Monday, July 24, 2017

Zoey & Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows!

This post contains Amazon Associate links for you convenience. 
Have you tapped into the Zoey and Sassafras book series yet? If you haven't, and have children or students in the K-4th grade age range, you must! Zoey is a little girl that, like her mother, can see magical mystical creatures. They come to the barn in the back of her house and ring a tiny doorbell when they need help. 
 On my way home from Portland last week I read the first book in the series, Dragons and Marshmallows. I absolutely fell in love with this book and can't wait to share it with my students. I think I am going to start reading a chapter with Kenzie (who's 5) before bed each night. Since I loved the book, and knew my students would too, I created a story companion to go along with it.
 I have included a story map, 2 compare and contrast activities, and an Herbivore or Carnivore animal sort. In the story, Zoey had to figure out if one of her sick creatures was an herbivore or carnivore so she knew what to feed it!
 I also included a science journal because Zoey kept notes on her creatures in a journal. Give your students a specific animal to journal about or let them write down observations they see when venturing outside the classroom. I made my journal with brown paper bags and ribbon. It's left pretty open-ended so you can do a lot of different things with this journal. I also made it color paper friendly because I am a huge fan of Astrobrights paper!
This is a super fun book that will definitely keep your students engaged. You can download a FREE copy of my story companion, here! Can't wait to hear what you think of Zoey & Sassafras, too!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Taking the Pressure Out of Trying New Foods!

People always assume that if you are a speech therapist your kids have perfect speech and language. Same with feeding therapy. I often hear, “Oh you must have the best eaters at home!” No. Nope. Not even close. I have to use the same techniques that I use on my clients, on my own children at home. And sometimes, they are more resistant than my clients because, well,  I’m mom. The toughest battle I have to conquer with my kids is getting them to try new foods. Once they try it, they often like it. But just getting them to take a teeny tiny bite of a new food takes a lot of work. 
For my son, it’s usually reverse psychology. "Don't you eat that carrot!"And then he will eat the dang carrot. But for my daughter, it’s a little trickier. She doesn't fall for my tricks anymore. I’ve had to get a little more creative with her to help take the pressure of having to like a new food out of the equation. I never expect her to like everything she tries. And I try to stop using the “Try it, you will like it!” statement because no one likes everything, and that’s ok. 
I created a chart for her that we keep on the refrigerator. On the chart there is a place to write the new food and circle if she liked the food or did not like the food. She doesn’t get rewarded for liking the new food, but for trying it. After trying 4 new foods, she gets rewarded with a treat of her choice. She usually picks donuts or going to pick out something from Target's Dollar Spot (gosh, she's just like her mother) You guys, this has worked so well. The pressure to like the new food is gone. AND there are now a handful of new foods I have been able to add into our rotation (even broccoli!!) which is a celebration of its own. 

This is a great little chart to use with your feeding clients or your own children at home. 
You can download a free copy for yourself here :) I'd love to hear what you think of this or any tricks you have up your sleeve!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Why You Should Travel with Your Littles!

Traveling with your little ones can be stressful. Packing, planning, organizing... so much is involved when your kids are young. I recently read an article about traveling with your children and why you should do it as often as possible. It hit home for me because with Kenzie(my first born) I was so hesitant to take her anywhere. I avoided restaurants, grocery stores... any public place, really. I was so fearful of being that woman, panicking in the store with a screaming infant. I envied my friends that took their young children on vacation. I so badly wanted to get out and do things but let my fear get in the way. I was more worried about ruining other's experiences out with my potentially fussy child than making memories with my family. However, things changed after having baby number 2. We didn't avoid places with him, he had to tag along. I feel like he was a better baby because he was much more adjusted to life on the go.
Now I can honestly say I look forward to taking the kids places. Don't get me wrong, it still takes a lot of planning and prep time (especially making sure I remember lots of snacks!) But we are no longer missing out. The experiences they get are incredibly language enriching. Seeing new sights, experiencing new things, and learning new words. It doesn't have to be extravagant trips. Go to the zoo, the beach, local children's museum, even the grocery store. There are learning experiences all around us. These experiences help increase vocabulary as they learn new words and social skills as they meet new people and learn how we interact with new people. 
Meeting the pilots!
When you're out, talk to your kids about what you see. Ask them questions. Let them bring along a notebook and draw pictures of what they see. Later, have them retell you the events of the day and what their favorite part was. You will be amazed with how much they soaked in that day and what trivial details to us were the highlights of their day. 
Visiting the rose garden at Peninsula Park
I just got back from Portland, OR with my daughter. We went out there to see my sister's new baby, who came pretty close to giving me baby fever. Kenzie got to experience her first flight (and learn what a cockpit was!), view mountains and volcanoes from Portland's tallest building, run through a rose garden... all things she had never done before.  At school, when her teacher references to mountains, she will now have a real life event to reference to... which is not something we get living in Florida. And on top of it all, these experiences are memories she will always remember!
Chowing down on some VooDoo Doughnuts!

Friday, June 30, 2017

How to Use Race Track Tape in Speech Therapy!

Don't you just love when you score a really, really good find for therapy? I live for the moments when my brain is racing with numerous ideas of ways to use a particular item that I find around the house or at the store (or when my child opens a birthday gift!) This exact thing happened the other day while at one of my homes away from home... Target's Dollar Spot!
Have you spotted this race track tape at your local Target yet? This tape is fantastic. And only $1! The possibilities are literally endless. But here are a few ideas and ways to use it in therapy with your students or at home with your kids to increase speech and language skills.
Race to Vocabulary Words
Have your students drive their cars down the track that leads to new vocabulary words. Or even better, line multiple words or objects up along the road and have the kids name them as her or she drives to them.

