Story Props

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get Beth to pay attention to stories beyond a certain level. Like the “Pete the Cat” and “Dr. Seuss” level. If I attempted a reading of a story like Little Red Riding Hood, Tortoise and the Hare, Bear Snores On, or other similar books that were more sophisticated in language and concept, she just seemed to have no interest. I tried verifying she understood each page (classic who, what, where, when, why questioning), simplifying language, re-phrasing it for her, and buying simplified versions of some stories. Still, no interest. What was missing? I wasn’t sure at the time, but I decided to try story props. Many story props (felt board, puppets, play sets, etc.) exist for preschool stories, but they are often hard to find or do not exist for the level-up stories. So making these props was no small feat, but in the end it was worth it.

I understand now, the biggest thing missing for her was inference. The more complicated the story, the more you have to infer what is not on the pages. She was not paying attention because she simply didn’t get it. For example, Bear Snores On and other bear books by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. The characters move around to various places but you don’t see them making the journey. On one page of one book a character is in a hole, then he is out the next page. The actual coming out of the hole is not shown. In another book the characters go through a variety of actions to take care of their sick friend bear, but a lot of the actions are implied. Beth needed to see it and do it to understand. Another huge problem with the bear books was the concept that other words or phrases have the same meaning as many other words and phrases in the world. In other words, Beth was not inferring unknown words from the pictures and hints in the other text. Through saying over and over while using the story props, this “means” she finally got the meaning of the word “means” and that there are a lot of words and phrases in the world that mean the same thing. As another example, the Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie books. Beth didn’t know that the characters were talking back and forth until we acted it out. It is essentially an inference problem, because the author never uses “said” or “says” in the books and there were so many back and forth exchanges. The above are just examples of how we can never take for granted that many kids with autism must be specifically taught concepts that those of us without autism and language delays do naturally.

Kids with autism primarily have a communication condition. It is not enough to question them on who, what, where, when, why and then hope they magically connect the pieces, which is unfortunately the approach of most reading programs for kids with autism based on what I saw in Beth’s K classroom and from what other parents have told me. There was not a single puppet or story prop in her K classroom before I pulled Beth out, but there were a lot of flash cards with single words. I strongly feel these kids need to see what is happening to connect ideas, but a lot of people are focused on making short term gains with flash cards because it is easier to collect data, it is less expensive, and it is easier to show progress. But later on, almost all the kids with autism I know in classes like Beth’s get stuck at comprehension. Have we lost the art of story telling? Have we sacrificed teaching comprehension and fostering connection of ideas for basic drills of single ideas in the autism classroom?  I think we should at least ask if this is part of the problem and if more efforts towards teaching comprehension should be introduced earlier in the process.

Below are some samples of story props I have created or bought that really worked to help Beth appreciate and understand these stories. In some cases, these props just added a new appreciation and a deeper understanding of old favorites, like Pete the Cat. In the other cases it was like a light bulb went on for her where there was absolutely no light before. It would take me an eternity to write down how I found or made all these things, but in general…stuffed animals, Folkmanis finger puppets, and figures from Amazon (Toob, Safari, U.S. Toy, Schleich-use half price coupons for Michael and AC Moore craft stores, if an animal doesn’t exist, like a mole, you may have to chop off some body parts and/or use acrylic paint!), felt, painting and cutting up boxes, calico critters / doll house / fairy garden accessories, and finding someone who sews (thank you Judy…the bear quilt was amazing and Pet the Cat’s groovy buttons are a big hit) can get you a long way. If you have specific questions about how I did something please contact me ( I will add more story props to this post as I make them.

Bear Wants More, Bear Snores On and Other Bear Stories

Bear Wants More

Sample concepts: Bears sleep all winter and wake up hungry and thin in spring, they eat a lot when they wake up, cave and the different names for cave, different forest animal names, decorating, strawberry patch, clover patch, fishing process, bears eat fish and berries, if you eat too much you get too big (and can’t even get back in the cave in this case), picnic is eating outside. You need two bears…one bigger that can’t fit back through the cave door after eating.


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Bear Snores On

Sample concepts: Bears sleep all winter but many other animals don’t, friends were scared when they woke the bear but he was just sad because he missed the party, making popcorn, tea




Bear’s New Friend

Sample concepts: the new friend owl is shy and hides from new people in a tree and in a hole, misunderstanding shy for someone not liking you, being scared when the owl jumps out, asking “Who?”



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Bear Says Thanks

Sample concepts: sharing, having different things one can share, different foods, being thankful



Bear Feels Sick

Sample concepts: feeling sick, taking care of loved ones (with food, drink, cold cloth, checking fever, worrying), illness can be transferred to others, feeling well



Bear Feels Scared

I found that after I did the above, I didn’t need the props for this one. But what a great book. Concepts: being lost and scared, having friends come search for you, feeling safe again. This was my favorite book of all of them!

Pete the Cat

Pete the Cat Groovy Buttons

My friend Judy made the shirt and velcro buttons (I had to paint one with acrylic paint to match the color in the story). The doll is from Amazon. She LOVED popping them off. The best part was showing Beth the buttons rolling away.


Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes

pete the cat

This Little Folks felt set (purchased from Amazon) is great to show Pete stepping in things, staining his shoes, then having everything wash away when steps in the bucket (add all the layers and then take all the layers off when it washes and it tells the story perfectly).

Elephant and Piggie (Mo Wellims)

There is a Bird on Your Head!, Today I Will Fly!, and Can I Play Too?

Main Concepts: Friendship, being silly, inclusion and acceptance, humor, conversation with a friend

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The Mitten and The Hat (Jan Brett)

The Hat

Sample Concepts: Hanging clothes to dry on a clothes line, naming clothing and animals, teasing others and hurting their feelings, silly (animals wearing clothes)




The Mitten

Sample Concepts: the concept of squeezing into something and stretching out something, silly (dump the animals out and make a big deal of the sneeze-that makes an impression!), knitting mittens (I used felt, but knitted mittens would be even better for this story…then you could teach making clothes with yarn), easy re-telling of past events (what happened? who stretched out the mitten?)






In the Tall, Tall Grass and In a Small, Small Pond

Sample concepts: many different names for movements, animal names, where animals live (pond, grass, ant hill), animals eat bugs, berries, and sip flower nectar

In the Tall, Tall Grass

The bat finger puppets (Folkmanis) were a big hit because of the way their wings float.






In the Small, Small Pond

Good luck finding a crayfish…just use a small lobster.


