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Playonwords LLC Announces Top 10 PAL (Play Advances Language) Award Picks 2019, Holiday Gift Guide: Top Toys, Games, Books and Media That Spark Fun and Encourage Language


Respected speech-language expert Sherry Artemenko announces her Top 10 PAL product lists by category representing the only industry recognition promoting language development through great play. Parents and educators alike value Sherry’s nearly four decades of experience and benefit daily from her popular blog,, consulting practice, media appearances and articles.


Regular interaction with children guides Playonwords founder, Sherry Artemenko, to a unique set of the best toys, games, books and media that have the chemistry to develop language while delivering great play. Today, Playonwords is announcing its annual “Top 10 PAL Picks for 2019” by age and product category. Our Top 10’s take the guesswork out of giving great holiday gifts. Parents and grandparents use our lists to shop for smart toys with lasting play value.

Winners are assessed and reviewed by Sherry with input from parents, kids and educators. Observing kid’s play in action, combined with her critical eye for language potential, Sherry awards products and writes insightful reviews offering practical tips on how to maximize the educational value in each winner catalogued on

Language catalyzing PAL winning toys and games are powerful additions to a child’s tool box, since children learn through play, and language is integral to learning! Our 2019 Top 10’s include a number of great winners that inspire imagination and story-telling with engaging props, from Schleich’s “Adventure Treehouse” to Hape’s “Cook ’n Serve Kitchen” and VTech’s “Treasure Seekers Pirate Ship.” Promoting children’s literacy skills is a strong theme throughout this years’ winners, often combined with STEM skills as children build and learn letters and corresponding sounds with “LeapBuilders ABC Smart House” by LeapFrog and re-tell Jack and the Beanstalk while manipulating Geomagworld’s “Magicubes” and illustrated story clips. The toy industry continues to value new games to build EQ (emotional quotient including social language skills) with exciting tools like “Guess It. Get It. Gumballs” by Peaceable Kingdom, a MindWare Brand and picture sequenced stories in SPARK Jr. Sequencing Cards.

Sherry’s expertise has been tapped by NBC Connecticut TV, FOX TV News 6 Milwaukee, Parents Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle,,, ASHAsphere (official blog of the American Speech Language Hearing Association), and ASHA LEADER magazine.

For Sherry, great play is not just about fun, or language development, it’s about going deep in both. Her expertise has been built on science and more than 17,000 hours of client experience. Each set of Top 10’s represents a breadth of themes and genres, but they all have one thing in common – they are trusted lists of fun products that boost learning through play.


Here are 2019’s Top 10 PAL Picks – See her reviews at



  • Brio My First Farm    
  • Hape Double Fun Fishing Set    
  • Jet Duck Family (Pirate, Mermaid, Firefighter) by Yookidoo     
  • Latches & Doors Busy Board by VTech    
  • Mighty Mini Band by Hape    
  • Mix & Match-a-Saurus by VTech     
  • My First Shaped Puzzles–Pet Friends by The Learning Journey    
  • My Peek-a-Boo LapPup (Scout or Violet) by LeapFrog    
  • Oribel VertiPlay Tree Top Adventure    
  • Under Sea Figure 8 Railway by Hape    


  • Adventure Treehouse by Schleich
  • Dinosaur Island by Bigjigs Toys Ltd
  • Hape Cook ‘n Serve Kitchen
  • Kinetic Sand Sandisfying Set by Spin Master
  • King George’s Castle by Bigjigs Toys Ltd
  • PAW Patrol Mighty Jet Command Center by Spin Master
  • Pop Up Shop by Hape
  • SMARTMAX My First Dinosaurs
  • Smart Sizzlin’ BBQ Grill by LeapFrog
  • Treasure Seekers Pirate Ship by VTech


  • Baa Baa Bubbles by Spin Master
  • Button, Button, Belly Button by Peaceable Kingdom – A MindWare Brand
  • Friends of a Feather by Ravensburger
  • Guess It, Get It, Gumballs by Peaceable Kingdom – A MindWare Brand
  • Heads Talk Tails Walk by Ravensburger
  • Lily Pond by SimplyFun
  • Mickey’s Snuggletime by Wonder Forge
  • Pick Me Up, Piggy! by Peaceable Kingdom – A MindWare Brand
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Peaceable Kingdom – A MindWare Brand
  • Wake Up Stars by SimplyFun


  • Crayola Color Chemistry Arctic Lab
  • Dig it Up! Discoveries Dragons by MindWare
  • Folkmanis Robot Puppet
  • Folkmanis Snow Leopard Cub Puppet
  • Gravitrax Trampoline by Ravensburger
  • KEVA Cutouts by MindWare
  • LeapBuilders ABC Smart House by LeapFrog
  • LeapStart Go by LeapFrog
  • Long and Tall Puzzles-Big to Small Animals by The Learning Journey
  • Magicube Jack and the Beanstalk by Geomagworld


  • Astro Trash by The Op | USAopoly
  • Eagle Chase by SimplyFun
  • Gotta Word by Cortex Toys
  • Hoyle Mixed Emojis
  • Match-O-Rama by The Op | USAopoly
  • Miniland Emoti Blocks
  • SMARTGAMES Brain Train
  • SPARK Cards by SPARK Innovations
  • SPARK Jr. Sequencing Cards by Spark Innovations
  • Stick Figure it Out by Cortex Toys


  • Bluebee Pals Techie Rangers Book & Activity Guide by Kayle Concepts
  • Ditty Bird Musical Books by MEMA Enterprise PTY Ltd
  • Fern and Horn by Marie-Louise Gay
  • From Birth to First Words by Lynn Carson, Talking Together
  • Hoo Hoo Who? by Mary Maier with Lauren Horton
  • Language Together Set 2
  • New York Day & Night by Aurelie Pollet and Vincent Bergier
  • Portable North Pole by UGroupMedia
  • Summer Big Fun Workbooks by Highlights
  • That’s MY Cake! by Wonderbly

Each holiday season, millions are spent on kids’ toys, games and books. These PAL winners above are not only great fun but also encourage rich language development. Think “tastes like ice cream, fortifies like spinach,” optimizing your toy purchases to build language while maintaining all the fun. Now’s the time to be intentional about your child’s toy chest, game drawer, bookshelf and tablet!

ABOUT PLAYONWORDS, LLC was founded by well-respected speech-language pathologist, Sherry Artemenko. Her 35 years championing language rich play, esteemed PAL Award, popular blog, and insightful tips to parents set her apart as the leading advocate for the language component in toys.

Over 17,000 hours working directly with children has shown her that a unique set of the best toys, games and books have the capability to develop language while delivering great play. Studies show:

  • Kids with highest IQs at three, had the most words at one and two
  • Language learning is cumulative – early words => early sentences => language & reading
  • Most kids maintain their verbal advantage through childhood
  • Creative pretend play that sparks story-telling can advance future literacy

Sherry established the PAL Award to identify unique toys, games and books that through their design, quality and character, encourage play that advances language. PAL winners in the hands of kids, spark fun and creative play with lots of talk. Such toys, recognized on the basis of her child development expertise, are complemented by practical coaching in her blog, showing parents and caregivers how to get the most from toys, games and books to build language and underlying cognitive skills.


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