Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Free Printable Fairy Tale Barrier Game for Speech Therapy

Sometimes I just stumble upon the cutest clipart and have to find a use for it, which is the case for this free printable fairy tale themed barrier game. Simply place these well known fairy tale characters on the scene to work on social skills, following directions, listening skills, speech skills, and more!

Free printable fairy tale themed barrier game for speech therapy from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

What is a Barrier Game?

Barrier games are a way to practice speech and social skills concepts by creating and describing scenes to another player. For more information on barrier games, I highly recommend reading this article about how barrier games are great for language enrichment.

Barrier games can be used to target specific skills such as:

  • Following directions
  • Listening skills
  • Prepositions (on, under, above, beside, next to, etc.)
  • Expressive speech
  • Vocabulary
  • Turn taking
Or at least, that's what we're using these games to target with my son who has autism and hyperlexia.

How to Use the Free Printable Barrier Game

To prep this barrier game, you will need at least two players. Simply download, print two copies of both the scene and the items (one copy for each player), cut the individual items, and laminate all pieces for durability (optional).

To play this barrier game, have all players sit at a table and set up a barrier (a file folder or book works great!) so that all players cannot see each other's materials. Each player takes turns placing an object on the scene and describing to the other player where to place the objects. Each player should give specific directions on where to place the objects. The objective of the game is to have identical pictures at the end. That is, all players should have matching scenes with the items placed in the same spots for all players.

Please keep in mind that I am not a speech pathologist. I created these barrier games using ideas from our son's speech pathologist as well as from researching about barrier games, what they are, and how to use them.

Download the Free Printable Fairy Tale Barrier Game

This free printable barrier game includes three pages, including details instructions on how to play, a landscape or scene, and game pieces.


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Friday, August 04, 2017

Back to School Themed I Spy Game {Free Printable for Kids}

We are officially a month away from the first day of school so as much as I don't want to admit it, it is back to school season. This back to school themed I spy game for kids would make a perfect first day of school activity, either at home or at school.

Free back to school themed I Spy game for kids from And Next Comes L

The Benefits of I Spy Games for Kids

I Spy printables like this back to school themed one are great for providing visual sensory input to kids, making them a great choice for visual sensory seekers. They also help develop a child's visual tracking ability and improve visual discrimination. This printable requires kids to visually scan through the objects and find ones that are the same.

Playing I Spy with your kids is also a great way to improve speech, language, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. I've discussed how playing I Spy games with kids can improve comprehension in kids with autism and hyperlexia before.

These types of I Spy games also encourage math learning by asking kids to count how many of each object they find.

Download the Free Printable Back to School Themed I Spy Game

This printable includes one I Spy game sheet and one answer sheet to record the number of objects found. The answer sheet uses the written word as well as an image of the object to search for to help improve comprehension - something kids with hyperlexia struggle with.


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More Free Printable I Spy Games for Kids

I Spy Bundle Packs

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Sassafras the Cat Perler Bead Craft

Late last year, our family got into perler bead crafting and have been enjoying making all sorts of creations. Most of which, my youngest will take with him everywhere, like to the playground or to bed. 

This Sassafras the cat perler bead craft for kids is his new favorite to take to the park and is inspired by our favorite new chapter book series for kids called Zoey and Sassafras.

Sassafras the cat perler bead craft for kids + book review of Zoey and Sassafras from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links. I was provided a copy of the first book from the Zoey and Sassafras Series from The Innovation Press in exchange for an honest review, but we loved it so much we had to buy the rest of the books in the series. And we're definitely preordering future books in the series!

About the Zoey & Sassafras Series

Parenting a toddler and preschooler with hyperlexia quickly taught me that there is a serious lack of good quality chapter books geared towards early readers.

Let's face it: those early readers are JUNK. You know which ones I'm talking about. The ones with zero plot and so much rhyming and repetition that it makes you want to rip the book to shreds. Okay, maybe not rip them because I can't even handle a page corner being bent or the spine having creases.

But seriously, I searched high and low for any kind of chapter book to fill J's need to devour chapter books as a preschooler, only to turn up empty handed and disappointed. Either the chapter books focused on content that J wasn't developmentally ready for or they had plot lines as interesting as a beige wall.

There just simply wasn't any chapter books for early readers that appealed to my hyperlexic son.

Until Zoey and Sassafras came out.

