Face-to-face fun: Toy expert talks about the best games for kids of all ages

MILWAUKEE -- A recent study found that of the 7 categories of toys -- the games and puzzles category is growing the fastest. Toy expert Sherry Artemenko with Play On Words joins Real Milwaukee with some of the best games and puzzles for smart summer play.

Monkey Around by Peaceable Kingdom (2 and up) $17.99
• Preschool games are becoming popular..Peaceable Kingdom knows how to make learning fun
• Banana tree, banana, and illustrated cards for 'together' and 'solo' activities
• Our first card, 'Hold hands and hop around the room.'
• Build skills to follow directions, work together, learn new vocabulary (spacial concepts, body parts), strengthen fine and gross motor skills
• 5 activities, 'Can we do it again?'

The Rainbow Fish Share and Sparkle Game by Mindware (3 years and up) $19.95
• Based on the well-loved book, The Rainbow Fish, used so often in speech therapy
• Each player gets a rainbow fish, roll the die to select colored or shimmery scale, or 'share' option
• Game designed to reward sharing
• Lots of discussion on who might need a scale the most, why sharing is important, learn social skills
• Asked child what she liked about game,'I like the sharing side!'

Tall Tales by SDS Direct (4 an up) $34.99
• Kids are great story tellers --gets their imaginations going
• Reach into blue fuzzy bag for character or prop to direct the plot--dinosaur, rocket ship, flower
• Choose setting cards----game show, zoo, forest, airplane interior
• Learning story telling, association, naming and description--reading and writing
• Kids said, 'You try to make a story to match the picture and you can`t peek in the bag!'
• Teachers and therapists love it

Telestrations by USAopoly (12 and up) $29.95
• Telephone game sketched out
• Hilarious, fun group game
• Take turns sketching out a word or concept--dollhouse, rowboat, guacamole
• Pass to next person to write their guess, next player draws and so on
• Worse the drawing skills the funnier!
• 'Sleepwalker' became 'stalker' and 'grasshopper' became 'hot air balloon!{'
• Lots of chat and explaining by the original artist at the reveal, defending their choices.

4Way Spelldown by Ideal, Alex Brands (6 and up) $19.99
• Push down the dice popper to reveal the 2 letters you must use to form a word
• Flip over the block for each letter you include in your word
• Only given 1 vowel so have to think in blends and longer words to finish first
• Spelling, reading, vocabulary building

Rainbow Croquet Caddy by Hape (3 and up) $59.99
• Portable outdoor fun
• Kids can set up, play, supervise wherever there is a patch of grass!
• Practice counting, naming numbers and negotiating play
• Started naming their teams, putting the wickets farther apart and in areas of the yard that look fun
• Builds social language, taking turns, planning and giving tips on how to hit the ball

Lilabell by Living Puppets (3 and up) $99.90
• So big she grabs kids` attention
• She visited a first grade classroom and charmed the kids, got the shy ones talking
• Kids give her voice, can move her tongue which is great for speech therapist
• Move her arms, fingers, mouth and tongue for animating your story
• Puppets inspire story telling through dialogue and narration which builds language skills for later reading and writing

Folkmanis Puppets: Toad, Stage Dog, Hen Puppet (3 and up) $29.00-$59.99
• Folkmanis puppets bring animals alive
• Stage Dog moves his tongue so speech therapist can teach placements for sounds
• Hen: feathery plush body with movable beak and dangling legs for a cluck around the barn
• Toad: warty plush body and pop eyes, can move his forelegs, tongue and mouth
• Folkmanis puppets come with background inform