Boo! Ring-around-the-Ghost

Ring-around-the-GhostEach month our preschool classrooms target a group social game. We teach games step-by-step, but our goal is to keep it F-U-N. We began this several years ago, and received feedback from parents that it was helping our kids be more successful at birthday and family parties- a great bonus.

This month’s game is “Ring-around-the-Ghost,”a version of Ring-around-the-Rosie.(Special thanks, SurfMama.) We play this after lunch, a good time for giggling. Goals for most social games include sustained participation, orienting to the group activity, anticipating one’s turn, turn taking, learning to be a good loser, cheering on friends, and following the rules.We build in tangible and social reinforcement at high rates for those demonstrating targeted skills. It is amazing how quickly these are learned.

We begin with the ghost standing in the middle and looking through a simple ghost mask with cutout eyes. We make our own masks using die-cut ghosts on popsicle sticks. The ghost looks at their friends and teachers circling around, holding hands, and singing the familiar tune: Ring- around- the- Ghost. Who will he scare the most? Spooky- spooky. The ghost says, Boo!

For preschoolers, saying Boo! is pure fun.Unlike Rosie, no one falls down. The child or teacher that the ghost is looking at when the singing stops simply becomes the next ghost in the middle.

This game also provides an opportunity to facilitate a child’s understanding of looking at the speaker and the importance of gaze direction.At early stages, we actually take time to draw an imaginary line and connect the ghost’s body orientation and gaze direction to the next ghost. We ask, Who is the ghost looking at? and give high fives as everyone guesses.As a SLP, this is an important nonverbal and social communicative behavior to understand. When a teacher’s orientation is not to the child, it signals, are not my turn now.This is a critical building block to understanding that do not interrupt my teacher now. I need to wait. She is talking to someone else.

Ring-around-the-Ghost. Enjoy.And, “Boo!”

Old Fashioned Token Boards

Old fashioned token board improvementLast month I read a post from DC-School Psychologist about using social stories to help the student’s transition. She suggested using photographs of the students doing the desired activities to personalize the story. I loved this idea and decided to use it with our token boards as well. We took a photo of the student doing the desired target behavior and laminated it to the front of the token board. It’s a great reminder for both the student and the staff. Everyone knows exactly what the target behavior is and how the student earns his/her tokens. Also, to remind the student of what they should be doing we simply point to their photo. Thanks, DC Psychologist for the great idea! It has made a big difference.

Healthy Trick-or-Treat Alternatives

Healthy trick-or-treat alternativesHalloween can be a challenging time to find healthy alternatives among the candy sales that seem to start earlier every year. Here are five healthier alternatives to hand out this year:

*Mini bag of pretzels*

*Pre-packed whole, raw almonds*

*Box of raisins*

*Mini bag of baby carrots*

*Air popped popcorn topped with a spice mix*

Trick or Treat!

Sugar… Not as sweet as it seems!

No sugar, or at least less sugarSugar is everywhere nowadays.It comes in many names and forms:
beet sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, corn sweetener,
corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice,
fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey,
invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar,
sucrose, sugar, syrup, turbinado sugar, white sugar, sucrose, molasses, and the list goes on…


Once in the body, all sugars act virtually the same. No matter what sugar
you choose to eat, it is best to limit it!


With Halloween on the horizon, here are some non-candy sweet treats to try:


*Plain yogurt swirled with ground cinnamon, fresh berries, and a dollop of
*Core an apple and stuff the hallow center with natural peanut butter, some
raisins, and a few dark chocolate chips.
*Sweet veggies (jicama, bell peppers, carrots) served with hummus or
*Homemade granola made from rolled oats, honey, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds
baked in the oven.
*Core a pear or apple and sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on the hollowed
inside. Place fruit in baking dish and bake in oven at 325 for 45-60
*Baked sweet potato fries. Slice sweet potatoes and/or yams, sprinkle with
olive oil and any favorites spices (rosemary is a favorite). Baked at 425
until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Enjoy on their own or with organic

Trick-or-Treat Learning Opportunities

Trick or TreatTrick-or-treat. Silly fun. Either inside your classroom, or at home practice: A) knocking on door or ringing the bell, B) waiting for someone to open the door, C) saying trick-or-treat, D) opening your treat bag, and E) saying thank-you. Wow, who would have guessed that there are so many imbedded, natural opportunities for social communication in this highly practiced verbal routine?


No need to give candies while practicing, but do use treats. In our classrooms we use tiny toys and manipulatives that stay in the classroom. Kids can make choices at the different stops when offered, and even learn no, thank you. We vary lessons to let them play with the toys when trick-or-treating is over, and then practice sorting them into correct groups (e.g. toy cars in this group, blocks here, and animals there.) Other times, when food is given as treats, kids separate items into I eat this; I do not eat this. The rule is consistently, I do not eat and open anything until my mommy/ daddy/ teacher checks all my treats. Trick-or-treat learning opportunities. Again, who would have guessed?

