I am a big believer in seasonal themes for so many reasons and Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays to create therapy lessons around for so many reasons! So let’s back up… What’s themed therapy and why is it so great? Themed therapy works for kids of all ages! By linking the relevance of a child’s outside world to the curriculum of a therapy session, you are more likely to notice generalization and carry over of skills. I’ll also let you in on a little therapist secret…it makes lesson planning so fun and let’s you get creative and in the holiday spirit!

So now getting back to one of my favorite holidays and how you as parents and caregivers can create language rich activities for all the kids in your lives at home this month in preparation for Thanksgiving! Below are just a few areas to consider…I am sure you can think of more!

Vocabulary

There are so many new and exciting words to talk about when discussing the Thanksgiving meal! I like to label and discuss all the food items that might make an appearance on my plate Thanksgiving Day. Discussing different foods ahead of time also helps kids prepare for less familiar foods that they don’t see on a day-to-day basis. Take it one step further and discuss textures, tastes, smells, whatever word you can think of to describe the foods!

Following Directions & Sequencing

Cooking is such a wonderful way to work on following directions within a naturalistic setting. Get your kids involved as much as you can with preparation of the holiday meal. When working on following directions within the kitchen, focus on a basic preposition (i.e. put the milk in the bowl, put the bread on the plate). As your children get better at following directions, provide them with 2-3 directions or a sequence of directions all at once to target working memory (i.e. first put the milk in the cup and then put the cup next to the plate).

Categories

I work on categories during the holiday months by naming what we’re thankful for within various categories. For example, name all the foods, people, places, etc. that you’re thankful for! This is a great activity to get the whole family in the Thanksgiving spirit.

Social Skills

I love to use the Thanksgiving dinner table as a context for identifying and sorting ‘expected’ versus ‘unexpected’ behaviors. I will give kids a list of behaviors and help them decide what category it fits into. Areas of ‘expected’ behaviors might include, using your silverware to eat, saying ‘no thank you’ if you don’t care for a dish or helping in the kitchen. ‘Unexpected’ behaviors might include interrupting at the dinner table, fighting over a favorite dessert or eating all the pie. I like to get silly with the unexpected behaviors too to keep it fun!

Thanksgiving and holidays in general are also a good time to prepare kids for social interactions that don’t happen on a daily basis. Think relatives we don’t see often, or unfamiliar environments that we might be having a meal in. Discussing and preparing kids for these new experiences can help make the day smoother for everyone.

Books

Don’t forget about all the fun Thanksgiving books! There are so many wonderful books out there that help us prepare for Thanksgiving. Below are few of my favorites to read this month. Many libraries in the area will also organize their books by seasonal categories; so make sure to check out the ‘Thanksgiving’ themed books during your next trip. Enjoy!

  • 10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnson.
  • The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing.
  • Turkey Trouble by Wendy Silvano.
  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson.
  • Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving by James Dean.

Written By:
Sadie Bognar, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist