Holiday Traditions

Holiday traditions provide a great context for helping your child develop language skills. Whether your child is participating in a long-standing family tradition or you are starting a new one, consider these language activities for your child: 

Looking at Holiday Lights Displays: 

  • For a younger child: Work on labeling items, responding to pointing, or expanding utterances. Point to specific items of interest and label them (e.g., reindeer, candy cane). You can respond to your child’s pointing by labeling what he/she is pointing at. If your child is using single words to label, you can add a word to make their utterance longer. For example, if your child says “Snowman!” you can respond with “Happy snowman!” or “Big snowman!” 
  • For an older child: Play a silly sentence game. Make a sentence about the light display but substitute in a nonsense word. See if your child can fix the silly mistake. For example, “The snowman is under the grass.” or “There is an elephant on the roof.” Then see if your child can make a silly sentence for you to correct. 

 Lighting the Menorah: 

  • For a younger child: Allow your child to place the unlit candle into the menorah. You can introduce simple action words such as get or push or you can encourage them to ask for help if they cannot place the candle themselves. 
  • For an older child: Narrate what you are doing when you are lighting the menorah. Emphasize temporal concepts (first and next) and directional concepts (left, middle, and right) as you place and light the candles. See if your child can give you directions of how to light the candles after you have done it a few days. 

 Singing Holiday Songs: 

  • For younger child: If your child enjoys hearing you sing, you can work on requesting continuation of an activity. Stop in the middle of the song and encourage your child to request continued singing by giving eye contact, vocalizing, or asking for “more” or “sing.” 
  • For an older child: See if your child can “catch the mistake” in a song. Sing a well-known carol but substitute a non-rhyming word in place of a rhyming word. For example, “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh. O’er the fields we go, laughing all the go.” 

 Decorating a Christmas Tree: 

  • For a younger child: Target directional concepts. Ask your child, “Should I put this ornament above the tinsel or below the tinsel?” or “Should I put the star on the top or on the bottom?” while showing them what each directional word means. 
  • For the older child: Practice describing ornaments by word features. Have the child say the shape, size, color, material it’s made of, and parts. You can play a guessing game where the child describes clues about an ornament, and you guess which one he/she is describing. 

 Making Holiday Crafts 

  • For the younger child: Practice requesting. Provide your child with all necessary materials but leave one item out. Encourage them to make sure they have all the items they need and have them ask questions if they do not have everything. 
  • For the older child: Work on narrative skills. Have your child pretend they are leading a how-to TV show. Have them use the words firstnextthen, and last to give at least four steps. Build the craft yourself and see if the directions are clear enough to be followed, encouraging your child to clarify communication breakdowns if needed.