How to make Sassafras the Cat from the books Zoey & Sassafras from And Next Comes L

I seriously wish these books existed years ago because they were exactly what I had been searching for for J when he was younger. They're fun and educational, mixed with quirky and lovable characters. And the plots do not suck. Seriously, go toss out all of those early readers now and swap them for Zoey and Sassafras.

There are currently three books available, but with a fourth on the way. We can't wait to scoop up the fourth book when it comes out!





Now, K, my youngest, is five, almost six, and was an early reader too. He started reading at age two, just like his older brother, and he was definitely the only kid in all the kindergarten classes this year who could read. So he could easily read the Zoey and Sassafras books all by himself.

His favorite part of the series though has been Sassafras the cat. He talks about Sassafras non-stop. He asks questions about Sassafras all the time. He is one step away from asking, "What would Sassafras do?" when making any kind of decision.

So naturally, I had to make some kind of Sassafras toy for him to play with. Thankfully, he loves to create perler bead crafts with me so we worked together to design and create this super cute Sassafras the cat perler bead craft.

How to make Sassafras the Cat from the books Zoey & Sassafras from And Next Comes L

Perler Bead Craft for Kids: How to Make Sassafras the Cat

To make your own Sassafras the cat out of perler beads, you'll need:

Use the photo below as a pattern to make your own Sassafras on the perler bead pegboard.

How to make Sassafras the cat perler bead craft from And Next Comes L

Place a sheet of ironing paper over top of the completed design and run a warm iron over top of the paper until the beads start to melt and fuse together. Carefully flip the creation over and cover the backside with some ironing paper. Melt the backside with a warm iron.

Then when the beads are melted and still warm, I like to place a stack of textbooks on top to make sure the design stays flat. Once cool, the kids can play with it. Or add a magnet to the back to place it on your fridge. It's up to you! K just prefers to hang out with his new buddy and take it with him wherever we go.

Sassafras the cat perler bead pattern from And Next Comes L

Sassafras the cat perler bead craft for kids from And Next Comes L

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Sassafras the cat perler bead craft for kids + book review of Zoey and Sassafras from And Next Comes L
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Friday, July 28, 2017

100 Calm Down Strategies for Kids

My son needs a lot of help self-regulating some days so we are constantly introducing him to new calm down strategies.

We already make use of our visual calm down cards and the various DIY sensory hacks that I have made for him, but we still haven't pinpointed the exact strategies that work best for him on a regular basis. Some days certain calm down strategies work, but fail to help the next day.

Thankfully this list of 100 calm down ideas for kids is massive, so we certainly have lots of strategies left to try!

List of 100 simple calm down ideas for kids from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

Simple Calm Down Strategies for Kids

This list of calm down ideas for kids covers a wide range of sensory inputs, from oral motor to proprioceptive. So whether you kid finds chewing calming or being squished calming, there is something for everyone on this list! They're perfect for home or school.

