Choosing the Right Toys to Promote Your Child’s Language Development

Parents often ask which toys to purchase for their child. There are so many factors to consider: learning, development, socialization, entertainment,boy playing on pretend phone and of course, fun! So how do you know which toys are best? Here are a few basic principles to consider when choosing the right toy for your child:

How do I choose the right toys to promote speech for my child?

1. Be simple. When it comes to toys, less is often more. Toys should stimulate exploration and creativity, which is often best accomplished through simple toys such as building blocks, play-doh, and pretend play.

2. Avoid toys that do all the work for your child. Even though electronic toys can be engaging and exciting, they leave little room for creativity and expanding on ideas, which can lead to passivity. I often encourage parents to limit their child’s use of video games and electronic toys, and stick with toys that require more creativity or social interaction.

3. Make-believe. Language is a symbol system that requires representational thought. For example, the word “ball” is a symbol that represents an actual object. Representational thought can be developed through pretend-play and make-believe. Additionally, pretend-play also promotes creativity, ideation, language use, and social interaction.

4. Think social. Look for toys that promote interactions with others. This might include a make-believe picnic, a fun game to share with friends, a ball to pass back-and-forth, or pretend toys such as a dollhouse or farm.

5. Create music. Musical instruments are a wonderful addition to your child collection. Pretending to play an instrument not only promotes make-believe, but it also encourages your child’s interest in music. Singing helps children learn various patterns of language, as well as learn to distinguish between different speech sounds.

6. Keep the bookshelves stocked! Books are always an excellent choice for kids of all ages. They promote vocabulary, speech development, listening, language, attention, and of course, literacy. For younger children, choose books that have large and simple pictures. Other great choices including repetitive books (e.g. Brown bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?), or rhyming books (e.g. Llama Llama).

7. Foster creativity. Consider art supplies to foster your child’s creativity. Art supplies such as crayons, sidewalk-chalk and moldable clay are excellent activities to encourage creativity in children.

8. Finally, consider safety. Be sure to read labels and age-requirements of all toys. Choose toys with nontoxic materials, and consider the developmental skills of your child. If your child is younger or enjoys mouthing things, then stay away from small objects that can be easily swallowed or choked on.

 Click Here to Read Part 2 of This Blog: 5 Great Toys To Encourage Speech

Preparing For Your Child’s Speech & Language Evaluation

Mother and Child looking up resourcesPreparing for a speech and language evaluation can feel overwhelming for a parent. It might feel nerve-wracking to have concerns about your child’s communication, as well as meeting a new health-care provider in an unfamiliar place. If you have already scheduled your child’s speech and language evaluation, then you’ve taken an important step in helping your child grow and succeed. Research has well-documented the benefits of speech-language therapy, as well as the importance of intervening early on.

8 Steps to Prepare for your Child’s First Speech & Language Evaluation:

1. Set aside time to reflect on your child’s speech-language skills

What aspects of communication seem to be difficult for your child? What aspects of communication are easier for your child? When did you first become concerned about your child’s communication? Be as specific as possible, and provide any examples you can think of.

2. Write your concerns down, and bring them to the evaluation

You may even keep a daily log of concerns as they arise throughout the week before the appointment. Your input is extremely important to your child’s speech therapist. During the evaluation, the therapist will spend about 60-90 minutes with your child. While a lot will be accomplished in that time, it’s also helpful for the therapist to learn more about how your child communicates in other settings as well (e.g. at school, at home, during play-dates, etc).

3. Write your questions down. Bring specific questions for your child’s therapist

It may be tough to remember all your concerns and questions during the actual evaluation session, so writing them down will ensure that you get your questions answered.

4. If possible, send any documents or paperwork to the therapist before the evaluation

This includes any reports you might have from previous therapies (e.g. Early Intervention, school IEP’s, etc.) Sending paperwork ahead of time gives your therapist more time to learn about your child and plan the evaluation session.

5. Print out directions to the evaluation

Reviewing directions ahead of time will allow you to plan for traffic, parking, and ensure arriving on time. Arriving late to the appointment cuts into the evaluation time, and results in parents and children feeling stressed.

