Let’s get creative in speech therapy through an engaging and enriching Thanksgiving theme! As we approach this heartwarming holiday season, we're excited to delve into how harnessing the spirit of Thanksgiving can make speech therapy sessions not only educational but also enjoyable. From vocabulary enrichment with delicious food words to crafting memorable narratives around family gatherings, the Thanksgiving theme can inspire language growth, articulation practice, and social communication skills development. Whether you're a speech therapist looking for fresh ideas or a caregiver interested in enhancing speech and language learning in a festive way, read on to discover the magic of Thanksgiving in speech therapy.
Books are versatile tools for addressing many speech and language goals. They provide engaging content, capturing the attention of the children, which makes therapy sessions enjoyable and motivating. SLPs can work on vocabulary development, comprehension, articulation, sequencing, storytelling, and social interaction skills. Books encourage active listening, expressive language, and critical thinking as well.
Books Your Little Ones Will Gobble Up:
How to Catch a Turkey by Adam Wallace and illustrated by Andy Elkerton is a playful and imaginative story. A group of children use everything from costumes to contraptions to capture the elusive Thanksgiving turkey. The book combines fun rhymes and colorful illustrations, making it an entertaining read for young children as they follow the comical attempts to catch the clever turkey before the holiday feast.
Cold Turkey by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsta Call and illustrated by Chad Otis has it all! Characterized by great illustrations and fun wordplay, it's a terrific story to read to an individual child or a group. I love the sweet message of giving and friendship!
Llama Llama Gives Thanks by Anna Dewdney is a heartwarming story! I love Llama Llama books for my speech therapy sessions, and this is no exception! Llama tries to navigate the challenges of expressing gratitude and finding his own voice. It has an engaging narrative and colorful illustrations and provides a wonderful platform for SLPs to work on articulation, vocabulary, and social skills with our kiddos. As Llama learns to say "thank you" in his own unique way, children can relate to his journey and learn valuable lessons about communication and the power of expressing gratitude.
Five Little Thank-Yous by Cindy Jin and illustrated by Dawn M. Cardona is such a fantastic addition to my speech therapy sessions. It revolves around the themes of gratitude, counting, and social interaction. Through the story of five adorable animals expressing their thanks in different ways, it provides SLPs with a valuable tool for expanding vocabulary and fostering social skills. Its rhythmic and repetitive text encourages active participation, making it an engaging resource for us to work on so many communication skills.
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman is as wonderful as all of the Bear books! I love rhyming stories in my speech sessions! This book has such a cute story along with beautiful pictures. Without ever talking about Thanksgiving, Bear and his friends gather together for a big potluck meal together, showing thanks along the way. Bear realizes he doesn't have any food to give, and is sad until his friends remind him that he has something else to give - his wonderful stories that his friends love to hear! The repetitive narrative offers SLPs an excellent opportunity to work on articulation, vocabulary development, social communication skills, sequencing, etc.
Our Table by Peter H. Reynolds is very relevant in this busy, tech-frenzied modern world. Violet is sad that her family no longer has time to sit together for a meal so she decides to engage them all in a family project! Not only is this message of the importance of time with family a great one for all of us, I love the opportunities for cause and effect, asking and answering questions, and vocabulary growth.
The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing is so funny, I even giggle in speech! My kiddos always love this story about two cousins going on an adventure while they try to reach the backyard. I always find a way to incorporate this story during my Thanksgiving lesson plans. I may use it for articulation or answering questions, figurative language, and narrative skills. I’ll make any target work within this story just so we can read it!
I Am Thankful by Sheri Wall is a book that describes what Thanksgiving is all about! It shares a beautiful message about showing gratitude to the people we love. It’s also a great resource for Thanksgiving vocabulary, highlighting many traditional activities such as visiting a pumpkin patch, taking a walk to see colorful leaves, visiting family, watching a parade, football, and cooking a meal. I love the representation of diverse ethnic backgrounds all gathered around the table. It’s a rhyming story with a repetitive refrain; perfect for speech-language sessions!
Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf and illustrated by Jenny Lovlie is one of the sweetest Thanksgiving stories I use in therapy. The story is beautifully written and the message is very meaningful. This book is rich with vocabulary: bonfire, corn stalks, tarp, bonfire, tradition, etc., and provides great opportunities for story-retelling, sequencing and narrative skills. I love the beautiful artwork as a catalyst for expressive language including vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar. You will read this story year after year!
Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Frank Ansley is a perfect book for speech-language therapy. It gives opportunities for teaching context clues and inferences as well as pragmatic themes like misunderstanding, all wrapped up in a super-cute, repetitive story! Runt is the little brother of Turk the Turkey, and although nobody listens to him, he seems to be the only one who understands that his brother may end up as someone’s Thanksgiving dinner! It’s a funny story with really awesome illustrations.
Games provide a dynamic and engaging platform for practicing speech and language skills, making the process enjoyable for both children and adults. They promote active participation, stimulate communication, and encourage social interaction. Games can help reinforce vocabulary, pronunciation, articulation, and language comprehension in a relaxed and playful environment.
