The Annual Holiday Newsletter

Wreath Miracle Farm Speech Therapy
The Annual Holiday Newsletter

Happy Holidays! Thank you for being such great clients!!!  All of us at Miracle Farm Speech Therapy and Kids Therapy Partners consider ourselves blessed to work with you and to have such a rewarding job. We wish you peace this holiday season and hope that you all get a chance to enjoy time with your family. Please find below a list of suggested toys, games, and gift items that we have personally recommended to Santa! We hope you like them!!

BicycleActive Toys:

  • Rocket Balloons
  • Toss Across: the giant tic tac toe game with bean bags and a board
  • Plasma Car: available through Amazon for $41.99, this is a great ride on toy!!
  • Spray bottles with colored water for spraying snow.
  • Sizzle seats: available through Amazon, these are great for kids who need to fidget.
  • Toobaloo: This little gadget is great for auditory feedback . Kids will hear their voice when they read aloud, or simply talk into the phone-like toy.
  • Bubbalooka: This new bubble toy makes “bubble snakes” and encourages airflow, volume, and breath stream.
  • Stomp Rockets
  • Blast Pad

book
Books and Apps:

  • Pete the Cat books: Truly a favorite with all kids!!!
  • Press Here by Herve Tullet (Just a great book!!!)
  • Pogg (app for kids)
  • Bit Breaker (app): One of the greatest apps ever created!!! It involves a lot of movement and is great for a day that the kids are stuck indoors.
  • 4 Pictures, One Word (app): great thinking and language game for older children
  • Head’s Up (app): Fun for the whole family!!!
  • My Play Home (app): store, school, and home apps that are great for teaching routine, daily activities, and sequencing.

Spider Man

Pretend Play:

  • Cash Register, play food (we love Melissa and Doug), grocery bag, apron, and hat – these items will create an amazing grocery store and hours of fun exchanging words and using skills such as counting, describing, and categorizing.
  • Play Mobile Wild West Set: Nobody seems to play Wild West anymore!!  This Play Mobile set it the greatest. It comes complete with a cactus, rattlesnake, and bag of money!  It would be a great gift along with one of my favorite Western stories; Bubba the Cowboy Prince!
  • Star Wars costumes, super hero costumes: Why not?? Kids love to dress up!! Super Heroes are very popular and are girls and boys!!! It is a great way to teach good vs. evil!!
  • Magic set: Reading directions, practice, concentration, and facial expressions are all part of a good magic trick and all part of a good speech session!
  • Doctor’s kit: Putting band aids on your Teddy Bears and bandaging up your dolls is a lost art.  Why not give a doctor’s kit?

dice
Games:

  • Rally Up: A quick thinking category game by Blue-Orange Toys
  • Shark Mania: This is a great game that involves a bit of racing. By Spin Master Games
  • Shopping Cart Dash: Great game for matching, collecting, sorting, and naming. It has mini-life-like shopping carts and kids have to put coins in the slot to pay.
  • Princess Cupcake Party: Always a favorite!!
  • Feed the Woozle: Your kids will laugh as they learn to follow directions and use their imagination. This is a great game for kids who are working on articulation as there are many strange foods to name.
  • Ooga Booga: by Blue Orange Games- another great game of memory and language!!
  • Get the Picture: this is a dot-to-dot game on steroids!!! It works on visual tracking, counting in order, visualization, and writing.
  • **Old Favorites: Don’t Break the Ice, Princess Cupcake Party, Pop Up Pirate, Monopoly Junior, Zingo

Baby
For Babies:

  • Chewelry Necklace: Baby Go Round in Hampton Falls has a beautiful selection of this jewelry that mom’s can wear and babies can chew!!
  • Baby Mirror
  • Massaging teether by Nurtureland
  • Infantino Textured Multi Ball Set

For Adults:

I am not sure if any of you are aware of my “business on the side”, but Flights of Fancy is a business that sells hand-made wooden beer and wine flights;  so, if you want to check out something really cool, look at our website at www.beerflightsoffancy.com  You can also check out an article on the business at Seacoastonline.com “Serving up fanciful flights of beer and wine”

Christmas Tree

We all wish you health and happiness in 2016 and remember this quote:

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” –Andy Rooney

New Location in Rowley, MA

We are pleased to announce the opening of our third location in Rowley, Massachusetts. We offer speech, language, and literacy services at this office. We also have an occupational therapist there one day a week.
144 Newburyport Turnpike #8, Suite A 8
Rowley, MA

Call 603.918.1298 for more information.