One Year- One Amazing Difference

One Year- One Amazing DifferenceWe read Curious George Goes to School.We went to meet your teacher.We talked to you about school.But truly, nothing could have prepared me for your first day.Getting to school, fighting the chaos of minivans, strollers, kids of all ages, and excited parents was crazier than taking you to an amusement park! But with every trial, there is the opportunity to learn something new.Within a few weeks, I had figured out the best route to take you to school. I had to shed (or try to stifle) any concerns about what any of the typical kids and parents were thinking of us, and I created the same routine (as much as possible) for getting to school. It was not always pretty. You ran away from me, you screamed, tantrumed and aggressed, but I learned that by creating a routine, I was able to try and support you in the best way possible. After that, I could only hope for the best results.

This year, you were a jumping bean upon arrival at the same school on the first day. You looked at me and said; Bye mommy, See you later’s and practically leaped into your teachers arms.I never could have imagined the progress you have made.Words! Excitement!?! Non-traumatic transition!!!

If I could do it all over, I would have labeled all of your clothes before the first week, I would have tried to figure out the best route into school sooner, and I probably should have taken you to the campus one more time before the start of school. But the most important thing I should have tried to do would have been to remain hopeful, and not worry quite so much about how bad things got before they got better.Certainly easier said than done, and I suppose that is one of my great struggles in parenting you. But the more progress you make, the easier it is to have hope, to keep perspective, and to grow a thicker skin to the challenges that come our way.

Using Costumes to Learn to Dress

Halloween CostumeCostumes! Want to keep the fun in Halloween for your anxious child? Begin building skills now. This next week, one dramatic play center in many preschool classrooms will serve as a place to practice dressing up.” We teach the self-help skill of “getting ready” and encourage communicating, “I need help.

For some preschoolers, the target is tolerating a single piece of costume. For others, several pieces.Let the child give you an idea where to begin and then slowly increase expectations as kids tolerate more. Whatever they choose, let them play an important role as they learn that their opinion or choice counts. For some, the costume might be character pajamas and fun shoes. One Halloween, my own daughter chose Rudolph (brown clothes and a red nose), and a dear friend tells a funny story how her son chose to be a FedEx plane. Now I look back and laugh— it doesn’t matter.

Our OTs have provided lots of ideas. One of the best is to let children wear the costume and get used to it piece-by-piece’s before the big day. We often begin with keeping a costume part on for only SECONDS before it comes off. The child is then rewarded for being calm AND wearing the costume or mask. Be prepared to modify, since the costume may itch, not fit properly, or prevent natural movement.

Encourage them to get dressed all by myself. If they sign or use words, look for that “rumbling” that signals frustration. Then model, I need help. This is hard.Providing words, in the context when they are truly needed, is very powerful. Don’t let a sudden escalation before the fun begins destroy a special, happy memory. Read the child’s signals early, and build on this teachable moment.

Emotions: Scared? Afraid? No… Brave!

Scared faceScared. Afraid. Brave. We target these emotions during October because of Halloween. We discuss what scared looks like in how we move and what is on our faces. We talk about costumes and not real/ pretend. The staff often introduces this concept using a mask or scarf over someone’s face in a group circle activity… “Where is xx?” When removed, “Look, it’s XX!”

We discuss being safe in simple social stories (thanks, DC!).It’s night time when I trick-or-treat. It’s dark. At night time, I see the moon and stars. A house with lights on signals, someone is home. My mommy or daddy carries a flashlight so we can see. We hold hands and stay in a group.

We look for these types of environmental cues in the books we read this month. Some favorite picture books with lots of recurring lines for choral or group responding include: The Little Old Lady who was not Afraid of Anything/ Linda Williams, Go Away Big Green Monster/ Ed Emberley, and We are off to Find the Witcha’s House/ Mr. Krieb. It’s trick-or-treat time, but build this awareness throughout the year when you drive or walk in your neighborhood.Be brave!

Large Group Social Game- “Timber!”

TimberTo the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus…, while seated on a carpet in a large circle, the group sang “Building blocks go round and round… let’s make a road/ wall/ tower.”Blocks were passed one at a time in a circle. The person holding the block at the song’s end, placed the block in the middle. We used large cardboard blocks for a more dramatic effect when they fell over- Timber!- a class favorite. We allowed the blocks to fall AFTER all the blocks were placed. A simple and fun group game! Thanks to two of my very dear SLP colleagues for their help inventing this way to introduce a social game to a preschool curriculum.


BONUS: This idea can be used either in the classroom or at home.