Fun Activities for Language and Emotions
What better time of year to use fun activities for language and social skills for emotions than at Halloween? It’s easy when you know how to and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you use paper and felt.
Scary is the first emotion we think of being connected to Halloween, but there are so many different feelings that kids experience on this holiday. And jack o’ lantern faces give us the perfect opportunity to build our students’ vocabulary for emotions1
How to Make A Quick and Easy Felt Bag
Felt is such an inexpensive, versatile way to make your own therapy materials! With every color available, you can make simple felt shapes to match every holiday and season. All it takes is the right color felt, a marker, a simple shape you can draw, and glue to keep it closed. You can even make this craft with students during your session!
Whether you choose to make a pumpkin bag, a ghost puppet, or some other Halloween shape, be sure to add a face with emotion. You don’t even have to be able to draw since there are so many Jack O’Lantern faces online to trace.
- Get a piece of felt that is double the size of the shape that you are using for your pattern.
- Draw the shape on one side of the felt with the permanent marker, fold the felt in half and cut around it. Ghosts and pumpkins are easy to draw!
- Glue the sides together and voila! You have a cute little felt bag.
- In a hurry? Staple the sides together and put some tape over the staple backs if you have concerns about pricking little fingers.
Hide It! Language Activities
Young students love to find hidden things! Try hiding small pumpkins with varied emotions faces inside a big felt pumpkin bag. Elicit a targeted speech or language production and then let students pick a pumpkin with feelings out of the bag. Find out what makes them feel that way!
A great thing about using felt is that students have something safe to hold onto and play with while waiting for their turn!
The language you can model includes:
- spatial concepts (in, out, on)
- emotion vocabulary (happy, sad, scary, angry)
- descriptive words (scary, spooky, funny, silly, safe)
Young students will have fun just playing the game, but you can make duplicates of the emotion pumpkins to play and see who gets the most matches.
For a fun cleanup activity that works on social skills, try telling a Halloween scenario that evokes a feeling. Have your students decide what that emotion could be and then put that pumpkin back inside the bag. Continue until the small pumpkins are all put away.
Dealing with Sensory Issues
When there are no issues of tactile defensiveness, young students love to find whatever is hiding inside the bag. It’s kind of like getting a present!
But for kids with sensory issues, you may find it helpful to put the pieces you want to place inside the bag and the bag itself on the table. Felt is a soft, familiar material and many kids will explore it on their own when they are totally in charge of the pace.
For kids who still have issues, try these ideas after exploration time.
- Play a cleanup game where you name or describe one of the felt figures and see if they can find it.
- Let the child pick it up and put it inside.
- If this is still too much, place them far apart and see if the child will look at the one you named.
- Make a mini version that you leave on the table in front of them. Just let them peek or participate in whatever way they can handle until the activity is familiar.
- Hide a few little pieces of a food reinforcer amidst the felt pieces to reinforce exploring.
Use your felt bag for a fun listening activity that reinforces your work from that session:
- Describe one of the picture cards you used in that session.
- See who can find the correct picture first to put in the bag.
- Therapy and clean up all in one!
Talk About It! Language Activities
- Place pictures of some work that needs review along with a Halloween photo in the bag. This is a great 5-minute warm-up to see what was retained from the previous sessions.
- Students take turns choosing a picture from the bag and telling about it.
- When the Halloween photo is chosen, discuss the picture, targeting each student’s current goal.
- Have copies of the picture already made to glue into the student’s communication book to talk about at home. Homework is taken care of!
Play with it! Help for transition problems.
First, place a few small Halloween toys inside the bag for your students to play with until their next turn. This is a great strategy for students who have difficulty waiting. This tactic also helps when you need a few minutes to concentrate on one of the other students in the group.
The photo shows some examples of the types of toys that could be used. Don’t put them all in the bag at once. Add a new toy, maybe every other session or so. Doing this activity at the beginning of each session can be helpful for students who have problems making transitions. Knowing that they will start with a familiar, enjoyable activity can help them leave what they are doing to go to speech.
Then, when your little ones get the language you’ve been modeling or start losing interest in the toy you have been using, put in a new toy for them to explore. After they have explored the new toy, bring out some similar or familiar ones for a little describing and comparing/contrasting.
Describe It! Language Activities
Did you notice in the picture that there’s a variety of colors and textures in the group of toys? You’ll also notice there are two felt ghosts there. One opens to be a puppet and the other is flat. One is small and one is big. One is fuzzy (felt) and one is smooth (fabric.) One is happy and one is sad. Choosing items with contrast lends itself to describing activities.
First, fly the ghosts around in a fun way so your students want to request it. When they ask for a ghost, elicit some descriptive language by using sabotage. Watch where the student is looking so that you are sure to give the unwanted one:
“Oh, you didn’t want the little one? Maybe you wanted the BIG ghost. Tell me, which one do you want?” Just like that, you’ve set up a situation for describing!
It’s easy to make felt into puppets. Just cut out a duplicate of the drawing you made for the bag, but close the top and leave an opening on the bottom that your hand will fit into!
Puppets are a wonderful therapy tool for children! They let you adopt another voice, practice basic social skills like giving and taking a toy, or interact in a way that feels less threatening to young children.
Sometimes young students who won’t talk to a speech therapist will speak to the puppet with no problems at all. Puppets even give us the freedom to be a little silly in a way that might be uncomfortable otherwise (especially with a parent observing!)
Apply It to Social Skills Scenarios!
Practice with identifying and labeling vocabulary is only the beginning of vocabulary building. Young kids need to actually apply the vocabulary in real-life situations if the words are going to be useful to them. So, when choosing vocabulary words to teach, be sure to think about how and why those words are important for your students to learn.
Vocabulary for emotions is one of the building blocks for communication in social situations. So, students need some practice in identifying feelings in typical situations. It’s also your chance to sneak in some classroom problem situations that their teacher has spoken to you about. And it is easy to do!
After you are done playing, lay the facial expressions on the table. It doesn’t matter whether they are ghosts, witches, bats, or pumpkins. They can be felt or paper, laminated or not. Then give a short and sweet scenario that is familiar to your students.
For example, “Liam shared his crayons with Eva. How do you think Eva felt?” The student finds and labels the facial expression and it goes back in your bag. As simple as that! And you are both applying the vocabulary and working on basic perspective-taking skills!
More Social Skills Activities for Feelings
Maybe crafting isn’t your thing. Or you might need more detailed emotion images and problem-solving activities to support social skills learning. That’s okay! I have a solution for you.
This pumpkin-themed emotions vocabulary set can be used all fall to build social skills for emotions, facial expressions, and problem-solving. The varied levels, with pictures, words, and short scenarios, make working with mixed-level groups easier. As always, my sets give you lots of activities to practice skills in mixed groups or build skills to a higher level. Check it out!