6. Talk to your child about the evaluation ahead of time

Talk to them about where they will be going, and what will happen. Use positive and upbeat language to put your child at ease. Reassure your child that you will be there waiting for them, and can’t wait to hear all about what they did! If you have any questions or concerns about the transition into the evaluation (e.g. your child is unable to separate, your child has anxiety, etc), contact the therapist ahead of time to plan out the best strategy.

7. Arrive a few minutes early

This will ensure that you have enough time to submit any paperwork, and calmly transition your child into the clinic. Children rely heavily on their parents’ cues about whether or not to be worried. If parents feel stressed or anxious, the children may likely feel stressed or anxious too.

8. Finally, trust your child’s therapist

Remember that your child’s therapist conducts speech-language and feeding evaluations all the time. They are well-trained in their field, and work with a variety of children everyday. Your therapist is there for you and your child, and can’t wait to see your child grow and succeed.

If you are still unsure if a Speech and Language Evaluation is right for your child, please contact us here to talk with a Family-Child Advocate, who can help determine the next best step for you and your family!


10 Ways to Practice Speech & Language at the Grocery Store

You’ve got errands to run and groceries to buy. The weekly to-do’s are piling up, and there’s little time left over for educational activities and focusing on your child’s development. But did you know the grocery store has endless opportunities to practice Mom at SuperMarket with Kidspeech and language skills? Here are a few fun tips to keep your child learning while still finding time for errands.

10 Ways To Promote Speech At The SuperMarket:

1. Turn your grocery list into a scavenger hunt.

Choose items on your grocery list, and give your child clues as to where it might be. Encourage your child to cross items off the list as they put them in the cart (e.g. “We’re looking for a vegetable. Where do you think we might find it?”).

Target skills: listening, problem solving, categories

2. Play a category game.

Encourage your child to find objects based on the color, food group, texture, or temperature. For example, you might encourage your child to find “3 red things”, “2 cold things” or “1 dairy product”.

Target skills: listening, categories

3. Play “I spy”.

Give your child 3 clues about a secret item, and encourage your child to guess what the item is. For example, you might say “I’m thinking of something that is cold, it goes in the freezer, and you eat it on a cone!”

Target skills: listening, categories

4. Play the “Alphabet Game”.

Go through the alphabet, and search for items that begin with each letter of the alphabet. For example, you might encourage your child “What begins with A?… apple begins with A! Can you think of something that begins with B?”

Target skills: alphabet, letter-sound recognition

5. Plan a fun snack together.

Help your child make a list of items needed for their snack. Write down each step needed to prepare the snack (e.g. “First I will wash the celery. Next, I will put peanut butter on the celery. Last, I will put raisons on top!”). Encourage your child to share their snack with family and friends, and describe how they made it.

Target skills: executive function, sequencing, expressive language, social communication

6. Give your child special roles.

Encourage your child to listen to your directions, and find items that you ask for. For example, ask your child to “put 3 apples in the bag” or “put 1 box of crackers at the bottom of the cart.”

Target skills: following directions, location concepts, listening

7. Have a speech-sound contest.

Find items that begin with specific speech sounds. For example, if your child is learning to say “s”, have a contest to see who can find the most “s-words”. Say each s-word as you find it (e.g. “syrup starts with S!”)

Target skill: articulation

8. Practice greeting others.

When you get to the check-out line, encourage your child to greet the cashier. If your child is older, let them help with the transaction. (e.g. “How much did the groceries cost? What should we give the cashier?”). Encourage your child to say goodbye as you leave.

Target skills: social communication, problem solving

9. Let your child “be the teacher”.

Encourage your child to give you directions, and tell you where to put items. Make silly errors, and encourage your child to use their language to correct you. For example, you might put an apple on your head and ask “is this where it goes?… No! Where does the apple go?”

Target skills: expressive language, location concepts

10. Finally, have fun together!

Enjoy spending time with your child. Describe what is happening and what you see. Ask your child questions, and encourage them to talk about what they see.

