We all know the holiday season can be one filled with stress, time constraints, and overwhelming schedules. However, it can also be a time filled with family and friend togetherness, new and old traditions, and most importantly, in my opinion, a time of baking some of your favorite holiday recipes. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to incorporate speech practice if you ask me!
Although it may be one of the last things on your mind during this busy time, the holidays allow us the opportunity to integrate fun speech therapy practice at home. I always explain to parents and caregivers that this doesn’t have to involve any special games, tools, or materials. As a matter of fact, some of my most successful sessions happen in a naturalistic environment where we focus on meaningful and functional play that the child enjoys.
During the next few weeks of this holiday season, I encourage you to try some of these themed ideas with your child. I’ve listed a few easy and familiar activities that kids are sure to love with some therapy tricks along the way to help enhance their communication skills.
- BAKING COOKIES
This one is my personal favorite and is why I placed it at the top of this list. Even though we probably wish we had a personal chef to help us with our holiday baking, why not see what skills your kids have in the kitchen instead? There are so many ways to incorporate direction following and vocabulary expansion while baking. As a bonus, they get to eat the tasty treats they’ve helped create. Here are my ideas below:
- Describing: Can you hand me the BIG bowl?… Let’s use the BLUE sprinkles…. The dough sure is SQUISHY… and so on. There really is no limit with this one!
- Following Directions: First lets put in the flour and then the sugar… Let’s get the milk out and then pour it into the cup… First we have to crack the egg and then stir…
- Using “First/then” language is an important concept when starting off with listening skills. It may even make life a little bit easier for you when it comes time to opening presents or sharing with a sibling….. you’re welcome.
- Parallel Talk and Play: Take this opportunity to talk through what you’re doing. Constant narration, in my opinion, is very underrated. Simply take what you’re thinking in your head (okay, maybe not everything), and say it out loud for your child to listen and follow along!
- Here is an example, “Okay now we take spoon out and stir, stir, stir! It’s mixing together! Look at all these shapes. I see a snowflake, a bell, and a Christmas tree! Wow how yummy.”
2. READING A HOLIDAY-THEMED BOOK
Another personal favorite pass-time of mine is curling up with a good book. An added bonus is being able to wear your favorite holiday jammies while simultaneously teaching your child the importance of reading. The benefits are never-ending. While having relaxation time with your child, you are also expanding their vocabulary, literacy, sequencing skills, articulation, and the list goes on.
Here are a few of my favorite holiday books that I have been using in therapy sessions:
- The Snowy Day
- When You Take a Mouse to the Movies
- Bear Stays Up for Christmas
- Llama llama Jingle Bells
- Pete the Cat Saves Christmas
- How to Catch an Elf
3. WRAPPING/DECORATING PRESENTS
Let’s be honest, wrapping presents doesn’t always go as smoothly as we would like. You have the weirdly shaped presents, you run out of tape, the paper rips, or even worse, you cut the paper just a little too short. All of these holiday hiccups sound like a perfect opportunity to discuss problem solving strategies with your child. Wrapping can also be a great time to address sequencing and spatial concepts as you construct a beautiful gift. Check out some examples below:
- Sequencing: Encourage your child to help you wrap some of the family presents. After wrapping a few presents together, why not ask your child to tell you the steps they took using their sequencing language—first/next/then/last.
- Spatial Concepts: “Where should I put the bow? ON THE TOP or ON THE BOTTOM?”. “Can you put the present BEHIND the tree?”. “Let’s put the big present NEXT TO the shiny, red present.” This can be done while wrapping presents or setting up a perfect holiday photo backdrop. See what I did there?
- Problem Solving: “We ran out of tape, what could we use instead?”. “We don’t have enough paper, what else could we use?” We all know the problems can be never ending, but at least this way you can work together and maintain the holiday cheer.
We hope your holiday season is one full of laughter, joy, togetherness, and tons of speech fun!