This is a photo of our Rowley OfficeThis is a photo of our Rowley OfficeThis is a photo of our Rowley Office

Fun with an Inner Tube!

Tube with riceLook what fun can be had with an inner tube and a bunch of dried rice and beans. We put this in our office so that our clients could benefit from the bouncing and pressure of the tube while lying in prone and searching for items that we hid inside. The toddlers love sitting on the edge of the tube (with support) and bouncing lightly while singing songs and feeling their feet in the rice mixture. In a recent social group we sat around the tube as if we were at a campfire and told stories, and sang songs while using the tube as our “drum”. What an awesome sensory/language combination!!

Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Miracle Farm Speech TherapySome of our favorite toys, games, and creative gifts that are fun and work on exercising the brain!

Cranium has a great new game called Brain Breaks. This game is for ages 8 and up. It includes quick games that encourage teamwork and brainwork. It is fun in a classroom, small group, or for a family.

Spot It – is the latest sensation. It is an amazing game that targets visual memory, word retrieval, rapid naming, vocabulary, and fun!! There are many themed Spot It games but my three top recommendations for this year are: Spot It for the Holidays, Spot It Gone Camping, and Spot It Basic English.

Hullabaloo – by Cranium/Hasbro, ages 4+ – I feel like this one makes the list every year! A great game to get kids moving and listening. Throw the 16 vinyl mats on the floor and play the magic Hullabaloo machine. Follow the instructions to have some silly fun! Kids are jumping, spinning, hopping, and zooming while practicing their colors, shapes, categories, multi-step directions and getting their wiggles out.

What’s Gnu – This is a great game for beginning readers and for building sight word vocabulary. It is by the same makers as Zingo and is fun for large groups. It works on sound and word recognition as well as speed and processing. The slider machine encourages the player to use two hands and provides great entertainment.

Chomp!! – This is a card game that works on the concept of greater than and less than. It is modeled after the old card game of “war” but uses the food chain of the ocean to model the concept.

Princess Cupcake Party – This game works on sequencing, memory, and concepts. It also is great for fine motor skills. You follow from your favorite princesses to build a variety of little cupcakes that have 4 pieces; cup, cake, frosting, and topper.

Pete the Cat!!! – He is my new favorite character. This cat is cool. He goes with the flow and doesn’t worry about things. He is GROOVY. All of his books are great and they make adorable puppets and stuffed animals to go with them. My two favorites are Pete the Cat and his 4 Groovy Buttons and Pete the Cat and his White Shoes. Be sure to download the music that goes with the books! Pete the Cat stuffed animals and puppets are also adorable!

Winds of Fortune – This game combines the allure of finding gems with the skill of blowing. The children must use a straw to blow a small sailboat through a winding river to collect gems. The game uses an actual boar that is carved out so that you can add water and blow the sailboat through. What a great way to work on blowing and oral motor in the context of a game.

Yogibo – This giant bean bag sensation is perfect for kids who need to crash into a cushion, like to feel pressure around their body, or who simply like the way it feels. We have one at both office spaces and parents have occasionally been found asleep on them!

Bucket of Snowballs – This bucket comes filled with giant white pom pom snowballs. Great for an indoor snowball fight or just for playing with.

Cooking Tools! – Cooking with your child is a great way to work on directions, measurement, math and language skills, and it is also a great way to expand the palate. Some great gadgets for gifts in the kitchen include Babycakes Donut Maker, a new Blender or the Nutribullet for making smoothies. Make a complete gift by giving an apron, some baking and cooking tools, and a cookbook. Try to jazz up your child’s vocabulary by getting tools like a whisk, baster, sifter, spatula…..and the list goes on!