Target skills: listening, expressive language, social communication

How To Notify A Parent About Concerns You Have For a Child In Your Classroom

Teacher In Front Of Classroo Of StudentsThe start of a new school year is associated with many changes for a child’s academic, behavioral, and social functioning.  Teachers are often the first ones to identify concerns regarding a child’s academic, social, or behavioral functioning.  Bringing concerns up to a parent can always be a challenging situation.  Below are several tips that can prove useful for teachers to help identify and bring up concerns with a parent.

5 Tips For Voicing Your Concerns The Right Way

  1. Be confident.  You as a teacher have the most insight in a child’s day to day functioning.  You are able to compare the child’s development to that of the other children in your classroom.  If you suspect that a child is falling behind his or her peers with any domain in your classroom it is important to identify this and bring it up to the parents.
  2. Document.  It is always important to have actual examples to show why you have concern about the child’s performance within the school setting.
  3. Plan.  Have a plan as to what your want to accomplish and how your ultimate goal will be met.  Be specific with your feedback to parents as to what you would expect their child to be doing and also what ideas you have for that child to reach the goal.
  4. Measurable and attainable.  Any goal that you have for a child needs to be measurable and attainable.  If a child was previously standing up and walking around the classroom every 20 minutes, it would not be reasonable to assume that the child can remain seated for a full day of school.
  5. Communication.   After goals are determined and a plan is established it is vital that you and the parents have constant communication in order to ensure that the child has made progress towards the goals that are set.

All By Myself: Child’s First Book Contest

Share Your Child’s First Book For a $75 Gift Card | So Easy To Win This Contest!

Very Happy Boy With Book

Time and time again parents are told that reading to your child as early as birth and teaching your child to read early is important for development and will lead to life long success.  Here at North Shore Pediatric Therapy we couldn’t agree more!  Encouragement from parents, teachers, siblings and peers is an important motivator, and of course, so is a good book!

At North Shore Pediatric Therapy we want to provide you with a list of parent tested titles to get your child excited about reading. We know that parents are the field experts so we want your help!  And of course we will reward you for your opinion!

Contest Details: Share Your Favorite Book And Win!

  1. Become a fan of our Facebook Page by liking us here:
  2. Write the name of the first book your child read independently in the comments section of this blog post. Feel free to add additional comments about why you think your child had success with this book or how you got them interested in reading.
  3. Then thumbs up your favorite suggestions form others
  4. Finally, share this contest on your facebook and encourage your friends to like your suggestion!  Don’t have a child old enough to read yet? Don’t worry, you can tell us about your first book.

On July 14 (10:00pm CST) the author of the most voted comment will win a $75.00 gift card. That’s enough to buy plenty of new books for your children to get excited about (and a few for you as well).

At the end of the contest we’ll also be posting a blog with the top 10 beginning readers titles and some comments and input from you as well.

Click here to read other blogs about reading…

For more information on how to get your child reading, visit our Orton-Gillingham Reading Program by clicking here.

The Unexpected Benefits Of Story Time

 It’s Not Just About Reading

Reading is an important and fun activity to experience with your child. There are so many benefits to the time spent reading to your child, listening to them read to you, and talking about the story afterwards. Listed below aMom And Young Daughter Pointing At Picture Bookre some of the things that you can do to make the experience of reading even more beneficial and engaging for you and your child.

To make reading more meaningful and exciting for your child, ask them to tell you their own story or make up a story together. You and your child could also recreate the ending of a familiar story to enjoy a whole new adventure. As you read books together, make sure to be animated and engaged in the story, use your voice Read more

An Introduction on Interventions for Executive Functioning

As discussed in my previous blog “What is Executive Functioning”, executive functions are the skills that help organize and guide a child through daily life.
There are many aspects of executive functioning:

  • Organization

  • Planning

  • Problem solving

  • Working memory

  • Initiation of tasks

  • Impulse control

  • The ability to monitor the effectiveness of one’s work

While these are different skill sets that require various accommodations and interventions, they all have several things in common.  The most common link between the various interventions is that they must involve a real-world, structured approach to teaching problem solving during everyday activities. The problem that we see all too often with clinical interventions, which don’t include practice in the child’s ‘real-world,’ is that the child may be a rock-star when completing tasks in a contrived clinical setting but still may struggle within the classroom. Read more