  1. Blow bubbles
  2. Chew gum
  3. Chew on a chewy toy, necklace, or bracelet (see: DIY Chewelry Ideas & Best Chew Necklaces for Kids)
  4. Complete a puzzle
  5. Use a fidget
  6. Use a weighted lap cushion or weighted stuffed animal (see: 13 DIY Weighted Blanket Tutorials)
  7. Wear a weighted vest or pressure vest (see: 10 DIY Weighted Vest Tutorials)
  8. Stretch and fidget with a stretchy resistance band (see: Homemade Stretchy Resistance Bands Tutorial)
  9. Crawl through a sensory tunnel (see: Homemade Sensory Tunnel)
  10. Wear noise reducing ear muffs
  11. Suck on hard candies
  12. Diffuse essential oils such as lavender (see: Essential Oils for Autism)
  13. Use Rescue Remedy spray
  14. Listen to music
  15. Listen to audiobooks
  16. Do some yoga
  17. Lay or bounce on a ball
  18. Sing the ABCs forwards or backwards
  19. Build with blocks or LEGO
  20. Go for a run
  21. Swing (see: Homemade Sensory Swings)
  22. Pet a cat or dog
  23. Draw with chalk
  24. Go for a walk
  25. Go to a quiet place
  26. Paint a picture
  27. Do a maze, dot to dot, or word search
  28. Read a book
  29. Count slowly forwards or backwards
  30. Ask for a hug
  31. Take a drink of water
  32. Wrap up in a blanket (weighted or not)
  33. Invert head or hang upside down
  34. Close your eyes
  35. Hum or sing a song
  36. Do some deep breathing
  37. Go for a bike ride
  38. Draw a picture
  39. Play hopscotch (mix it up with Rocket Hopscotch)
  40. Jump on a trampoline (see: Trampoline Safety Hack)
  41. Climb a tree
  42. Play an instrument and make music
  43. Do a heavy work activity (see: 50 Heavy Work Activities for Kids)
  44. Use a calm down bottle
  45. Do animal walks
  46. Dance
  47. Skip
  48. Do a cartwheel
  49. Take a bubble bath
  50. Drink a smoothie through a straw
  51. Make silly faces in a mirror
  52. Drink a warm beverage
  53. Look at an hourglass, lava lamp, or aquarium
  54. Rip tissue paper (see: Tissue Paper Sensory Bin)
  55. Bend and twist pipe cleaners
  56. Have a snack
  57. Pop bubble wrap
  58. Play with play dough, slime, or silly putty
  59. Look at a photo album
  60. Blow a pinwheel
  61. Squeeze a stress ball (see: DIY Pokemon Stress Balls)
  62. Tightly hug or squeeze a pillow or toy
  63. Wear an eye mask
  64. Listen to nature sounds
  65. Spin a top
  66. Use a mini massager
  67. Climb into a body sock
  68. Make a craft
  69. Play a one player board game (we love Rush Hour for this!)
  70. Rub some scented lotion on
  71. Wear sunglasses
  72. Light a scented candle
  73. Journal
  74. Color a picture in a coloring book
  75. Play with shadow puppets
  76. Blow a feather
  77. Blow a pom pom around using a straw
  78. Take a bath with Epsom salts
  79. Ask for a break
  80. Push against a wall
  81. Play with a sensory bin (see: List of 130+ Sensory Bin Fillers)
  82. Crash into a crash pad (see: DIY No Sew Crash Mat Tutorial)
  83. Take a shower
  84. Suck on ice
  85. Do some joint compressions
  86. Brush hair and/or skin
  87. Blow bubbles in a cup of water
  88. Smell scratch and sniff stickers
  89. Turn off the lights
  90. Read with a flashlight
  91. Play I spy (check out our massive collection of I Spy Printables)
  92. Braid your hair
  93. Climb a ladder or rock wall
  94. Use positive affirmations
  95. Hug someone
  96. Doodle on paper, whiteboard, or similar
  97. Use visual calm down cards or posters (see: Free Printable Visual Calm Down Cards)
  98. Stretch
  99. Play with a pet
  100. Trace your hands with your finger
List of 100 simple calm down ideas for kids from And Next Comes L

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2 Things Every Hyperlexia Parent Should Know

I can still recall the rush of emotions I felt as I was handed one sheet of paper with the words autism, hyperlexia, and hypernumeracy on it. While relieved that we finally had some answers, I was even more perplexed because I didn't know what hyperlexia and hypernumeracy were.

It would be the first things I googled when I got home.

Then I stumbled upon picture after picture of children playing happily with their letter toys, spelling words that most kids wouldn't be able to spell until the age of ten or more.

Pictures that could easily have been of my own son.

Then tears streamed down my face because finally we knew what was going on with J and that was comforting to me.

Because for months (heck, make it years!), I read and compared different diagnostic labels and realized that none of them fit J quite right. He had characteristics of SPD and autism, but neither seemed like an accurate depiction of J's giftedness when it came to words and numbers. We now know he has diagnoses of all of these, so it makes sense why I was so utterly confused about where he fit, especially when coupled with the fact that I had never heard of hyperlexia prior to his assessment.

It still makes me mad that I never stumbled across the word hyperlexia during those early days of researching. I wonder how many other mothers or fathers are or have been in that same situation. It is part of the reason why I begin opening up about my son's hyperlexia in the first place.

I didn't want another mother or father to be stuck like we were. I wanted them to be able to easily find information on hyperlexia, even if they accidentally stumbled upon it via Instagram or a quick google search.

But like most parents with a fresh diagnosis, whether it is hyperlexia or autism, the next question is usually what now?

What is it I can do with this new knowledge to help my child?

Well, I quickly learned that there are two things that will make you a successful parent to a hyperlexic child. Two simple strategies that will work every single time with your child. Two ideas that you mustn't forget when it comes to helping your child.

