Merry Concepts!

Enrichment Therapies

December 18, 2017

Open the bigger present first and then the blue present. But — wait! First I want you to give the present with the small bow to Grandma!” What “concepts” are important for your child to understand? As a speech-language pathologist, I always want to know whether or not my client understands age-appropriate concepts and uses them to follow directions. Spice-up conceptual learning this holiday season with these suggestions!

In my experience, kids love to follow directions and participate in a parent’s structured activity when it allows for some free play! While putting ornaments on the tree, wrapping gifts, or decorating holiday cookies, use concepts such as big vs. small, all vs. some, and which one is not [insert toy or activity you are playing with at home].

To teach the concepts of big vs. small, one example could be adorning a present with bows and ribbons. Have two options of bows (two very visually different-sized bows) and set them out in front of your child. Ask them to identify “which one is bigger?” Then, switch the bows around and ask, “Which one is smaller?” If your child correctly identifies big vs. small bows, have them follow simple directions and use this recently acquired skill in a functional way, “Put the small bow on the present!”

With all of the colors this holiday season, you can build directions around colors! While decorating cookies, help your child understand use of colors while following simple directions. “Put green frosting on the tree cookie,” and have only green frosting visible for your child. After 5-8 times saying the same phrase, introduce a new color. “Put red frosting on the Santa cookie,” and present only red frosting for your child. Again, do this 5-8 times. Then begin to see if your child can choose the correct color while following your directive. Place two frosting colors out and begin to alternate colors. For participating and helping decorate cookies, remember to always reward your child! First, reward with intrinsic rewards (saying, “great job!”) and then with extrinsic rewards (such as objects, cookies, or points).

2. Temporal concepts:

How did you and I learn the concept of first, second, and third, let alone last?! A great way to help your child navigate these terms is to keep orders and visuals consistent to the way we read, left to right. Lay out three presents, cookies, or ornaments and point to them while saying, “First, hang/eat/open this one. Second, hang/eat/open this one. And last/third, hang/eat/open this one!”

If you still feel as though your child needs additional support, it is helpful to write out the numbers on a piece of paper or sticky note and place them on top of objects for that extra visual support!


3. Prepositional Concepts:

While working around the house this holiday season, try to have your child become involved by helping! While cleaning up for guests, make a game while also helping your child learn concepts of in, on, under, between, next to, in front, or behind! Direct them to put the toys in the basket, put the basket under the table, put the picture on the kitchen table…etc. Have them place presents under the tree, on the green present, next to their sibling! The options are endless.

As always, for children who need a little more direct instruction with these concepts, the best way to teach is to model and talk through the concept. “See, I put the present under the tree.” Acoustically, it would benefit your child if you highlighted and emphasized the preposition while you narrate your actions!

Next, you will want to discover if your child can receptively identify prepositions. You can explore this task and increase your child’s skills by having him choose from a choice of two. Be silly and break the routine! For those cookies that broke or fell to the floor, use them to make choices. Put one on the table and one under the chair. Have your child give you the cookie that is under or on. This simple task can be done with your child’s favorite toy set, legos, food items, presents, ornaments…etc!

Once you feel your child can choose the correct item from listening to your directive, have your child follow a one step direction (i.e., “Put the cookie on your nose/under the table/in the box!”).

Remember, have fun with these activities! The challenge is to make them seem interactive, rather than therapeutic in nature.

If you are wondering whether or not your child is meeting milestones for following directions (or meeting milestones of other speech and language skills), check out the Ages and Stages of Speech and Language handout here.

Contact us at ETLC if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development. We are here to help!


Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.

740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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