Have Fun Learning Halloween Social Routines with Play
What better way to have fun learning social routines for Halloween than with a little trick-or-treat play? Play is the best way to do therapy with little ones! Kids pay better attention and learn more easily when they are having fun. So if you work with preschoolers and early elementary students, try out these ideas!
Why Practice the Halloween Routine?
Halloween has become a big holiday in the US and can be a bit scary for young children or autistic kids. It is worthwhile to use your therapy time practicing Halloween routines to help familiarize them with not only the day itself but all of the decorations they will see in stores and houses. Why?
- Kids who don’t have the language needed will have a harder time participating with their peers.
- Learning the routine and playing with (a little bit scary) Halloween figures can reduce fear for kids who get frightened by Halloween.
- There are so many repetitive phrases and short sentences that you can use to build language skills:
“Knock on the door.” “Open the door. ” “Trick or treat.” “Thank you.” “Share it with me.” “Put it in.” “Take it out.” “Put it on.” “Take it off.”
- Kids with motor speech problems benefit from the sing-song repetition of “Trick or Treat.” They can practice the vowel change combination even if they can’t get the whole word.
- For articulation errors, there are so many costumes and candies that you are sure to find something to get them practicing their target sound. Some ideas for the common L, R, S errors that could come up in conversations at Halloween are:
- I’ll wear a ____ costume.
- I like that candy.
- I see a ____.
- I’d really like to get ______.
- Trick or Treat!
- See what I got!
- I’d like to get more ___.
- So where should we go next?
How to Practice the Halloween Routine
Books and play, of course! Combined is even better. Keeping the language simple, in a repetitive routine, lets kids get lots of practice.
Shoeboxes are so useful for making therapy materials! Glue on some construction paper, draw a door and some pumpkins, or just decorate it with some Halloween stickers. Then, punch a hole to tie some string into so you can open and close the door easily. Look what a fun Halloween activity you have!
Play using shoebox props imitates the real routine and can easily support symbol use/exchange as well as verbal language, eliciting the repetitive phrases listed above. Start by having a new friend inside the box every day. Getting excited about what new toy was inside can help preschoolers with transition problems do it easily. An added bonus for starting your sessions with play!
Introduce the name of the costume, and do the trick or treat routine before moving on to the ‘work’ you need to accomplish that session. After a book and some activities that reinforce the skills being worked on, the kids can have a little free play with the toys at the end of the session. Toys, where the costumes come on and off, are certainly worth keeping your eyes peeled for when you are at garage sales!
Be on the lookout for toy sets that let kids easily dress play figures. You may recognize the Halloween set in the photo from your childhood days. It is a great example of easily putting on and taking off Halloween costumes.
If you can’t find these at a garage sale, don’t worry! Kids like to pretend, so you can use any toy kids to play with. Just cut out pictures of Halloween costumes in the approximate size and put them on the figures with poster putty. It shouldn’t do any damage as long as you take it off before storing it.
Of course, don’t use poster putty with kids who still put objects in their mouths!
Limiting screen time is recommended for children, so make your iPad time a valuable learning experience! While particularly useful for teletherapy since you can still practice the trick-or-treat routine, it won’t be 3D! If you are working with a child in person, be sure to combine hands-on activities along with iPad use, especially if your student has autism.
Using a paper duplicate of the onscreen activity can be a good way to help autistic children start to interact in real life. Since they are already familiar with the activity, the new skill is playing it with a person.
Just take screenshots or photos of the activity steps that require interaction. Work on identifying and practicing each of these steps outside of the routine until your student can do it. Then put it back into the shortened routine. Build up until they can do the entire activity in an interaction with you. Gaining access to the iPad version is their reinforcement for playing the routine in person.
If you love this idea and want to have it ready to go, check out the ready-made version at my TPT store! You can print it and play it! The interactive version plays on PowerPoint and iPad. It even includes real knocking sounds and children’s voices saying, “Trick or Treat!”
Another option is to make your own Trick or Treat book! Just join the LLL email list to download the freebie.
Make your students’ screen time effective! Incorporate language skills for real-life routines in their screen time play to help generalization. Try it this Halloween!