Advice for parents of hyperlexic children from And Next Comes L

Best Advice for Hyperlexia Parents

If I could personally talk to every single parent after getting a hyperlexia diagnosis, then I would tell them the following two things.

1. Write it out

One of the first things I read about hyperlexia was this hyperlexia pamphlet. On it, it had the phrase, "when it doubt, write it out." And that is so so important to remember because, to the hyperlexic mind, if it isn't written down, it may not exist.

You need to take advantage of the fact that your child can read.

Make checklists, ask them questions by writing it down on a piece of paper, give them written cue cards to help with social situations, label the house with post-it notes...whatever method you choose, just write it down.

2. Use their obsessions or special interests

Most hyperlexic kids start out with an intense fascination with letters and words, but then move to different interests like planets, space, periodic table of elements, maps, or signs, just to name a few. I have noticed, many times, that some parents have been told, by professionals nonetheless, that they should try to discourage or redirect the child away from their obsessions.

That is just bad advice, in my opinion.

Unless that special interest is causing harm to the child, why discourage it?

How would I feel if someone had discouraged my love for music or Mary Higgins Clark books as a child?

It would feel as if someone was trying to fix me or change me.

And that is a horrible feeling isn't it?

In my experience, those special interests are the key to engaging and connecting with your child. 

It is the reason why I taught myself how to play Pokemon Trading Card Game when J first because interested in Pokemon. It is why he, and I in my purse or coat pocket, carried around multiple calculators everywhere we went. It is why I bought him books of challenging mazes and boxes after boxes of chalk. It is why I use math to connect with my son.

Use those intense interests to encourage life skills, such as potty training or getting dressed, and social skills because trust me, it will make everything easier for your child and you.

You can find more specific strategies for these important life and social skills in my book Beyond the Letters.

Beyond the Letters: Everyday strategies to help children with hyperlexia learn language and social skills (eBook)


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This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is best advice and tips and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

30 Fun & Inexpensive Things to Do this Summer with Kids

Ahhh, summer is here and we've already eaten more watermelons and ice cream than one would think is possible. We've stayed up late. We've been sunburnt. We've swimmed, splashed, and explored the city.

But we still have many more weeks of summer left to enjoy.

So every summer we create a summer bucket list for my kids. A list of fun, but inexpensive, options to beat the heat and just have...well...a fun summer creating memories together! This list of 30 fun and inexpensive things to do with kids this summer has a little bit of everything on it and we hope to complete all of the things on this list.

Fun & inexpensive things to do with the kids this summer from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

Summer Bucket List for Kids: How to Have Fun with the Kids All Summer Long for Free (or Nearly Free!)

Another free thing we like to do all summer long is the Kids Bowl Free program where we can bowl all summer long for free (okay, the kids are free, but to pay for me all summer was dirt cheap!). I didn't include it on our summer bucket list simply because it may not be available in your area, but definitely check it out if you haven't already. It's our third year doing the Kids Bowl Free program.


Fun & inexpensive things to do with the kids this summer from And Next Comes L

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pirates I Spy Game {Free Printable for Kids}

Arrrr, mateys! I have a pirate themed I spy game for kids that is full of adorable piratey goodness. From treasure maps to parrots and pirate ships, this free printable I spy game is perfect for kids to count, visually scan, and learn pirate vocabulary.

Free pirate themed I Spy game for kids from And Next Comes L

The Benefits of I Spy Games for Kids

I Spy printables like this pirate themed one are great for providing visual sensory input to kids, making them a great choice for visual sensory seekers. They also help develop a child's visual tracking ability and improve visual discrimination. This printable requires kids to visually scan through the objects and find ones that are the same.

Playing I Spy with your kids is also a great way to improve speech, language, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. I've discussed how playing I Spy games with kids can improve comprehension in kids with autism and hyperlexia before.

These types of I Spy games also encourage math learning by asking kids to count how many of each object they find.

Download the Free Printable Pirate Themed I Spy Game

This printable includes one I Spy game sheet and one answer sheet to record the number of objects found. The answer sheet uses the written word as well as an image of the object to search for to help improve comprehension - something kids with hyperlexia struggle with.


Other Ideas You'll Love

More Free Printable I Spy Games for Kids

I Spy Bundle Packs

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