There’s Nothing Fowl about these Awesome Games:
Cariboo is a fun game that can be extremely flexible for speech therapy. First of all, kids love it! I use it with preschoolers and elementary-aged children! Change out the original cards for Thanksgiving-themed ones to target asking/answering questions, categorization/associations, vocabulary, articulation and so much more! I have created a series of cards that can be switched out for the original sets that target a large array of themes and vocabulary. Cariboo Cards for Year-Round
Shopping List: This is a simple memory game, so it can be played with some of your youngest children. But, the older kids like it too. It’s very relatable since all children have likely gone to the store with their parents. During the Thanksgiving theme, I like to include food games and activities. This offers a great opportunity for expanding vocabulary as well as memory! I also use it as a reinforcement activity for speech tasks.
Crazy Chefs: Crazy Chefs is also a memory game, but complications can arise depending on what you spin! This simple game allows children to complete a grocery “list” (they are pictures, so even your preschool kiddos can play). I like to incorporate this with a movement activity that follows the same principle (see below).
Mini Market Dash: I have a huge collection of tiny items that I use in all kinds of ways during my
speech-language sessions. Kids seem to love little food, animals, dinosaurs, cars… Well, Mini Market Dash uses miniature versions of items that many children have likely seen in their homes. It’s cute and a lot of fun!
All speech therapists use table tasks in speech therapy at times because they provide a structured and visually supportive environment that enhances the learning and practice of skills. Table tasks can help focus a child’s attention, develop fine motor skills, and improve their ability to organize thoughts and sequences of information. These activities offer many opportunities for repetition and practice, which are essential for reinforcing the specific needs and goals of the child in therapy.
Table Tasks for Thanksgiving Thyme:
Turkey Stickers: All of my kids are really into stickers! Using them with your clients can make for a really productive speech therapy session! I like to use this cute Thanksgiving sticker set, but you could use a piece of paper and some Thanksgiving and/or turkey-themed stickers for a simple reinforcement for articulation and language tasks.
Smash Mats: Smash mats are simple but highly productive for repetitions and vocabulary. All you need is Play-Doh, and children can smash down the balls over targeted pictures after completing their speech-language task. My clients always enjoy using smash mats. I have created various smash mats that target vocabulary, speech sounds, syllable shapes, and wh- questions, including Thanksgiving vocabulary! They are a quick and easy no-plan activity for any session. Check out my Thanksgiving Smash Mat!
100 Artic Drills: Break out your daubers, and allow children to dot one of the Thanksgiving-themed circles for each repetition of their target word (I ask them for ten repetitions, then they can fill in an entire row at once.) Your students will have 100 reps of their word(s) in 10 to 15 minutes! Get yours here!
Color by Numbers: This turkey color-by-numbers picture is another quick way to get maximum repetitions of target words in a short amount of time. You can also target colors, numbers, and Thanksgiving!
Physical activity engages multiple senses and facilitates a holistic approach to speech and language development. Active participation in movement-based activities not only makes therapy sessions enjoyable but also enhances a child's motivation and focus. This engagement often leads to quicker progress in speech therapy, as children are more likely to actively practice and apply what they've learned in their daily communication, ultimately improving their overall communication skills and boosting their confidence in the process.
Activities that are Poultry in Motion:
Food Photo Cards: This activity can certainly be done as a table task, but I like to hang the I like/I don’t like, will try/won’t try, or yum/yuck or category headers on the wall and have the children walk or run to hang their food card under them. Hang signs on the wall and allow children to stick photos under the headings accordingly. You can also play hide & seek with the cards or print double the photos for a memory game. You can use this activity for articulation, phonology, and motor speech as well as vocabulary, sentence development, categorization, word associations, and many other language goals!
Fast Feathers: Simply spray paint an 8” styrofoam half-sphere, stick on some googly eyes, a paper beak, and wattle. Allow children to stick a colored feather into the styrofoam as a reinforcement activity after they’ve completed their task. I like to sort feathers into colored cups and have children run to get them to then add to the turkey.
Fruit and Veggie Sort: I often use this cute food set that comes with sorting buckets as a hide and seek game, which the children love! I hide the fruits and vegetables and children find them and sort them into color-coded baskets.
Thanksgiving Bean Bag Toss: Kiddos love trying to win games against their SLPs, so bean bag toss games always serve as great motivators. I have one that hangs and one that stays on the floor, and both are really useful as reinforcement activities for speech and language tasks.
Relieve the Strain: Fill the holes of a strainer with rainbow colored feathers. After the children roll a large colored die (mine came with Roll & Play, which is great for a movement activity that targets following simple directions), they will pull a feather that matches from the colander. They can then walk, run, or ride a scooter to match the feather to a colored disc, cup, word, etc. You can also do this in reverse, choosing a colored feather and then putting it into the strainer.
Turkey Feather WH- Questions: Similar to the activity above, this is a great way to target Wh- Questions, including who, what, where, when, why, and how. I have created the WH- Question Flashcards with color-coded questions, which you can use with the pull-a-feather Relieve the Strain activity.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, l am grateful for the children I work with and the progress they have made with their speech and language skills. Just as a Thanksgiving feast brings people together, speech therapy can unite individuals with the tools they need to connect, express themselves, and engage fully in the world around them. As we reflect on the season of appreciation, let's remember that the gift of effective communication is something to be truly thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
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