Winter Outdoor Toys!! – Nothing beats a new sled, but there are some great outdoor winter toys that your kids will love. Snowball makers can be found at most sports stores and also at LLBean. Snowshoes are awesome and adjustable ski poles last a lifetime and make hiking in the snow much more fun. For those days with wet, packable snow, a “snowman kit” is a great gift as well as snow block makers for building a fort. For your more coordinated kiddos- the backyard snowboard is a great way to get started!

Creative, Fun, Homemade Gifts!

  • Build a Fort Kit – Kids love to build forts in the house. It makes a great gift if you collect items for this purpose. You can give large clamps, Styrofoam twist ties, pipe insulation tubes, and a couple of sheets or blankets. Package them up in a laundry basket that can also be used in the fort-building process.
  • Ticket Booth – Make a ticket booth out of a large cardboard box. You can paint it, decorate it, or customize it for your child. A roll of paper tickets can be purchased at the dollar store or Wal Mart. This activity will provide hours of creative fun. They can set up a ticket booth for a ski area, magic show, puppet show, or for movie night. Give it with a package of popcorn and the roll of tickets for a complete gift.
  • Snow Painting – Buy a bunch of spray bottles at the dollar store or hardware store. Package them up with a box of food coloring. You can mix up various colors and spray designs in the snow.
  • Pretend Hairdresser/Barber Shop – You can put together a pretend shop with shaving cream, towels, brushes, and pretend makeup or blow driers. A plastic colander turned upside down on your head makes a great “beauty shop drier”. Working in an around the head can help reduce sensitivity to the head and mouth and can reduce anxiety that may come with activities such as a haircut or tooth brushing.
  • A personalized calendar is a great gift for kids. Use some of your favorite photos from adventures throughout the year and it can be a way to encourage them to remember and then discuss events of the past activities, or even some simple pictures to give clues about what will be happening that day.

Happy Holidays to you and your family. Remember that the greatest gift you can give a child is your time and attention.

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”   -Dr. Seuss

 

Fun Halloween Activities for Developing Receptive and Expressive Language

Halloween Obstacle Course:

halloweenSet up some props such as a witch hat, a pumpkin, a bucket, a plastic spider, and a mask. Spread them around a room or out around the yard. Ask your child/student if they would like an easy, medium, or challenge direction. You can proceed to give them 1, 2, or 3 step directions in an “obstacle course” format. You can alter the language and vocabulary to meet the age level of the child and to challenge them to listen and process the words. For example, “First put the pumpkin in the bucket, then balance the spider on your head while you walk over and give me a high-5”. You can also mix up this activity by having the student give YOU directions in return. This activity works on listening, auditory memory, vocabulary, and processing. Children work on these skills while having fun!

Halloween Costumes for Discussion and Sorting:

Cut out a bunch of costume pictures from various catalogs. I have laminated mine over the years so that they last. You can then go through them with your child/student and talk about the PARTS of the costumes, and you can also SORT the pictures into categories. There can be piles for scary, silly, pretty, etc. You will be surprised at the conversation this activity can spark. Beware- it may also spark some creative ideas for costumes!!

Favorite Halloween Stories:

I have a number of Halloween stories that I like to use with my clients and have them act it out with props. My three favorites are; “Room on the Broom”, “Big Pumpkin”, and “The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything”. You can easily pull together props for these books and have your child repeat back lines from the characters or “act out” some of the actions. There are many ways to incorporate sensory input while you act out these great stories. This activity is great for sequencing, comprehension, and memory. It also builds literacy skills and rhyming.

Bring on the Brain Games!

kids-bored-indoors-390x259It sure has been a long winter here in New England, and it doesn’t seem like the end is in sight yet. Although building snowmen, enjoying sledding and launching snowball fights can be a lot of fun, it’s difficult to spend much time outside in this frigid New England weather. Therefore, we find our kids trapped inside our four walls, parroting the dreaded phrase “I’m bored,” as we not too patiently await the coming of Spring.

So if you’re anything like me, you’re looking for a few creative and educational ways to keep those little minds active as we wait out some more mild weather. I have a few suggestions that you might want to consider until we can break out the scooters and the bikes, and put the snow boots away until next year.

