Uncover the joy of language learning with your little ones with these winter activities for kids! Christmas Day might be past and gone, but you can still enjoy the Christmas spirit in your home! These activities are perfect for January when you wish Christmas was still here. You and your child may have already watched or read the holiday classic story: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. However, a great learning strategy is to incorporate lots of repetition - including re-reading books and re-visiting themes. Today we're suggesting that you read "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" again, but bump it up with these strategies and activities. Also, these easy holiday snacks and stories are perfect to do with your children at home when it is too cold to go outside!
In this post, we’ll show you how to maximize your reading time together and the perfect follow up holiday snack to tie it all together. By keeping things simple, like adding wait time to let your child name the characters and objects or using gestures, you can turn the Grinchy tale and treats into a playful way for your child to explore and strengthen their language. It's not just about the snacks or books; it's about making every step in this whimsical journey a chance for your little ones to discover the magic of words in a fun and easy way. So, let's dive into this delightful experience together and keep the Christmas spirit for a little bit longer!
Pre-teaching and Post-teaching: How to Help Your Child Remember New Words
Repetition is key for all learning! Repetition helps our brain form the connections we need to learn new words and concepts. One strategy to incorporate repetition is to "prime" our brain to learn. We can do this with pre-teaching. Before introducing a new topic, you can prime your child to think about what they already know about the topic, and what they don't know.
Another strategy is to incorporate post-teaching. After teaching a new concept, you can further the comprehension and provide repetition by doing a post-teaching activity. Post-teaching activities are great for learning because the child gets to engage in the ideas and vocabulary again. This helps solidify their new learning and helps integrate it within their existing knowledge networks.
During the Christmas season, your child will have learned new winter and holiday vocabulary. Hopefully they were exposed to lots of new words! When we learn, we need frequent repetition at the start. Then as we progress, we still need repetition to fully solidify our new learning, but we need the repetition to be spaced apart.
To incorporate this learning principle in January, try reading Christmas stories and do these activities to help your children remember all those new words they picked up this season!
Winter Story Time Activities for Children: The Grinch's Tale
1. Expanding Number of Words: Characters, Objects, and Emotions
If your child is familiar with the story "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" you can change it up by having them tell you the story. This gives them the opportunity to practice using the words they understand and initiating communication. Add lots of wait time (at least 10 seconds) to give your child a chance to think about the words and ideas they want to use. When your child does tell you something about the story, repeat what they have said, and add a new word. For example, if your child says "Grinch!" you can say "Yes! Grinch smiles" or "Yes! Grinch pushes!" Try to add 1-2 new words to what your child says. This expanding strategy helps your child learn to say longer phrases and sentences. For our children, the more we name and demonstrate with our words, the better.
2. Commenting: Interactive Storytelling
Engage your little ones by commenting on the illustrations and actions in the story. Instead of focusing on reading all the text, try “reading the pictures”. Try verbally commenting and pointing out small details (e.g., “The Grinch looks angry. His eyebrows are furrowed.”). You can also verbally describe the actions that are depicted in the pictures. (e.g., "Look, the Grinch is sneaking around. What do you think he's going to do?). When your child looks or points to part of a picture, show your interest by talking about what they’re looking at! Slow down and discuss what they are interested in, even if it is not part of the main story line. For example, if your child becomes very interested in all the presents in the sleight, take some time to talk about it!
You can also have conversations that are related to the story but aren't focused around testing their factual comprehension of the story details. Since your child will have just experienced the holiday season and festivities, they will have gathered lots of experiential knowledge around these themes. Help your child remember these new words and ideas by revisiting those ideas and words. Have a deeper and more complex discussion with the by using their recent experiences and memories. These conversations will help your child's communication skills improve because they will now practice using the words to verbalize their knowledge and using their understanding of the world to talk about more complex ideas. Talk about:
Their predictions (e.g., "What do you think is wrapped inside that present? It looks round like the ball that Dad got! Do you think that bag is heavy? The bag looks really big like the present we got Mom!")
Their thoughts and feelings if events in the book were to happen in real life (e.g., "How would you feel if the Grinch stole YOUR Christmas? What things would you be alright with the Grinch taking? What things would make you really upset?"
