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

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Snow Friends

Title:  Snow Friends

Author: M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton

Description: A little bear wakes from his winter nap and has no one to enjoy the snow with. He decides to build a snowman to play with and meets some friends along the way.

Goals/ objectives:

Early inferencing and predicting
Why questions
animal/winter vocabulary (winter animals: bear, rabbit, otter)
social skills/friendship
body language

Why I like this story: A cute winter story that encourages friendship and thinking about others.
Ideas for use:

Great story for retelling and identifying the story grammar elements (characters, setting, initiating event, etc.). I pair with “Braidy” through Mindwing Concepts. A clear kickoff and plan (bear needs a friend so builds a snowman…)
use to discuss setting (woods, cave). Draw a big winter wood scene and have child add the various winter animals to retell the story.
Good for description as well as the pictures are textured….sparkly, shiny, white, cold snow. etc.
Great for early prediction/inferencing (e.g. What could be under the snow making noise? (rabbit in burrow), what will they use the sticks for?)
Good for modeling and exposing to “why” questions. Why do they need carrots? Why is the rabbit upset? Why is the bear lonely? etc.
Beautiful illustrations for body language and emotions. Have children act out the body language.
Good story to act out in a group or dyad . Use big exercise balls to act as snow balls. One child holds the bottom while the others, “make” the other snow ball. Encourage team work and communication as they roll the balls.
Discuss friendship and thinking of others. Why did the animals make another snowman? (They didn’t want the snowman to be lonely when they left to do other activities). How can they include others?

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

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Book Dont wake up the bear

Don’t Wake up the Bear

Title: Don’t Wake Up the Bear!

 Author: Majorie Dennis Murray

Description: A sleeping bear becomes a warm, comfy place for many animals to keep warm in the cold. But this becomes a problem when a mouse with a cold wakes up the bear.

Goals/ objectives:

  • negation and contractions (“don’t”)
  • sequencing/ Retelling
  • early prediction
  • why
  • animal vocabulary
  • vocal volume

Why I like this story: A cute winter story.

Ideas for use:

  • simple story sequence to retell. Can make board maker pictures or use google images to find the various animals. (hare, badger, fox, squirrel and mouse) and use to sequence and retell the story. Incorporate temporal markers (first, next, then, etc.)
  • use to discuss setting (woods, cave). Draw a big winter wood scene and have child add the various winter animals to retell the story.
  • have kids predict what animal is next? Can they think of another animal that lives in the woods? What might happen if they wake the bear?
  • kids can add to the story with more winter animals and write their own stories
  • Great for simple why questions. Why are they whispering? Why are they sleeping with the bear?
  • lots of repetition of “don’t” if practicing or exposing to negation or contractions
  • could use for voice volume. Lots of examples of whispering (when bears sleeping) vs. yelling (when bear wakes up). Could tie to the The Incredible 5 Point Scale and use for vocal volume.

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

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Title: Elmer

Author: David McKee

Description: Elmer the elephant isn’t like all the other elephants. He’s colorful and struggles with that difference. After trying to be like all the other elephants and failing, he realizes how much his friends appreciate his uniqueness.


  • Friendship
  • Social Skills
  • Narrative language/Retelling
  • Animal Vocabulary

Why I like this book: A good example of appreciating people’s differences, and teaching children to be themselves.

Ideas for this book:

  • Have each child come up with something they can do (i.e. sometimes do friends ideas even if it isn’t exactly what they want, ask a friend what their favorite game is and play it together, let another friend go first, etc.), or something that they are good at, that makes their friends think/feel positively towards them. Discuss how Elmer was good at making the other elephants laugh and enjoy themselves. This made his friends like him, and want to spend time with him. Could they use one of their “talents” or traits to enjoy their time with friends? Maybe they are great at legos- they could make a lego tower together with a friend? Maybe they are good at drawing- they could draw a picture for their friend of their friend’s favorite thing. Encourage discussion around what others are thinking about and feeling when they do these things. They could even draw pictures of this, and share. Use thinking and speaking bubbles to demonstrate how what friends would be thinking and saying.
  • If in a group- have kids each come up with something positive about another group member. What is something that they like about that friend? What makes them special? Again, pair with thinking and speaking bubbles.
  • A great story to identify story grammar elements (i.e. characters, setting, initiating event, etc.). I like to pair with MindwingConcepts story grammar marker /”Braidy” to help students identify and retell the story.
  • Have children retell using “Braidy” or using the pictures from the story. Encourage temporal markers and cohesive ties during their retell.
  • Elmer walks through the jungle and sees various jungle animals. Have children describe and generate other jungle animals. Great to pair with the Expanding Expression Tool (EET) for added description. Could also work on comparing and contrasting of various animals.
  • At the end of the story, the elephants each color themselves in honor of Elmer one day a year. Provide students with an elephant, and have them decorate their own. How would they design themselves? If in a group- a great activity to see how everyone would color themselves differently. Discuss how we all are different, and have different ideas in our head. A great discussion for how much more interesting life is because of our differences. This is illustrated well in this story.