The Golden Egg Book

Sample Concepts: Various actions (rolling down a hill-use pillows under a blanket to make a hill, kicking, jumping on, etc), guessing what is inside something, being lonely and making friends




Rosie’s Walk

Sample concepts: prepositions, navigation, slapstick comedy (the fox is chasing the chicken but hits himself with a rake, falls into a pond, gets covered with flour, lands in hay, upsets a bee hive). The farm play set is from Amazon (Storytime toys) but any farm toy can be used.









Sequencing is a …

XXXXX. You fill in the blank (hint, it rhymes with witch).

Not that sequencing is a bad thing per se, it has just been a huge struggle for Beth. Sequencing with pictures is important, because it is a great tool for teaching basic story telling, which helps with conversation and reading comprehension, and it is also useful for teaching steps in a process (i.e. “how” things are done). Beth’s difficulties with visual attention, visual motor planning, gross motor planning, working memory, expressive language, inference from pictures, and impulsivity means we were stuck in basic 3-step sequencing for months with essentially no progress. We kept plugging away at it though and we finally have a process that works. Below I give my advice and examples of how we do 3-step sequencing based on some hard lessons learned. I hope this will be of help to others who are struggling with basic sequencing.

1. Ditch the store-bought sets and make sequences that are meaningful to the child. After I tried and failed with about 5 ready-made sequencing sets, I resorted to taking my own pictures of my child doing every-day tasks. The payoff was immediate. I suggest choosing sequences that the child is very, very familiar with and asking what he/she sees in the pictures before you use them for sequencing. If the child doesn’t understand what a picture is trying to represent (the inference), then re-take the picture to correct the inference, ditch the set, or save the set for later. Remember, in the beginning the goal is to work on the sequence in and of itself. Here is a list of common basic sequences and pictures of a few sets we use:

  • Favorite foods/drinks (e.g., peel banana, eat banana, throw away peel; open yogurt, get spoon, eat yogurt; open water, pour water, drink water)
  • Favorite activities (e.g., open bubbles, get wand, blow bubbles)
  • Going to familiar places (e.g., get in the car, Mommy or Daddy drives, we got to [familiar place])
  • Familiar processes (e.g., go into store, get shopping cart, pay; unlock door, open door, walk outside; open car door, get in the car seat, Mommy or Daddy drives)
  • Beginning, middle, end of favorite books or videos
  • Daily living tasks (e.g., put on pants, put on socks, put on shoes; put toothpaste on toothbrush, brush teeth, rinse; go potty, get toilet paper, flush; turn on water, get soap, wash hands; turn on water, take a bath, dry with towel)
Sequence 1: Open yogurt, get a spoon, eat yogurt; Sequence 2: Open bubbles, get wand, blow bubbles

Top sequence: open yogurt, get a spoon, eat yogurt; Bottom sequence: open bubbles, get wand, blow bubbles

Top Sequence: get in the car, Daddy drives, go to Subway; Bottom sequence: Put toothpaste on toothbrush, brush teeth, rinse

2. Address visual attention challenges. Beth gets easily distracted and has trouble with looking on a flat table-top surface for extended periods of time. Typical solutions for increasing visual attention include the use of slant boards and easels. We address some activities through a slant board, but I have found an easel is better for tougher tasks. As shown in the video below, for sequencing we use a magnetic white board table top easel, and I attach magnetic tape on the back of the laminated pictures (you can use clear contact paper or a laminator).
3. Address motor planning challenges. If motor planning is an issue, find a motor plan that works for sequencing and stick to it (and tell all therapists and teachers to use the same motor plan). You will see in the video below we went with boxes for placement and we place the pictures above or below the boxes on an easel.
4. For visual scanning or impulsivity problems, guide the child to slow down and look at all the pictures first.  I have learned a great deal from watching where Beth’s eye gaze is directed, and have noted her getting fixated on certain pictures, stopping mid-scan, not looking before she grabs a picture, etc. To be successful with this task, the child must examine all the pictures first. I usually use a verbal prompt (I say look at the pictures, or if she is really distracted I tell her to look at each picture) and often use a sweeping motion with my hand.  I am very careful to avoid guiding her to the answer with my hand (I stop randomly while sweeping/pointing and randomize placement of pictures).
5. Start with a sequence the child knows and model the task. I use A, B, C and 1, 2, 3 in the beginning of each session to remind Beth what we are doing (shown in video below). For completely new sequences I model the set several times before I expect her to sequence the cards independently.
6. Keep the guiding language consistent at first, then expand to more complex and varied language. I started with saying “What do you first?” (she places first ), “And then?” (she places second), “And then?” (she places third picture). But after a while I realized sequencing is a great opportunity for language expansion once Beth gets the process for a particular set of cards. Then I started varying the language and asking longer phrases. Here are some ideas:

  • “How do you [insert main sequence idea]?  First…then…, then…”
  • “What do you need to do when you want to [insert activity]?  First…then….then….”
  • “Let’s put these in order. First…, next…, last…”
  • “Let’s talk about the story (for books or video screen shots). In the beginning…, in the middle…, at the end…”

7. Reward appropriately and give breaks. You will see in the video we got lucky and only used scented stickers for this round of sequencing, but I keep the reward high for this demanding task. We have used mints, gum, gel clings on the light table, a promise to go outside, and many other things to keep Beth motivated. The video below is a particularly long session for her and in general I give her more frequent breaks. Some days she is just not into the task, so we tray again later or do the task another day.
8. Once 3-step sequencing with custom cards is mastered, consider moving to store-bought sets to expand learning and language. You can work on what the boy, girl, or group is doing in the pictures (work on he is..,  she is.., they are…), teach new processes, find gaps in knowledge, and get ideas for new activities you can do together. For example, if a set of sequence cards shows making lemonade and the child does not understand the sequence due to lack of experience with the process, make lemonade together.
9. Most importantly, observe carefully and think outside the box. Despite Beth’s expressive language delays, she chose to talk during the sequencing activity.  It definitely surprised me, but now I understand that using expressive language slowed her down and helped her with task focus and working memory.  I believe in following my child’s lead in general, but it is especially important during challenging teaching tasks.

The Proloquo Stimmer

Towards the beginning of this year, I wrote several posts on my Fumbling Thru Autism facebook page ( about hiring a Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) consultant, purchasing a separate iPad, and programming the heck out of Proloquo2Go ( For those who are unfamiliar, the iPad app Proloquo2Go is basically an electronic way to generate expressive (spoken) language with a series of customizable visual choice boards via icons that speak when touched. As of August, we have put AAC and Proloquo2Go on hold and the purpose of this post is to explain why we came to that decision. There are many blog posts by others who tout that AAC does not interfere with spoken language development ( and proponents will hint or outright say that deciding not to use AAC is denying any child with expressive language delay a voice. But I have decided that things can be much more complicated than they seem, and the decision of appropriateness of AAC for a young child who has significant spoken language delay and autism depends on a many competing factors. I will start this post with Beth’s speech profile at the time we tried Proloquo2Go, detail some of our experiences while trying to use Proloquo2Go, and then give an update on Beth’s speech.

