Fun Fall Arts and Crafts

Here are some easy and creative activities you can make at home to practice matching with your children this fall!

Popsicle Stick Puzzles

  • Line up and tape five to six large wooden popsicle sticks together on the back to create a little puzzle board.Picture1








  • Paint the other side of the popsicle sticks or use markers to create a simple picture and let dry. Get creative! For a fall theme, you can draw pumpkins, apples, or a spooky ghost!
  • Once dry, take the tape off of the back of your puzzle pieces and play!










This is a great way to get your little one to work on problem solving in addition to working on matching of pictures and colors. For older children, you can help them learn to spell their names or other words by writing a letter on each popsicle stick!

Pumpkin Shape Matching

  • Draw or print out a pumpkin on paper or cardstock (cardstock and lamination is recommended if you plan on using it more than once)
  • Draw shapes on the pumpkin with a black marker to create a face
  • Cut corresponding shapes out of black construction paper (again, cardstock and laminate to use again!)
  • Use tape or sticky velcro on the back of the shapes
  • Provide shapes for your child to match the pumpkin’s “face”








To make it more challenging or to incorporate movement, print out a few pumpkins with different shapes on each and post them on the wall in your play area. Allow your child to choose a shape and find which pumpkin it matches! This activity will encourage matching and problem solving – and it’s a great indoor activity that gets your child up and moving when stuck inside on cool fall days!

Pumpkin Face Matching

  • Print out several (5 or so) simple pictures of pumpkins with different jack-o-lantern faces.











  • Using construction paper or colored felt, cut out a large pumpkin outline and different styles of eyes/mouths based on the simple pictures of the different jack-o-lantern faces.
  • Have your child select one jack-o-lantern and select the correct features to make that face.









Not only is this a great activity to practice matching, but it is also good for shape recognition. You can also incorporate number concepts by encouraging your child to count the pieces used for each face.

Kimberly Shlaes, MAT, DT

Fall Family Fun!

Last fall, I brought my Goddaughter and her younger sister to an amazing apple orchard/pumpkin patch called All Seasons Orchard in Woodstock, Illinois. In addition to the apple orchard, All Seasons has a corn maze, tractor and pony rides, a petting zoo, a mini zip line, tube slides and multiple bouncy houses! It is about an hour outside of Chicago, but well worth the drive! Whether you make it out to All Seasons or find an apple orchard closer to the city, check out these awesome ways to support your child’s speech and language development on your fall outings:

Vocabulary: Label both the familiar and novel items you encounter on your outing, and talk about ways to describe the new objects (big/little, soft/hard, wet/dry, etc.). You can easily teach and reinforce animal names at the petting zoo; fruits, veggies and other food labels at the country store; parts of a tree in the apple orchard; etc. Use the object labels frequently to reinforce their meaning:

“Look! A big leaf. My leaf is red. What color is your leaf? My leaf feels crunchy.”

Following simple directions: Target two skills at once by giving your child a direction using familiar attributes, such as “Put one apple in the red basket” or “Give the little pumpkin to your brother.”

Increase expressive language: There are many fun and exciting activities at the apple orchard that will have your child communicating like you’ve never seen before! If you are working on sign language, encourage requesting ‘more’ or ‘help’ for picking more apples, going down the slide, or jumping in the bouncy house, for example. If you are working on simple one- to three-word phrases, expand on your child’s utterance by one word and encourage them to imitate your model:

Child: “More!” or “Go horsie!”

Adult model: “More slide!” or “Go on horsie!”

Basic concepts: Teach basic preschool concepts, such as colors, shapes, numbers, etc. by identifying objects throughout the orchard. A simple way to target these skills is by playing “I Spy…” Encourage your child to find what you label and help them come up with their own objects for you to find!

If you would like more information on All Seasons, you can check out their website:

Happy Picking!

Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP

Our Favorite Board Books for Your Child

Reading books with your child is a great way to bond, and to encourage early language skills; however, toddlers are not always as cautious as we would like when interacting with books. Board books are built to hold up to small fingers and mouths repeatedly tugging on the pages. When choosing board books to engage your child look for simple repetitive language, and clear simple pictures that are likely to hold a child’s attention. The following books are some favorites that are sure to withstand the test of time.

