Carving pumpkins can prove challenging for young children. Cindi Dennis, M.Ed., CCC-SLP and MGA Speech Therapy Supervisor in Austin, Texas, offers an alternative to this traditional pastime! Why not use your pumpkins as a fun and festive language-building activity for little ones of all learning levels this Halloween? Here’s how:
Items needed: 1 small-medium sized pumpkin & pieces/parts to Mr. Potato Head game
Ideas for language building: Use this activity for all levels of building language by following the directions for your child’s learning level outlined below
FOR EARLY LANGUAGE LEARNERS:
- Begin by instructing the child to request a game-piece by signing “more” or “please.” The child may require hand-over-hand assistance when signing.*
- You may gradually decrease the level of assistance needed when appropriate.
- Make sure the child asks for each piece by signing or making a verbal attempt.
- Encourage the child by asking, “do you want more?” If the child is able to produce a word approximation – for example, “muh” for more – then encourage the verbal production in conjunction with the sign.
- Assist the child with inserting each piece into the pumpkin to create a pumpkin-head-version of Mr. Potato Head.
* For hand-over-hand assistance signing “more” close fingers together on right hand and left hand then bring fingertips together
*For hand-over-hand assistance signing “please” make continuous small circular motion on chest with an open hand
FOR CHILDREN USING SOME SINGLE WORDS:
- Begin by holding up two objects – for example, the eyes and nose – and ask the child, “what would you like?” If they look toward or point to an object, model the word for them and encourage them to imitate it by saying, “you picked the nose, say nose.”
- Once the child says the desired object name, hand them the object and assist them with inserting it into the pumpkin.
- Continue with each piece until the pumpkin is complete.
FOR CHILDREN BEGINNING TO USE PHRASES OR SOME TWO-WORD UTTERANCES:
- Begin with step one above for children using some single words.
- Once the child says the object’s name, encourage them to add a word after it – “You chose mouth. Good job using your words. Can you say mouth please?”
- Once the child catches on, have them practice two-word combinations, such as “more please.”
FOR CHILDREN WORKING ON SENTENCE-BUILDING:
- Use the same idea as above, but model a full question – “May I have _____ please?”
- Cue any words needed to assist the child at the beginning or end of each sentence.
BONUS LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES:
- Use this activity to assist the child in learning body parts. Hold up two objects and ask the child to point out the nose. Assist with identifying the nose if needed by pushing it closer and saying, “Here is the nose.” Then, help the child insert the nose into the pumpkin. Proceed from there working on each body part.
- You can also use this activity to assist in learning to answer questions, such as “What is it?” or “Where is your nose?”
- This same idea can also be used to assist with learning certain phonemes. For example, if the child is not as articulate, practice saying “nuh” then work to “nose” slowly. The pieces will help with early articulation by working on words like mouth, nose, more, arm.
Did you enjoy this activity? Share our post with another parent or SLP you know and be sure to tag @MGAHomeHealth in your “Mr. Pumpkin Head” photos.