Beth’s Language Profile

Beth’s last detailed speech evaluation was a few months before we tried Proloquo2Go, in October 2012 at 4.5 years old. The results showed a 2-year-old receptive (ability to understand what others are saying) and 2-year-old expressive (ability to speak) language level. Beth’s articulation was assessed as appropriate for her expressive language level.

I was uncertain of the accuracy of the receptive language speech assessment, and I wondered if Beth receptively understood more than she could show during the test. In addition, I was inspired by all the stories of kids in news reports and blog posts who could not talk or could not say complex things with spoken words, but could use a device to reveal complex inner thoughts.  So in an expensive experiment, my husband and I decided to try Proloquo2Go on the iPad.

Proloquo2Go Setup

This is the main menu for Proloquo2Go (I tried many formats, this is how I left it when we stopped using the device). The icons that are outlined in thick black and look like folders have sub-menus. Some icons/folders were for requesting things that she could say verbally but sometimes had trouble saying (like food and drink), some were for things that I thought she might know receptively, but could not express (like expressing feelings, yes/no), and some were for teaching new expressive language  (like question words and school work).

Main Screen Proloquo2Go

Main Screen Proloquo2Go

Despite tons of modeling, encouragement, and sometimes even a quick hand over hand to expand her language, when Beth picked up the device she went to the “want” folder most of the time. So the main screen was primarily used by me for modeling new language and I made sure anything she requested like food, drink, and favorite items were in the “want” folder, even if there was a duplicate way to request the item from the main screen.

I Want...

I Want…

Confused just looking at the screens above?  You should be! Programming just enough language to let a child be independent and yet not hold her back form advancing her language was a monumental task, especially since she already had a significant amount of spoken language. I played around a lot with removing words, making icons bigger, and changing layouts so that Beth could visually scan and make the choices easier. I didn’t want it to cut into other things we were doing, so I was up late at night programming the thing all the time. I wanted to make sure I was giving the device the best chance possible. So if you take this route with a program like Proloquo, know that it will be a full-time effort at first and it will be very time consuming.  But there are other options out there, such as SpeakForYourself (, which I understand is easier to use.

Test Cases

At the time we started using Proloquo, high on our communication frustration list were the following:

  • Requesting items, foods, and drinks (she requested things very inconsistently at the time).
  • Telling me which song she wanted in the car, because she just kept saying “Jack” over and over. Jack was in reference to a Jack Johnson album we played many times, so she was stuck saying “Jack” but it seemed she wanted other songs and would scream in frustration.
  • Saying people’s names during greetings.
  • Answering yes or no when we asked her questions.

I figured if we could make progress in the above areas, which we had been working on for a long time verbally, then I would be sold on Proloquo and AAC for Beth.

Test Case Results

  • Requesting Items: When she went to the “want” folder, she went to her favorite items. So, what Poloquo2Go taught me was that she was basically thinking about her mouthing items (floss, edible toothpaste, etc.) all the time! I sort of knew that, but I didn’t know the extent of it. After playing around with her favorites, she eventually settled of pressing certain buttons over and over. Beth is a huge sound stimmer and Proloquo2Go was no exception. I finally came to the conclusion that she was gravitating to her favorites, then stimming off the sound. If I would move her onto the food folder, she would do the same thing, first play around, then settle on a few favorites, then stim off the sound. Proloquo2Go has an option to have a wait time and disable the sound for a time period after pressing the icon, but she got confused and frustrated after I added the wait and she would walk away. I thought maybe the favorite things were just too powerful, so I moved her onto the other test cases.
  • Song Requests: The first challenge was to get images that represented songs on some mixed CDs that we had in the car. Fortunately there were many pictures available within the program so I didn’t have to pull stuff off of Google. Examples of song icons: the sun icon represented “Sally Go Around the Sun” and the elephants depicted “Elephants Have Wrinkles” (see screen shot below). I really thought the song request menu was working for a while. She did like to listen to the same song over and over. But then she started stimming on the sound again by pressing certain buttons over and over. When I put the wait time on the sound, she would explore the buttons more, but would always come back to her favorite stim buttons. Was she stimming? Was she requesting the same song over and over?  Now we have worked on this issues without the device with success, I can say looking back that it was both. The combination of Beth’s impulsive button pushing (she has impulse control issues with almost anything, and she will act before thinking) and stimming meant that spoken language, while harder for her, had a benefit in that it slowed her down and she had to stop to consider choices and what she wanted to say first.
Song Choices

Song Choices

  • Saying People’s Names During Greetings: The “people” folder I used for teaching the names of family and friends consisted of pictures of everyone we know. To make a long story short, what I learned from Proloquo2Go was that kiddo cannot put names to faces.  I noticed she really avoids looking at and studying people in real life, and she cannot name people unless she ties that person to a location or she knows them very, very well. I have even made a huge poster of friends that has been hanging on our kitchen wall for months and we discuss the names and faces and their features and she still cannot do it. I strongly suspect face blindness at this point. So, the problem was not that she couldn’t say people’s names, it was that she had a problem with processing faces and then putting names to faces.
  • Answering “Yes” and “No”: We had tried forever to get Beth to answer yes or no to questions consistently by various methods. I thought this was a slam dunk for Proloquo2Go and that she most likely understood how to answer receptively, but was just having trouble speaking the answers. To make another long story short, even yes and no resulted in impulsive button pushing and stimming, and it turns out she really didn’t understand the interaction and what it meant to answer yes or no to a question. We (me, her dad, and speech therapist) did an intense verbal effort and what seemed to worked best was shaking our heads back and forth to prompt her to say “no” when we were fairly sure she did not want something and nodding our heads up and down to prompt her to say “yes” when we were fairly sure she wanted something. I can say now that she fully understands “yes” and “no” answers and I have Proloquo2Go to thank for making me realize it was a true understanding issue and not just an expressive language issue.

Reflecting on Proloquo2Go

Proloquo2Go did not reveal a huge gap between expressive and receptive language like I had hoped. But then again the sound stimming and the impulsivity with pressing buttons impeded our efforts to use the device effectively. Also, she was recently diagnosed with impaired visual scanning, which feeds into her tendency to not look and examine items before she presses buttons. The upshot is that since Beth has a significant amount of expressive language and her articulation is not bad, the motivation for continuing to try to figure out ways around the stimming and impulsivity is just not there for me. Even though it did not work out for us right now, I can see a point in the future where her receptive language outweighs her expressive language ability and typing out thoughts may be easier for her. So, we are working on spelling, writing, and organizing spelling letter tiles right now, with an eye on typing in the future.

