In order to make reading fun and engaging, we need to go beyond flashcards and other "boring" forms of literacy skills practice. Look no further than Literacy Lane! While the board above is made to work on uppercase letter recognition, there are tons of different ways this could be modified to target a variety of literacy skills. You could replace the uppercase letters with lowercase letters, sight words, rhyming words or word families easily! It all depends on the type of skill you are trying to practice with your kiddo!
Materials: poster board, race track or road tape, toy cars
Note: We got the road tape at Target, but many different kinds are also available on Amazon!
How to make the board:
During the holidays, many of us have extra time at home with our kiddos. Between the changes in routine, sugary treats, and general festive excitement in the air, many parents are only experiencing a "silent night" when the song is playing on the radio. All is not calm and all is not bright. For this reason we love "Yeti in my Spaghetti." The game is similar to pick up sticks, but players attempt to carefully remove spaghetti noodles instead of sticks. The object of the game is to avoid knocking the yeti into the bowl. In addition to language skill practice, playing provides a unique opportunity to work on calm, controlled, gentle movements. (Something all children could use a little extra of this time of year!) As speech language pathologists, we are fans of the game for the various language and social skill opportunities that arise during play. We will discuss this further below!
Verbs: play, put, pull, win, lose, fall,
Nouns: game, yeti, spaghetti/noodle, bowl
Pronouns: my, your
Adjectives: fun, fast, slow, gentle, silly
Prepositions: in, on, under, over
1. Set up the game as per the instructions.
2. Model use of verbs for your child by describing the actions necessary for the game. (i.e. "We are going to play a game." "You must carefully pull the noodles, but don't let the yeti fall into the bowl.")
3. Model use of the pronouns my and your by reminding children whose turn is taking place. (i.e. "my turn," "your turn") These cues are also helpful for kiddos who have difficulty with turn-taking skills.
4. It can be challenging for children to master prepositions. Simply describe the locations of the noodles as they are being removed from the bowl to help model appropriate use of positional words. (i.e. "This noodle under the yeti is hard to move!" The yeti is on the noodle pile." "Don't let the yeti fall in the bowl.")
5. Many adjectives can be modeled during game play to describe the experience (i.e. "This is fun." "What a silly game!") You can also utilize adjectives to explain successful strategies for winning (i.e. "Be gentle. Slow movements will help you win!").
This game is fast paced, which makes it great for practicing the skill of turn-taking. Since each player's turn goes relatively quickly, not much patience is required. A fast game also allows for multiple rounds to be played. This means there are extra opportunities to work on the skill of frustration management. Your child can practice winning without gloating, or congratulating the winner and accepting losing calmly. We have to teach expected behavior so prepare to model these skills and discuss them a bit. Remember to explain the concept and remind your child as needed, that, "Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose."
With just a few days left before Christmas, depending on your level of organization and time management, you may or may not have wrapped your gifts. If you have not, this blog post is for you. We are in the same boat. Maybe next Christmas we’ll get this done early! Unfortunately, the ship has sailed for this holiday. However, there is a silver lining.
If you’re feeling particularly patient, and would like to spend some quality time with your child while completing holiday tasks, you may want to consider wrapping gifts together. Before you assume this is a terrible and frustration inducing idea, let’s discuss the benefits:
1. Children like to help and it boosts their self esteem to feel like they are contributing.
2. How important is it REALLY for your present to look perfect? Most loved ones would probably appreciate a gift that is wrapped by your kiddo!
3. This activity allows for some quality, unplugged family time.
4. There are tons of language skills that can be targeted through gift wrapping. (As speechies, this is the part we want to discuss today!)
There are so many different words that can be modeled during gift wrapping. While you’re using these terms your child is observing you or actually completing the scenarios described. Hands on activities are the best for learning new vocabulary. Here are some target words to emphasize:
Verbs: put, cut, fold, press/push, pick, write, peel
PUT the present on the paper.
Let's CUT the wrapping paper.
PRESS the tape down.
PICK a new bow!
Now we have to WRITE on the tag.
Prepositions (Positional Words): under, on, in, between, over
This present is done! Put it UNDER the tree.
Place the bow ON the top of the gift.
We need tissue paper IN the gift bag first.
Suggested adjectives: (Describing words will vary based on the presents, wrapping, paper, or bows used) shiny, striped, sticky, small, large.
Let's wrap this SMALL gift with the SHINY, red paper.
Get the wrapping paper that is STRIPED.
This tape is STICKY!
*You can also work on identifying and labeling nouns, but we did not provide suggestions because this is going to greatly vary based on the presents and gift wrapping materials you are using. Some examples:
Do you see wrapping paper with PUPPIES?
Let's wrap the SHOES.
Put the TEDDY BEAR in the bag.
Put a bow on the BASKETBALL.
In addition to being exposed to new vocabulary, other language skills can also be targeted:
Based on your child's receptive language skills, decide if you are working on single or multi-step commands. You can infuse them throughout the task. Examples:
One-step: Get a red bow. Put the present on the paper. Close the box.
