Updated: Dec 22, 2022
Need some ideas for what to do while your children are at home over the winter break? Scroll to the bottom for our list of fun family holiday activities to try at home! We're writing this from Edmonton, Alberta where we get an abundance of snow and chilly weather. These activities are perfect for your kids to unleash their creativity and energy while playing outside in the snow, followed by a warm snack right when they come back in. These activities are also fantastic if you choose to stay inside and cozy up together. We hope you get to spend quality time as a family and make many treasured memories together. We are confident that no matter what you decide to do, your children will love that they get to do it with you.
Does your child have sounds or words they can't say? Do they make mistakes with particular sounds? Do you or other people have difficulty understanding them? We've also included some simple speech strategies that you can try to include to help your child's speech! We get that you're busy as parents.. so why not get two things done at the same time?
We'll be adding more winter themed activities throughout this season. Bookmark this page so you can be updated when new ideas are included!
What age should my child be able to speak clearly?
From the ages of 1-5 children are still learning how to make sounds. For each year between 1-5 years old, there are specific sounds that we expect them to say accurately, and sounds that are ‘normal’ for them to make mistakes with. By the age of 5, you and less familiar adults should be able to understand close to 100% of what your child says. There might be a few sounds (e.g., /r/, /th/) that they might still have difficulties with, but they should be easy to understand.
To know whether your child's pronunciation errors are age appropriate, check out our posts with milestones at each age. Or you can click here, to see a handy infographic about the sounds we expect for children at each age.
No matter the age, we can help our children’s speech development with some general strategies.
What do I do if my child can't say a sound or can't speak clearly?
If your child makes any mistakes in their speech.. you are in the right place! Here are some tips to work on your child’s speech over the Christmas season! We’ll go through some tips to help your child’s speech, and then we’ll explain how you can use fun Christmas activities to practice.
Step 1: Figure out your child's speech errors
Make a list of words that your kid says incorrectly. Then look at your list and try to identify if there is a pattern with the mistakes they are making. See if any of these options fit:
Your child consistently makes mistakes on one particular sound
e.g., Your child cannot say "th" and will say words with "th" incorrectly. They will use another sound instead of "th". For example, instead of saying "thumb" they will say "tum", or instead of saying "thanks" they will say "tanks" .
Your child makes mistakes on multiple sounds within a word
e.g., Your child cannot say "f, l, s" and will say words with those sounds incorrectly. They will use another sound to substitute or they will leave out the sound completely. For example, instead of saying "fall down" they will say "baw down" or instead of saying "snow" they will say "o".
Your child speaks very unclearly and they are hard to understand. It is difficulty for you to find a simple pattern in their mistakes.
If you decide to seek professional help from a speech therapist, having this list of your child’s error words will be very helpful to jump start the process!
Step 2: Pick common words that have the sound your child cannot say
If your child has difficulties with particular sounds, try to think of some common and frequently occurring words where you can focus on listening for the sounds. It can be overwhelming to try to correct every single time the sound comes up.
For example, if your child cannot say the ‘s’ sound, you can pick 3 common words to focus on like: sit, some, see.
Step 3: Help your child learn how to say the sound correctly
When your child says their sound incorrectly, repeat after them but exaggerate the sound they made a mistake on. If they said ‘I thee the airplane!’ You can say ‘oh yes! You ssssssee the airplane!’. If they say ‘can I have thum water’ you can say ‘sure you can have ssssssome water’. This helps your child hear the correct sound more frequently, and within the immediate situation when they were trying to use that sound to communicate an idea. When we model a lot, we increase exposure to the correct sound. The more exposure we can offer, the easier it will be for your child to build awareness of the sound. This is the first step for them to try to make the sound correctly. And when we model within the exact moment they were trying to use the sound, our model is more relevant and salient.
You can also help them look at your face while you repeat after them so they can see how to do the sound correctly.
Step 4: Help your child talk slower
If your child is generally hard to understand, one of the most effective strategies is helping them talk slower. This will really help other people understand your child. For a lot of our kiddos, their thoughts run a mile a minute and their minds can go so much faster than their mouths!
One great way to help your child slow down, is for you to also talk slower yourself. As humans, we’re very social beings. Research has found that we will unconsciously mimic our conversation partner’s speech patterns. As parents, when we talk slower, our child will naturally copy our slower rate of speech.
Step 5: Let your child play!
