Well we are half way through December, although I’m not sure how that happened! We are at that tricky time when as an adult I am now where near prepared for Christmas day, but all the children are over excited and completely ready for the school holidays to start.
So what do you do, when on top of all of this, you also need to practise speech and language targets? Some families find that keeping to a routine is easier and manage to find five minutes to squeeze in some practise. However for many families this just isn’t going to happen. I always get some parents feeling very guilty that they “haven’t done any practise”. Well today, Helen and I are here to say that it is OK not to get the pictures or sheets out, its OK to say no to homework over the Christmas holiday! Let me explain why.
There are any different things happening and exciting things that only happen once a year. This provides so may natural opportunities for learning and language.
- Putting up the Christmas tree. If you get a real tree you can use language like heavy, tall and short or prickly. If you have a fake tree, you can talk about opening the box or count the branches. Then you have all those great things to decorate it with – tinsel, baubles, lights, stars etc. You can also reinforce this vocabulary throughout the time that the tree is up and when you take it down. If you have an older child you could find out together about the tradition of bring a tree into the house.
- Christmas movies and books. Again these are great opportunities for Christmas specific vocabulary – elves, reindeer etc. You can also encourage your child to retell the story afterwards or talk about their favourite parts.
- Winter walks. (When you have to get out of the house!) Talk about the trees, have they lost their leaves or not? Is it cold? You might even get some snow which provides even more opportunities to learn new words!
- Teaching negatives. Don’t climb the tree! Don’t feed the dog tinsel! Don’t open your brother’s presents! I’m sure there will be lots of opportunities!
- Christmas songs. Songs are a great way to learn new words and sentences as well as working on memory skills.
- Photos. We all take lots of photos at Christmas. You can use these to talk about what has happened, expand expressive language and sequence events – to name just a few. They are really versatile and on your phone! It can also be fun to let your children take some photos – they often find exciting, different things to photo.
- Social skills. Christmas is full of opportunities to practise social interactions and skills. Saying thank you for a present you might not really like, thinking of others, not taking others toys even if you like them more.
What if you don’t celebrate Christmas?
I realise that there are many families that don’t celebrate Christmas, but it is still an interesting time of year.
- With older children you could look at the moon each night and learn some facts about the stars and planets. You could draw the moon each night and talk about how it changes and why. You also have the winter solstice coming up and could find out about long and short days.
- With younger children you can use the winter walk idea above. You could look for leaves and acorns outside. You could decide if they are crunchy or soggy etc.
So whether you do some targeted work or not, please don’t feel guilty. You will have done lots to teach your children new skills. Above all enjoy spending time with your family and friends and have a great holiday!
I’m really glad that you mentioned optimizing winter walks as great opportunities to practice speech therapy activities at home not only to increase vocabulary but also to improve diction. This is what my mom would have to do more often, perhaps not only during Christmas, to practice the twins’ Fs and Ps and widen their nature and urban vocabulary. By getting them to stroll down the park, they’d be able to point to anything that catches their attention and name it properly. The kid who says the name right gets more prizes!