I can hardly believe it’s December tomorrow – it always creeps up on me so quickly. In a sudden panic after realising this, I have been rushing around trying to get my daughter’s advent calendar sorted out, and realising it’s time I got going with some Christmas shopping.
Advent calendars are so varied these days – when I was a child, I don’t really remember there being ones with chocolates or little gifts in each day like there are now. Instead we just had pictures inside the windows, with varying degrees of religiosity. There are some lovely ideas of how to count down to Christmas though. Last year, part way into December, I saw a lovely idea for an Advent calendar which I’m actually going to do this year – a Christmas activity for each day, such as decorating the tree or making a Christmas card or choosing a present for someone else. While I was thinking of the activities to go in it and looking on Pinterest and other places for ideas, I thought about how advent calendars can actually be really good for language skills!
First of all, they are a great opportunity to talk about the difficult concepts of today, yesterday and tomorrow, which so many children with language problems find difficult. Each day you can talk about what the picture (or chocolate/gift/activity) is today. You can talk about opening another window tomorrow. You can look back to the picture from yesterday. 24 nice concrete opportunities to talk about these words with your child and help them understand what they mean.
Also, they are a great opportunity for some very natural repetition of the same vocabulary to help your child learn it. I have worked in schools before who have an advent calendar where one child each day pulls a Christmas picture out of a bag and adds it to the Christmas display. Then they go back over all the things they’ve added over previous days. The children usually remember the more unusual words like mistletoe or whatever by the end of term as they’ve talked about it every day. You can do the same thing with a traditional advent calendar – each day look back at the pictures in all the windows you’ve opened and name them. For older children you could ask them to think of an adjective or two for the picture they’ve found (eg “a shiny star” or “a noisy bell”).
My activity calendar made me think about more creative ways of doing a calendar with chocolate or gifts in. What about putting clues in the windows of where to find the gift and making it into a daily treasure hunt? What a great fun way of practising prepositions and following instructions! For example, “your chocolate is under the table” or “next to the TV).
Advent calendars are also great for reinforcing counting (count the number of windows open each day). And anything that involves counting is always good for picking up on f and s sounds (four, five, six, seven…). Don’t forget to highlight the sound your child is working on while you’re talking about Christmas vocabulary too. (I find Christmas particularly conducive to working on s with words like snow, sledge, star etc!)
Finally, if your child signs, don’t forget that Makaton always have an advent calendar on their website that you can look at every day. You can find this here.
What are you doing with your own children or the children you work with this Advent?