I have a great winter time activity that can be adapted for a variety of children and settings. I’ve successfully used this game with one child and a parent, with a toddler and a sibling or two, and in whole classes of preschoolers!
It’s always a WINNER!
To Prep Gather a variety of hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, boots and coats and a bag large enough to hold all the items.
To Play Build excitement with your voice and facial expressions as you introduce the activity. Say something like, “Look what I have! See! My bag! What’s in there? Listen!”
Shake the bag and then continue to ask questions to create anticipation such as, “What’s in there? What can it be?”
Dramatically take each item out of the bag saying something like, “Oooh! Look! It’s a hat! Hat! I wear a hat on my head. Hat!”
When children are interested, let them handle and try on each piece. However, I’ve found that some toddlers, especially those with tactile sensitivities who hate dressing/undressing and kids with short attention spans, lose interest if you take too long with this step. If you can be super fun and keep children with you and participating, go for it! If not, move on to the next part.
After you’ve talked about a piece, set it on the floor in a line.
Once all the items are out of the bag, have the children line up across the room. Say, “It’s time to play a game! Let’s race! I’ll tell you what to get. Run over, get it, and bring it back. Are you ready? Listen!”
Take turns telling each child which item to retrieve by saying, “Boot! Get a boot!”
You may have all the group say, “Ready, set, go!” before each child runs to get the item.
Provide any cues a child needs to select the correct object. Once he’s found it, encourage him to run back to the starting point.
When a child arrives, if he/she is developmentally ready to work on expressive language, ask, “What’s that?” Model the target word several times as you’re talking saying something like, “Yes! That’s a scarf! Scarf! Look! A scarf goes around your neck. Scarf!”
If toddlers are minimally nonverbal and aren’t imitating words yet, ask, “Where’s your _____?” or “Show me the ________,” so he can receptively identify the item he’s holding. Again, be sure to model the new target word many times.
Repeat the process until all items have been retrieved and every child has had a few turns.
If you sense the children are losing interest, speed up! Keeping a fast pace is much more entertaining and helps everyone (even adults!) stay with an activity.
Or switch gears and focus on ending the game by cleaning up. Grab your bag and announce, “Yay! We’re all done! That was fun! Now it’s time to clean up!”
Cheerfully ask, “Who has a hat? Come throw the hat in the bag! Hat! Throw it in!”
Excitedly call out names of each clothing item making a big deal about letting each child “throw” his item in the bag on request.
Ways to Expand this Game…
After a child finds the correct item, help her use the item. She can try to dress herself, or what’s usually more fun is for the child to put the clothing item on you, mom, or dad.
If you’re using child-sized items, this always results in the item being too small, so ham it up! Try to stuff your big foot into a tiny boot and exaggerate the struggle of fitting your arm in a toddler-sized coat. The more you have fun with it, the more exciting and memorable it is for a toddler.
Another fun option is to dress a larger doll or stuffed animal.
While you’re expanding the activity, address other language goals too! Here are some ideas for you grouped by area of focus…
- Identify clothing items.
- Follow one-step directions during a game.
- Demonstrate (learn) object functions such as responding correctly when asked, “Where’s that hat go?”
- Imitate signs, words, or phrases to name familiar items.
- Spontaneously use signs, words, or phrases.
- Answer familiar questions with gestures (like shaking his head or pointing) or with signs or words.
- Use an exclamatory word.
- Fill in words during a verbal routine.
- Imitate play sounds like “Wow!” and “Uh oh!”
- Vocalize purposefully during play.
Don’t forget about targeting your social goals too during this game! Let me give you some examples to try…
- Does a child respond to (or notice!) peers while playing?
- Will she imitate any peers’ actions like clapping or jumping?
- Think about skills like eye contact and joint attention too!
- Will he exchange gestures with a peer? For example, will she reach out to take a clothing item when another peer tries to share?
Higher Level Goals for this Activity
Teach object functions such as, “Find the one you wear on your head.”
Learn early quantity concepts like, “Get two boots.”
Use this game to introduce plurals such as, “One boot. Two boots. One mitten. Two mittens. One hat. Two hats.”
Follow more complex two-step directions, “Get the coat and a scarf,” or “Get the mittens and put them on Mommy.”
Teach pronouns. Introduce “me/my” vs. “you/your” with “Get some gloves for me,” and “Where is your hat?”
One More Idea… Cognitive Focus
Match pictures to objects.
Take pictures of the clothing items so that you can play a matching game. I like to laminate the pictures to make them more durable.
For kids who love screens, you may consider leaving the pictures on your phone or tablet to entice a reluctant or super distracted child to participate.
Introduce the clothing items as described above and then show the children the pictures.
I like to let toddlers select a picture from several pictures I hold in my hand fanned out like an adult card game. Or make it a little more mysterious, which builds excitement, by placing the pictures in a paper bag and letting a child pick from a card from the bag.
As the picture is revealed, say something to label the picture such as, “What’s this? Mittens! Mittens keep my hands warm. Look! Here’s the picture. Mittens!”
If the child is verbal, encourage him to name the picture or imitate the word by asking, “What’s that?”
After he responds, then say, “Wow! I see another mitten. Where’s that mitten? Go get the mitten!” Then the child should run to get the item from across the room and bring it back to you.
Be sure to say the word for the picture again, even if it’s after he’s correctly found the match, so that he’s hearing the verbal model of the word.
If you need more ideas like this, check out Teach Me To Talk: The Therapy Manual.