There are a bunch of great games that you can play with your child that are fun and interactive, but also stimulate the brain. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite “brain games.” I use these games in therapy to “warm-up” a child’s brain before doing more rigorous work. I also use them to build skills such as vocabulary, retrieval, turn taking, listening, spelling, visual skills, and processing. Another great aspect to the following games is that children can experience success with the challenges after only playing for a short time, which provides a great confidence booster as well.

brain-gamesSpot-It , Spot-It Jr., Spot-It on the Road

These and other games created by Blue-Orange engage visual processing, word retrieval, and speed of processing. I am able to “jump-start” a child’s thinking, memory, and processing skills after only having played these games for the first five to ten minutes of a therapy session. However, they’re having so much fun, they don’t even notice that they’re learning!

Head’s Up App

This popular app is promoted by Ellen Degeneres and is a quick-witted spin off to Spin Master’s “Headbanz” board game. It can be played on your smart-phone and it has a wide variety of options for topics and levels of play. Also, it can be downloaded for only 99 cents!

boggleBoggle

This ever popular board game can now be played on the phone or ipad. I use it all of the time with children who are struggling with spelling. It’s one of the greatest games made for developing spelling and vocabulary, and the Internet version is even faster and more fun than the original. Before playing the game, we discuss strategies for finding more words, such as searching for vowels and vowel combinations, and looking for options for plurals, and blends. Another great feature of the game is that there are bonus points for longer words and there is a self-check at the end. It’s also a good idea to take some time to go over the words found and discuss their meanings when the child is finished.

Hope you enjoy the benefits of these games and find some smiles on your little ones faces, as they find out that learning can definitely be fun!

Joanne C. Hanson MS, CCC-SLP

Holiday Gift Ideas

The holidays are just around the corner–can you believe it? It’s the time of year when many of the families with whom we work ask for recommendations of toys, games, and creative gifts that are fun for kids, but also help develop motor and/or speech and language skills. In our line of work, we get to play with some pretty fun stuff, so we thought it might be helpful to provide a list of some of our tried and true favorites as well as some of the latest and greatest. Most of these can be found on Amazon.com or at many local toy stores.

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Games!!! Games are a great way to work on turn-taking, social rules, fine motor, counting, colors, beginning reading, vision, and the integration of many skills. Here are a few of our “go to” games:

Screwball Scramble

A super fun game that encourages hand-eye coordination, fine motor skill development, and sequencing. Kids love using various knobs, dials, and levers to maneuver a marble through an obstacle course involving a suspension bridge, tunnels, and more. They can either try to race against the clock using a timer, or simply take their time without a timed option. Something about this game seems to bring out patience and tolerance in even the most impulsive kiddos. Best of all- no batteries required. Just good old-fashioned fun!

Cranium Hullabaloo

A great game to get kids moving and listening! Simply throw the 16 vinyl mats on the floor and press play on the magic Hullabaloo machine. Follow the instructions to have some silly fun! Kids get their wiggles out by jumping, spinning, hopping, and zooming, all the while working on their colors, shapes, categories, and ability to follow multi-step directions.

Kerplunk

This standard game in most therapy clinics works on fine motor skill development, especially pincer grasp….and kids love it!!! Players take turns removing little sticks positioned inside a tube, trying not to let the marbles resting on tip to tumble down. It takes a little time to set up, but even the set-up helps develop fine motor skills by encouraging the kids to grasp the sticks and position them through little holes to create a “nest” for the marbles. It also works on motor-planning, problem solving, visual motor and visual perceptual skills. There are similar games out there with the same concept of removing sticks carefully, including Pallina (a wooden version by Hape) Honey Bee and Tumblin’ Monkeys.

Laundry Jumble

This game is great for descriptive language and using your tactile senses. Without being able to see what you are feeling, you have to find the piece of clothing that is in the washing machine and matches the picture on a card. This game also offers an excellent way to work on possessive pronouns, as each article of clothing belongs to some animal on the card. But look out- because you don’t want to get the “skunk’s underpants”!!

