That’s right. ‘Tis the season! Let’s take full advantage of “the most wonderful time of the year” and teach our children, engage with our children and best of all, help our children establish new relationships with others and build on their current relationships with others. What goal would you like to set for your child this holiday season? To learn more about the concept of Christmas? To learn more about their family? To be more involved with your family’s Hanukkah traditions? If your child does not quite understand the concepts of the holidays you celebrate and what that holidays entails, the more you expose your child to activities involving the holiday, the more they will understand what is going on in their world. Whatever your goal may be, there are so many fun ways to teach your child. Your child may have a long break from school and therapies. If so, it’s even more important to keep your child engaged with others, learning and stimulated. Remember though, it is your child’s break and they need to have fun!
Here are just a few holiday-related activities and ideas you can try with your child:
Books, books, books!
There are TONS of language-rich and fun holiday and seasonal books for children out there. Check our Half Price Books®, Wal-Mart, your local library and used book stores.
Preschoolers: Some preschoolers may not be ready for a true story book....it may be difficult for them to sit or attend to a book. So when reading the books, focus on describing the illustrations in the book rather than the story. If your child is ready for the story then make it very simple. Focus on one to three word-sentences when reading or taking about the book. The goal is to familiarize them with Christmas-related vocabulary such as: Santa, Christmas Tree, Candy Canes, Ornaments, Sleigh, Reindeer, and more. Here are a few good books to read:
Maisy’s Christmas by Lucy Cousins
Maisy’s Snowy Christmas Eve by Lucy Cousins
Maisy Makes Gingerbread by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Jingle Bells by Anna Dewdney
Biscuit’s Christmas by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle
Kindergarten through second grade: For these kids you want to focus on the “socialness” of Christmas such as Christmas parties, gift giving, shopping and more. You want to look for books that describe a great sequencing of Christmas like: thinking of what they want to make/buy for someone, finding the perfect Christmas Tree, going to a party, feelings, etc. Here are a few good books to read:
Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
Bear Stays up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
The Berenstain Bears The Joy of Giving by Jan Berenstain and Mike Berenstain
Santa’s Stuck by Rhonda Growler Greene
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by James Dean
The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll
The Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing
How to Catch an Elf by Adam Wallace
Third Grade and Up: With this group of children you may want to focus on finding chapter books about Christmas. A great idea is to read a chapter a night. Then have your child do something with each chapter or at the end of the week with all the chapters they have read like: drawing a picture, writing a summary , creating their own story, creating their own chapter to what they think will happen next, etc. Here are a few good books to read:
Flat Stanley: Stanley’s Christmas Adventure by Jeff Brown
Junie B, First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells by Barbara Park
Judy Moody and Stink: The Holly Joliday by Megan McDonald
My Weird School: Ms. Holly is Jolly by Dan Gutman
My Weird School: Deck the Halls, We’re off the Walls by Dan Gutman
Second to books, art is our favorite!
There are endless resources on the internet for art ideas and even printable materials. Also, keep your eyes peeled at your kids’ schools and your friend’s houses. The windows, walls, doors and halls may be covered in art….take some of their ideas and try them at home with your kids. Art is full of language, sequencing skills and social language opportunities. Using your child’s art to decorate around your house and your family members’ houses is one way for your child to contribute during the holidays. Here are some of our favorite websites we use all the time to plan therapy art activities:
Holiday songs are filled with language. Music is an excellent way to help your child learn and to engage with your child. Be sure to use as many visuals and props when you sing and do music time (cut out pictures you can physically manipulate while singing, bells, hats, stuffed animals or characters, figurines, etc.) with your child. This will only help them understand the language within the songs, which is one of our main goals.
Have a Countdown Calendar.
We build up the excitement of holidays all year. Waiting for Santa or family to arrive is difficult for us all! The temporal concepts involved with when exactly the holidays are occurring, how many days/months remain until the holidays, how long the holidays last, etc. are extremely difficult to understand. Have a calendar of the month of December (or the month of whichever holiday you are celebrating) and label the day of the holiday on the calendar with words and a fun sticker or picture representing the holiday. Then count backwards while writing the number or days on the spaces representing how many days are left. Each day, you can cross off one day so your child can visually see how many more days until the exciting holiday or event. You can use this method to also provide a visual for how long your child will be out of town, away from home, away from school and/or how long your holiday lasts.
Watch holiday movies.
Videos and movies can be a great way for your child to learn about the fun concepts of holidays. Remember to sit with your child and watch the movie with them while talking about the movie as you watch. You can use the pause button to slow down the pace and take time to talk/comment. One movie a week is a good rule of thumb.
Get in the kitchen!
Check out our recent blog “Learn to Cook & Cook to Learn” for specific ways to work with your child when cooking as well as some online resources for special diet mixes, batters and doughs! Making holiday-inspired cookies, cakes and other foods is an excellent way to help your child contribute to your family traditions and help your child learn about the holiday.
Make a Family Book!
Check out our previous blog “Making Learning about Family Fun” to learn how and why to make a Family Book to help your child learn about their family members and to help them interact with them.
Some holiday-specific activities where your child can “make their mark” and be an active participant within the special times:
-Make wrapping paper. Get butcher paper or other plain paper and let your child go to town painting, using ink stamps, using stickers, finger paints, handprints, etc. Once it is dry, use this paper to wrap presents in. It will be custom-made by your child and they will have a blast doing it!
-Make place mats. Take the same concept and paint, color, decorate pieces of construction paper. Try having some pre-printed holiday shapes for your child to paint, decorate and color and then you and your child can glue them on the construction paper. Then laminate and use as place mats for your holiday meals, snacks, parties and meals leading up to the big events.
-Make place cards. Let your child write out your family members’ names and then decorate!
-Make Christmas cards. Using the same ideas as above, also cut out digital photos of the people faces that the cards will be given to in addition to writing their names. This will help your child understand who they are making the card for and that they are giving the card to someone and not keeping it for themselves.
-Make Christmas ribbons for hair with puff paint, paint canvas shoes, paint sweatshirts with sponge shapes for your kids to sport during the holidays.
-Christmas shopping. Having your child pick our gifts for other people (especially at a busy store) is hard. Take photos of the people you want your child to pick gifts out for. Place the photo near your child and then look through an appropriate catalog. Let your child point to, circle, or tell you what they would like to get that person. Use language like, “Present for sister Katie. Make choice. Circle picture.” If your child still has trouble, give them a choice. “Present for Katie. Princess, tea set or game” while pointing to the catalog pictures. This is a great Theory of Mind skill….your child will be thinking of others’ thoughts and feelings and thinking about what that person like and does not like.
If you and your family are throwing a party or are attending any parties, have these activities and materials planned out for your child and your friends’ and family’s children. This will enable your child to be around other children, interact with other children and be an active participant in the holiday event.
Don’t forget to take LOTS of pictures and videos. Use these to talk about the past, help them learn about family, help them be more independent and to prep them for next year!
Have a wonderful time celebrating “the most wonderful time of the year”! We can’t wait to hear all about it. Happy holidays!