It’s that spooky time of year, when witches, ghosts and ghouls appear… and fairly often (at least in my experience), little children who want to get in on the activities but aren’t always old enough to go trick-or-treat-ing. You can still let them join in on the Halloween fun with these simple crafts and games, all of which will also help develop their communication skills:
Listening and language comprehension at Halloween
- Make a witch’s or wizard’s hat (there are instructions here – https://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/Wearables/witchwizardhat/witchhat.html), and cut out big and little stars and moons from gold and silver paper. Give 3 year olds instructions such as ‘stick on a big gold star’, ‘stick on a little silver moon’. For younger children, simplify the instructions by using only one colour of paper. Slightly older children could be told two shapes to stick on at once, e.g. ‘stick on a little silver star and a big gold moon’.
- Make cobwebs out of paper (http://www.origami-resource-center.com/kirigami-spider-web.html), string or cotton wool. Cut big and little spiders and bats out of black paper, then tell your 2 year old ‘put the big spider on the spiders web’, ‘put the little bat on the spiders web’. For older children, give instructions containing two animals, e.g. ‘put a little bat and a big bat on the spider’s web’.
- The above activities can also be reward activities for children working on a particular speech sound. For every word or sentence they say containing their target sound, they can choose another star for their hat or animal for the cobweb decoration.
Practising basic sentences Halloween style
Look at the Halloween costumes in catalogues or magazines with your child. Take turns describing the pictures, to practise…
- Using pronouns, i.e. “she is a witch”, “he is a monster”, “he is a pumpkin”
- Describing (adjectives), i.e. “She is wearing a sparkly top”, “He is wearing a big hat”, “They are eating sticky toffee apples”
- Sharing opinions and using ‘because’, e.g. “I like the wolf costume because it has furry paws”, “the zombie is scary because he has face paint on”
For each of these areas, make sure you have as many turns as your child, so they have the chance to hear lots of good examples. Listen to the sentences your child produces in this activity, and keep your sentences a similar length (or just a bit longer). If you hear your child make a grammatical error, e.g. “her holding pumpkin”, repeat back the sentence with the correct grammar but acknowledge what your child said (i.e. “yes, she is holding a pumpkin!”) and don’t make them repeat it!
Engaging all the senses with a classic Halloween game
A classic Halloween activity is the blindfold game – who else remembers being blindfolded and a parent guiding your hand towards the eye balls (peeled grapes) and guts (cooked cold spaghetti)? This year, why not engage all your child’s senses to help them learn early language concepts and descriptive words.
Touch – as well as the classics, you could also include:
- Hot (or warm, safety first!) and cold drinks, such as hot chocolate or hot apple juice, and cold lemonade – talk about the concepts hot/cold
- Give your child an avocado skin to feel (witches skin!) – talk about bumpy/smooth
- A furry toy or fake fur glove can be a werewolf paw – talk about furry/smooth
- A sponge can be a fake brain – talk about soft/hard
Sound – have a ‘guess the sound’ round. You could either find some Halloween sound effects on YouTube, or you could make up your own with things around the house. See if your child can describe what they hear, e.g. a loud scream, quiet footsteps, a creaky door.
Smell – the hardest one to involve so you may need to get creative. Raw onion can be witches toenails, vinegar (with an adult keeping hold of the bottle!) can be a witch’s potion, and a ripe brie can be ghost goo, although you could also have some nice smells, such as cinnamon biscuits, chocolate, oranges and lemons. Everyone takes a sniff, decides whether each smell was a ‘trick’ or a ‘treat’!
Taste – try eating pumpkin, apples, apricots, nuts, candy floss, a toffee, popcorn… Describe each food you try it, using words such as crunchy, chewy, soft, sweet, salty, savoury… before your child guesses what it was.
Finally, sight – take off your child’s blindfold, and see if they can now describe what they can see. Those knobbly witch’s fingers were actually crunchy carrots!
Written by Alys Mathers, Speech and Language Therapist