At Chatty Therapy, our favorite way to work on speech and language is through play. With the Christmas season around, there are so many activities to try with your children! And what better time to sneak in some speech practice, then when your spending time together and having fun? Planning speech practice during an activity might also be easier for you because you will have dedicated time where your goal is to try these tips. It might be mentally easier for you to have a concrete plan for using a strategy. It is much easier to have focus on "exaggerating the ‘l’ sound in ‘shovel’ while playing with mini play shovels in the snow sensory bin" then listening for all the "l" sounds throughout the day. We know as parents, you have about a million things running through your mind at a given time. Having a plan for when you’re going to try a new tip might be helpful!
How do I help my child's speech while doing a winter activity at home?
Pick a few Christmas words that have your child’s sound error and focus on exaggerating the sound during the Christmas activity. The more your child can hear the correct sound and the more awareness they can build, the easier it will be for them to correct it! Help them see your face while you exaggerate the sound in these christmas words. When you talk during the activity, focus on slowing down your words. It’s harder than you might think! See if your child also slows down.
Here are some examples of Christmas and Winter words for different sounds. Pick words that have the sound your child has difficulty with. If your child cannot say:
"s", try to work on these words: Christmas, ice, Santa
"l", try to work on these words: lights, shovel, elf
"r", try to work on these words: reindeer, presents, star
"th", try to work on these words: thanks, thirsty, wreath
"k" or "c", try to work on these words: candy cane, cookies, Santa Clause
"f", try to work on these words: elf, family, frosting
"ch", try to work on these words: chocolate, chilly, chimney
"sh", try to work on these words: vacation, sugar, shiver
Easy Activities to do at Home with your Kids in Edmonton During the Winter and Christmas
1. Make Christmas Rice Krispies
Rice Krispies are so delicious and easy to make with your kids! It's quick and the steps are simple, so it's an easy recipe for your kids to help with. Use red and green coloured Rice Krispie treats to make festive Rice Krispies! Add some small sprinkles or coloured M&Ms to make them extra special. Or you can try adding some food colouring in the marshmallows to add some Christmas cheer!
This activity would be great to work on the "s" sound! Here are some words you can practice: Christmas, rice, Krispies, sprinkle, stir, mix
2. Set up a snow sensory bin, perfect for the Edmonton winters!
Scoop some clean snow from outside and bring it inside for the perfect snow sensory bins. We love using plastic bins like these ones, that have shorter walls. Having unlimited access to snow for sensory bins is one thing we love about living in Edmonton! This is perfect for those cold winter days when your kids are stuck at home. They can play with snow.. without freezing outside! They will love playing with snow without keeping their mitts or gloves on!
You can add some mini carrots, buttons and small twigs to make mini snowmen inside. Add small toy shovels, plastic cups, forks, spoons or waterproof toys like trucks or animals to unleash even more creativity! You can add specific toys to create themes: cupcake shop, arctic lands, ice cream shop, Paw Patrol winter land, construction zone, winter farm... the possibilities are endless!
If you try a "hide and seek" type activity, it would be great to work on the "f" sound! You can bury small toys in the snow and have your kids see if they can find all the pieces. Here are some words you can practice: fork, feel, find, fingers! You can have them try using their fingers or a fork to feel around the snow to find the toy:
Check out this amazing blog for other winter and snow sensory bin ideas and tips!
Image source: Happy Hooligans
3. Make a Christmas Village (Edmonton Version)
Create a magical mini village complete with wintery buildings, mini figurines, pine trees, and your child's favourite places! Head to the dollar store to see if you can grab any props to help bring your Christmas vision to life. You can work together with your child to make your own buildings, houses and trees. How cool would it be to create a village with miniature versions of iconic Edmonton sights and landmarks (we're talking about Fort Edmonton Park, the Butterdome, the waterpark or Hasbroland/Galaxyland at West Edmonton Mall, Rogers Place Arena)?
While you make the village together, it would be a great chance to work on the "l" sound! Here are some words you can practice: village, elves, lights!
Image Source: AtHomeWithAshley
Stay tuned for even more winter activities to do with your kids at home over the holiday season!
Play & get creative with your kids over the Christmas and Winter Holiday season
If you are concerned about your child's speech, planning some winter or Christmas activities is a great way to start. We are confident that your child will be more interested in working on their speech if it comes with doing a fun activity! Working on speech and talking clearly doesn't have to be boring and dry. Both you and your child can have lots of fun while practicing a sound they can't say yet! These easy, at home speech tips can be applied to any activity, during any season and in any location (even if you don't live in Edmonton).
Let us know if you have any winter activities that are part of your family's tradition! Find us on instagram @chattytherapy to get more speech and language resources.
Chatty Therapy is based in Edmonton, AB. We have wonderful speech-language pathologists who can give you more specific ideas on how to work with your child to develop their language skills and tailor it to your daily routine. Speech-language pathologists specialize in helping children understand others and express themselves better. Click here to learn more about our services or book a free 15-minute consultation.