Two-step: Get a piece of tape and put it on the folded paper. Put the present in the box and write out a tag. Take off the price tag and throw it in the garbage.
As always, you can create opportunities for requesting by simply keeping items slightly out of reach. For example, if your child is in charge of selecting the bow for each gift, keep the bag of bows next to you so they can ask for the colors or patterns they desire. You can always model this skill so they know what is expected (i.e. Have them point to the bow they want and then model a sentence for them such as, "I want the green, sparkly bow").
You can model some opinions and comments throughout this process to see if your child will share some too. Examples:
I like the red wrapping paper with the snowflakes the best.
My favorite bow is the green one.
This present looks like fun!
Your child does not have to wrap each gift independently. They can just do specific tasks to help with the process. Assign jobs that are feasible with minimal support. There are so many different things kiddos can help with, such as, folding wrapping paper, pushing tape on, cutting paper, writing out gift tags, picking a bow and placing it on. Select jobs that will help them meet success and be less frustrating to you, so that everyone has a good experience! They do not have to do ALL the jobs.
The holidays are a fun and festive time for families but we all know they can be financially devastating! Not only are gifts expensive, but many special activities such as Santa brunches and Polar Express train rides can be quite pricey to participate in, especially for those with more than one child! Do not forget to include some classic, free, and festive family time by taking your kiddos out looking for holiday lights! Tis the season for language and learning opportunities! Let’s discuss the different ways you can use this activity to help support some vocabulary and communication development.
Just a reminder: We always want to work at or slightly above our child’s language level. So if you trying to elicit 1-2 word utterances, you will be modeling a range of 1-3 word utterances for your child. Utilizing core vocabulary so that you can present multiple useful words in different contexts allows for repeated exposure. Here are some examples of simple utterances with core words that can be modeled while looking at lights:
MORE: more lights, more houses, more walking (or “more driving” depending on how you are traveling to view the lights) more Santa, more snowmen, more colors, more white lights, more candy canes, more snowflakes, I see more.
GO: Let’s go, time to go, go there, go by Santa, go see, go see more, go home, go out, we go, I go.
SEE: I see lights, I see Santa, I see sleigh, I see candy canes, I see colors, I see trees, I see decorations, see more, let's go see.
Additional simple comments: Wow, pretty, I like, So nice!
If your child is using longer utterances, here are some language skills you can target while looking at lights. Remember to model each skill and then ask your child to reciprocate by sharing their opinion.
What types of decorations are your favorite? You can also ask your child to share something they like or do not like at each stop.
Examples to model:
“I love multi-color lights like these.”
“I think blow-up displays like this snowman are fun!”
Talk about how displays are similar or different. Again, model so your child can reciprocate!
“This house has big snowflakes, but that one has small ones!”
“Both these houses have candy canes on the lawn.”
“This house is trimmed with white lights and that one has only colors.”
You can also use this time to teach new vocabulary words. Using words that have the same meaning in conversation is a natural way to teach about this topic.
“Did you see that LARGE snowman on the lawn? There’s a BIG one over there too!”
“There’s another TINY reindeer. I like these SMALL ones.”
If this is an area of weakness for your child, practicing during a fun, family activity may be more motivating and less stressful than participating in an academic task. Some questions you can ask are:
WHAT do you see?
WHICH one do you like?
WHERE is _________? (i.e. “Where is the snowman?”)
WHO is on the lawn?
*Note* If your child has too much difficulty responding to questions, you don’t want this to become frustrating! So feel free to simply model asking AND answering questions!
For example you could say:
“What is on the top of the tree? A star!”
“Where is the snowman? Over there on the lawn.”
Remember that we want FUN and FESTIVE, NOT FORCED. So it is important to keep all these interactions as natural and conversational as possible! Also make sure that you are only commenting when they are sharing your gaze and looking at the same decoration so as not to create confusion.
In our last post, we talked about some simple utterances to target during fifteen minute play with a dreidel. We didn't assign a time increment to this post because we are providing a few different activities and how many tasks you complete will dictate the amount of time needed.
If you got the dreidel set from Target, which we showed in our last post, then you will have twelve of them. If your child is working on identifying colors or classifying skills, you can help them sort the dreidels. You can say, "Let's sort the dreidels into groups. We can make a pink group, a light blue group, and a dark blue group. Where does this one go? Oh it is pink! it goes in the pink group!" You can model one or two more examples. Then see if your child can do it.
Classic game play:
If you want to play the classic dreidel game, we have several options to make it simpler. Trying to interpret the symbols may become frustrating to a child who is unfamiliar with them. If you are okay with telling them what each symbol means, that is certainly an option. We wanted our kiddos to have a little less support during play, so we printed tiny PCS symbols to put on the dreidel to replace the symbols for nothing, all, one and half. (See above picture.) You can google symbols and print them to scale depending on the size of your dreidel. However, keep in mind that the concept of half is a difficult one for kiddos who have not learned this yet. We chose to instead replace "half" with "three."
