With Holiday Season fast approaching and kids out for school, there is going to be a lot of time spent together as a family. Togetherness is wonderful, especially at this magical time of the year. So what can you and your family do during the Holidays to target speech and language while spending quality time together? You can use Buddy the Elf's holiday activity suggestions, or you can Check out our tips below!
1. Bake Cookies together: It doesn’t matter which Holiday you are celebrating, eating brings people together. When you are baking, you have many opportunities to target sequencing, following directions and talk about shapes, sizes, colors, tastes and smells. The possibilities are really endless. I like to teach my kids how to sequence and follow multi-step commands while baking. They just think they are cooking, but they are building their receptive language skills and they don’t even know it. Use words such as first, next and last. "First dump in the sugar, next pour the milk and lastly mix it up.“ This teaches your child how to sequence a task. You can ask your child, “What did we do first? What came next? What was the last step?” Afterwards, you can talk about how you made the cookies, step by step. If they are an older preschooler, see if they can retell you the steps. If they are younger, just talk about each step and ask them to help you along the way. You can also make fun shapes with cookie cutters, which gives you even more to talk about. “What shape did you make?” or "What color is the icing?" In the end, you will have tasty cookies, fun memories and you’ve helped build important language skills.
2. Build a gingerbread house: Who doesn’t love a good gingerbread house? They can be a pain to put together, but they are really fun for kids. I like to build gingerbread houses and talk about positional words. Building a gingerbread house is a great activity to teach children basic positions such as on top, beside, under and behind. It also reinforces following directions. You can ask your child to put the sprinkles on top of the roof, or put the candy cane beside the door. You can ask them questions to assess their understanding of positions. For example, you could ask, "Which candy is next to the tree?" These simple, but fun activities can teach them what the positions mean and help them follow simple commands. You can also have your child give you directions. “Tell Mommy where you want to put this peppermint.” Then ask them to check if you put it in the correct spot. You can make a mistake on purpose so they can correct you. Let your child’s creative juices flow and just join in for the ride.
3. Decorate: There are many different Holidays that we all celebrate, but most of them have some type of decorations or symbolic representation involved. Our family celebrates Christmas and one of our favorite family traditions is decorating the tree together. We put on Christmas music, drink hot chocolate and enjoy looking at the ornaments that we’ve collected over the years. There are so many language opportunities when decorating together. With my younger child, who is 18 months, I like to ask him to find certain ornaments. He’s building his receptive and expressive vocabulary skills, but he just thinks he’s playing a game. For example, I put about 5 ornaments out on the table and then asked him to find the cat ornament. He then looked through them and selected the cat. I then asked him what sound a cat makes. I had him find various ornaments this way and he really enjoyed it. I also like to carry over the multi-step directions activities. I will ask my 4 year old daughter to follow multi-step commands when decorating, to give her receptive language skills a challenge. You could say, “Find a red ornament and put it in the middle of the tree.” You can also make it more difficult with various describing words such as, “Find a round, green ornament and place it beside a red one.” These little games are great for challenging older preschoolers. You can also address expressive language skills by asking your child to tell you about their favorite ornament. You can ask the younger children to identify ornament shapes that they would be familiar with such as a dog, train, or Santa. If they aren’t using many words, you can also get them involved by asking them, “This is a train ornament, what sound does a train make?” Even if your little one isn’t talking yet, you are exposing them to new vocabulary and providing them with opportunities to communicate with you.
We hope these activity suggestions have been helpful. From both us us at ToddlerTalking, we hope that you and your family enjoy a wonderful holiday season filled with lots of quality time with family and friends!