Monday, March 27, 2017

The Best $10 I Ever Spent!

As people that work with children, you and I both know that when you find an activity that's highly motivating for our students, we have to do all we can to contain ourselves from jumping up and doing a happy dance. You guys, I found that item. And it's nothing new. I have seen this little guy in stores and on Instagram posts for years. But finally, one evening at Target, I decided to pick one up for myself.
Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post for your convenience. 

Crocodile Dentist is now a permanent part of my therapy bag. I love him for many reasons but a big one is because he is small! I can easily fit him into my therapy bag with a slew of other things. But even more, I have found so many uses for him. The game instructions say to take turns pushing down one tooth at a time. One of the teeth will make his mouth chomp down. (It's another fun cause & effect game like Pop the Pig) But I don't always play that way. I literally think that I could tie him into just about any therapy goal on my caseload. Here are a few ways that I have used him....

Identifying vocabulary. I lay a few picture cards (or real items) out on the table and prompt the child, "Feed Chompy (yes, we named him Chompy!) the clock." It's so much more fun than just asking them to point to a picture. I literally did this for 15 minutes with a child in one session the other day. He was having so much fun and I was collecting a TON  of data!

Articulation. Feed the gator articulation cards after the word is practiced. Or, push down one of his teeth after a certain number or targets have been practiced until his chompers close!

Feeding therapy! I have used this with my picky eaters. Every time he takes a lick or a small bite (whatever the goal is) of a new food, he gets to push a tooth down. Plus, you can use this little guy to role play feeding activities. Have your student feed the gator foods the he/she is hesitant to try. Show them that feeding can be fun!
Writing goals. Ok so this one may seem like a stretch but we all have those seriously unmotivated kiddos. I have used this with one of my first graders that just doesn't like to work. After each sentence he wrote, he got to push a tooth down. What he liked even better, was making me push the tooth down because I told him I was so scared of the gator biting me!

Chompy has been a saving grace for therapy sessions that have gotten a bit boring or when one of my students has a major case of the Mondays. I am just so thankful for him! If anyone else has some magically motivating activity, please share!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Using the Dinner Table to Increase Language Skills!

Family dinners are completely different in each house. The "picture perfect" television scenario is everyone home by 6:00 with a freshly prepared, healthy meal ready to be served. The reality is that today's typical family is so busy. Rushing to make dinner (or pick something up) so we can quickly get the kids to soccer practice or a PTA meeting is now the new norm. The close togetherness of a family dinner has gotten lost in the shuffle. I am guilty of neglecting the special time at the dinner table. My husband doesn't get home til about 7:30 each night, so I typically feed the kids much earlier. I used to sit with them as they chatted, but instead of engaging with them I took those 20 minutes to answer emails or sneak a peek at the news. The end result was Kenzie asking to use the iPad at the table or requesting a show to watch as she ate dinner.  I didn't realize how much quality time we were missing out on as I was trying to multitask!
As hard as it is with busy lives, try to schedule in some time each day or even a few times a week to have some serious quality time with your kids. It doesn't have to be at the dinner table. It can be the few minutes before bed or in the car on the way to soccer practice. Turn off the radio and just talk. Ask them questions, play games, be silly! Trust me, these are the memories they will always remember.

This is also a fantastic way to spend some extra time working on language skills.  Start talking about books, asking & answering questions about your day, labeling things we see. These are all great opportunities to enhance everyday language skills!
To help with this, I created some cards with questions, little games, and conversation starters to get you started. Some of these are really silly so I trust your kids will enjoy this! I printed them off, cut them up, and added them to a binder ring. Keep one copy at the dinner table, maybe one in the car, or even in your child's night stand to use a few minutes before bed. Of course, don't read these while driving but they are perfect while waiting in car circle or if you have an older child that can read them aloud while you are heading off to dance class.
There are 4 pages of questions included in the deck. The first page includes 12 "Would You Rather?" questions. Take turns asking your children which scenario they would rather have happen and have them explain why they chose that answer.  You answer, too! Kids love hearing our responses to silly questions.
Next are 12 conversation starters. I love learning what my little guys are thinking. What do they want to be when they grow up? What would they wish for if they had 3 wishes? Their answers will probably surprise you! And the fun part is that these answers may very well change by next week so keep asking!
On the third page is 12 social skills scenarios. Read them aloud and have your kids answer if the person was using good or bad table manners. If it was bad table manners, have your child respond with what he/she would have done differently in that situation.
Last but not least 12 more cards for a little extra fun! These cards include some quick little games, challenges or silly things to do. After all, we all just want to have fun.

