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Getting Festive: Using a Christmas Theme in Speech Therapy

'Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to inject some holiday spirit into speech therapy sessions than by embracing a Christmas theme? Incorporating a festive twist into therapy sessions can not only engage and motivate our kiddos (and we SLPs), but also provide them with a memorable and enjoyable learning experience. Read on to see the various ways I use a Christmas theme to enhance communication skills, promote language development, and achieve therapeutic goals during the most wonderful time of the year!


BOOKS

Books are some of the best resources that we SLPs have because they can be used to address so many of our speech and language objectives. Christmas books are captivating for children, so therapy becomes more exciting and inspiring. There’s no end to the ways books can be useful in our speech sessions: introducing and reinforcing vocabulary, teaching comprehension, targeting specific articulation goals, enhancing storytelling skills, sequencing, and promoting social interaction skills, fostering active listening, critical thinking, and expressive language skills. So let’s dive into some of my Christmas favorites! Check out my Christmas Book Blog to see all of the ways each story can be used for speech-language learning!


Books Your Kiddos Can Get Wrapped Up In:

 1.      Amelia Bedelia Wraps It Up by Herman Parish (Author), Lynne Avril (Illustrator)

 2.     How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney by Mac Barnett and illustrated by John Klassen

3.     Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh By Mo Willems

4.     Olive the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold

5.    Moo Baa Fa, La, La by Sandra Boynton

6.     If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

7.     The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

8.     Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner

9.     Little Red Sleigh by Erin Guendelsberger Illustrator Elizaveta Tretyakova

 


GAMES

Games provide a perfect platform for practicing speech and language skills, making the process enjoyable for both the children and us! The kids love to play games, which stimulates communication and encourages social interaction. Games can help reinforce vocabulary, pronunciation, articulation, and language comprehension all while having fun! 


Kids Will be Pine-ing for these Christmas Games:


Cariboo: Cariboo is a game I have used throughout my career because it offers such great flexibility for speech therapy sessions. It’s popular with my preschoolers and elementary-aged kids! You can easily adapt the game by replacing the original cards with themed ones (go get your Christmas Cariboo FREEBIE here). This game allows you to focus on asking and answering questions, categorization, associations, vocabulary, articulation, and many other areas of speech development for all your themes. I have developed a range of cards that can be substituted for the original sets, covering a wide variety of themes and vocabulary. Cariboo Cards for Year-Round


The Santa Claus Game is definitely a favorite for my speech-language kiddos! They love the little sleighs that are included in the game, and I love that some spaces on the board call for singing, dancing, or ho-ho-hoing! It’s relatively quick and simple, so even my younger children can play it!



Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Snowstorm Scramble Game: This is a cooperative game, which I love to use in my speech-language sessions. It encourages the use of teamwork, which is such an important social skill, while working on speech and language targets! I love this game at Christmastime, revisiting characters from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie I loved when I was a girl!



Santa's Factory: This game is great for reinforcing articulation work because the turns are quick. However, it can still be used while targeting many other speech-language objects. I really like to use if with my children with apraxia and my early intervention population because it offers opportunities for vowel work, simple CV, VC combination, and sound effects (“weee”, “go”, “oooh”, aaah”). Santa’s Factory is a vertical board with slides that cross between the front and back from top to bottom (great opportunity to work on location concepts!). Kids release tiny presents at the top, which roll down the slides to try to land in Sant’s sleigh at the bottom. My kiddos are loving this adorable game!


Christmas Bingo: The classic game with a Christmas twist! I love to use BINGO in speech therapy sessions to target all kinds of goals. You can incorporate speech sound work, vocabulary, and listening. I also like to have children describe the picture on the card they’ve chosen rather than just naming it, and I do the same. This is a great way to target both expressive and receptive language skills at one time!

 

 

TABLE TASKS

We speech therapists sit at the table and do activities in our sessions because these tasks are structured and visually supportive. Table tasks effectively direct a child's attention and afford ample opportunities for repeated practice.


Tree-mendous Table Tasks for Christmas:


Christmas Stickers: All of my kids are really into stickers! Using them can make for a really productive speech-therapy session! I like to use this Make a Face Christmas Sticker Set, but you could use any holiday-themed stickers on paper or to make a bookmark 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 kiddos always love using smash mats. I have created various smash mats that target vocabulary, speech sounds, syllable shapes, and wh- questions, including Christmas vocabulary! They are a quick and easy no-plan activity for any session. Check out my Christmas Smash Mat!


100 Artic Drills: Break out your daubers and allow children to dot one of the Christmas-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! Go get yours here!





Color by Numbers: Color by Numbers Christmas Tree Freebie is another quick way to get maximum repetitions of target words in a short amount of time. You can also target colors, numbers, and Christmas vocabulary!






CRAFTS

Kids love doing crafts! They are highly motivated to participate in their speech-language activities when they get to take something fun and colorful home. However, I’m not an art teacher, so crafts in my speech-therapy room are simple projects that allow for maximum repetitions with quick reinforcement. 


Be-Yule-tiful Christmas Crafts:


Candy Cane: No craft could be simpler! All you need are red and white 1” x 1” paper squares and another piece of paper to glue them on in the shape of a candy cane. (I usually draw the shape, and the kids cover the line with their red and white squares.) If you ask for 5 - 10 repetitions of a target word, sound, etc., your student can achieve 75 - 150 productions quickly! 




Christmas Wreath: This is another great craft for getting maximum practice in a short amount of time that requires almost zero planning for us speech-language pathologists! Grab this FREE Christmas Wreath Pattern and decorate! I like to use stickers, but you can use markers, daubers, poms, buttons, feathers,etc. to decorate.





LET’S MOVE!

I always incorporate some kind of movement into all of my speech-language sessions. Getting up and being active is the best motivator for my kids because these activities are always the most fun! 


Activities That Are Snow Much Fun


Bean Bag Toss Games: Kiddos love trying to win games against their SLPs, so bean bag toss games always serve as great motivators. These are easy, no-plan activities that are really useful as reinforcers for speech and language tasks:






















Christmas Ring Toss: Here’s another cute game that gives children the much-desired opportunity to beat their speech teacher! 





Christmas Spoon Relay: Children can play this against another student or their SLP! I also like to set the balls about 15 feet away, have the kids go get them & bring them back to me without dropping them! Great motivator!




Wrapping Paper Basketball: Use holiday gift bags or boxes and some crumpled-up wrapping paper to create Christmas basketball. I like to assign point values to each bag to make it a bit more competitive!





The “most wonderful time of the year” can include so many festive activities that will really motivate your kiddos! Christmas crafts, games, and activities celebrate the season while offering fun reinforcement for children to complete their speech and language tasks. No-plan therapy is on every SLP’s wish list, and better communication is the greatest gift you can give a child! 

Merry Christmas!


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