Updated: Sep 17, 2022
We have all heard about the negative impacts of screen time on development - especially when screen time is used in excess. But I think it's also important to note that screen time isn't all bad, and I think children can benefit greatly from interacting with others during this time. Today I thought I would give specific ideas for how to do this at home, and hopefully help some parents and children who are anxious about Halloween at the same time!
If you follow me on social media, you know there are a few things I absolutely love: Amazon, books, and Super Simple Learning Songs! So it will come to no surprise that I have picked a Super Simple song- Knock Knock Trick or Treat. This song teaches vocabulary and gives great ideas for pretend play. AND there’s two versions of this song- Part 1 and Part 2 for even more fun! Also, as if I needed another reason to love Super Simple…. They have pre-made activities for you to print and use at home! This includes Halloween Picture Cards, worksheets, coloring sheets, a lyrics poster, and a cute spin the wheel game! Find activities for Part 2 here.
Many parents have said to me: “My child isn’t talking yet, but I still want to be able to do these activities, I am just not sure how to proceed”. I encourage the use of pictures or signs (even if you are just modeling use of these!) paired with the verbal word with these kiddos. You can also target skills receptively: instead of asking “What is this?”, you can say “point to the…” Instead of asking an open ended question, you can ask a yes/no question, or ask them a question and allow them to point to a picture (or the screen!) to answer your question. If you do not have access to a printer and do not know a sign, that’s ok too-use words to describe what you see (or even ask and answer your own questions). Modeling language for your child is an excellent way to increase future language.
In this song, trick or treaters walk up (one at a time) to a door, and say “trick or treat”, get their candy, and pretend to be their character. This song is a perfect example of a pre-made social story for younger children who are unfamiliar with trick or treating, children who have difficulty with change, and/or children with cognitive delays because it shows kids what is expected of them and what to expect from others on Halloween.
I would recommend watching for fun the first time with your child (no questions- but do sing along!), and then on subsequent viewings, utilize that pause button! Encourage your child answer questions or do/tell you something before you continue watching the song- movement and music are often highly motivating activities for many kids and helps get their sensory needs met!
Build Vocabulary: Push pause and point to the items while you name them. Or see if your child can point to the words or act out the actions you name.
Nouns: House, door, robot, ghost, cowboy, horse, desert, witch, broom, cauldron, monster, ballerina, stage, pirate, sword, and pirate ship.
Verbs: Walking, knocking, trick or treating, riding (horse), laughing, stirring, stomping, dancing, and steering (ship).
Adjectives: Big vs little- talk about how the kids are little and the robot is big, you can find things around your house that are little or big to support this skill.
More Language Skills:
Inferencing: Each segment of this song begins with a shadowed character walking up to the door. Ask, “Who do you think that could be?”, “What are they dressed up as?”, "I think it's a ________".
Functions: What does a ghost/cowboy/monster do? Talking about this can add tons of vocabulary to your child’s repertoire and build schema.
Sounds: Make sounds to go with characters: “What does a ghost say?” -oooohhhhhhh, “A a cowboy says giddy up, see haw!” etc.
Wh Questions: If your child isn't yet able to answer these questions, you can just provide the answer, make "I wonder" statements and then answer, or ask and answer your own questions. “What are they doing?” (walking, knocking, trick or treating, giving candy), “Who is trick or treating?”, “Where are they going?”, “When are they trick or treating?” (at night, on Halloween), “Why do kids go trick or treating?” (because it’s fun, to get candy). When the scene goes to the pretend play ask, “Where are they pretending to be?” (haunted house, desert, ship)
Feelings: Ask or label how the characters feel or how they might feel if you saw them in real life. Happy, scared, silly, and excited are fun ones for this song. Practice making these facial expressions – or make some yourself and see if your child can identify them.
Clothes: Learn the vocabulary for what the characters are wearing. For example the ghost is wearing a sheet and shoes, the cowboy is wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and bandana, etc. You can do a google image search for some of the characters so your child can see the differences in cowboys/robots/dancers. I would be careful searching ghosts and monsters in real time though!
Describing: For older kids or kids with more advanced language abilities, you can ask them to describe a character. Ex. “A witch is a person who does magic, they are green, they fly on broomsticks, they make potions, they cast spells” etc. You can ask your child about these characters before you talk about this song and after and see the difference you were able to make in their language abilities. You can also model this language for your child if they are not at this level.
Combining words: If your child is using primarily one word at a time to communicate, model using 2 words (or more if your child has more). For example, “Ghost knocking”, “Ballerina Dancing”, and at the end “bye ghost, bye cowboy”, etc.
Conversations: “What was your favorite part?”, “Did you think any characters were scary?”, Which one was the prettiest/silliest/scariest?”, “If you could be any of these characters, which would you be?”, “What do you want to be for Halloween?”, “What is your favorite candy?”. Also give your child leads to follow: “I remember one year for Halloween I had the BEST costume…..” and wait to see if they ask “What was it?”. If they don’t follow, you can repeat yourself to give a few more hints that you want to tell them something and if not, you can say something like “I want to tell you about my costume..." and then share the story.
Generalize: Find these characters in other books and see if you can identify them, or talk about how characters are the same or different. Super Simple has many Halloween themed songs to help with generalizing skills: Hello My Friends, and Baby Shark Halloween are two of my favs!
Sing, and do the motions and sounds with the characters while you watch. For example, if you are the ghost, walk with your arms up and say “ooooohhhhhh”. Careful with hand over hand with little ones - especially kids who cannot verbalize if they want help or not. Sometimes putting your child's hands on top of your hands while you help them do the motions gives them more power over if they want to do it or not. My son liked to sit in my lap as I helped him do the motions- he thought it was hilarious!
After you watch, pretend to be one of the characters and see if your child can guess who you are (like charades!), and then see if your child can pretend while you guess.
Pretend play: play with your child at home and build off what the song started. For younger kids, it may be just briefly acting like the characters. Be sure to interact while pretending to be different characters (if you are a ghost, you can make ghost sounds and then say BOO! If your child says BOO to you, say “Oh my gosh, I’m so scared! You scared me!” be silly and exaggerated!) For older kids, you can go into more detail. If you are a ghost, you could pretend you are in a big mansion and you can’t scare anyone- or you accidentally scared your best friend and now what should you do?!? You can be a cowboy living in the wild wild west who needs to save his brother, or a witch who everyone is afraid of, but she’s a friendly witch and just wants to make friends. The possibilities here are endless! I like to present problems in play because it allows children to engage in pretend play and practice problem solving- both while having fun.
Make up your own Knock Knock Trick or Treat song and pretend to be new characters (animals, superheroes, princesses, etc).
Wow, that is seriously a TON of language skills- all from a five minute video! I hope this helps you and your child and gives you ideas to incorporate language into songs and videos in future activities!
Parents who are worried about trick or treating: You can find free AAC bracelets and tags by AACforall here. You could even make your own cards that highlight your child’s strengths, such as adding “I can… hold out my bag/give high fives/sign ‘thank you’/ say ‘hhhh’” so the person at the door knows what to expect from your child. Another idea for hesitant parents is to talk to your closest neighbors and see if they will agree to do a “practice” run- dress your child up and go trick or treating a time or two before Halloween.