You can use the dreidel to target receptive language skills with your kiddo too. Before you start, it is a good idea to get your specific goal in mind. What do you want to work on with your child? Are they trying to master one-step or multi-step directives? Once you know figure that out, decide what useful vocabulary you could incorporate into the directives (i.e. body parts, prepositions (positional words), colors, shapes). Here are some examples:
Give me the pink dreidel. (colors, one-step)
Put the dreidel on something blue. (colors, one step)
Put the dreidel on your nose, and then your ears. (body parts, multi-step)
Put the dreidel UNDER the table. (prepositions, one-step)
*Tip* Assigning a small prize, like a sticker or a treat, after a certain number correct may help them be motivated to practice this skill.
Many times children enjoy reading tasks more if they are presented in a game format or if they have a special tool, such as a pointer. Select your target skill and use your dreidel as a pointer. If you are working on letter identification or sight word recognition, you can present some flashcards. Simply say, "Put your dreidel on the letter A." or "Put your dreidel on the word and." You can even use this concept with reading comprehension by having your child place the dreidel on the correct multiple choice answer.
With Hanukkah a week away, dreidels are easy to find in many stores. We got this 12 pack shown below for just $3.00 in Target. Our next post will discuss actually playing the classic holiday game along with some other additional language skills that can be addressed with a dreidel (or pack of them). This post is intended for kiddos who are minimally verbal. If you are looking to elicit 1-2 word utterances, this is the activity for you. Many children show interest in spinning toys and so a dreidel, like a top, can be a motivating and preferred item.
Target Core Vocabulary Words: want, help, go, stop, more, all done, turn, fast, slow
1. Spend several minutes spinning the dreidel and modeling utterances that describe the motions of the toy. The idea is to use the same words repeatedly to provide many language models using core vocabulary. These words and phrases can be generalized for many other activities.
2. Here are some suggested simple utterance combinations:
To request more spins or comment on the continued spinning:
Go, go, go!
Ready, set, go!
To request assistance spinning:
To end the activity or describe the dreidel slowing to a stop:
To describe speed of spinning:
3. After modeling the vocabulary for several minutes, begin waiting before you start to spin again. You are allowing a pause to give your child the chance to use some of the words demonstrated earlier. You may want to try saying part of the phrase and then pausing. For example, if you modeled “Ready, set, go!” frequently, you may try saying, “Ready, set, _______.” and pausing to give them the chance to say only the last word. If a long period of silence occurs, you can begin modeling the vocabulary again. It is great if you can get them to repeat after you and imitate the utterances. If not, they may need more exposure to the words. Luckily, Hanukkah lasts for several nights so there will be multiple opportunities to revisit this task!
This activity is TREE-mendous for targeting language. Sorry! We promise no more puns for the rest of the post. But besides being festive, this task is motivating because children typically enjoy preparing treats. There are many opportunities to teach vocabulary and even math concepts while completing this holiday activity together!
*Note* This could potentially take longer if your child wants to decorate multiple brownies.
Materials: Cosmic brownie, icing, sprinkles, pretzel sticks, knife
Nouns: tree, trunk, decorations, brownie, icing, sprinkles, pretzel
Pronoun: I, you, we
Verb: want, help, open, cut, put, squeeze/spread, shake, push
Adjectives: sweet, sticky, colorful, delicious
Questions: Is this a ______?
1. Begin by modeling this entire activity from start to finish, emphasizing all the target language for your child.
2. First you can say, “We are going to make a Christmas tree brownie. It will look like this.” (Show the picture above.) We need to open the brownie package.
3. Time for a little geometry lesson! During this portion of the task you can also model asking and answering questions. Once your brownie is on the plate, say:
“We need a triangle shape for the tree. Is this a triangle? No! It is a rectangle.” Cut the brownie in half. Then say, “I cut the brownie. Is this a triangle? No! We have two squares.” Then take one of the squares and cut a diagonal line. Say, “Is this a triangle? No! It is a trapezoid! We are getting closer!” Make one more diagonal cut and you will have the desired shape. You can say, “Is this a triangle? Yes!” Observe the brownie progression below to see where to cut.
4. After cutting you can say, “We need to make our tree green. Let’s use icing!” Depending on if you use a tube or a knife to distribute the icing will dictate whether the verb you model is “squeeze” or “spread.” For example you can say, “Time to put the icing on the tree. Let’s squeeze together!”
5. Now you can say, our tree needs decorations. “Let’s put on sprinkles. Time to shake, shake, shake!” For the tree trunk, simply break a pretzel stick in half and push it into the brownie base. You can say, “Our tree needs a trunk. I’m going to push a pretzel into the bottom!”
6. You can repeat the process now with your child. Remember to pause expectantly so they have an opportunity to request the needed materials or to label items. You can also see if they can identify the different brownie shapes. Keep everything slightly out of reach so your kiddo has to ask for the ingredients.
7. While your child is making their brownies, you can model use of adjectives too. Comment about how “sticky” the icing is or how “colorful” the sprinkles are to teach new vocabulary. Additional suggested adjectives are listed above.