Sentence Expansion Expressway
Have roads of multiple length represent different sentence length. Write words under the tape (stick this tape right on a dry erase board!) and have your student(s) read the words as he/she drives over/past them. Add to the road as your student adds more words to their sentences. The visual of longer roads and longer sentences is a great thing!
Smooth vs Bumpy Fluency Roads
Have a smooth road and a bumpy road (crumple the tape up a bit) as a visual for fluent and dysfluent speech. You could also have your cars drive slow or fast to visually represent their rate of speech. 

Babbling Boulevard
For those little ones you are working with, get them to imitate early sounds and single words with their cars. They can tell the car to "go!" say "vroom!" as it races, and  "beep!" the horn at other cars. 
Articulation Race Track
Line up articulation cards around the race track and have your student practice the words before he or she can move on. The KaPow! cards work perfect for this! (With these cards you could target almost any goal!)

Preposition Parkway
This tape goes on (almost) any surface. So have your track go "under" chairs, "over" tables, and "around" the desk. The kids will have a blast driving on a not so typical race track and get to practice using positional words. This is also a great opportunity to work on following directions. 
Social Skills
There is never a bad time to practice good social skills. Have your students practice turn taking and using good manners as they take turns giving directions or sharing a vehicle to drive on the track. 

Expressive Language through Pretend Play
This is how I used the tape at home with my own children. I made a road in our playroom and used the kids’ toys to create a town with them. We had a farm, police station, grocery store, hospital, and school. They used dolls and superheroes as the townspeople. It kept them entertained for hours! 

This tape is so much fun! If you happen to find it at your local Target, stock up!! If you have other fun ways to use this tape, please share! Happy racing!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Inspire Reading with a Cozy Reading Nook!

Reading is such an important part of learning. I started introducing books to my kids before they were even born. I would read to them as I rocked in their empty nurseries. I read them stories before bed each night. I love when they bring books over to me and ask me to read to them. It's typically the same book over and over (and over and over and over!) again, but it's ok! They love books and I don't ever want them to lose that love.
All kids seem to eventually come to an age where it isn't "cool" to read anymore. I think mine started during the middle school years. But having a reading nook can help keep the excitement of reading alive. When kids have their own "spot" to read, they take ownership of that spot and enjoy being there.
Search Pinterest for some fun reading nook ideas, there are tons of jaw dropping ones out there! But it doesn't have to be anything fancy, just cozy. Put some pillows in a corner. Make some shelves out of plastic rain gutters or spice racks (those are really cool and on my summer to-do list!) or add a basket of books. Or in our case, we have a teepee! 
I recently learned about a family run company out of Illinois called TeePee Joy. I instantly fell in love with their teepees! You can order a pre-designed teepee or customize your own. They come with a matching blanket and set of pillows. It's so darn cute that I don't even mind having it in our living room full time! The kids are in it constantly so it is very durable! We even take ours outside sometimes. This has been the perfect little 'nook' for my kids to let their imaginations run wild!
These teepees would look adorable in a classroom (or speech room!) I so wish I had one of these while I was still working in a school. The prints are so fun and could match any bedroom or classroom decor. My kids use our teepee constantly as they pretend play or watch movies. But my favorite is when I find them quietly curled up inside, reading a book. 
You can learn more about these teepees by visiting TeePee Joy's website here: 
Get $20 off your purchase with the code: SS-$20OFF-TEEPEE
Happy reading!!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

M is for Monster... Preschool in a Box!

It is officially summer vacation over here! We are less than a week in and my kids are already bored. I want to keep them busy this summer- both physically and mentally. Kenzie has learned so much this past year and is so ready for kindergarten. I want to keep her little mind working so I have been busy pinning ideas to keep her active. But all of my pinned ideas require lots of materials and trips to the store. Too bad there isn't a company that will deliver all the materials for your Pinterest projects to you! Maybe one day someone will invent that service, but until then, I teamed up with

M is for Monster is a monthly subscription box of lesson plans for your children that targets colors, shapes, letters, and numbers through fun, hands-on activities. What I love most about this, is that it was created by a mom of 3 and former preschool teacher. She followed her heart after endless google searches for educational materials, and decided to create her own for her "little monsters." Thankfully, she also decided to share them with the world!
Each monthly box is themed and the activities are chosen based on your child's age and ability.  For my first box, I chose Stage 2 for Kenzie.When I received my first box, Kenzie couldn't wait to rip open the box and see what was inside. There were 4 themed lessons (bunnies, umbrella, spring, and farm) along with arts and craft materials. I am a sucker for a good theme, so I was super excited to see what activities were included to go along with each one. 
Each lesson package comes with an instruction page for each activity. There were about 4 activities to go with each theme. We had so much fun making flower wreaths, counting farm animals, making paint tracks with a tractor, identifying flower letters, and painting with "bunny tails" (just to name a few!)
 I love the idea of having these boxes delivered each month to keep the kids learning throughout the summer.  The best part is M is for Monster includes all the materials you need for all of these activities. I think the only thing I needed that wasn't included was a pair of scissors.
When you sign up, you can select what Stage you would like in addition to your monthly plan. The Mini Monster Box includes 2 themes for $29.50 and the full box includes 4 themes and is $59. Just like other subscription services, the longer you subscribe for there are discounts (for example,  a 3 month subscription plan with 4 themes will only cost you $54 per month, as opposed to the $59 if you went month-by-month).  There is also a Try me Box option for $29.95 so you can sample what this awesomeness is all about!
The June box has just been released and it is adorable! Dolphins, Zoo, Beach, and Sun themes... oh my!
Click here to learn more about M is for Monster and get signed up!
 This blog post was sponsored by M-is for-Monster!
Disclaimer: I did receive a box in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

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!