Progress is a Slow Slog

Beth has made a lot of progress in the last 4 months after we discontinued Proloquo2Go. A new speech evaluation is pending, but I would say Beth, who  is 5 years and 9 months old, is somewhere between a 3 and 4-year-old expressive level. I would say her receptive language understanding is definitely at a higher level than her expressive language now. Now that I understand Beth better, I would say that she has problems getting stuck on phrases and linking certain words to others, and impulsively answers without considering the question or her options carefully. Giving her lists of choices and mixing up the choices, and telling her to slow down and think through the options, is helping her stop and consider choices before speaking the answer. Also, being extremely concrete about what words mean, what I am asking, why she should say certain things during social situations is effective for her now that she has more receptive language. At this point, Beth totally gets answering yes and no (and even says no (insert non-preferred item here)), her requests for food, drink, and favorite items are rapid fire, she can request many different songs in the car, and she is able to string words together a little easier. We are making progress. It is just a slow, slow slog.

Review of Language Category iPad Apps

See here for an updated post on what worked for us:

In my last post, I compiled and shared a list of language categories ( By keeping the list of categories in mind, I can quickly highlight categories with Beth in natural settings, such as while reading, playing with toys, and on outings. But Beth’s understanding of categories has been emerging for a very long time, and I was unsure if she was progressing with incidental teaching.  So, I do what I usually do when we have a tough problem. I turned to the iPad as a teaching aid. I downloaded and road tested (i.e. Beth, my 5 year old who has autism, played with them) as many language category apps as I could find.  The good news is there are many to choose from. The bad news is, in my opinion, no single category app has a wide range of categories, necessary customization capabilities, and adequate rewards to motivate Beth.  So, I used parts of several apps for teaching Beth categories on the iPad and it seems to be helping.

Below is my review (actually Beth’s review) of the language category apps we tried. My hope is this post will help you filter through all the options faster than I did, because it took me a month to locate and try all of these apps.  If there is a key category apps missing from this post and you would like Beth to review it, please contact me at

Rating system:

  • Worth Trying
  • It’s Okay, But…
  • Didn’t Work For My Kiddo

Sing it!

Tuneville (


Idea: This app uses the time-honored tradition of teaching kids through song

Price: The section  “How Many…” is free, each additional section (like categories) is $0.99.

Rating: Worth Trying


  • Good graphics and design (pause button, several levels to progress from listening to a song to full participation, catchy songs)
  • For kids who love songs, this app capitalizes on that natural motivator
  • If your child likes the song, you can easily create a new song to the same tune (or just try singing the last question of the song “What are these?”)  to extend to categories outside of the app.


  • The categories they include are great core categories (food, clothing, letters, numbers, shapes, animals, instruments, and toys), but I wish they had more.  
  • I wish they varied the questions “What are these?” to teach the different ways of asking about categories (I just pause after the first “What are these?” and sing things like “What do you see?” and “These things I see are…?” to vary the question).

Read and Play!

Buddy Bear (Lite: ; Full version: budy bear categories Idea: The app is like a book, with an easy matching component and short animation.

Price: Lite version free, full version $14.99

Rating: Worth Trying


  • It was a hit with Beth because of the cute bear, easy matching that kept her engaged, and rewarding short animation clips.
  • Fairly wide range of categories put in context.


  • The categories range from easy to complex and the categories cannot be limited in settings (but it is pretty easy to skip ahead).

Create a Scene Together!

Make a Scene (
make a scene Idea: The app is like putting stickers on a background scene, where you drag and place critters from the bottom bar to the background. There are several “Make a Scene” apps (like farm, ocean, jungle).

Price: Each category (with many items to place on a few different backgrounds) is $0.99

Rating: Worth Trying


  • Good graphics with fun sounds and short animation after the items are dragged and dropped into a background scene
  • Good beginner category activity


  • My only wish is for more scenes, but you can’t have everything!

Talking Picture Board (

talking picture board Idea: The app has many features (large choice board organized into categories, ability to create quizzes and flashcards), but I like it because you can create scenes by putting items onto a background

Price: $1.99

Rating: Worth Trying


  • Huge board with many categories and real pictures of items
  • Large number of background scenes (save items in the “banks” and then use the play mode to create scenes)
  • This app packs it in.  You can quickly make a memory game, flashcards, a receptive identification game, and create sentences.  Save a subset of category items in a bank and make custom games (a memory game, flashcards and receptive identification games, yes/no game, and a spelling game) and create picture sentences.
  • The ability to take your own photos using the iPad camera for category items and backgrounds and save them within the app


  • The design is a bit cumbersome, due to process of saving category items into “banks” to create the customized games and activities.  Also, it would be better if photos of my category items could be saved within each category rather than being located in one separate location.
  • Cannot add a spoken label to the category photo items I add through my iPad camera
  • Beth was not as interested in creating scenes in this app as she was with the Make a Scene app discussed above.  Probably because the items did not animate when they were placed on the background.

Sort It!

Categories Learning Center (by Smarty Ears) ( category app smarty ears

Idea: Sorting items into two bottles and much more (other sections for category naming, Where Does It Go? game for sorting into three bottles)

Price: $9.99

Rating: Worth Trying


  • Huge list of categories, with options to turn each category on and off (organized by level 1 and 2 categories)
  • Easy concept … sorting things into bottles
  • High level category challenges (sorting and flashcard/question games) to try after your child masters simple sorting into two bottles


  • Uses cartoon-like pictures instead of real pictures and the pictures are a bit small
  • There is no reward.  A satisfying “clink” as the items go into the bottle would be so much better (like the Candy Count app for sorting colors, and fireworks/verbal praise when all items are sorted correctly is needed.
  • For the level with two bottles, it would help to separate the bottles apart more to reduce the fine motor challenge.

Sort It Out 1 & 2 (Lite: and , Full versions through in-app purchases)

sort it out

Idea: Sorting of items onto a few scenes, but mostly into shelves/long boxes

Price: Lite version free, full version through in-app purchase $1.99

Rating: Worth Trying


  • Cute cartoon-like graphics
  • Good starter app with easy categories
  • Reward is a smiley face and verbal praise


  • I see this as a starter app only, since there are no spoken words when the items are pressed and the category list is limited (no higher level categories)
  • Beth needed a lot of modeling by me and verbal hints (put with the cars, put with the balls, etc) with these apps. I think the large field of items at the bottom of the screen and the sorting into horizontal bars above was a bit visually overwhelming to her.
  • It could use a better reward (fireworks, spinning, or confetti)

Tiny Hands Sorting 1 & 2 (Lite: and , Full versions through in-app purchases)

tiny hands

Idea: Simple sorting games into containers or backgrounds.