Encouraging their active participation not only stimulates their imagination but also fosters a deeper connection to the narrative.
Winter Snack Activities for Children: Crafting Grinchy Fun with Kids
After the story unfolds its magic, seamlessly transition into the kitchen and make Grinchy snacks. See the end of this post for the recipe and step by step instructions for creating your Grinchy snack. This easy snack activity is great to do with siblings of different ages! If your child has a younger sibling (e.g., 2-3 years old) you can involve them as well! You can help their language development by using these simple language strategies for younger children.
1. Narrate the Activity: Simple and Repetitive Language
Keep language simple and repetitive. Modeling language that is simple and repetitive helps young children learn new words better. The more children hear a word, the faster they learn how to use the word themselves. For example, when you show your children the activity you can say: "We're going to make Grinchy snacks. We have grapes, strawberries, bananas and marshmallows. We’re making Grinchy snacks with grapes and strawberries. We can decorate our Grinchy snacks with bananas, and marshmallows."
Guide your little chef through each step of making the Grinchy snacks. Throughout, repeat the steps aloud, reinforcing vocabulary and making the experience language-rich. "Now we're putting a green grape, banana, strawberry, and a mini marshmallow on the toothpick. It's a Grinchy snack!" This interactive narration provides lots of repetition and modeling around the actions and items making it an engaging learning activity.
2. Use Gestures/Signing: Adding a Dash of Fun
Another effective strategy involves incorporating gestures while engaging in activities like reading a book or making a recipe with your child. Focus on functional words, such as: "on," "off," "up," "down," "in," and "out,". Functional words great to introduce because they are impactful for creating change in your child's environment. Other common words you can sign are: "more," "all done," "help," and "eat". Check out this website for a visual dictionary of all the baby signs you can think of!
There are many opportunities to model signs when you read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”! When you’re reading together, use gestures when they correspond to different parts of the story. For instance, use the gesture:
"up" when the Grinch is pulling his sled up the mountain, or when the Grinch is carrying all the presents up to his cave
"in" when the Grinch puts the presents into his sack
Another great opportunity to model gestures is during the snack activity (described later on this post). You can incorporate and model signs like "help" or “more” when your child needs help stringing the fruits on the skewers or when they want more fruit to put on. Gestures serve as another form of communication for children who want to tell us their wants but who have not yet learned how to use spoken words. This can be a great tool to reduce frustration and anxiety for children who aren’t able to talk yet. Gestures foster effective and inclusive communication, because we are providing multiple opportunities for children to communicate beyond verbal communication. Introducing gestures supplements their learning of new words and also enhances their participation in various activities because they are able to tell us their thoughts.
3. Give Choices: Reinforcing Vocabulary
We can create natural opportunities for communication by providing choices when we make the snacks. By giving a choice, your child has the opportunity to practice using their words to verbalize what they want. You can give choices such as: "Do you want green grapes or banana slices?", “Do you want a big grape or small grape?”, “Do you want a full marshmallow or half marshmallow?”, “Do you want the banana on top of the grape or under the grape?”. Encourage your child to express their preferences, fostering decision-making skills. Follow their lead and don’t worry about making the perfect fruit Grinches. It’s perfectly fine if your child decides to only have grapes on their skewer, or if they only want bananas and strawberries. What’s most important is that your child is having fun!
Recipe for Creating Winter Snacks for Children: Grinchy Delights
8 green seedless grapes
1/2 banana, cut into 8 slices
8 small strawberries
8 mini marshmallows
Prepare Ingredients: Wash the grapes and strawberries. Cut the banana into 8 slices.
Thread the Skewers: Assemble the Grinchy snacks by threading one grape, one banana slice, one strawberry, and one mini marshmallow onto each skewer.
Repeat and Enjoy: Continue this process until all skewers are assembled. Encourage your little ones to join in the fun of creating their Grinchy delights.
Other Easy Winter Snacks and Stories for Children include:
There was a Cold Lady who Swallowed Some Snow by Jucille Colandro
Similar to making a fruit Grinch from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", you can re-create characters or events in your child's favourite story books! Let The Grinch continue to inspire not only festive tales but also delightful snacks that bring joy to your little ones. Happy Grinchy snacking!
Let us know if you have any winter or Christmas 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.