5 Easy Ways to Build Language During the Holidays

The holidays can be a busy time of year for everyone. Thankfully, there are many easy ways to continue working on speech and language goals while enjoying holiday fun! No matter what your holidays look like this year, these simple speech-building strategies can be tailored to any holiday activity and language level.

If your child is an emerging communicator who is just beginning to use words, gestures, signs, or pictures to communicate, keep your directions and questions simple. Talk through what you’re doing by using short one-to-two-word phrases. Remember—just because your child may not be repeating what you say or do during these activities does not mean they aren’t learning and expanding their language knowledge.  Be creative and remember that language learning is fun!  

Here are five simple ways to support your child’s language development this holiday season. 

Set the table together

As you prepare to gather around the table this year, have your child help set the table!  Discuss what you’ll need to set the table and have your child count how many silverware and place settings you will need. Then have your child place the silverware and place settings on the table.

You can give your child simple, one-step directions such as “put the plate on the table,” “put the fork next to the plate,” or two-step directions such as “first put out the plates, then put the glasses on the table.” Finally you can work on expressive language by asking questions such as “what do you use a fork for?” or “where do we keep glasses?” 

Make a holiday treat together 

Baking and cooking are both wonderful ways to support your child’s language development. Have your child help collect all of the ingredients needed for your recipe. Allow them to complete each step, with as much assistance as needed. Remember, a little mess is okay!

Talk about what each ingredient looks like, feels like, and even smells like. As you pour in, mix, and roll all of your ingredients together, talk about what you and your child are doing. For example, “you’re rolling the dough” or “I’m pushing my cookie cutter, help me push!” By hearing and seeing these movements in action, you are supporting your child’s vocabulary knowledge. 

Wrap a present together 

We know that children love to receive gifts on the holidays but what about having them help wrap presents too?  Have them pick what present they will wrap and have them collect tools needed to wrap their present. Have them decide what they will need to cut, hold the paper together, and how much wrapping paper they will need. As they wrap the present, model or narrate what they’re doing.  For example, “cut, cut, cut- you’re cutting the paper!” “pull the tape,” “stick it on top.”

You can also ask your child questions such as, “where does the tape go?” “do you need more or less paper?” Once you’re finished wrapping the presents, you can have your child sort the presents by size, color, and shape! For example, “put all of the big presents together” or “put the red presents together.” For higher level language learners, have your child compare presents by size, color, or shape. For example, “which present is the biggest?” or “which present is the most narrow?” 

Decorate together 

What’s better than decorating your house for the holidays? Having your child do it with you! With all of the colorful decorations that the holidays bring, have your child choose several decorations they would like to put out this year. You can have them choose decorations by size and color.

For example, “should we put the big, gold star on top of the tree this year or the little angel?” Then have them decide where they want to put them. For example, “where should we set the menorah, on the table or the shelf?” Have them decide what tools they may need to hang each item. 

 Look at family photos together 

Nothing is more special than looking back at years of holiday memories by sitting down with your child and revisiting old holiday photos. Take this opportunity to discuss who is in the photo, where it was taken, what you are doing, and when it was taken. Not only are you supporting your child’s understanding of wh-questions but this can also be a great opportunity to help children familiarize themselves with who they may be seeing at upcoming holiday events. 

Hopefully you can incorporate some of these fun activities into your holiday schedule. For even more holiday speech activities, check out our blog here. Happy holidays everyone!


Written by Claire Fleming, M.S., CCC-SLP

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