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

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hershel and the goblins

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

Title:   Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

Author:  Eric Kimmel

Description:  An adorable story about a how one clever villager saves Hanukkah.


  • early elementary comprehension
  • perspective taking
  • problem-solving
  • reading body language
  • inferencing

Why I like this book:  During the holiday season, I always enjoy introducing a book from the Jewish culture.  While it is a story about Hanukkah, the themes are universal.

Ideas for this book:

  • While this story does not focus upon the religious components of Hanukkah, it does introduce some of the associated traditions; such as, lighting menorah candles and playing with a dreidel.  This provides a great opportunity for exposing children who don’t celebrate Hanukkah to this holiday to other holiday traditions.
  • As a follow up activity, have the kids play the dreidel game with some chocolate coins.  It is a fun group game that includes turn-taking and flexibility since it is more a game of chance than of skill.
  • Make your own dreidels using this template or download this Hanukkah Dreidel app.
  • This story is perfect for acting out.  The characters are well defined and who doesn’t like to play the role of a villain (goblin) once in a while…
  • The text in this book is on the longer side for a picture book, so just reading it can provide a great opportunity for sustained attention.
  • Each night, Hershel outwits another goblin.  While reading, ask kids if they can predict what the goblin will do.  This provides an opportunity to take the perspective of the goblin.  Why was Hershel able to trick them?
  • This is another great book to use with the Story Grammar Marker from MindWing Concepts.

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

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There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell!

Title: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell!

Author: Lucille Colandro

Description: Another version of the little old lady who swallowed a fly, but with a holiday theme.


  • Sequencing
  • Story retell
  • Early Prediction
  • Phonological Awareness (Rhyming)
  • Speech Production (s-blends, /sw/)

Why I like this book: There is something about this crazy old lady that kids seem to love. It always gets a reaction, and therefore some discussion, and participation.

Ideas for this book:

  • Create Boardmaker or google image pictures to help children sequence the story as you read, and/or for retelling the story after it’s complete. Encourage temporal markers such as first, then, next, after that, last. Another website (Making Learning offers the pictures already made here.
  • Have students make guesses as to what she may swallow next. Encourage them to use the previous clues to make a guess (i.e. what could she do put all of the objects in?)
  • Stress the rhyming words and/or provide the first sound and see if they can “fill in” the remaining sounds. Can they generate additional words that rhyme with each pair (bell/tell, weigh/sleigh)? Can use our Talking Train app. Put one of the words on the initial engine car. Can they generate additional words in the remaining 3 cars? Generate words that start with the same sound? Great to also pair with the What Rhymes? App, or Pocket Phonics App.
  • Given the repetitive story line, there is lots of opportunity for word or sentence level /sw/ blends (i.e. swallowed)
  • Reinforce contextual “why” questions. Why did she swallow the bell? Why did she swallow the sac?, etc.
  • Have kids create their own, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a X. Would be great for reasoning skills, rhyming and story generation. You could use Story Patch app to make this story and even email the story home to share with parents. This could be a great “group” project.
  • There is a cute craft idea here. A teacher shared the idea of using a zip lock baggie as the lady’s belly, and filled the baggie with the various objects (pictures) that she swallows (candy cane, bells, etc.)

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

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Hey, Little Ant

Title: Hey, Little Ant

Author: Phillip and Hannah Hoose

Illustrator: Debbie Tilley

Age: early elementary, elementary, middle school

Description: A boy has to decide whether to squish an ant, or not. He is persuaded by friends and the perspective of the ant itself.


  • Perspective Taking
  • Social Skills
  • Narrative/Retelling
  • Tone of Voice

Why I like this book: A good story to clearly show perspective taking. It also leads to great discussion in social groups across the ages.

Ideas for use:

  • Act out the story. One person be the boy and the other the ant. If you’re in a group- there are friends as well. Switch roles.
  • While acting out, practice tone of voice and body language. How would the ant look, feel, sound like if he was about to be squished?
  • A great story to pair with “Braidy” through Mindwing Concepts. Use to retell the story from different perspectives (boys, ants, friends). Can create thinking and speaking bubbles to pair with the story where necessary.
  • A great story for discussion with older kids about “early peer pressure” (as the friends want him to squish the ant). Could also pair to introduce with Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Behavior Maps to show how behaviors have consequences for yourself and others.
  • The books leads to discussion as the ending isn’t told. Would be great to discuss causality- what would happen if he does? If he doesn’t? How will he feel? What would happen to the ant’s family? This can be modified based on the age of the child
  • If you’re musically inclined there is a song that goes with the story- sing along and enjoy :)
  • Use for writing. Do compare and contrasting paragraphs with a graphic organizer and/or venn diagram. What the same about the boy and the ant? What’s different?
  • Could pair with curriculum topics about insects, protecting species, etc.
  • A nice post on activity ideas to go along with this story, geared towards elementary school and beyond teachers guide to the Little Ant

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

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Title: Hush! A Thai Lullaby

Author: Minfong Ho

Description: A Caldecott Honor winning story of a mother desperately trying to keep the animals of the jungle quiet as her baby is sleeping. However, little does she know that her baby is awake the whole time.


