Play Books

Looking for a language-stimulating gift idea for children ages 2-6? I LOVE these Play Books (so much that I had to devote 3 hours of my life to writing this blog post about them). Warning – These ARE paper pop-up books.  While quite sturdy, my own young children required a lot of support to handle these gems gently.

*This review is based on my own experience and is my genuine opinion of these books. I have no personal or business relationship with the author, illustrator, or publisher. I have not been offered any incentive or payment to write this review.*

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 BOOK & TOY! TWO-IN-ONE: Playbooks can be read page by page, like a book.  They can also expand NINE times the size of 1 single page into brilliant play-mats.

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Playbook Castle view when you open the box. The envelope (left) holds numerous paper pieces that accompany the book.
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Pages in Playbook Castle and a paper knight manipulative
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Playbook Castle expanded into the play-mat



For a better view, check out these youtube snippets:
Playbook Farm, Playbook PiratesPlaybook Castle

FUN FOR ALL: These play books do not light-up, they don’t talk when you push a button, and they don’t have famous TV characters associated with them…So I was worried that some children might be bored by them.  This toy-tool provides old-fashioned fun. Kids don’t realize that they’re learning and adults forget that they’re teaching.

This ship is 1 of 6 pop-ups featured in Playbook Pirates. The parrot, monkey, and pirate are a few of the separate paper manipulatives included to move throughout the book. The steering wheel actually turns too! 

PERSPECTIVE SHIFT: As therapists working with young children, we know it’s important to be eye-level with a child and to face them. These Playbooks will have all adults doing just that, intuitively. It’s a different experience when viewing the play-mat from up above, versus down on the floor with the child.  At the child’s level I get lost in a world of make-believe, where my biggest problem is helping a paper cow find his way to a greener pasture.  This literal shift in my physical position always helps me to see the world through a child’s eyes.

View from up above (toy cars are not included with the purchase of the book)
View from the floor (at the child’s level)

WIDE VARIETY OF LANGUAGE TARGETS:  If you want a toy that will encourage literacy and pre-literacy skills, look no further.  And If you want a book that will promote play development, you’ve got it at your fingertips – in fact you’ve got 3 of them.  Below are some of the goals I’ve targeted with these Playbooks during speech therapy.

i. Promoting Play Development: Pretend play, role play, and dramatic play skills all promote imagination, creativity, self-regulation skills, executive function skills, and language development (research reminds us that improving play skills, improves language skills). The following activities are just a few ideas that require children to use their hands and their imagination (something Paper Engineers do all the time, but not something typically encouraged by tablets, TV, or apps).
A. Play dress-up as a pirate, mermaid, princess, knight, dragon, farmer, or farm animal depending on which Playbook you’re using.
B. Use the Playbooks in a tent or a fort, but pretend you’re in a sunken pirate ship, a farmer’s haystack, or the castle dungeon.
C. Create paper boats, paper hats, or simple eye patches to go along with the Playbook Pirates theme.

I take familiar toys that kids already know and love (like the toys pictured here) and incorporate them into a new activity (like these Playbooks) to pique an interest. This method of toy-chaining often helps children who have difficulty changing their usual play routines. 

ii. Following Directions with Prepositions: Put the pirate in the ship; Put the cow behind the barn; Put the rooster on top of the gate; Put the shark next to the octopus;  Put the dragon under the drawbridge, etc. Try using a flashlight to search for specific objects, such as buried treasure in Playbook Pirates, a little lost lamb in Playbook Farm, or a Damsel in Distress in Playbook Castle. In group therapy children can take turns hiding/finding objects and giving/following directions with peers.

flashlight treasure
Hunting for buried treasure with a flashlight in Playbook Pirates

iii. Following Directions with Actions: Make the horse jump; Make the cow graze; Make the shark swim faster; Throw in a rope and pull out a pirate, etc.

Keep some string handy to rescue pirates from sharks

iv. Improving Vocabulary:
Opposites (Day/Night): Talk about and act out what happens during the daytime (ex. the farmers work, eat, drive tractors, milk cows…).  Then turn off the lights, get some tea light candles & flashlights to discuss nighttime routines while playing (ex. the animals sleep, the farmer puts the tractor in the garage, everyone gets ready for bed…). This can lead to discussions about the child’s own daily routines and practicing those routines while modeling appropriate language for the family to use with their child.

Above: Lights on (discuss daytime routines on the farm).  Below: Lights off (discuss night routines).  I used plastic tea-light candles and flashlights while playing in the dark.

night scene

Negation: Get a bunch of random items (paperclips can be linked together to make a necklace, stickers, etc.) and put them in a small bag or box. Call it a treasure chest and hide it. Take a flashlight and go searching for the treasure (here’s a good opportunity to practice turn-taking skills during group therapy too).  Practice negation while treasure hunting (it’s NOT behind the book, it’s NOWHERE in the closet…).  When the treasure is found children get to choose trinkets from the treasure chest.  For children with sensory processing deficits, you might also consider making a treasure chest sensory bin like some of THESE.

Thematic Vocabulary: Based on the type of vocabulary, I like Playbook Farm best for younger children and Playbook Castle best for older children.
Playbook Farm possible vocabulary words to target: animals, farmhouse, orchard, pasture, scarecrow, silo, windmill
Song Idea: Old MacDonald had a Farm
Playbook Pirates possible vocabulary targets: octopus, treasure chest, alligator, crocodile, flying fish, jellyfish, shipwreck, starfish, seaweed, ahoy matey
Song Ideas: Yo Ho Yo HO, A Pirate’s Life for Me & Slippery Fish
Playbook Castle possible vocabulary targetscatapult, countess, damsel, jester, archer, dungeon, drawbridge, highness, royalty, unicorn, watchtower, feast
Song Idea: Puff the Magic Dragon

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We propped the play-mat between a wall and a rug to create a tunnel for cars to drive through (a sneaky way to get past the fire-breathing dragons in Playbook Castle)

What else? Please share your ideas with me too!  =)

Happy PlayBooking! Happy SpeechTheraping! Cheers!

Playbooks can be purchased here on Amazon and may also be available at your local Barnes & Noble store.

Author Corina Fletcher’s adorable website can be accessed HERE.  A big thanks to this creative and inspiring Paper Engineer! Corina, if you need any more Playbook ideas, I would LOVE to see a Playbook House (with a bathroom toilet, bathtub, washer and dryer, bed/bunk beds, kitchen sink/table, backyard/swings/slide, etc.)

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