  1. Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you See? by Eric Carle
    This book provides great illustrations of animals. The repetitive rhyming texts allows young children to “read” along with their caregivers. Try pausing as you get to the end of a phrase, and allow your child to fill in the familiar text.
  2. Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton
    Once again rhyming text helps to keep little ones This is a great book for introducing animal sounds.
  3. First Words by Bright Baby
    This simple word book has one image per page allowing your child  to learn new words as you label images in the book. The clear realistic images allow for generalization of new words into his/her every day life.
  4. Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
    This book has very few words per page allowing your child to use his/her own language to describe the scenes.
  5. Where is Baby’s Belly Button? by Karen Katz
    This book helps introduce body parts, and the lift the flap format will keep young children engaged.
  6. Where is Spot? by Eric Hill
    This is another lift the flap book to help keep little ones engaged. This book is also great for working on “yes” or “no” questions.
  7. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
    This book combines a repetitive narrative with flaps for little ones to lift. There is a good reason that this book is still popular after 25 years.
  8. Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli
    This book, along with the other Leslie Patricelli board book, have simple repetitive language and themes, paired with simple pictures. These books do a great job of teaching early concepts to curious young minds.
  9. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
    This is another great choice with a relatable theme, and a simple engaging rhyme scheme.
  10. The Little BlueTruck by Alice Schertle
    Another book made the list due to its simple, engaging rhyme scheme. This book is also a great choice for introducing animal and environmental sounds to your child. Try pausing to allow your child to fill in the sounds as you read.

Story time should be enjoyable for both you and your child. Don’t worry if your child has not yet developed the attention span to listen to a whole story. Allow your child to get up as needed, and wander back to the book when he is ready. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to read every word on the page. Simply identifying pictures as your child flips through the pages is another great way to introduce your child to the joy of reading.

Meryl Schnapp M.A., CCC-SLP

Withholding Desired Objects to Encourage Speech: What to think about.

Q: My toddler’s speech therapist instructed me to withhold desirable objects to encourage communication. Every time I try to do this, my child has a complete meltdown. How is this supposed to help him talk?

A: Withholding preferred or highly favorable objects is a common technique used by many speech-language pathologists to encourage language expression. It is just one of the many tools in your talking “toolbox” that you can use to model appropriate requesting, either verbally or through sign language. By withholding a favorite object, you are essentially setting up an opportunity to model what you want your child to do in order to request that object (“You want ‘more.’ Tell Mama, ‘ma-ma-more’”). But here’s where it gets tricky: As soon as you prompt your child to use sign language or to imitate your verbal model, they have a meltdown, despite imitating your therapist’s prompts 30 minutes earlier with no problem.

While frustrating, your child’s behavior makes complete sense. He has been able to meet his wants and needs up until now using nonverbal communication, such as gestures (pointing, pulling on your hand, etc.) or eye contact. Now you are requiring him to do something much more difficult, and this change to his routine is stressful! But the key to success is repetition, so don’t give up! As a rule of thumb, prompt your child to imitate your model no more than three times before helping them with hand-over-hand cueing of sign language. This teaches your child that they have to use at least one form of expressive language before you are going to meet their needs. Model the sign while verbally saying the request, and then give them the object while praising them for great talking. The idea is not to make them so upset that they no longer want to communicate with you, so use your judgment to keep your child from getting to that point.

The bottom line is, every child is different and you know your individual child’s wants, needs, abilities and frustration tolerance better than anyone. So trust your instincts and pull back when you know your child is being pushed farther than his/her tolerance. With practice and patience, you will be able to use this technique to support the progress of your child’s expressive language development.

Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP

“I don’t like it when they yell at me”: Deescalation and the Calm Response

“I don’t like it when they yell at me.”

I often hear this phrase when working with children. Imagine you have driven into a busy intersection before your turn and another driver starts yelling and honking loudly. It would be easy to become defensive and ready to argue with the other driver. This could also be a natural response for a resistant child who is yelled at by mom or dad. Yelling seems to be an easy fix to an immediate problem when we feel tired or overwhelmed, but it will often make your child more upset.