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

This family fun game combines counting, strategy and fine motor skills to help a squirrel collect acorns. You have to pinch the squirrels’ paws together to help him get his acorns, which works on grasp strength. This is also a great game for practicing the /s/ sound and /s/ blends. You’ll actually find that you won’t mind if your kids ask to play this cute game again and again, and even your older children will enjoy playing with the younger children.

What’s Gnu?

This is a great game for beginning readers and for building sight word vocabulary. It is by the same makers as Zingo and is fun for large groups. It works on sound and word recognition as well as speed and processing. The slider machine encourages the player to use two hands (bilateral coordination) and provides great entertainment.

CHOMP

This is a card game that works on the concept of greater than and less than. It is modeled after the old card game of “war” but uses the food chain of the ocean to model the concept.

Cupcake Party

This game works on sequencing, memory, and concepts. It also is great for fine motor skills. You follow directions from your favorite princesses’ recipes to build a variety of little cupcakes that have 4 pieces; cup, cake, frosting, and topper.

Twister

How about digging up an oldie but goodie? You can make many variations when playing this game, but what kid doesn’t love spinning the spinner and getting all twisted up? It is a great game for working on left and right.

Headbanz

This is a great game for working on social skills and improving speech and language skills through descriptive concepts, questions and visualization. It’s a quick question game of “what am I”, but what makes it particularly fun and silly for kids (and grown-ups!) is that you wear the “what am I” card on a headband on top of your head! It is best for ages 7+, but can be adapted for younger.

Spot It, Tell Tale, Shrimp Cocktail and SpeeDeeBee- These great new card games by Blue-Orange company are fun, quick, and an incredible workout for the brain! Great for all ages!!

Great Sensory Toys:

Living Sands

This is a fantastic sensory play material that stretches and moves and holds its shape when molded. It’s different from moon sand and other similar products. It kind of feels like cotton candy or cookie dough, but it’s dry to the touch. Intrigued? So are kids!!!

Play- Doh Dr. Drill & Fill

This is a great pretend dentist game that can be used to introduce a trip to the dentist, or to increase awareness of teeth, tongue, and mouth. The tools included in the set also help encourage coordination of the hands because kids need to stabilize the teeth with one hand while they use the battery operated drill, or tweezers to “extract” teeth. And any activity with tweezers is an excellent way to encourage fine motor skills and the pincer grasp.

Sensory Diet Cards

This deck of cards provides sensory activities that teach children to regulate their sensory system. This set also makes a great gift for a classroom teacher. (Available through www.superduperinc.com)

Creative, Fun, Homemade Gifts!

Build a Fort Kit

Kids love to build forts in the house. It makes a great gift if you collect items for this purpose. You can give large clamps, Styrofoam twist ties, pipe insulation tubes, and a couple of sheets or blankets. Package them up in a laundry basket that can also be used in the fort-building process.

Ticket Booth

Make a ticket booth out of a large cardboard box. You can paint it, decorate it, or customize it for your child. A roll of paper tickets can be purchased at the dollar store or Walmart. This activity will provide hours of creative fun. They can set up a ticket booth for a ski area, magic show, puppet show, or for movie night. Give it with a package of popcorn and the roll of tickets for a complete gift.

Snow Painting

Buy a bunch of spray bottles at the dollar store or hardware store. Package them up with a box of food coloring. You can mix up various colors and spray designs in the snow, which kids love! The magic in this activity—squeezing a spray bottle helps children’s’ hands get stronger and helps with the development of the open web space needed for such skills as holding a pencil efficiently.

Books with Props

You can collect the animals, figures, or items that go along with a great story. Putting on plays and repeating lines from stories is a great memory and language activity. Some story recommendations include; “Bear Snores On”, “The Mitten”, “Click Clack, Moo”, “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” (and other variations).

Pretend Hairdresser/Barber Shop

You can put together a pretend shop with shaving cream, towels, brushes, and pretend makeup or blow driers. A plastic colander turned upside down on your head makes a great “beauty shop drier”. Working in an around the head can help reduce sensitivity to the head and mouth and can reduce anxiety that may come for some kids with activities such as a haircut or tooth brushing.
How about turning a giant cardboard box into a gingerbread house, a spaceship, or safari jeep? Sometimes the box makes the best present.