  • Inferencing
  • Reading body language
  • Phonological awareness (rhyming)
  • “Who?” questions
  • Retelling (early narrative)
  • Animal vocabulary
  • Perspective Taking
  • /l/ blends, /l/

Why I like this book: This is one of my favorite stories. The pictures are adorable, and the poetic story keeps kids engaged. Kids also love the animal noises that author provides (i.e. HOOM-pra, HOOM- Pra for the elephant,  Op, Op for the frog, etc.)

Ideas for use:

  • Great book to teach early inferencing and prediction. There are visual clues as to what animal could be making noise next. Have kids collect the “clues” from the mothers words or from the pictures
  • the body language is amazing in this story. Lots of examples for children to interpret, act out, and infer what she is thinking and feeling. Add cut out thinking bubbles above the mother’s head.
  • have kids fill in the blank to generate the rhyming word while reading
  • the story is a good model for “who” questions (a person or animal) as the mother is consistently wondering “who” is making the given noise.
  • a simple sequencing narrative for kids to retell. Use the pictures and have the kids retell the story. Encourage temporal markers
  • would be a good simple narrative to pair with “Braidy” from Mindwingconcepts
  • good story to discuss “setting” as the story takes place in a hut in the jungle of Thailand . Have kids generate and discuss the animals of the jungle, the plants, what they would see and hear (pair with the Visualizing and Verbalizing approach for description)
  • Carry over to pretend play: If a group- Have kids “act” it out! One “mommy” can tell the animals to “hush!” The repetative phrases are easy for kids to remember.
  • If you don’t have a group, use pretend play toys and act out. A simple pretend play house would work- what could be making noise in the house that the mommy would worry about? (i.e. mail man, the dog, cars outside, etc.) Work on sequencing of play schemes.
  • The mother never knows the baby is AWAKE. Perfect to discuss and model perspective taking. Use thinking bubbles and act out for comprehension
  • Lots of /l/ blends and repetitive for kids to practice (sleeping, black, etc.)

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

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Curious George Visits the Zoo

Title: Curious George Visits the Zoo

Author: Margret Rey

Description: George gets into mischief again… and then saves the day again… in this relatively short episode of this classic series.

Goals/ objectives:
• Verbal description/ salience
• Inferencing/ Prediction
• Sequencing/ retelling
• Body language/ facial expression
• “Guessing” vs “knowing”

Why I like this story: It is a classic and it is great for acting out in a group.

Ideas for use:
• while reading the story aloud, hide the pages with animals on them and ask kids to guess what animals George visits by describing them before showing the page. The animals pictured are excellent for a lesson in salience (what is the most important thing about a giraffe, kangaroo, elephant?). Have kids take turns describing which animal George might see next.
• following the story, introduce a verbal description guessing game. For easy access to variety of objects presented by category, try our Bag Game app.
• using the picture clues given in the story, ask kids to guess what George might do when the Man with the Yellow Hat asks him to stay put.
• discuss the concepts of “guessing” vs “knowing”. Talk about why the picture clues lead to various “guesses” and why new information may lead to new guesses.
• the illustrations in this book are excellent for talking about facial expressions and body language and reasons for them.
• this is a great story for acting out or retelling either in individual sessions or in a group. For preschoolers, props can be provided to act out the sequence, while for K/1 kiddos, the simple story line offers a great opportunity to introduce Braidy, the Story Grammar Marker from Mindwing Concepts.

Submitted by Karen S Head MS CCC-SLP

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Carl's bday

Carl’s Birthday

Title: Carl’s Birthday

Author: Alexandra Day

Description: A mother tries to surprise Carl her dog with a surprise party. However, Carl and Madeline ,the little girl, find out on their adventure through the house.


  • Narrative / Retelling  (Wordless book)
  • Speech production /k/ (Carl, cake, coat, collar)
  • Why questions
  • Perspective taking
  • Verbs

Why I like this book: A beautifully illustrated wordless book that works well across ages. I keep finding new ways to use it, and kids love it. If you’re a dog lover, the book is even more appealing.
I look forward to reviewing more of the series.

Ideas for use:

  • Given it’s a wordless book, it’s a great book for overall expressive language. Take turns on each page being the “author.” Focus on any number of language goals: subject + verb + object, causal, sub- verb agreement, etc.
  • Great for retelling. Incorporate “first, next, then, etc.”
  • Use for speech production, especially “fronting.”  “Carl goes…..” is a great repetative phrase to work on. Additonally there are other opportunities including “cake, kids, coat, collar, etc.”
  • Why questions: Have kiddos figure out Why is mommy cleaning up? Why are Carl and Madeline hiding under the table?” etc. Use the illustrations to help them generate their own answers.
  • Good for basic perspective taking. The mommy doesn’t know that Carl and Madeline are in the house? Why? Why don’t they want her to know they are there? Use cut out bubble thoughts to help with this concept.
  • Great for basic verbs as Carl and Madeline do many activities (run, eat, drink, play, hide, etc.). Easy to incorporate “he/she/they” as well.

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

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