You can download this Family Dinner Fun! card deck in my TpT store for free by clicking here! Please leave feedback, I can't wait to hear what you think of this, too!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why You Should Encourage Boys to Play with Dolls

I am so thankful for the fact that I have been blessed with both a son and a daughter. I get to see them both grow and learn- oh so differently! Even though they are both raised in the same house, with the same parents, they are both very different people. It always amazes me how boys are often naturally drawn to cars, trucks, and the rough & tough tumble play. And little girls adore taking care of baby dolls and playing dress up. Now don't get me wrong, Kenzie loves her share of super heroes, tickle fights, and car races, but why is it looked at so wrong when boys want to play with dolls? 
When Kameron was 6 months old he carried around Kenzie's Sophia the First doll everywhere we went. Strangers always complemented us on how cute our little 'girl' was. Now wait a minute. Kameron was dressed in blues, baseball t-shirts, and looked as boy as they come, but because he was holding a doll, everyone assumed he was a girl. 
There is such a stigma that comes with boys and dolls. When the topic arises in conversations at the park, birthday parties, or the ever-so opinionated parenting groups on Facebook you hear thing like, 
"Boys play with trucks and guns, not baby dolls." 
"My son isn't a sissy."
 "Dolls are girl toys!" 
"I won't let my son play with dolls." 
 But guys, there is so much good that can come from allowing your son to play with dolls! By doing so, they learn how to display caring and comforting behaviors. My son loves playing with his sister's doll, Bella. He feeds Bella and puts her to bed... always with a kiss! That's the making of a good husband and caring daddy one day if you ask me! But even beyond that, we can use these moments to teach and enhance language skills. Identifying body parts, labeling clothing, following directions, teaching verbs, and understanding emotions. 
 Playing with a doll allows for role playing and imagination! Pretend play is all about allowing children to act out what they will one day do as adults. So let him play! One day he may be a father or in an occupation that cares for children, like a doctor, an educator, or maybe even a speech therapist (I couldn't resist!)
So I will gladly take the risk of my son looking "girly" if that means it will help him expand his imagination, increase his language skills, and enjoy playing with his sister. Even better, it may help him become a kind, compassionate, caring person! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Latest Trend in Behavior Management

A key component to a students' success in learning and reaching goals is behavior management. It's pretty close to impossible for a child to learn while they are yelling, screaming, and throwing a tantrum. Over the past 8 years I have paid close attention to fellow educators and their methods for maintaining positive behavior in their classrooms. I've spent countless hours on Pinterest perusing for the perfect method to the madness! In 2012 I became a mom and paid even more attention to strategies and ideas that I could use at home to encourage positive behavior. 
The end result has been treasure box, Brag Tags, clip charts, stickers, Class DoJo... you name it, I have tried it. They all have done the trick for a while, but the excitement eventually fades away. The one thing I have started looking for is a strategy that is highly motivating. Kids like things they can touch. They want to earn something they can hold, not just a green dot in their agenda for the day.
I recently learned about Loops Bracelets on social media and was eager to give them a try. They seemed to fit the description I was looking for: something tangible that was highly motivating and fun! If you haven't heard of Loops Bracelets, they are cool, affordable bracelets made from a soft material that is both water proof and tear resistant. I have had mine on for almost a week and it has withheld showers, giving the kids baths, and the little guy tugging on it! The bracelets come in a variety of colors and designs. How fun would these be to trade after you earned one (or 7!) for awesome behavior and meeting your goals in therapy?! 
Kenzie, my 4 year old going on 16, was super excited when my package of Loops came in the mail. I have been using them to reward positive behavior at home with her over the past week and I can tell you first hand, they are highly motivating! She even went to dance class last night excited to show off her new "paper bracelets" to all her friends! 
You can check out all the designs and learn more about Loops Bracelets by visiting their website, here. But guess what!? The amazing people from Loops want to give some of these fabulous bracelets to some of you! Go hop over to Instagram today (@simply_speech) for a chance to win! 
Contest ends Thursday, January 19, 2017!
Disclaimer: Loops Bracelets did provide me with a sample of the product in an exchange for a blog review, however, all opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Using Timers in Therapy and at Home!

