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“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!”

Did you know that those holiday tunes that get stuck in your head every year can actually be the perfect way to work on your child’s speech and language skills? Even infants show positive responses to music! Here’s how to get in the holiday spirit while boosting your child’s speech development!

Pause to Encourage Talking

Children respond well to repetition. When working on your child’s language skills, try singing the same song or two repetitively here and there while at home, in the car, or on walks. Your child will come to know the words to the song this way! Once he or she is familiar with the tune, try pausing throughout the song so that your little one complete the line by using a word.

Here’s an example. For “Jingle Bells”, you’d sing: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the…” and STOP! Look expectantly at your child and use other nonverbal cues, like leaning into them or pointing to them, to indicate it’s their turn to keep the song going. Your child will likely fill in the blank by saying “way!”. Continue to do this throughout the rest of the song.

Add Gestures to Teach Vocabulary Words

Children learn language by observing the words you use in the context of a task or activity. So when you say, “I found my keys!” and are holding your keys, they begin to make the association between the word and the object. Incorporating gestures is a great way to help teach your child to understand and use new vocabulary words, and you can easily do this through songs!

Let’s take another classic, Frosty the Snowman. Not only is it many children’s favorite holiday song, but it’s a great song to help teach your child body parts! Add gestures as you sing the song. When the song talks about Frosty’s eyes, open yours wide, blink them, or point to them on yourself or your child. Immediately before and after the song, review the body part vocabulary words to help further their understanding!

Improve Social Skills by Making it a Group Song!

Singing songs is more fun together! Involve other family members, grab some instruments, and make singing holiday songs a pre-dinner activity this season. By sitting in a circle or face to face with one another, you’ll encourage your child to make eye contact and engage with others. Adding gestures like we talked about earlier can also promote imitation. Children may start to imitate some of the movements you pair with songs (like pointing to your nose as you sing “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”). And typically, imitating gestures progresses to imitating words!

Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist

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