? Why do you think that friend went to be alone? What do you think that friend wants? We frequently heard, “But I was just going to use that!” and
needed to talk about how other people don’t know what you are thinking.

We could not have planned this activity. The kids generated and executed the plan, which resulted in a tremendous amount of creativity, collaborative play, and feelings of competence. There is nothing like pretend play! Without planning too much, I hope we can do it again next week!

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

*Like the ideas in this post? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

Photo by: Lars Plougmann


The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse

Title:  The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse

Author:  Miriam Norton

Illustrator:  Garth Williams

Age:  Early Elementary

Description:  An abandoned kitten is adopted by a  mouse family.  The kitten grows up believing he is a mouse until the children of the house get involved.


  • Theory of Mind – both cognitive and emotional
  • Narrative development
  • “s” sounds
  • Body language and emotional inferencing
Why I like this book:  This book is wonderfully illustrated and the story lends itself to lots of discussion of Theory of Mind and perspective taking.
Ideas for use:
  • While reading this book aloud, talk with the kids about what the kitten “thinks” and what the other animals “know.”  Once you reach the part of the story where the kitten is held up to the mirror, discuss how seeing himself changed what the kitten thought.
  • For kids who don’t yet understand that the kitten “thinks” he is a mouse, try acting out the story and focus upon all of the actions that the kitten does that are “mouse” actions and how those would be different from “cat” actions.
  • For kids who may understand the cognitive Theory of Mind (i.e., thinking vs knowing), this story is also great for discussion emotional Theory of Mind (i.e., how the kitten feels during the different parts of the story).
  • For an even higher level challenge, this story can lead to a discussion of deception and the motives for that deception as well as how all of the characters feel as a result.
  • On a lighter note, for kids who simply need some articulation practice, this book is filled to the brim with “s” words.
  • This story is also wonderful for use with the Story Grammar Marker from Mindwings for story retell and narrative development.

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

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.




Curious George’s First Day of School

Title: Curious George’s First Day of School

Author: Margaret & H.A. Rey’s

Description: Curious George gets into trouble again on his first day of school. However, his friends come to the rescue.


  • Emotions/Body Language
  • Friendship
  • Pretend Play
  • Story Retell
  • Figurative Language
  • Wh-Comprehension

Why I like this book: Curious George is always a hit with kids. This book can be used with a variety of ages based on your goals.

Ideas for this book:

  • A good story for the beginning of the school year. There is a range of emotions in the story (which is what our kids are likely feeling:) that is great for discussion. Excitement, nervousness, frustration, etc. The pictures provide great body language as well. Have students “act out” different emotions, and discuss why they may feel that way. Discuss strategies for how to cope with the negative ones.
  • When George inevitably gets into trouble, his friends jump in to help him.  A great lesson for students about helping their friends in need, and how “many hands make light the work.” Brainstorm other ideas for how to help friends and/or the class during the year (i.e. pushing in chairs, helping other clean up quickly, wiping your table after a snack, etc.) Great to introduce the concept of “teamwork.”
  • For younger students, a great story to “act out” with small objects. Have them act out a child (or a monkey) going to school. Incorporate a teacher and other friends. Help them sequence events, add dialogue, etc.
  • For older students, a great story for retelling. Pair with MindWing Concepts “Braidy” to identify story grammar elements.  A good story with multiple “kickoffs.”
  • There are a couple examples of figurative language: “having a ball” and “well-balanced snack”- both for which George interprets literally. For older students could tie to other idioms and figurative language. For younger students great to point out and discuss.
  • Tie to curriculum around “well-balanced” snacks. Brainstorm other healthy snacks and have after reading the story.
  • During and after reading, incorporate “wh” questions throughout. Why is George in trouble? How can you tell? What will happen next? Why?

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.