Price: Lite version free, full version through in-app purchase $2.99

Rating: Worth Trying


  • Very nice cartoon-like graphics
  • Good starter app with easy categories
  • Nice hint feature (a hand showing where to drag item)
  • Very intiuitive…Beth had no problem knowing what to do
  • Reward is a silly character flying across the screen with balloons, verbal praise, and applause


  • I see this as a starter app only, since there are no spoken words when the items are pressed and the category list is limited (no higher level categories)

Autism iHelp – Sorting (Lite: , Full version through in-app purchase -9 category sets)

iHelp Sorting App Idea: Sorting items from the bottom of the screen into two category boxes on the top of the screen.

Price: Lite version free, full version through in-app purchase $1.99

Rating: It’s Okay, But…


  • Uses real high-quality pictures
  • Encouraging verbal praise for each correctly sorted item
  • Settings allow for audio on/off, male/female voice, varied sorting of number of items in each box


  • A limited, and random, set of categories (toys/clothes, farm animals/zoo animals, bathroom/kitchen, letters/numbers, circles/rectangles, green things/red things, air vehicles/land vehicles, happy/sad, he/she)
  • Could use some fireworks and extra reward after all items are sorted correctly

Where Do I Go? (Lite:, Full version through in-app purchase) Where do I go Idea: Sort items by dragging them from the bottom of the screen and dropping them into one of three category scenes.

Price: Lite version free, full version through in-app purchase $1.99

Rating: It’s Okay, But…


  • Cute cartoon-like graphics for the sorting items and sorting box background
  • I love the combination of sorting and making a scene to put the category items in context
  • Confetti, a big happy face star, verbal praise, and a spinning category item as the reward
  • Nice hint option (a hand showing where to drag item) that can be turned on/off in settings


  • Small set of categories (home [kitchen, bathroom, living room], climate [polar, tropical, desert], geography[sea, land, sky], food [fruit, vegetables, grain], animals [mammals, birds, reptiles])
  • The categories were too advanced for Beth.  I guess it can be used for higher level sorting for older kids (?)
  • No customization options.
  • One of the verbal praises is “I’m home!”  Can you imagine that becoming a verbal stim for an autism spectrum kid?  I can, so I hesitate to use this app!

Category Carousel ( category carousel

Idea: Sort items by dragging them from the bottom of the screen and dropping them into two small category icons on the top of the screen.

Price: $3.99

Rating: Didn’t Work For My Kiddo


  • Uses real high-quality pictures
  • Encouraging verbal praise for each correctly sorted item
  • A visual reward with carnival music and carnival picture after a selected number of items are sorted correctly
  • Settings allow you to choose the categories to be sorted and adjust the number of items to be sorted (6, 9, 12), adjust the number of correct items sorted until the reward music/image appears, and change the frequency and select on/off for verbal praise.


  • The program uses a drag and drop method, where the pictures must be placed over the appropriate category icon (which has a single image that is supposed to represent a category) in the upper bar and then the pictures you drag to the icon disappear.  This design confused and frustrated Beth, so we couldn’t use the app.
  • A limited, and random, set of categories (animals, transportation, clothing, food, household, instruments, occupations, summer, winter) with easy and hard pictures mixed together within the categories.
  • There is no way to select and hide some pictures within each category
  • It would be so much better if a short video of a spinning carousel or other carnival ride was used as the reward!

Sort It Out Pack ( sort it out

Idea: Sorting items into two train cars

Price: $29.99

Rating: Didn’t Work For My Kiddo


  • Cute concept with the train traveling to different places and getting loaded with cargo
  • A large number of pre-loaded categories (flowers, toys, bedroom, music, body parts, weather, drinks, sports, school, ocean, cleaning, shapes, house, insects, animals, clothes, tools, bathroom, kitchen, transportation, vegetables, fruit)
  • Easy concept … sorting things into two train cars
  • Verbal praise and slight fireworks when the items are all sorted
  • You can take pictures with the iPad and add them to the pre-loaded categories or make new category sets


  • For the price of the app, it fell way short of my expectations
  • The app contains drawings instead of real pictures
  • Many of the pictures within a category were not beginner pictures or not familiar to Beth, and there was no easy way to hide the pictures for later use without deleting it
  • Instead of accepting the item if it is placed anywhere within the appropriate category train car, the app requires that each picture be placed within a box and the tolerance is tight.  This really frustrated Beth.
  • The ability to take pictures is great, but it was very difficult to get a good picture and the size of the picture ended up to be too small for Beth to recognize the item (there is letter box above and below the pictures that makes the pictures even smaller than the pre-loaded drawings)
  • This is picky, but it just bugged me that the places the train stopped sometimes had absolutely nothing to do with the categories my child was sorting. They could have just had very general stops like home, city, nature, etc. and that would have been more appropriate for sorting various categories in context.

Flashcards (Ho, Hum, Yawn…)

This section is brief because Beth doesn’t like the flashcard apps on the iPad, and these were no exception.

ABA Receptive By Class (


Idea:  Receptive identification

Price: $1.99

Rating: Worth Trying

Note: This app is by  If you like them, check out their other flashcards…nouns, feature/function/class, etc.

Biggest Pro: Large category set with real pictures and customization options.

Biggest Con: None.  This is a good deal.

Categories Learning Center (by Smarty Ears) (

See review above under the Sort It! section.

Rating: Worth Trying

See.Touch.Learn (

see touch learn

Idea: This is an excellent flashcard program if you will be using a lot of flashcards and want to make custom sets.

Price: Free, with in-app purchases of card sets (range from $0.99 to $1.99 a set) and a charge for community membership where you can download sets (such as category quizzes) put together by other people to save time ($1.99 for one week, $19.99 for a year).

Rating: Worth Trying

Biggest Pro: You can do anything flashcard related with this app.  I own it and we used it for Beth’s old ABA program, and may use it again to gauge progress.

Biggest Con: It is time-consuming to make custom sets.  Expect to join the community and buy all the sets, because you will end up doing that!

Talking Picture Board (

See review above under the Create a Scene Together section.

Rating: Worth Trying

Name That Category (Fun Deck) (

name that category

Idea:  Flashcards

Price: $1.99

Rating: It’s Okay, But…

Biggest Pro: Cute cartoon-like pictures

Biggest Con: This is simply a flash card set.  Beth found the pictures slightly amusing.