Kid’s Calendar

A personalized calendar is a great gift for kids. Use some of your favorite photos from adventures throughout the year, which helps encourage kids to remember and then discuss events of the past. Giving them the opportunity to see upcoming holidays and events on their own calendar allows them to work on planning and sequencing skills.

Pretend Mailbox

Make a pretend mailbox to keep in their room or just outside their bedroom door. A painted shoebox on mounted on top of a wrapping paper tube makes the perfect one! Leave notes about meals, family activities, or even some simple pictures to give clues about what will be happening that day.

Other Fun Toys We Recommend:

Mini Kick Scooter

(also called Mini Micro Scooter on some sites, made by Micro-Mobility, Switzerland)
In general, scooters are great because they promote coordination, sensory regulation, balance, motor planning, and overall body strengthening. But many scooters are pretty tricky for kids to get the hang of, because of the balance element involved as they try to push with one foot while leaving the other foot balanced on the baseboard. The Mini Kick is different. Even younger children can use it safely, since there are two wheels in the front and one in the back, which helps with balance. The ‘lean-to-steer’ design allows kids to use their body weight to control the steering, so they’ll be ‘surfing’ the sidewalk, as they gently curve from right to left. There’s an immediate sense of accomplishment and success when kids try this scooter. There is now also now a Mini 3-in-1 scooter, that ‘grows’ with children from age 1 through age 5. It offers three age-appropriate styles of ride, starting with a ride-on seat at age 1, a scooter with short O-bar steering option at age 2, and then the Mini Micro 3-wheel kickboard scooter with T-bar for ages 3-5 (up to 44 pounds).

Boomwhackers

Musical instruments you play by whacking on something. Check out the Christmas video on YouTube by searching Boomwhackers Christmas Song! (Available through Amazon)

Snap-on Dolls by Fisher Price

These are excellent toys for language and fine motor because there are so many pieces to dress them in and it opens up lots of options for pretend play.

Wall Roller Coaster

Sticks on the wall with safe adhesives and is like a giant marble run on the wall of your room. Great for motor planning.

Buffalo Drum

Great for rhythm and can inspire many creative uses

Yogibo

This giant, quality, over-sized bean bag is one of our favorite tools, offering a “crash pad” opportunity or comfy relaxation.   www.yogibo.com

There are truly so many great products and ideas out there; our hope is that this list at least offers some suggestions and guidance.   It’s nice that so many toys and games serve as excellent tools for speech and language, motor and sensory development.  Our biggest wish for all families, though, in the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, is to find the most important tool of all—time with your kids. 

We like to remind families of one of our favorite holiday quotes:

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”  -Dr. Seuss

Happy holidays to you and your family!  

Joanne Hanson and the rest of the staff at Miracle Farm Speech Therapy

 

 

 

 

Fun with a laundry basket

laundry-blogThe laundry basket is one of my favorite tools to use in therapy. For toddlers (primarily ages 12 mos- 3 years) this is a great technique for helping them stay organized, and therefore able to access their speech and language.

Many times when small children present with sensory integrative disorder along with speech and language delays, a major part of the problem is helping them to reach an organized calm but alert state to optimize play and language. In a large room or any open space they can become easily overwhelmed and may exhibit repetitive behaviors such as pacing, walking along the wall, rolling wheels, or spinning toys in an effort to organize. These behaviors make it difficult to engage the child in meaningful reciprocal acts of play or language. By enticing them to come into a laundry basket (sometimes cushioned with pillows or balls) they can benefit from some proprioceptive input around their body, the visual and textural boundaries of the basket, and they can also benefit from the organization that their body receives through the vestibular system given movement. They can be slid back and forth such as in “row, row, your boat” or tipped up and down as in “wheels on the bus”.

Eventually toys, activities, or playful interactive games can be introduced while they are in the basket. In most cases you will see an increase in attention span, eye contact, and reciprocity and this is often followed by an increase in signs, gestures, words, and language. The best part about using a laundry basket for improving your child’s speech and language is that it is easily accessible and very inexpensive!! Remember to have fun and take time out to enjoy time with your child/ren.