Announces Top 10 PAL (Play Advances Language) Award Picks 2016, Holiday Gift Guide: Best Toys, Games and Media That Spark Fun and Encourage Language

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Respected speech-language pathologist Sherry Artemenko announces her Top 10 PAL product lists by type and category representing the only industry recognition focused on encouraging language development through great play. Parents and educators value Sherry’s 35 years of experience, seeking advice through her popular blog,, private practice, media appearances and articles.


ABOVE: 2016 PAL Top Ten Award Seal BELOW: Quote - William To, President, VTech Electronics North America

PAL Awards demonstrate our ongoing commitment to offer products that are both exciting and help advance vital skills like language development

Regular interaction with children guides Playonwords founder, Sherry Artemenko, to a unique set of the best toys, games, books and apps that have the chemistry to develop language while delivering great play. Today, Playonwords is announcing the “Top 10 PAL Picks of 2016” by age and product category. Our Top 10's take the guesswork out of gift giving for the holidays. Parents and grandparents are using our list to shop for smart toys with lasting play value.

Each product has been 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 in each winner on

Language catalyzing PAL winning toys and games are powerful additions to a child's learning tool box, since children learn through play, and language is integral to learning! Our 2016 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 “Wonderhood Grand Hotel” or K’NEX’s "Mighty Makers Director’s Cut" stage, 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 "Wonder Forge’s Dr. Seuss Thing Two Thing One Whirly Fun Game," EQtainments’ "Q’s Race to the Top" or Tiggly’s “Tiggly Shape’s Got Talent."

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 2016's Top 10 PAL Picks:

Top 10 Toys: Infant

  • Beary Rumples by Rumple Buddies
  • Crinkle and Roar Lion by VTech
  • Dancing Crab Set by Fun Flex
  • Frog Mirror Set by Fun Flex
  • Kaloo Les Amis Medium Cookie Leopard
  • Kaloo Rouge-Medium Bear-Sandy Beige
  • Kaloo Rouge-Medium Rabbit-Cocoa Brown
  • Kathe Kruse Monkey Carlo Towel Doll
  • NogginSeek Peek and Seek Rattle by SmartNoggin Toys
  • On the Moove Activity Bar by VTech

Top 10 Toys: Toddler

  • ALEX Toys My First House Activity Cube
  • Count and Learn Turtle by VTech
  • Janod Baby Forest Shapes-Caterpillar
  • Janod Zigolos Elk and Fox Looping Stacker and Rocker
  • Janod Zigolos Hen's Activity House
  • Jungle Train Journey Set by Hape
  • Kaloo Les Amis Rocking Donkey
  • Mon Premier Bebe Bisou by Corolle
  • My First Crayola Mess Free Sand Scribbler
  • Pull Along Cat by Bigjigs Toys Ltd

Top 10 Toys: Preschool

  • ALEX Toys Ready, Set, Bodies
  • ALEX Toys Ready, Set, Dinos
  • Baby Amaze 3-in-1 Care and Learn Stroller by VTech
  • Brio Countryside Horse Set
  • Fire Station Train Set by Bigjigs Toys Ltd.
  • Go! Go! Smart Friends Enchanted Princess Palace by VTech
  • Janod Doctor's Suitcase
  • Janod the Fantastic Castle
  • Large African Safari by Playmobil
  • Ring & Learn Cash Register by VTech

Top 10 Games: Preschool

  • Cheese Stack by Getta1Games
  • Disney Jr The Lion Guard Boulder Burst Game by Wonder Forge
  • Friends and Neighbors by Peaceable Kingdom
  • Janod Pleximemo Farm Memory Game
  • Memory Palace by Peaceable Kingdom
  • Ravensburger Buggaloop
  • SmartGames Little Red Riding Hood by Smart Toys and Games
  • Tell-A-Tale by Getta1Games
  • Tiggly Shape's Got Talent by Tiggly
  • Wonder Forge Dr. Seuss Thing Two and Thing One Whirly Fun Game

Top 10 Toys: School Age

  • Better Builders Emotions by Guidecraft
  • Bluebee Pals by Kayle Concepts
  • Calafant Medium and Large Sets by The Haywire Group
  • Creativity Castle by Build and Imagine
  • Folkmanis Monarch Life Cycle
  • Little House on the Prairie 18" Laura Ingalls Doll and Accessories by The Queen's Treasures
  • Mighty Makers Director's Cut Building Set by K'NEX
  • Ravensburger Smartscope
  • Space Rocket with Launch Site by Playmobil
  • Wonderhood Grand Hotel Creative Building Set

Top 10 Games: School Age

  • Alphabet Woods by SimplyFun
  • Anomia Party Edition by Anomia Press
  • Bring Your Own Book by Gamewright
  • Compound It All! by Lee and Low Books
  • Crazy Letters by Mindware
  • Memory Yoga by ThinkFun
  • Q's Race to the Top by EQtainment, LLC
  • Ravensburger Hundreds of Horses
  • Rory's Story Cubes: Scooby-Doo by The Creativity Hub
  • Suspicion Game by Wonder Forge

Top 10 Books and Media

  • Ada's Violin by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport
  • Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De la Pena and Christian Robinson
  • Leaps and Bounce by Susan Hood and Matthew Cordell
  • Little Scholar Mini by School Zone Publishing
  • Once Upon A Sign: The New Three Little Pigs by DawnSignPress
  • Parachute by Danny Parker and Matt Ottley
  • Playroom Prep by Rosalyn Kemp
  • Q's Wild Ride CD Storybook by EQtainment LLC
  • Rain Fish by Lois Ehlert

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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Sherry Artemenko, Founder and President

Bob Artemenko, CMO
since: 03/2010
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