Thanksgiving is only 13 days away! As we touched on last week, Thanksgiving is not only a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, food and traditions, but it's a perfect time of year to work on socialization. Thanksgiving Day and the days leading up to Thanksgiving provide us with a variety of wonderful natural language and social learning opportunities. Last week we focused on Thanksgiving-themed books and fun activities (art, worksheets, computer games, etc.). These are great activities for you to continue to do throughout the month of November. This week we want to focus more on FAMILY! The more familiar your child is with the people that they will see on Thanksgiving, the more likely they will want to participate and interact with them. The more they participate and interact with others on the actual day, the more they will create positive memories and associations with Thanksgiving, which will help them be excited and prepared for next year and also for other special events. This will lead to more friendships, meaningful relationships, a sense of belonging and prideful traditions. Here are a few simple ideas to start next week:
Preschoolers: Make a FAMILY BOOK! Spend time this week making a Family Book. This book should use simple language and include pictures of each family member (or friends) that your child will see on Thanksgiving. Start by a simple title page with a fun Thanksgiving picture and title such as “My Family”, “My Thanksgiving Book”, etc. Each person should have two pages about them, such as
1. Picture of the person with their name under it such as: “This is Aunt Carla.”
2. A picture of something about Aunt Carla such as: a toy that they like to play with, a picture of Aunt Carla playing with your child, etc. with a simple sentence under it such as: “Aunt Carla likes cars.”
Once your book is complete, read this book at least two times a day up until Thanksgiving Day. Then on Thanksgiving Day, bring your book and a few toys that your family likes (within your book) with you. This will help your child be familiar with each person, will help them initiate play, will help them respond to play, and so much more…..all building up to creating meaningful relationships.
Kindergarten through second grade: A Family Book is a great social tool for this age too! For these kids, you can take it a few steps further and add more pages about each family member’s favorite things such as: their favorite color, their favorite Thanksgiving food, their favorite movie, etc. Reading this book will not only help with play interactions the day of, but also with conversation. You can have your child help you create the book (taking pictures, calling family members to ask questions, emailing family members to ask questions, etc.) or you can create it for them.
Two more great activities are “Family Go-Fish” and “Family Bingo”! For “Family Go-Fish”, you will need to create the cards with each family member’s name and photograph. Then while you are playing, focus on their names first: “Do you have Uncle Phil?”. After they have mastered this skill (family: name/picture recognition) then you can focus on the things that they like: “Do you have an Uncle that likes to play Wii?”. For Family Bingo, you will need to create Bingo cards. Then you can take turns being the Bingo players and the Bingo caller.
Third grade and up: A Family Book is also a great tool for this age group. For this age group you want to take your book even a step further and discuss things that are the “same” and “different” as relation to the family members. For instance: “Uncle John likes to play Mario Kart on the Wii. I like to play Mario Kart on the Wii too!” or “Aunt Amy likes to bake cookies. My sister, Allison likes to bake cookies too!” Again, with this age group you can have your child help you make your Family Book or you can create it for them. Making the book together is a great activity; however, with the hectic holiday schedule, this may not be possible.
Two additional activities you can do with third graders and up are “Family Go-Fish” and/or “Family Guess Who”. For Go-Fish you will need to create cards with your family member’s faces. Then while you are playing instead of asking “Do you have Aunt Alice?” you can say, “Do you have an Aunt with dark long hair?” (describing them physically) or “Do you have an Aunt that likes to watch Princess movies?” (describing their likes/dislikes). Within “Family Guess Who” you will place the photographs of each family member on the Guess Who cards. Then while playing, you can describe what they look like and the things they like to do.
Remember that while participating within these activities, each child is different and has different needs. Feel free to change up our ideas so that they work the best for your child.
Start preparing your child for Thanksgiving now and they will get the most successful and positive experience on November 25 and during all the fun events leading up to the big day. Have fun!
~Amanda & Laura