It has been said that a gentle answer will deescalate anger. Often, an angry person can be calmed down by a simple, quiet, and empathetic response. He or she will be more likely to communicate and resolve the issue that is causing them to feel angry or frustrated. When your child is upset, don’t match their level of emotion. Try to remain calm and clear headed. Use quiet, kind words to help them relax to a point where they are able to express their thoughts and feelings. Your child will feel respected and understood, even if they cannot have their way.

As always, consistency is the key to any discipline process. It is important to set boundaries with your child and this may take time as you develop a habit of calm communication. If your child has become accustomed to yelling, he or she may no longer respond to it. Don’t give in to harsher words or a higher volume. With patient work and loving communication, you and your child can enjoy living in a yell-free home!

If you have questions related to determining strategies for responding to behavioral challenges, please contact one of our pediatric social workers.

Laura Mauriello, MS, LCSW, DT

Falling into Speech and Language!

Children learn best when actively participating in hands-on activities. Here are four great Fall activities to promote speech, language and development in your little ones!

How do you elicit language with art?

Start by laying out the materials. You can get them out one by one to help keep your child’s attention. You will discuss the supplies, and what you can do with them. Additional ideas for enhancing language and learning are listed under each activity.

  1. Fruit Loop Fall Tree Craft



  • Fruit loops cereal (or healthy alternative)
  • Glue
  • White cardstock paper (Don’t have cardstock? Try gluing two pieces of regular paper together.)
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Scissors


Cut out the top of the tree with the white card stock paper. Cut two slits across from each other in the empty toilet paper roll. Put glue all over the tree top and decorate with fruit loops. Be sure to lightly press on each foot loop to make sure it sticks. Allow fruit loops to dry and slide the paper tree top inside the slits!

Enhance the Activity:

Start by playing with the fruit loops only and allowing your child to decide what color they want to use in their tree. Work on developmental skills such as counting, matching and sorting. For example, sort the colors they want to use (say, red and green). Discuss each step as you’re doing it using key sequencing words such as, “first,” “next,” “then,” “last.” Label objects and verbs as you work (trunk, leaves, tree, glue, scissors, cut, press). Use prepositions (on, in) while placing fruit loops on the tree. Expand language by talking about where you see trees, who lives in trees (squirrels), and asking simple questions like “Do trees grow?”

  1. Apple Stamps 



  • Apples, cut in half from top to bottom
  • Large paper
  • Paint (use what you have – examples include red, brown, green, yellow)
  • A smock!
  • Glue
  • Optional Materials:
    • Paintbrush to paint branches
    • Scissors and green construction paper to cut out leaves and caterpillars
    • Black marker to make a caterpillar face


Cut the apple in half. Pour paint onto a paper plate (or other surface) and dip apples into the paint or use paintbrush to paint and smaller amount of paint onto the apple. Stamp the painted apple onto the paper and create you very own apple design! You could stamp brown paper bags for your child’s lunch, small paper and turn it into a “Thank You” card, or large paper and paint in tree branches. Be creative and have fun with it! For the optional part of this project, you can paint the branches ahead of time for younger kiddos.  You can also pre-cut some leaves and caterpillars, but older children can do that themselves. After the apples are stamped, add the leaves and caterpillars.

Enhance the Activity: Example discussion and language opportunities for this project include…

Cut an apple in half. Ask, “What do you think we are going to do with the apples?” (prediction).

“I have an apple. It’s a fruit.” (category). “What do you do with an apple?” (object function).  “I wonder how they taste?” (sweet, crunchy, juicy). Let your child try a piece.

“I like red apples, do you? What other colors can they be?” (describing). “Can you think of other things that are red?”

(category).  “Hmmm, where do you think apples come from? Do they grow on the ground?” (in/ on-prepositions)

“I have some paint too. What else do I need to go with paint? A brush? Why do I need a brush?” (Wh? questions, object function).

Continue discussing the glue, scissors and paper. Vocabulary may include sticky, wet, sharp, cut… you’ll think of these as you go! Include words like “first,” “next,” “last” as you go through the steps of your project to practice sequencing and following directions. Asking questions like, “Okay, what do you need first?” to ensure understanding. Use verbs like dip, push, stamp. Quantity words could include few, many and some.

  1. Cinnamon Dough




First, combine the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and ground cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Next, add the water and oil and stir it all together. Cook it over medium heat stirring continually until a ball forms. Then, dump it onto the table and knead it a bit.  (You may want to do this part at first because the dough will be quite warm).  Once it’s mixed up a bit and cooled off, give a section to your child.  They will love to squish it while it’s still warm.

