At this time of the year, many people around the world are celebrating different holidays, some Hanukkah, while others are eagerly anticipating the arrival of a jolly fellow in a red suit on Christmas eve or morning. Decorations have been put up and gifts are waiting to be opened.
At SoundIntuition, we are using this time to celebrate the toys and decorations of the holiday season, and the professionals and families around the world that are on a journey of turning a grey world of silence into a colourful world of sound.
Wait a minute. Toys and decorations of the holiday season? Yes. You read that correctly.
Many of us underestimate the power the toys and decorations that come with seasonal holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas, returning the toys and decorations to their storage boxes too soon after the holidays are over. But when we do, we miss out on opportunities for conversations that stimulate brain growth. Brain growth that results in improved listening, spoken communication and literacy skills.
I once kept a Christmas tree up until just before Easter. Yes, I know it’s overkill, but let me tell you, it got a lot of my children and their parents talking and asking questions.
I heard moms and dads croon to their babies using phrases like:
“Look! Look up, up, up the tree! There’s a star! Let’s sing a song about stars!”
“Look! There’s an ornament! It goes round and round and round!”
“There’s the light! Don’t touch it! It might be hot!”
I heard moms and dads help their toddlers and preschoolers learn to follow simple directions and engage in conversation using phrases such as:
“Uh oh, the star fell down! We better pick it up!”
“It’s broken! Oh no! What happened?”
“Ouch, the tree is prickly. Oh no, do you have a boo boo?”
I heard older children ask their moms and dads questions such as:
“Is that a Happy New Year tree?”
“WHEN IS Auntie Karen gonna take Christmas tree down?”
“Won’t the Easter Bunny wonder if it’s too early to deliver eggs if he sees the Christmas tree?”
More often than not, the conversations included many of my session targets.
Put simply, the Christmas tree gave my families and children something to talk about.
After each holiday season, I run to the craft store and go on a shopping spree. I take advantage of the sales and purchase more seasonal decorations and toys. I keep them out all year round because these are the toys that give the most bang for the listening and language-learning buck.
The dreidel is a classic Learning to Listen (LTL) toy. When using the dreidel, we can talk about it by using phrases, questions and directions that include future, present, and past tenses, predictions, counting/numbers and concepts such as more, again, after, before, etc. There are many songs that can be sung with the dreidel that can be found in Hear and Listen! Talk and Sing! (Estabrooks, 2006). The language used during play with the dreidel is meaningful, repetitive and most importantly, easy to hear, say and sing.
“If we count to three, we will spin the dreidel and watch it go around and around until it stops!”
“Wanna spin it again?”
“Let’s do some more spinning.”
“Oops, the dreidel went flop! The dreidel fell down.”
“Pick it up and I’ll help you spin it around again.”
“Okay, get ready to count!”
“Oo, look at it go around and around and around!”
“Before we spin the dreidel again, let’s sing the song. After we sing the song, we will spin the dreidel.”
Christmas Present/Advent Calendar Toy
This a toy that was meant to be used as an advent calendar. The gift boxes are decorated in various patterns, colors and numbers. There is a door that opens to reveal the gifts (tiny toys) that are placed inside. I like to keep this toy accessible throughout the year as it gives me the opportunity to:
- ask the children to follow multi-element directions such as:
“There is a toy for you in the purple present with the yellow polka-dots”
“If you add the numbers on the gift that is red with the yellow bow and the gift that is blue with the yellow stars, what number would you get?”
- ask children to identify items in a box upon hearing descriptions such as:
“There is a fruit that monkeys like to eat in the present that is the same colour as grapes with stripes that are the same color as the sky.”
- Assess or develop auditory memory skills by asking the child to:
“Give mommy the present with the number 13, and Daddy the present that has the number that goes before 4.”
The above are just a few examples of how an advent calendar can be used once the boxes have been opened. Decorations and gift boxes can be recycled again and again for the purpose of developing listening and spoken language competence during meaningful and fun contexts.
So, instead of putting away the toys and decorations of the Holiday Season, use them throughout the year. The repetition of the words, phrases, songs and stories will help our children prepare for the next round of Season’s Greetings, and give them something to talk about!
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Birkenshaw-Fleming, E. & Estabrooks, W. (2006) HEAR AND LISTEN! TALK AND SING, Songs for Young Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Others Who Need Help in Learning to Talk, 2nd Edition.