Category Therappy (Lite:, Full:


Idea:  Receptive identification of category items in four different games

Price: Lite version free, full version (with more categories and ability to limit categories) through in-app purchase $14.99

Rating: Didn’t Work For My Kiddo

Biggest Pro: Large range of categories with real pictures

Biggest Con: When Beth tried the Classify game, the design frustrated her and was the complete opposite of every other category app on the market.  She wanted to drag and drop the category item on the category, which made intuitive sense, but the app wanted her to poke the overall category.

I Can Do Categories (

i can do

Idea:  Receptive identification of category items in five levels of games

Price: $2.99

Rating: Didn’t Work For My Kiddo

Biggest Pro: Large range of categories with real pictures

Biggest Con: When Beth hit the wrong answer in the Level 1 game, then tried to hit the right answer, nothing happened and she was confused.  Usually apps reward choosing the correct answer even if the child picks the wrong one at first, but not this app.

Language Categories

See here for an updated post on what worked for us:

Grouping things into categories in one’s mind is important, because it provides an efficient way to store information and an easy means for discussing groups of items. As I understand it, children typically pick up on and create categories naturally, but some children with language delays struggle with the concept of categories. My child Beth, who has autism, struggles greatly with categories. I believe it is because once Beth learns one name for something, to call it a new higher-level name does not make sense in her mind. Whatever the reason, Beth needs to be taught categories explicitly.

I am teaching Beth categories by pointing them out during outings (stores are great for this, because similar items are grouped into categories on shelves), category learning apps, and hands-on learning activities (sorting, flashcards, I Spy games, etc.). I will review category learning apps and give examples of hands-on activities in later posts.

The language category list below was derived from multiple sources (category apps and hands-on kits used to teach categories in special education). It is not exhaustive, as there are thousands of categories one can create. I was unable to find a large list like this on the internet, so I hope it will be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and therapists.

Beginning Categories

Things of the Same Color.  For example, red things like a fire engine, apple, stop sign, etc.

Things With Same Features or Function.  For example, group together simple and familiar items, like toy cars of different shape, size, and/or color

Note: some researchers believe there is a “shape bias” as a natural developmental stage, so you may need to play around with bias to understand how your child is grouping things together.  My daughter seems to have a slight shape and strong color bias when sorting in categories (1, 2).

Easy to Intermediate Categories


Body Parts

Clothing (All clothing or Sub-Categories like Things You Put on Feet, Things You Put on Head)





Insects (also called Bugs)

Instruments (also called Music)




Sports (also called Sports Equipment, Sport Balls)



Utensils.  For example, fork, knife, and spoon.

Vehicles (also called Transportation, Things You Ride In)

More Advanced Categories

Baby Items.  For example, diaper, bottle, and stroller.

Buildings.  For example, house, barn, skyscraper, and store.

Cleaning.  For example, rag, sponge, dish soap, broom, and mop.

Climate.  For example, polar, tropical, and dessert.

Community Helpers.  For example, police officer, firefighter, nurse, doctor, and librarian.

Electronics.  For example, T.V., iPad, stereo, computer, and phone.


Home Appliances


Jobs (also called Occupations)

Land, Air, or Water Transportation


Opposites.  For example: big/little (large/small), hot/cold, happy/sad, and hard/soft.

Places.  For example, beach, park, school, home, store, and church.

Plants.  For example, flowers, trees, bushes, and house plants.

Rooms in a House.  For example, Bathroom, Kitchen, Bedroom, and Living Room.


Tableware.  For example, knife, spoon, fork, cup, glass, plate, napkin, and bowl.

Things in the Air (or sky).  For example, planes, birds, hot air balloon, and clouds.

Things in the Room of a House.  For example, a bathroom has toilet paper, toilet, and a sink.

Things Found in Places.  For example, Ocean/Beach (sand, shells, beach ball, umbrella, sand bucket, etc.), Park/Playground (slide, trees, ducks, swings, water fountain, park bench, etc.), School (desk, teacher, kids, glue, backpack, chalkboard, pencil, etc.)

Things of the Same Shape.  For example, a pizza, orange, and tire are round.

Things That Make Light

Things That Tell Time


Types of Animals.  For example, jungle, birds, farm, forest, sea (ocean), dessert, zoo, water, dinosaurs, pets, animals on land/animals that swim, reptiles, and amphibians.

Types of Food.  For example, vegetables, grains, meat, fruit, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, dessert, candy, and fast food.

Types of People.  For example, man, woman, baby, girl, and boy.





Expanding Zingo

In my last post, I wrote about how to make easy turn-taking games easier (  Now Beth and I play turn-taking games for hours every day.  It is so wonderful to work on interaction and language development and have fun at the same time.

When given a choice of games, Beth always chooses Zingo ( , picture below).  There is something uniquely fun about sliding that dispenser to eject the game pieces, matching the pictures, and then throwing up our hands and yelling (well, quietly yelling) “Zingo!” when we are done filling our cards.  During the game Beth readily talks.  I ask, “What did you get?” and she almost always answers.  Lately I don’t even need to ask, she is commenting on her pieces without prompting.  I also expand her language based on the game pieces. “What does the dog say?”, “Where does the bird fly?”, and “Where do you put a hat?” are just a few examples of ways we expand language during play.  After running out of ideas to expand Beth’s language using the Zingo game pieces, I realized it was time to expand Zingo itself.

Below are two ways I have expanded Zingo by making custom made Zingo game pieces.  I wanted to keep our original Zingo game in tact so that we could still play the game, so I bought a second Zingo game (Zingo 1-2-3 numbers version [1], which we will use later when she is counting) to attach pictures to the game pieces.


Clip Art on Zingo Game Pieces

I bought JPEG clip art files from an artist on Etsy (  Using Power Point, I sized the clip art appropriately and added text under each picture, then I printed out game boards and smaller images for the Zingo game pieces.  Next, I cut out and covered the game boards with clear Con-tact paper (2) and cut out the smaller images and attached them to the Zingo game pieces (I used clear Con-tact paper to attach the paper to the game pieces, but Scotch tape should also work) (3).  Here are three sets of games I made with links to the JPEG files and my Power Point Templates:

Farm & Vehicles

Farm & Vehicles

Summer & Brown Bear, Brown Bear Story

Summer & Brown Bear, Brown Bear Story



JPEG files (4)  for the above game boards and game pieces with instructions (click on links below, then hover over images and right click and use “save as” to save jpeg files on your computer):

Power Point Template if you want to create your own boards and Zingo game pieces with other files:

Stickers on Zingo Game Pieces

Another method is to buy stickers and put them on the Zingo game pieces, which is a great option for adding your child’s favorite characters to the Zingo game.  If you want to reuse your tiles, be aware that some self-adhesive stickers adhere strongly, so it will be a lot of work to remove the stickers. Also, it was difficult to find stickers that were the right size to cover the whole original image on the Zingo game pieces.  Therefore, for most stickers sets, I cut out each sticker to the appropriate size and stuck it on white paper, then attached the mounted sticker to a Zingo game piece with clear Con-tact paper (alternatively you could use Scotch tape).  Here is a game set I made with Dora and Pooh stickers:

Dora and Pooh

Dora and Pooh




3. Another option is to print the images on self-adhesive computer labels and attach them to the Zingo game pieces, but they might be difficult to remove at a later time.