Enhance the Activity:

Baking is the perfect way to practice sequencing skills and following oral directions! Encourage these skills in your little ones by having them follow directions involving “first,” “then,” “next” and “last.” Ask “WH” questions to ensure understanding. For example, “What will we put in NEXT?” Use self-talk to talk about what you are doing to your child. Narrate your actions – for example, “I am kneading the dough. Now, it’s your turn to knead the dough.”  Talk about what your child is doing, seeing, or touching. Narrate what he/she is doing – for example, “Bobby is mixing the flour. Great job mixing Bobby!” (parallel-talk). Discuss action words and vocabulary including: mix, stir, pour, squish, etc.

  1. Easy DIY Bird Feeders




  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Peanut butter
  • Bird seed
  • Butter knife or other tool for spreading


Give each child a toilet paper roll and have them carefully cover it in peanut butter. Once covered have your kiddo roll the toilet roll in bird seed. That’s it!  Once the feeder is covered in seed it is ready to be hung. You can hang it directly on a tree branch or string rope, yarn or shoe string through it and use that to hang it. Your child will love watching for birds to come eat from the feeder they created!

Enhance the Activity:

Talk about each material as you take it out. What is it? Why do you need it? (WH questions). Label the tools and materials. Present clear and simple directions for your child to follow. Talk about and identify actions words from the activity: roll, stick, spread, hang etc. Before and After: Take a picture of the materials before you begin, at the end of the finished product and after a couple of weeks when the birds have eaten the seeds. Discuss before and after! How is it the same? How is it different?

Kelly Fridholm, M.C.D., CCC-SLP

When is Picky Eating a Problem?

My child is a picky eater!  Is it a problem?

This comment comes up so often with parents, as many toddlers have strong preferences for the types of food they like and will eat.  With picky eaters, mealtime can easily become a constant battle of the wills between parents and kids. You may feel like they are eating the same thing every day, and you may question if they are getting the nutrients their growing body needs.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help understand the differences between picky eating and a potential feeding disorder:

  • Does my child eat at least 1-2 items from each food group?
  • Does my child universally reject a certain category of food (i.e. certain color, certain temperature, certain texture)?
  • Do my child’s preferences change over time?
  • If given lots of opportunities, will my child ultimately try the food? If not, will they touch it?
  • How stressful is the situation when a new food is attempted? How strong is the child’s reaction and can they recover and continue with the meal?

The key is to know when you child is acting like most other toddlers, or when the picky eating is more concerning.  The more rigid, inflexible and stressful your child is, the more concerned you should be.  If you think your child may be more than just a picky eater, consider a feeding evaluation with a speech language pathologist.  Mealtime is meant to be fun and enjoyable and just another way for your child to explore the world around them!

Sarah Pifkin Ruger, MS, CCC-SLP

Encouraging First Words: Developing Language Use in Your Child

There are many prerequisite skills that a child develops before speaking their first words – eye contact, comprehension, vocal play and babbling, gesture imitation, etc. However, parents often feel that their child is understanding language at an appropriate level, but not yet using words. To encourage the emergence of first words and word imitation, there are simple strategies that can be used during daily routines or play!

Simple verbal imitation is just a half-step down from imitation of true words. A child is more likely to imitate a set of sounds or words if it is simple and achievable for them; for instance, they are more likely to imitate “woof!” than they are to imitate “butterfly.” If your child is able to imitate gestures (such as waving, pointing, clapping) and play actions (such as making a stuffed animal eat pretend food, stacking blocks and knocking them down), practice with verbal imitation is a great next step to encouraging words. Instead of trying to prompt your child to “Say ‘ball!’” or imitate when you say “Milk,” try using natural modeling of environmental sounds. Environmental sounds can be thought of as words that represent sounds – think animals (moo, quack quack, nay, baa, woof, meow, buzz), vehicles (beep beep, vroom, crash), exclamations (mmm, whoa, yay, uh oh) and other noises you hear that can be words. Don’t worry about prompting your child to “say” these sound words, just try to make any activity as fun as possible!

