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 it’s annual “Top 10 PAL Picks of 2017” 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 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 of each winner on

Language catalyzing PAL winning toys and games are powerful additions to a child’s learning toolbox since children learn through play, and language is integral to learning! Our 2017 Top 10’s include a number of great winners that inspire physical building to match rigor in story planning, creation, revision, and presentation. Whether constructing the “K’NEX Education STEM Explorations Roller Coaster” or programming Spin Master’s “Meccano Micronoid,” kids are positioned to strengthen cognitive foundations for reading, writing, and overall literacy. Also enhanced are skill sets related to vocabulary, memory, association, deductive reasoning, prediction, dialogue, narration and emotional IQ, through games that encourage language like LeapFrog’s “LeapStart,” EQtainment’s “Q Wunder App” or Seedlings “Parker, Augmented Reality Bear.”

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 on 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 2017’s Top 10 PAL Picks – See Each of Their Reviews at

Top 10 Toys: Infant

  • Baby Beats Monkey Drum by VTech        
  • Janod Baby Forest Train        
  • Janod Stacking Pyramid-City Friends        
  • Janod Zigolos Forest Stacker        
  • Janod Zigolos Pull Along Rabbits        
  • Kaloo Kaloodoo        
  • Kaloo Plume Rabbit Doudou Raspberry        
  • Lil’ Critters Huggable Hippo Teether by VTech        
  • Pull & Discover Activity Elephant by VTech        
  • Sleepy Glow Bear by VTech        

Top 10 Toys: Toddler

  • Bigjigs Toys’ Kelly Doll
  • Brio: Light and Sound Fire Truck
  • Farmers Market Playtime by Seedling
  • Grippies Stackers by Guidecraft
  • Janod Mini Story Safari
  • Magicube Polar Animals by Geomagworld
  • Pop-a-Balls Push & Pop Bulldozer by VTech
  • SmartMax My First Safari Animals by Smart Toys and Games
  • Step & Learn Scout by LeapFrog
  • Under the Sea Puppet Playtime by Seedling

Top 10 Toys: Preschool

  • Alex Discover Ready Set Money        
  • Dog Stage Puppet by Folkmanis        
  • Doll Family Mansion by Hape        
  • Go! Go! Smart Friends Shimmering Seashell Castle by VTech        
  • Luvabella by Spin Master        
  • Magicube Polar Animals by Geomagworld        
  • PAW Patrol My Size Lookout Tower by Spin Master        
  • Scoop and Learn Ice Cream Cart by LeapFrog        
  • Tree House by Plan Toys        
  • Zoo Jamz Stompin’ Fun Drums by VTech        

Top 10 Games: Preschool

  • Alex Discover Play All Day         
  • Alex Toys Future Coders Bunny Trails        
  • Alex World Map in the Tub        
  • Disney Jr. Mickey and the Roadster Racers Bump ‘N Race Action Game by Wonder Forge        
  • E-I-E-I-GO! by Mindware        
  • Janod Penguin Skittles Game        
  • Monkey Around by Peaceable Kingdom        
  • Soggy Doggy By Spin Master        
  • The Rainbow Fish Share and Sparkle Game by Mindware        
  • Where’s Bear? by Peaceable Kingdom        

Top 10 Toys: School Age

  • Dig it Up! Discovery Kit by Mindware
  • Gym1 Deluxe Indoor Playground
  • Hen Puppet by Folkmanis
  • Interchangeable Farm Stand, Furniture For 18″ Girl Dolls by The Queen’s Treasures
  • K’Nex Education STEM Explorations Roller Coaster Building Set
  • Lilabell by Living Puppets
  • Meccano Micronoid by Spin Master
  • Pet Place by Wonderhood
  • UNBORED: Time Capsule by Mindware
  • World’s Greatest Magic Show by Thames & Kosmos

Top 10 Games: School Age

  • Eye ‘N Seek by Blue Orange Games        
  • Gumball Words by SimplyFun        
  • Ideal 4 Way Spelldown        
  • Krazy Wordz by Ravensburger        
  • LeapStart by LeapFrog        
  • Tall Tales by SCS Direct        
  • Telestrations 8 Player: The Original by USAopoly        
  • Top Trumps by Top Trumps USA Inc.        
  • UNBORED: Carnival by Mindware        
  • WordSpiel by Set Enterprises, Inc.        

Top 10 Books and Media

  • 2-in-1 LeapTop Touch by LeapFrog        
  • Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts        
  • Bluebee Pal Parker by Kayle Concepts         
  • Double Take! A New Look at Opposites by Susan Hood        
  • I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! by Caroline B. Cooney        
  • LeapFrog Academy by LeapFrog        
  • Parker, Your Augmented Reality Bear by Seedling        
  • Tad’s Get Ready For School Book by LeapFrog        
  • Q Wunder TV Show by EQtainment        
  • Q Wunder App by EQtainment        

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 the well-respected speech-language pathologist, Sherry Artemenko. Her 35 years championing language rich play, esteemed PAL Award, a 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.