Using iPad and iPhone Apps to Promote Speech and Language Development

As we all know, technology has become a part of our daily lives.  iPad and iPhone application developers have createdChild with iPad both motivating and meaningful applications that target many of the areas within the speech and language discipline.  The apps are multisensory; they tap into the senses of sight, sound and touch. The high resolution graphics used in the apps are visually appealing to all children. While there are TONS of applications out there, here are a few apps that can be used to improve and/or maintain vocabulary, articulation, pragmatic and language skills.  

iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Vocabulary:

App Name

Appropriate Age

Description Benefits of the App
Clean Up: Category Sorting (free)



Helps children make associations and strengthen categories and sorting skills

Preschool memory match (free)


3 different levels (easy, medium, hard) and 5 categories to choose from including: Transportation, Musical Instruments, Animals/Bugs, Food, and Objects

Good for very basic vocabulary. Just a basic memory game.

Mini reward follows the end of each game.

ABA Flashcards (free)


Flash cards are specifically created to stimulate learning and provide tools and strategies for creative, effective language building.

Benefits to both visual and auditory learners. There is classical music with visual reinforcement built in to the app. Great tool for promoting the mastery of new words, building vocabulary and conveying new concepts.

Animal Fun (free)


Animal learning program. Children learn about animals by seeing and hearing the sounds an animal makes. Help builds vocabulary


iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Articulation: Read more

Helping Your Child With Articulation Difficulties

What To Do When You Can’t Understand Your Child’s Speech:

As children develop speech and language, it’s critical to reinforce their communicative attempts. This presents a challenge for children who often have unintelligible speech utterances. How do we respond to our child when we can’t understand what they’re saying? Here are a few strategies I use during moments when I can’t understand a child’s speech:

4 Tips For Understanding Your Child’s Speech:

• Work with what you can understand, and request for more information. “Wow! I can tell you are really excited. You and daddy went where?”

• Gently request that your child repeat his utterance. You might say, “Uh oh, I didn’t quite hear you. Can you tell me again?” Try to read nonverbal cues from your child, such as gestures, emotion and eye-gaze.

• If possible, use cues from the environment. “Hmm, can you show me what you’re thinking about?”

• As much as possible, take advantage of moments to use visual support. For example, if you’re talking about a recent family vacation, print out a few pictures to show while you talk. Refer to the pictures to clarify specific people, places and ideas.

Should You Correct Your Child’s Speech Errors?

Children with articulation errors often feel self-conscious about talking, and I find that constantly correcting their errors often increases their reluctance to talk. Here a few tips for helping children with articulation errors:

• First and foremost, consult with your child’s speech therapist about how to practice speech at home. This will determine when, how and how often you should practice with your child. Your therapist will likely have specific suggestions for when and how to correct your child’s errors. Read more

9 Tips For Practicing Speech With Your Child

Constant practice is very important when children are acquiring new speech sounds. Having your child progress in their speech skills requires practice, just as practicing piano or sports skills is necessary for improvement. Many parents do a great job in helping their child to practice speech sounds, but it’s important to switch up the routine so that the child doesn’t become resistant or bored.

Here Are 9 Fun & Easy Tips To Practice With And Encourage Speech In Your Child:

  1. Make practice a routine. To get into the habit of consistent practice, set a certain time each day (e.g. during breakfast, before bedtime) to go over speech.
  2. On the Go? Play I-spy in the car, at a restaurant, or at the park to find different items with the targeted speech sound.
  3. Play family board games. Include speech practice before each turn of the game. If other children are playing, have them practice a different skill before their turn (e.g. read a page of a book or do three math problems).
  4. Think of silly sentences. Try to come up with silly sentences using the speech sound multiple times in the sentence (e.g. Cindy went swimming in ice-skates).
  5. Sing songs. Find fun songs that have the targeted sound, and sing with your child.
  6. Use a sound while discussing the day. Once the child can successfully say his sound in words and sentences, help him practice using it in conversation by setting aside time each day to have him tell you a story while discussing his speech sound. Dropping a bean or a marble into a cup each time you hear his sound helps the child to visually see how many times he is correctly using it. Read more