Outside of environmental sounds, you can also create your own consonant-vowel combination play sounds. Early developing consonants, such as B, P, M, D, N, H, and W, can be used to form small non-words that are attached to a play action. For example, as you make a toy car go up the back of the couch, add “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!” Stomp your feet on the ground while you march around saying, “Ba! Ba! Ba!”

Verbal routines are another fantastic way to encourage early verbal imitation. Verbal routines are sets of words that become familiar and predictable, preparing your child to know what should come next. “Ready, set, go” is a favorite among speech-language pathologists – try combining it with a fun activity, saying “Ready, set,…..” and waiting for your child to fill in “go!” “Peek-a-boo” is another simple routine that can be practiced almost anywhere! Verbal routines can also be practiced through songs, and kids usually love music! Some familiar kid’s songs: The Itsy Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, If You’re Happy and You Know It, Old McDonald, Five Little Monkeys, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, and Row Row Row Your Boat.

 Children are expected to imitate consonant-vowel combinations and non-speech sounds by between 9 and 12 months. First words are expected to emerge between 9 and 15 months. If you are concerned about your child’s expressive language skills, contact your local Early Intervention Child and Family Connections or contact us at PlayWorks Therapy, Inc.!

Leanne Sherred, MS, SLP-CF

Pretend Play with Paper Bags

Picture1Paper bags can have endless uses! You can use them to carry groceries, pack lunches and picnics or even make a pretend city!

What you will need:

  • Paper bags, grocery or lunch size
  • Newspaper
  • Paint and/or markers
  • Stapler

Want the know-how? Start by making roofs for all of your buildings at the opening of the bag; add doors, window, flowers and any decorations that you want! Let your child decorate and decide what buildings they want in their city. Create a school, hospital, library, your own house or friends’ homes!

Once your bags are all decorated, stand them up and add crumpled newspaper or double the bags for added stability. Fold the top of the bag and staple shut (you can also leave them open and cut out windows and doors for extra fun!)

You are ready to play pretend! Add cars and your favorite characters for expanded play!

This activity great for building your toddler’s vocabulary! Talk about the buildings, what colors they are, who might go to a building and why, what decorations you are making, or how big or small to make a decoration. Adding stickers is a great opportunity to practice requesting (i.e. “I want the flower.”). In addition, stickers often offer opportunity to request “help” opening or unpeeling the back of the sticker. Once your project is finished, be sure to talk about where a character or a vehicle is going, who they are going to see, or what they are doing, the opportunities for play are endless!

Send us pictures of your pretend house or city and be featured on our blog!

 **This activity requires adult-supervision, especially for children under the age of three.**

Picture and activity are adapted from

Jessie Delos Reyes, MA, CF-SLP

Get Creative with These Homemade Activities!

While this summer has brought us some beautiful weather, there are still those rainy days where we are forced to stay inside. Are you looking for new, cheap activities for your children? Here are two fun and easy recipes for entertaining your little ones:

  1. Homemade Play-Doh


1 cup flour

1 cup water

½ cup salt

1 Tbsp. crisco oil

2 tsp. cream of tartar

Food coloring

Directions: Combine all of the ingredients into a sauce pan and cook over medium/high heat (stirring constantly) until ball forms. Knead the doh for a couple minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Play-doh is a good interactive activity to encourage engagement with your child by showing your child how to roll the doh into a ball, poke the doh with your finger, or form the doh into fun shapes and animals. Play-doh can also be used as a sensory activity, in which the squeezing and tearing of the doh helps children use their sense of touch to regulate their behavior and calm their bodies.

  1. Home Car Wash


Squirt bottle with water

Hand soap with pump

Scrubbing tool (e.g. sponge, toothbrush)


Toy cars

Directions: Put some cars into a bowl and ask your child to spray them with the water bottle. Then ask the child to pump some soap onto the cars. Take the scrubbing tool and have the child scrub the different parts of the car (e.g. wheels, doors, windows). Then ask the child to spray the soap off with water before drying the car off with the towel.

This car washing activity works on using a child’s fine motor skills with the squeezing of the water bottle, pumping of the soap, and scrubbing of the car. This activity can also encourage following directions by asking the child to complete a step before moving onto the next. If you have a number of colored cars, you can work on color identification by asking the child to wash a specific color of car with each wash.

Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LSW, DT