Turkey Day is nearly upon us! In addition to making favorite holiday foods and slipping into those stretchy pants after eating them, Thanksgiving also presents a fun opportunity to mix things up with speech and language practice. Here are 7 easy, speech therapist-recommended activities that will help your child get into the holiday spirit while practicing their articulation skills, vocabulary, and comprehension. Let's jump in!
1 Cook with your child
If you’re doing the cooking this year, invite your child to join in the fun! Sure, preparing the entire feast with your kiddo alongside you might sound... stressful. But you can encourage them to assist with one of their favorite Thanksgiving staples (that’s mashed potatoes for me!).
If your child’s old enough, help them follow a recipe and contribute to the cooking process. This is a fantastic way to improve their vocabulary and direction-taking skills. You can say, “Pour in a cup of milk” or “Gather a teaspoon of sugar,” and have your child follow along. Make sure to clearly label the names of each food or ingredient as well: turkey, potato, green bean, cranberry, butter, etc. For an added layer of complexity, you can also include adjectives to describe each food, such as “hot turkey” or “sour cranberry.”
2 Practice speech with thankful words
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on things we’re thankful for. One small twist to this annual tradition is to have your child brainstorm words that start with the articulation sounds they’re currently practicing. For example, if your child is working on their /s/ sound, you could have them say, “I’m thankful for _____” and then fill in the blank with any /s/ words that come to mind: songs, my sister, sand, summer, spaghetti. If your child is having trouble thinking of /s/ words, write them down on a sheet of paper and have your child pronounce these words independently. Or you can model them first and have your child imitate your words.
3 Play a memory matching game
Making a memory matching game is a simple way to teach your child themed Thanksgiving vocabulary, while also practicing articulation sounds and improving their short-term working memory. Simply print out identical pairs of cards that contain photos of target words, mix them up, and place them face down on a table. Without looking, your child has to choose the first card, then the second, and see if it’s a match! When they do find a pair, have them use the word within a context that’s right for their skill level. For example, if your child isn’t yet saying full words, have them practice saying the first letter. If they’re learning to pronounce single-syllable words, have them repeat the word several times. If they’re already saying words, have them use it within a two- or three-word phrase.
If you need help brainstorming Thanksgiving words, here are a few examples:
Thanksgiving Word List from Ms. W at Teachers Pay Teachers
Thanksgiving Vocabulary Words from Beth Lewis at ThoughtsCo.
4 Make puppets
This is a great language-building activity to teach vocabulary words and direction taking. Best of all, your child gets a fun craft as a reward when they’re finished! This activity from DLTK provides step-by-step instructions and templates for building a paper bag pilgrim puppet using everyday household items. Make sure to clearly label each body part and clothing item as they build their masterpiece (belt, hat, arms, eyes). Say the words and have your child imitate you to help reinforce these new vocabulary words.
5 Craft a turkey cut-out
Similar to the craft above, this hands-on activity from The Speech Bubble SLP helps your child decorate a turkey. Simply cut out each of the feathers and have your child write down different Thanksgiving words and definitions, or things that they’re grateful for. Then, your child can draw or color the feathers and glue them on the turkey to create fun and festive refrigerator decor!
6 Try a Thanksgiving word search
The /s/ and /z/ sounds can prove tricky for many children in the early stages of speech development. This Thanksgiving-themed word search from Super Power Speech is a stimulating activity that focuses on /s/ and /z/ sounds when they come in the beginning, middle, or end of words. For extra practice, every time your child finds and circles a word, have them repeat the word several times, paying specific attention to the target sounds.
7 Read Thanksgiving books
It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of regularly reading to your child. It helps with vocabulary expansion and reading comprehension, along with many other important speech and language skills. Add to the fun with Thanksgiving themed books--there are plenty to choose from at your library or bookstore! Some of our favorites include:
Where Is Baby’s Turkey by Karen Katz
Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano
Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon
Reading is important for children of all ages, even infants and toddlers who haven’t yet said their first words. For younger children, point to the pictures and model their names: “turkey!” If your child is able to identify the item in the picture, use that target word in longer phrases: “turkey is running!”