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