4. JPEG files posted by permission from the artist,

What to Do When Easy Turn-Taking Games Are Not Easy Enough

My daughter Beth has multiple developmental issues that interfere with her ability to play easy turn-taking games (e.g., difficulty focusing on tasks, language delay, motor planning challenges, fine motor delays, and core strength issues that make sitting difficult) .  I have attempted turn-taking games on and off starting at age 3, shortly after Beth’s autism diagnosis.  I just recently figured out how to play games with her and she is nearly 5. The key to our success was to think outside the box and modify rules, and sometimes the game itself, to fit Beth. Below is a list of the lessons I have learned on the road to playing games, with examples of the games we use (or do not use and put in the “game reject” closet) and how we modified them. Please visit these Pinterest boards for my lists of easy turn-taking games and supplies for making your own games ( and  Also, I welcome input on games and game modifications on my Facebook page (

1. No Sitting Required

Beth has trouble sitting still or sitting down to do anything, so making her sit on the floor or in a chair to play a game leads to instant frustration.   So I let her stand and I sit beside her while we play games.  Sometimes she rests her foot on a little chair behind her, sometimes she jumps or rocks at the table, and occasionally she does a lap around the house and comes back to the game.  I set out several games so that we can do one quick game after another and so that Beth can choose from the games.  Here is our game table set-up:

Game Table

Game Table

2.  Shop at Thrift Stores and Ebay, and Never Get Rid of a Game

I have found some excellent deals at thrift stores or on Ebay.   I have used the pieces from some second hand games for modifications to other games I own.  I never throw anything out or give a game away, even if it seems like a complete reject.  I may think of some way to use the game or its pieces later, so I put it in the “game reject” closet.  Example of an easy turn-taking game from a thrift store:

Maisy Game (

This is a wonderful matching game and I paid $2.50 for it.  I just tilt the spinner to help it land appropriately to avoid missed turns, otherwise it is perfect.  Beth loves this game because we have read Maisy books since she was very young.

Maisy Game

Maisy Game

3. Circumvent Fine Motor and Motor Planning Obstacles

I try to remove or lessen fine motor challenges and motor planning obstacles so that we can just focus on the game itself.  Examples of game modifications I have made to circumvent fine motor and motor planning issues:

Preschool Lotto Game (

Lotto is an easy matching game. But the instructions say to put the cards face down on a table, have the players take turns to turn one card over, and if he/she does not have the card on their board then turn the card back over and return the card to the table.  All that turning over and handling small cards on a flat surface was too difficult for Beth. Another problem was she would drag her hands across the board during play and slide the cards around the board by accident.

Modifications:  I used a paper bag to draw the cards out of the bag instead of putting them on a table.  At first we just started with her playing alone with 1 board so she did not have to return cards to the bag and miss turns.  Now we can play together and she enjoys throwing them back into the bag.  Also, I used puffy paint ( to create boarders to keep the cards in place on the game boards.

Lotto Boards With Puffy Paint Boarders, Pieces Drawn From Paper Bag

Lotto Boards With Puffy Paint Boarders, Pieces Drawn From Paper Bag

Angry Birds (Knock on Wood) (

Beth giggled when she saw the bird and pig heads, so I knew I had to make this game work for her.  She already understood the game because she plays Angry Birds on the iPad (or attempts to, often the bird gets shot the wrong way!).  The catapult in the real game is excellent…easy to load and easy to pull back.  I do the building, but even knocking it down has its challenges for Beth. She can’t work the catapult on her own by holding with one hand and pulling back with the other.  She can’t aim with the catapult by moving it or adjusting the amount she pulls it back.

Modifications:  I added a backer board (a train table mat) to increase the chances that Beth knocks something down every time (no aim required, since it bounces of the backboard and she seems to pull it back all the way every time so I can fix the catapult in one spot).  I also taped down the catapult so that she only needs to use one hand.


Angry Birds Game with Backer Board and Taped Down Catapult

Game currently in our “game reject” closet due to fine motor issues:

4. Avoid or Alter Overwhelming Sounds

When I first started playing games with Beth, she was afraid of everything, so her specific fears of sounds that games made was not clear.  But now her fears are more obvious, because she winces and/or scrunches up her face, then disengages.  If I see signs that sound is problem, I alter the game’s sound and try again.  If I can’t get it to work after a couple of tries, I just put the thing in the “game reject” closet.  Examples of games where I altered sound:

Red Rover (

Beth thinks Red Rover is adorable and she wants to play with him, so that is a big plus!  I like that there are two levels of play (easy level- the dog just requests that you feed him different colors of bones; advanced level-  the dog requests colors, shapes, and numbers). But it is hard for Beth to align and push the bones in his mouth, so I help her.  The dog uses too much language, so I have to repeat the key item he is requesting.  But the near deal breaker was that the loudness of Red Rover’s voice stops her dead in her tracks and she can do little else but listen to the recording.

Modification: I simply taped the speaker in the back, and now it doesn’t overwhelm her anymore.

Red Rover

Red Rover

Red Rover, Speaker Taped

Red Rover, Speaker Taped

Angry Birds (Knock on Wood) (

I mentioned some of the modifications to this game above, but sound is also an issue.  The sound of plastic pieces crashing to the table and into each other scare Beth.

Modification:  I put a piece of cardboard underneath to dampen the sound and I cut and sanded a square pine rod to make a quieter version.


Angry Birds, Plastic Replaced with Wood and Cardboard Underneath

Pop-Up Pirate  (

This is a very easy and fast moving turn-taking game where you plunge swords into a barrel until the pirate pops up (sort of sick!). It is a bit difficult for Beth to insert the swords due to fine motor issues, but I tilt the barrel to help her see the hole and that helps.  The biggest issue is the loud  and sudden spring-type mechanical sound when the pirate pops out, followed by the loud sound of the pirate hitting the table.

Modification:  I hold my hand above the pirate’s head and catch him, which eliminates the noise when he hits the table, which helps some. The jury is still out on this game.  I will continue to give Beth game choices and if she stops choosing it, I will assume the noise is too much and put it away.

