Not so silent night: Ways to elicit language during the holiday season

There is no denying that the holiday season is upon us.  There are decorations around each corner, our email inboxes are being flooded with news of holiday sales and our pants may be a little tighter due to that “one last cookie” we’re going to eat.

Along with the merriment that the holiday season brings, it can also bring added stress to our often already crazy lives.  With all of the extra tasks that we are faced with doing, encouraging the development of language skills in our children may go on the back burner during this hectic month.  But it doesn’t have to.  Below are some common holiday traditions done in many homes, along with ideas for how to incorporate listening and language skills while completing them…and bonus: by asking your children to engage in these tasks with you, you’ll get some extra help!

Baking cookies. Any baking activity is an excellent way to work on language skills. And here’s how:

  • To start, have your child think of all of the ingredients that you may need for the recipe.
  • Next, sequencing skills can come into play: “What do we need to do first?” “What do you think we will need to do after that?”  “What is the last thing we will do?”
  • If cookie cutters are being used, this is a great way to target vocabulary: a star, an angel, a bell, a stocking, etc.
  • And if the cookies need some decorating, the possibilities are endless: prepositions (“where should we put the icing?”); adjectives (“which sprinkles would you like, the red ones or the shiny green ones?”); quantifiers (“would you like a little or a lot of sprinkles?”), and verbs (e.g., “we need to spread the icing and then shake the sprinkles”)… just to name a few.

Decorating the house and/or tree. Whether we look forward to getting the holiday decorations out or dread it, one thing is almost always true: the kids love it! Here are some ideas to get them talking while decorating:

  • Ask wh- questions: “Where should we put the stockings?” “Who made this ornament?”  “What goes on top of the tree?”  “Do you remember when we leave this plate out for Santa?”
  • Target prepositions: “Should we put this ornament at the bottom of the tree or at the top?” “Do you want your stocking next to your brother’s?”

Gift giving. For many families, a major component of the holiday season is exchanging gifts. One of the challenges that this brings (besides the obvious financial burden!) is thinking of the perfect gift for people.  But why not include children in this task?  Not only does this teach children the importance of giving and not just receiving, but it can also be a great way to work on perspective-taking: “What do you think that grandma would like?”  “Do you think that Aunt Mary would really enjoy a video game?”

The holiday season can also, hopefully, mean extra time spent with family and friends.  Remember that any time spent talking with your children, regardless of what you are doing, is beneficial.  It is also crucial to remember, especially during a season that emphasizes material objects, that you don’t need fancy toys to elicit language.  Happy holidays!


Jessica Klein began working as a speech-language pathologist at CID in 2004, assessing and treating children from birth to age 12. Klein co-wrote the “Targeting Speech Skills for Children Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing” workshop, presenting annually at CID as well as at Southeast Missouri State University and at the Missouri Speech and Hearing Association conference. In 2011, she accepted a job as a speech- language pathologist at a St. Louis charter school. While in the public school setting, Klein assessed and provided speech and language services to students with varying speech and language needs. She was a member of the school’s CARE team, collaborating with teachers and specialists to develop interventions for students struggling in the classroom. In 2015, Klein returned to CID ready to share her public school experiences with colleagues to help better prepare CID students for the mainstream setting. Since her return, she has written a webinar about developing literacy skills in children who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as spoken about literacy skills and case managing students who are deaf and hard of hearing at Fontbonne University. She has recently transitioned into the role of associate coordinator of the Emerson Center for Professional Development at CID.


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