Advent calendars can be so fun and exciting for children. There are now so many different types to choose from. As well as being fun, they are great for developing language skills. Here are some examples of how you can use an advent calendar to give your child lots of speech and language learning opportunities.
Talk about the time concepts of yesterday, today and tomorrow
Children especially those with language problems can find time concepts difficult to understand. The reason they are hard to understand is that they are abstract (they are not objects that you can touch or see). Advent calendars are a great way of exposing children to this vocabulary - yesterday, today and tomorrow. Each day you can talk about what chocolate/toy/gift/picture your child got yesterday and what they got today. You can then talk about opening another box or window tomorrow. Doing this throughout advent will give your child twenty-four different opportunities to hear and learn or reinforce their understanding of the words yesterday, today & tomorrow.
*Note: Younger children don't have an understanding of time concepts and that's perfectly fine and developmentally appropriate.
Learn new vocabulary
Advent calendars also present an opportunity to introduce new vocabulary e.g. mistletoe, sleigh, holly, bell etc. There may be pictures on the outside or objects inside the windows/ boxes.
If your child is younger and they do not yet know how to count, choose an advent calendar that has pictures rather than numbers on the outside or both. Then you'll be able to ask your child to find the correct window/box each day e.g. "Can you find the bell?" Narrow down their search by showing them the row it is on. If they don't know the word, that's okay. Remember this is an opportunity for them to learn new words.
Each day you can talk about what your child got on previous days. Repetition of the same vocabulary helps children to learn it.
Speech Sound Practice
Lots of numbers start with a "F' (four, five, fourteen, fifteen etc) and a "S' (six, seven etc). If your child needs some help with their 'F' or 'S' sounds, an advent calendar is a good opportunity for them to hear the correct pronunciation/to have a model. Try to emphasise these sounds in words to help your child hear the sounds even better. Avoid asking them to say "four", "five" etc as this may cause them to feel as though they are being tested. Simply give a model.
Christmas vocabulary is filled with tricky consonant clusters (e.g. sleigh, snow etc) so using an advent calendar is a great way to get some subtle practice of these sounds in.
Advent calendars are great for modelling numbers for your child and practising counting together. Note that younger children won't yet have learned any counting and that's developmentally appropriate. You can still talk about the numbers with a younger child but avoid asking them to repeat numbers or to count with you. Simply say the number of the window/box each day so that they hear them spoken.
Choose advent calendars with numbers for older children who have some ability to count. Ask them to find the window/box number each day e.g. "can you find number 5?" If they are unsure of their numbers and make a mistake, write the number on a piece of paper and ask them to find that number. Remember to give them lots of praise when they find it and say the number for them so that they hear a model of it. Count the number of windows or boxes that are open each day together.
Do you use an advent calendar in other ways to boost speech and language skills? Let us know by commenting below. Enjoy this exciting time.