Do you enjoy sharing a cozy fall or winter book with your little one, making crafts together to honor holidays or cooking with your helper for family occasions? These activities also have the added benefit of giving your child a chance to practice specialized vocabulary that you don’t often use at other times in the year. Building a child’s vocabulary is one of the best predictors of success in school. These seasonal or holiday events also help children understand the passage of time, and holidays can help your child connect to their own culture and family or learn about other cultures.
If you are getting ready for a holiday party, think about the kinds of words you use that you might repeat. Wrapping, gift, present, card, or decorate are words that might come up. You can describe the decorations, like “the long blue streamers.” Talk about the steps that you need to take to get things done: “First I’ll cut the wrapping paper, then I’ll wrap the gift, then you can tape it,” and ask questions about like, “Where should we put the bow?” or “What pattern do you see on the paper?”
When possible, let your child help with the big jobs by picking tasks that are similar to things they can already do, like cutting paper or shaping dough when cooking. This will also help strengthen fingers to get them ready to write. Encourage your children to talk about what they are doing, too. Thank them for their help and make them feel good about their contributions.
There are many fun songs to sing for seasons or holidays. One of my favorites is “The Leaves are Falling Down,” which is a fun fingerplay that can also be a calm lapsit for babies. For older kids, the song “I’m a nut” is silly and has fun sound effects. For a song to dance to this Thanksgiving, try out Little Eva’s “Turkey Trot” which you can download from Freegal, Chandler Public Library’s music service that gives you free song downloads with your library card.
If none of the humans in the family are celebrating their birthday soon, what about a pet or a stuffed animal? Roleplay is a great way to encourage practice of vocabulary all year round. Your child can give their bear a playdough cake or wrap something as a “gift”. Dress up is also a great time to explore concepts like the seasons. “Let’s pretend it’s summer! What will you wear?”
For seasonal books, you can’t beat classic children’s author April Pulley Sayre. It is rare to see photography in picture books and these images draw children into the beautiful world she creates. Kevin Henkes also has several books about the seasons. His picture books have simple language that is accessible to babies and toddlers.
Through talking, singing, reading, writing, and play, you can share a special time of year while also building vocabulary and pre-literacy skills. Keep an eye out for our Winter Children’s booklist (coming soon) and come to our storytimes for more activity ideas! - Crystal (Downtown)