Pop-Up Pirate

Game currently in our “game reject” closet due to noise: Lucky Ducks. Take my advice, if you have a sound-sensitive kid, don’t buy this game.  Even if you buy an old version and disable the incessant and loud quacking by taking out a battery, the motor that makes the ducks move around and around is too loud.  Turn everything off and you still have to deal with matching the bottom of the duck to a card, which involves turning the duck over, then turning him back over so that the match is hidden again. (

5. Stack the Deck & Avoid Missed Turns

I often use “stack the deck” (i.e. ensure that game cards or pieces are ordered so that there is always a play) or take other measures to avoid missed turns.  It makes the game move faster and avoids confusion.  Examples of games where I altered games to avoid missed turns:

Candyland Castle (

This was the best beginning turn-taking game for Beth.  It has action (pull the lever to shoot game piece out), but no loud noise. It is super simple and quick.  The game cards have a recessed areas to hold game pieces which is a plus.  But the instructions say to load all the pieces, take turns ejecting them out, and if there is no match put the piece back in.  The game can get long if you have to keep putting the pieces back and putting the pieces back disrupts the turn taking and flow.

Modification:  Stack the deck!  I take two cards (one for me, one for Beth) and load them up with pieces, then put pieces from each card in an alternating fashion into the castle to load it.  That way, when the lever is pulled, we take turns and there is always a match for each of our cards.

Candyland Castle

Zingo (

Zingo is a step up from Candyland Castle (mentioned directly above). It is good for working on language and has a great sliding game piece dispenser. But the game can get really long if you keep returning unplayable pieces.  The game board has no recessed areas for the pieces, so they may slide around too much.

Modification:  Stack the deck! The game dispenser spits out two game pieces at a time. I put the game pieces for my daughter’s card on one side of the dispenser, and mine on the other.  I either quickly get my piece to avoid confusion or work on the fact that Beth doesn’t have the piece, so she should give it to me.  The puffy paint mentioned in the lotto board section above can be used to make boarders around each square to keep the pieces from sliding around if needed.


Hi Ho Cherry O ( and

A spinner and removing cherries is a great way to work on counting. But the game board was too cluttered and Beth kept putting her cherries in other buckets and taking the cherries from my tree and other buckets.  The spinner has some confusing parts that lead to missed turns (e.g., bird flying off with a cherry, spilled bucket) and it was visually confusing.

Modification:  I used pieces from two games I owned (see links above), and made a version with separate trees, separate buckets, and a portable spinner.  I mounted my child’s tree on a box with a hole in it so the cherries would not slide around.  I took apart the spinner (it pulls it apart and snaps back together easily), modified it with paper covered with clear contact paper, and put only large numbers on the spinner to avoid missed turns.  At the end of the game, I tilt the spinner to get the exact number of cherries left on the tree.  The portable spinner is great for controlling the game, because after Beth’s turn, I can hold the spinner above her tree so that she stops taking off cherries and I can take my turn. I taped Beth’s tree and bucket down so it did not move during play.

Hi Ho Cherry O

Hi Ho Cherry O

Game currently in our “game reject” closet due to visual clutter: I Spy Games. These games are a visual clutter nightmare for my child!  Also, traditional board games (Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, etc).  Many newer versions are more cluttered than the classic versions for some reason.  The Lauri Toys Peggy Back Game is an easier option I plan to try:

6. Make Desired Placement of Game Pieces Obvious

My child needs to know EXACTLY where to put things during a game, or frustration ensues.  Here are some sample modifications to games to address the placement issue:

Memory Games.  When all attempts to do memory games in the real word failed, the iPad taught Beth how to play them (it took many months, but slowly, she got the concept).  But even after mastering memory games on the iPad, playing them in the real world initially failed.  Then I realized because of Beth’s need to know exactly where things go, I needed a holder to keep the game pieces in place during play and bowls for our matches.  I used foam board ( and cut out openings, then taped the foam board to the game table (the picture below shows 8 openings and I will cut out the top 4 tracings later to expand the game).  We use thick wooden tiles to help with fine motor issues (there are many sets available, here is one –

Memory Game (foam board with cut-outs to hold tiles and bowls to hold matches)

Memory Game (Foam Board with Cut-Outs to Hold Tiles in Place During Play and Bowls to Hold Matches)

Honey Bee Tree (

This is a very easy game…just take turn pulling out the leaves and collect the bees.  This is basically the game Kerplunk and there are other versions out there with monkeys and marbles, but my kid likes bees.  But it takes forever to set up, so do it before your child even approaches it!  Where do you put the bees and leaves?  This was a huge problem for Beth.  I kept trying to show her how to put them in piles, but that confused her.

Modification:  I use a tall cup for our leaves that we pull out, and we each get a short cup for our bees.  At the end we work on which cup has more by sight instead of counting them all.

Honey Bee Tree

Honey Bee Tree

7. Make Your Own Games

Here are some home-made games I have made:

Eraser Lotto Game

I go to the dollar store and buy seasonal erasers to make lotto games. I copy them on my color copier to make lotto cards (cover the cards with clear contact paper).  I hide the erasers in my daughter’s lima bean sensory bin and we take turns drawing them out to place them on the cards.  I keep note of where I place the pieces in the bin, so that I can “find” the same pieces that she finds so she doesn’t draw a repeat piece.  This is the Valentine’s Day version of the game:

Eraser Lotto Game

Eraser Lotto Game

You can also make lotto cards by copying pieces of a matching game, which are abundant at thrift stores.

Feed the Animals Game

I previously posted about my iPad to real word feed the animals activity (, which we are now using as a feed the animals game. I went to a teacher’s supply store and bought a spinner, took the spinner apart, copied the feed the animal food, cut out the food, put the food pieces on the spinner, covered with clear contact paper, and put the spinner back together.  We take turns spinning to feed the animals.  I tilt the spinner to avoid missed turns so that we never land on a food that has already been fed.

Feed the Animals

Feed the Animals

First Words Game

I previously posted about my iPad to real word beginning words activity (  This activity was easy to convert to a game by putting the letter tiles in a bag and taking turns to draw letters.

First Words Game

First Words Game

Simple Path Games

I found many theme-based simple path games in the book More Than Counting ( In the example below, Beth and I take turns rolling a die to see who can get her acorn to a squirrel first. A large die is helpful because she can touch the dots while counting. We roll our wooden die into a plastic box to dampen the noise.

Short Path "Race" Game (custom die 1-3, game pieces are acorns sanded flat on the bottom)

Short Path “Race” Game (large wooden 1-6 die where I used self-stick foam to cover each side and put dots on each face with a permanent marker to make a 1-3 die, game pieces are acorns sanded flat on the bottom, squirrel stickers at end)

Short Path "Race" Game (Close Up of Acorn Game Piece)

Short Path “Race” Game (Close Up of Acorn Game Piece)