Timers have been a saving grace for me as both a therapist and as a mom. I use a timer on a regular basis and for SO many reasons. In therapy I use a timer for keeping kids on track and focused on a task for a certain amount of time, for alerting me when the session is over, for alerting the students when their work time is up and they get the reward they were working for. At home I use a timer to help speed up my slow eater at dinner time when we have dance class in an hour, so my daughter will brush her teeth for more than 12 seconds, and so I don't burn dinner! It's a beautiful thing when you can use the techniques you use in therapy at home with your own children! 
I have used many different timers over the years, but I just recently learned about Outloud Timer 2 and I am in love. This timer is a visual timer. I have used a countdown timer before, but this one gives younger children that don't quite understand that concept a true understanding of time and how much time they have left on a task. 
When you open the app, it prompts you to set a time. This can be in minutes or seconds. After the timer is set, you will see an outdoor scene. You or the child can draw a path anywhere on the screen for the penguin to go. After the path is drawn, the penguin starts his journey to the circus tent!
I love this app because my daughter and students can really understand how much time they have left since they can see how fast the penguin is moving and how far away the penguin is from the tent while he/she is working. The number countdown is still available at the bottom right side of the screen, but where the penguin is on the screen is such as great visual for younger kids!
Once the timer is up, stars fly across the screen and the children will hear applause! 
The Outloud Timer2 app is available in the iTunes store. You can download it on both the iPad and your iPhone. I love having it on my phone for spontaneous needs of a timer! Check out more about this app in the iTunes store, here!
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this app in exchange for a review, however, all opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gone Fishin' for Good Speech!

Maybe it's just me, but I have a habit of rotating therapy games. Since I am a traveling SLP, I can't carry my entire inventory of games on me at all times (trust me, I have tried!) So I tend to carry the same game or two around with me for a few weeks before I switch it out for another. 
(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. That means if you purchase something from Amazon using my link, I my earn a few bucks!)
Lately, this Let's Go Fishing game has been a HUGE hit and requested daily. When the kids love a game this much, my first reaction is to create an activity that will allow them to use the beloved game while working on their goals at the same time. 
So I created Gone Fishing for Articulation Mats! To play, have your students take turns fishing. When they catch a fish, have them put the fish on the mat on top of one of the target words. They can practice the word or make up a sentence for the word, depending on their skill level. But there really are a ton of ways you can use these mats, I have even used them as smash mats!
My daughter got this game for Christmas last year and loved it so much, I knew my students would too. I found the game on Amazon for $7.99! You can check it out, here.  Happy fishing!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why I Love Smarty Symbols!

Visual supports are a huge part of my daily life. I use them with my children, my students, and even for myself. Like many of my students, I am a visual learner. Research shows that visuals help us retrieve and retain information better. Words are something that are abstract. So when we can provide a visual support for a child, they have a better chance of understanding the concept.
On a regular basis I use visual schedules and supports with my students. I enjoyed creating these to use in therapy, at school, to create activities for TpT, and visuals to use at home. The hard part has always been finding clip art that relates to the activities I need to add to the product. It's not so easy to find clipart out there for remembering to put the lid back on the peanut butter jar or going to speech therapy. Which is why I was so excited when I learned about Smarty Symbols.
Smarty Symbols is a huge library of symbols and images that teaches and therapists would use on a regular basis. And when I say huge, I mean huge. They currently have over 19,000 images available. I have used Smarty Symbols to create countless visuals for my students such as: 
-Visual reminders
-Classroom rules
-Sentence strips
-Therapy activities
-Vocabulary cards
-Step by step directions
...just to name a few
Smarty Symbols has been a great tool to have right at my fingertips. In addition to being able to create you own visuals on their website, there is an activity library where you can share and download materials other educators have created! It's a fantastic community of educators.
You can learn more about Smarty Symbols and their memberships by visiting their website, here. But guess what?! They are letting me give a 1 year personal subscription to Smarty Symbols to one of you! How exciting is that? Enter below, winners will be announced Monday!