I can’t say enough how much I love therapy in October. It’s just FUN.
In my opinion, I can’t start the Halloween fun, though, until I’ve taught my clients about the routines and schemas of Halloween. Sometimes we assume they just know. I’ve learned not to assume; I’ve found they often don’t “get it” and can’t fully process what we are talking about until I’ve built their background knowledge. That’s one of the reasons (in addition to addressing specific language skills) why I created my Halloween interactive book all about Halloween. I teach all about trick-or-treating (going door to door with an adult, knocking on doors, saying trick-or-treat and thank you), pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving, collecting candy, sharing, etc. Plus, it elicits lots of language and allows me to assess lots as language as well. That’s a WIN-WIN. Then we used the props to act out the book.
We keep coming back to this little book, but after the first time, we start rocking Halloween activities of all kinds. Right now, based on client needs, my therapy is focusing on articulation, phonology, language and a bit of good ol’ social skills.
I’ve embraced the fact that any candy bucket, like this one from my (now all grown up) boys, works great as a sensory bin or just a vessel from which to pick cards I need to use in therapy. Any novel item brought into therapy is simply a fun twist for my little ones. The pumpkin bucket was the perfect companion to my Wacky Pumpkins quick drill. It’s so silly but also effective for getting ton of practice with any skill, and silly is good.
This Frankenstein bucket below (from the Target Dollar Spot) full of Candy Corn Quick Drill cards worked wonderfully to spice up therapy, too!
(I’ll explain the flat, gooey monster in a bit) hehe
I added some fluffy, creepy and playful bits to make it more tempting.
^^^ (Big eyeballs and pom poms from Target, little eyeballs and plastic spiders from Dollar Tree FYI) ^^^
Also found at Target dollar spot were these three little wooden houses shown below ($3 each).
They have definitely been used and abused this month during language therapy. It seems like lately I have lots of goals pertaining to basic wh- questions, basic concepts, and following directions. These houses are the PERFECT match or those goals! I gathered up lots of little figurines leftover from my boys. I should mention my “boys” are 29 and 21!! As you can see, holding onto their toys has actually served me well instead of just making me seem like a hoarder. haha #notahoarder.
I used Toobs plastic animals, a penguin game piece, a few Hot Wheels, some Polly Pocket remnants from my niece, and some Pokemon!
Although you can’t really see it here, the houses are all different heights and widths, and they lent themselves to working on “behind, beside, next to, on top, in, on, inside, outside, in front, middle, tallest, little, smallest” not to mention colors and descriptors of all kinds based on what is painted on the house (the house with spider on the roof vs. the house with the ghost on the roof), etc. We also flew bats OVER and skeletons jump OVER one, two, and all of the houses. Sometimes we had them fly FAST, and sometimes we flew them SLOW. What a hit this was!!! My kids loved putting the figures in, out and everywhere else I asked them to. I used it in a daycare common area, and I was like the Pied Piper – attracting every child that passed by like magic! I really hope Target makes these for each holiday. Fingers crossed.
The little houses also helped us role play trick or treating, something I think is important for my kids with language delays. Think about it. On Halloween night, we dress these babies up and often just expect them to know what to do. I always hear moms and dads on our street saying “Go say trick or treat” and then “say thank you.” Children with language difficulties need a rehearsed plan. They need to build schemas for situations like Halloween that require specific language.
I happened to find a little figure that looked like one little guy I used it with ^^^ , and we “went” from house to house knocking on the doors, saying “trick or treat”, receiving some candy (a mini M&M) and saying “thank you.”
We even practiced scenarios of “nobody’s home” and “all out of candy.” Do you role play Halloween routines, too?
For my kids who need to work on articulation or phonological processes, we’ve been wearing out Feed the Pumpkin, and they don’t ever seem to tire of it. It helps if you make the chomping, licking, slurping noises and add in the ocassional burp. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get MAX reps! haha
Many of you have asked what I’m doing after retiring from the schools. This photograph above sums it up. I’m doing therapy at local daycares but also providing therapy for clients at my home. One of the things I love about doing therapy at home is always having an animal in on the session (unless the child is scared of them in which case I put the animals away). That’s my cat, Scout, pictured above. Animals are a language gold mine.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been using this “melting monster” that I found at Target for $3. I let the child/children create the monster at the beginning of the session.
We got to talk about body parts and it was conducive to lots of descriptive vocabulary. For some, I asked them to predict if the monster would do anything while we worked. I got responses like, “He might scare us.” or “He’s going to see I’m being good.” haha
NO ONE expected him to do what he actually did which was melt! When he did, we got to discuss things like “What do you think happened?” “Why do you think he melted?.” etc. We were also able to compare/contrast the monster before and after (especially since I took pictures).
For other clients, I just told them the monster was going to sit and watch. Then I let the language unfold as he started to melt. They had lots of questions and emotions pertaining to his melting. It was fun, and they couldn’t stop talking about it afterward to their teacher or their mom. I should note that Amazon also has a ton of melting characters. Just search “melting snowman.” or “melting witch,” and you’ll easily be able to find them.
With my students working on articulation, I simple stuck these 2 articulation worksheets up on my fridge. They happened to be Halloween themed from a popular download of mine, but articulation cards would’ve worked just as well. You know those gooey, sticky bugs and creatures that kids love to throw at the walls? Well, usually they make me cringe, but using the fridge was less cringy. I let them throw 2 bugs and then we drilled the words that the bugs landed on or nearest to. THEN WE REPEATED THAT A TON. It kept the kids from getting antsy, incorporated some movement into therapy and got ME tons of reps from my clients. Know what that means? Everyone was happy.
Here’s a tip: The bugs stick-and-stay best to pages that are laminated.
Of course, it’s wouldn’t be a week in therapy with me if there wasn’t some kind of dot art. Several of my clients are at that sweet spot where they’re being succesful enough in therapy that it’s time to start working on carrying over their new skills into other settings. Dot art pages are my go-to for that.
We practice the words (or phrases, etc.) in therapy, and then we 1) bring it back to the child’s class to make sure it gets sent home (also allowing a chance for him/her to “show off” a few of the words to his teacher) and 2) make sure it gets in his folder to go home for someone at home to practice with the child again. This Frankenstein served as a therapy activity and a homework activity which makes my life easier. We could all use some easy, right? Plus, the family fridge gets a new masterpiece.
Just a word about homework: I feel it’s very important that you do not send it home until the child is confident and competent enough to be successful with it at home. We always want him or her to feel successful and we don’t want to cause frustration for either the the child or the parents. I like to send the verbal cues I use with the child to the parents as well- anything that increases the chance of success.
Well, that’s a wrap! I just love therapy in October!
Of course, before beginning, I was careful to ask all my parents if Halloween was something they celebrated and if they felt comfortabile with me using that theme to teach their children. I hope your October has been full of fun, too! Don’t ever let the not-so-fun parts of our jobs steal your joy for therapy.
Be sure to catch my next blog post about using wind-up toys in therapy! It’s especially fun at Halloween!