It’s the holiday season and, as parents, we are always looking for ideas and activities to keep our children motivated, having fun and (most importantly) occupied! What would make the activities even better? If the activities were able to boost a child’s speech and language development!
Look no further! Here are some engaging ideas that you can do with your child in the comfort of your own home that require little preparation and materials.
As always, make sure you are providing an opportunity for language; talk about what you are doing, describe the sprinkles, talk about how the snow feels, ask your child to make decisions, etc. The more we are engaged with our children during these activities, the more language they are exposed to! Happy creating!
Snow Ice Cream
Here’s a super easy recipe from “Gimme Some Oven” that I have used with my daughter in the past. It requires only 4 ingredients that I’m sure you already have in your kitchen.
How to turn this Christmas activity in an opportunity to teach language
- When doing this activity, first start by having your child get dressed to go outside. This will provide a huge opportunity for language and direction following. If your child is able to follow simple directions, have them go and get their coat, shoes, mittens, etc. Try and have your child repeat what each object is as you dress them (e.g., This is your coat. Can you say coat?). This not only allows them to attempt the language, you are providing them a model of how words should be produced! If they can’t follow directions, take them and show them where everything is located. Once you show them where their clothing is, have them physically grab it themselves (e.g., “There’s your mittens, they are under the chair. Can you get them for me?”)
- Once you are outside, have your child touch the snow, describe how it feels, looks, even tastes! If they are limited in their language abilities, you can say things like, “Isn’t the snow so pretty and white” and have them repeat key words in your questions, like “pretty and white.” If you are doing this with children who are younger than 1 year old, don’t be afraid to repeat certain sounds (e.g., “The snow is so white.” Then repeat the /w/ sound a few times.)
- Make sure you are explaining everything you are doing. It may seem redundant and boring to us, but children are little sponges and soak up EVERYTHING (usually the things we don’t want them to hear, right?). They are learning, even if they aren’t repeating!
- When you start making the snow, allow your child to choose the color sprinkles you are using. Have them repeat all of the colors after you to make sure they are learning colors, but are also being exposed to how to say them.
I don’t know about your kids, but my daughter LOVES to open the doors on our advent calendar! I think it’s just because she knows there’s a treat in there for her (usually her favorite snacks), but I also hope it’s because she has me constantly talking in her ear, exposing her to new words as she is doing it!
This is something you can either create yourself, use what you already have, or look for a simple calendar on Amazon. The easiest way to make one it to get blank Christmas/Holiday cards and number them. You can tape snacks inside or write a cute message from Santa that you can read every day!
How to use the Christmas activity to boost language
If you do the candy or treat idea, start by modeling the words “calendar,” “open,” “inside.” Show your child how to open the card or door and then have them do it themselves (say the word open as they do it).
Once they get their treats, have them describe it, smell it, and touch it! Most likely, they will just want to gobble it up, but try and have them talk about what they have in their hands, first! As questions, such as “what does the hershey kiss look like? It’s like a triangle.” Depending on which type of Advent calendar you use, you could even put things like stickers, fake rings, or Play-Doh in it! Be creative!
Memory Games and Bingo
Here is a fantastic resource for anyone whose children love to play simple memory or bingo games.
I have used this for children as young as 3 and even my teenagers in high school LOVE a break from the normal speech activities to play Bingo! Everything is already created for you! All you need to do is print out the templates and have fun.
How to teach language while playing a Christmas game
Before starting the game, make sure your child knows how to play. Ask them, “What’s the first thing we have to do?” If something sounds unclear, model it correctly (e.g., “Oh, so I need a game piece?”) and then have them repeat it for you. If you are using pieces to move on the boards that are different colors, review the colors with them. You can have them say just the word, the first sound in the color, or have them put it in a sentence.
Go over all of the pictures on the game boards. Don’t just assume that your child will know what a “reindeer” is! Take the opportunity to describe and talk about each item on the boards! Following directions is also a language skill that is addressed during game activities. Don’t be afraid to repeat things to your child and give them several chances to “get it right.” If they don’t follow directions correctly, model for them the correct way to play (e.g. “That was a great try, let’s move it two more spaces.”)
I hope I have given you some fun, new activities that you can do with your child to boost speech and language development. You can also download Speech Blubs to learn some seasonal words like winter, deer, gloves or tree.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on Speech Blubs and let me know! I’d be happy to help you! Happy Holidays!
Stacie Bennett has been practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the past ten years. Currently, she works full-time at a vocational high school in New Jersey and have her own private practice. Feel free to contact Stacie if you have any questions!