It’s almost Halloween! If your child is celebrating this fun holiday, here are some tips for how to use Halloween as a way to improve your child’s speaking, listening, and communication skills.
Start Planning Early!
Talking with your child in advance will help him or her to build an understanding of what Halloween is about and what will happen on the day of Halloween. That way, once Halloween gets closer they’ll be able to talk with their teachers and friends with confidence.
Learning Halloween-Specific Vocabulary
Like many holidays, Halloween has its own specific vocabulary. While your child might have heard some of these words before, there are also some words that might be completely new.
By introducing these to your child you can help build his or her knowledge of Halloween, as well as his or her vocabulary.
- Read books about Halloween. Focus on words specific to the holiday, like “trick-or-treat”, “pumpkin”, “ghost”, “witch”, and “bat”.
- Make Halloween crafts to use as decorations in and around your house, and talk with your child about what you’re making, for example “masks”, “spider webs”, “skeletons”, and “costumes”.
- Design your pumpkin face together, talking about all the parts of the face, including teeth, and encourage your child to give you directions as you cut it out. Demonstrate the language used in an instruction such as “cut a small circle for the eyes”. Try to find different ways to say ‘cut’ such as slice, carve and chop.
- Don’t just say the word and then move on, but rather expand on the names by using lots of descriptive words. Calling it a “scary” mask, a “haunted” house, a “wicked” witch, and a “hairy” spider are all ways to engage your child more and improve vocabulary.
Learning Everyday Vocabulary
In addition to Halloween-specific words, there are lots of words that you can teach your child at Halloween which they can use throughout the year.
- Colors: Halloween is full of colors, and pointing out the “orange” pumpkin, the “white” skeleton, or the “black” witch’s hat is a practical way to help build your child’s knowledge of colors.
- Textures: The “furry” spider, the “sticky” spider web, and the “shiny” pumpkin are all examples of different textures that you can emphasize while making decorations or costumes.
Learning About Sequences and Time
Halloween has lots to do with events happening in a fixed and routine order, so it can be a great way to teach your child concepts that have to do with progression and correlations.
- Use words like “first we will…” and “then this will happen” to show that separate events are related. When you’re explaining what will happen during trick or treating, you can tell your child, “First we’ll knock on the door, and then when the door opens we’ll say ‘Trick or Treat’!”.
- Take pictures as you prepare and celebrate Halloween. You can then use these as a sort of memory game where you lay them all out on a table and make a game out of putting them in order of what happened first, what happened next, and what happened last.
- Put the photos in an experience book so that your child can share all the adventures with visitors and their therapist. This is an excellent way to consolidate the new language and rehearse the sequence of the evening.
Learning Memory and Math Skills
Photos are one way to build memory skills, and here are a few more:
- If you’re making your own costume or mask, talk your child through all the parts that you’ll need: “First we’ll need paper, then crayons, and then scissors, and finally glue”. Then have your child repeat back to you all the supplies you need, to see if they’ve understood and remembered everything. You can also make a game out of finding all of these supplies in the house.
- Incorporate math into this activity by asking your child questions like “We’ve already made two masks, but three of your friends will come over later. How many more masks do we need?”
- As you’re making decorations you could ask questions like “How many legs does the spider need”, or “How many wings does the bat have?”
Learning Social Skills
Since trick-or-treating is all about going out into public and interacting with people, it can be a great way for your child to learn about social skills.
- Remind your child to say “Thank you!” every time someone gives them a treat.
- If he or she is going out with a group of children, emphasize the importance of taking turns and being nice to other children.
Learning About Safety
Going out in public is a way to learn about safety and how to behave with—or without—parents around.
- Remind your child to always stay nearby, and not run off from their group unexpectedly.
- Remind your child about stranger danger and the importance of not talking to strangers or being lured into a strange house to get more candy.
- Show the importance of staying with an adult while crossing roads, as well as looking both ways before crossing.
- If there are animals around, remind your child to always ask if it’s okay to pet or get near them.
Be Prepared, Have Fun!
If you’ve helped your child prepare for and learn about Halloween, it should be easy for them to enjoy the night. But how can you prepare?
- Make sure that your child is carrying spare batteries or any necessary spare parts for their audio processor.
- If you won’t be around, for example if another parent will be leading a group of children including your child, make sure that there’s someone who knows how to help change the batteries—just in case.
- Take lots of photos! This way you can talk about what happened afterwards, and maybe even play a memory game later.
While some of these tips are specific to Halloween, there are lots that you can use here to help your child prepare for holidays or events in general.
This post was written by Trudy Smith, a rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL Headquarters.
Like this post on developing your child’s communication skills? Incorporate building your child’s communication skills into other everyday activities, like walking the dog!
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