Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano is a super cute Thanksgiving book that is a favorite in my house. I love this book because it is awesome for supporting speech therapy in both younger and older kids (both 2 year old and 10 year old love this!) because it targets a wide range of language skills. You can buy it from Amazon here. You can also watch it on YouTube here. Because this book is excellent for many ages, I will break this down to younger and older kids. Sometimes kids are more engaged in simpler tasks, and also kids can benefit from being exposed to more difficult skills, so I encourage you to read though both areas and see both what your child would like, and also what your child would benefit from.
Parents- remember, repetition is the key- so you can read this book many times, and you can also choose an activity to work on language skills. If the activity you choose is easy, it’s ok to choose another one. If an activity is difficult for your child it's okay to change or repeat it many times depending on your child's interest level.
Younger Children or Children with Delayed Language:
This book is all about farm animals! Name the animals ask they appear, ask your child “What is this?” or say “Show me the cow”. Practice animals sounds- "I see something that says gobble gobble!", “What does the turkey say?” If your child is non-speaking or hesitant to speak, I would do significantly more modeling than asking questions. And - if you ask a question that your child does not respond to, just answer it yourself.
Talk about what you see in the pictures. There are many language opportunities in these illustrations-try to do more than just label the nouns, and point to what you are talking about and encourage your child to point to the pictures while you talk too. It is absolutely ok to narrate this book by describing the pictures to tell the story rather than reading the words!
Verbs: Talk about what the animals are doing and then pretend to do it with your child. “The horses are laughing, let’s laugh. Hahaha”, “The cows are eating, let’s eat some hay! Nom nom”, etc.
Categories: Introduce your child to categories by presenting them with toys or pictures that can be sorted. Categories in this book include farm animals and vegetables, but if this is too hard for your child, have them sort animals and food. Categories help children organize their words and can increase word recall and vocabulary – so I would highly recommend working on this skill- either receptively (by sorting pictures or toys) or expressively (asking “What group does this belong to?”)
Make a Pizza together. Cooking is a great time to work on language! Talk about what you are doing while you are cooking- and ask your child to help by handing you ingredients and following directions.
Play: Many children already have farm animal toys at home. Use them in play with your child- pretend they are animals on the farm and be creative with your play! Use your words to describe what you are doing, and give your child words for their play too. You can say “The cow is running! MOOOOOO!” or “Oh no! Where is the sheep? She got lost in the barn!”
Sign Language: Learn the signs for the animals in this book and use them while reading and in play- you can model them for your child and help them sign too.
Music: Listen to and watch these songs on YouTube, while interacting with your child. Sing together and use signs or make up motions to go with the words. Thanksgiving Feast Song, Do You Like Lasagna Milkshakes?, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, The Silly Pizza Song, and The Animals on the Farm.
Talk about trouble. Kids hear this word ALL. THE. TIME. but can they explain what it means? Typically, when I ask kids about this, they will say it’s a punishment. When this happens we go back and read the story and say “Turkey punishment… Hmmmm does that sound like it makes sense?” Then we talk about how it can also mean it’s a problem. Ask your child about a time they were in trouble (punishment) and then ask them about a time they were in trouble (had a problem) and see if they can differentiate.
Almost is another recurring word, and one that can be difficult for some kids to understand. Define it and see if your child can describe items in the room that are “almost” something. (Ex. My desk is almost as tall as my bookshelf.)
Adjectives: Make a list of adjectives from this book (big, short, skinny, clean, brown) and take phones/tablets around your house taking pictures of items these words can describe (ex brown pants, short toy). It can be a race- or you can have a judge who picks the best picture that matches each adjective.
Reading skills: Ask your child to retell the story in the correct sequence. Who is the main character? What is the setting? What was the problem/solution? What was the main idea?
Abstract Language: Ask your child what these phrases mean and why they are funny: Main course; Stop horsing around; Holy cow; Being a ham; Baaaa-d idea (see if you can come up with more animal sound jokes); Gobbled up the pizza (homonym).
Wh questions: Who is worried? Where are the animals? Why does turkey dress up as different animals? Who did turkey dress up as first ?Why did Turkey not want to be a rooster? What made Turkey get the idea to deliver pizza? Who ordered the pizza? (tricky!) Why was this Turkey’s best Thanksgiving? Talk about the items Turkey uses to make his costumes, and ask, “Why do you think he choose that?”, “What would you use to dress up as each animal?”, and “How do you think the animals knew it was turkey?”
Compare and contrast turkeys and other farm animals in this book. What is the same, and what is different? If this is too easy, try a turkey and a rooster.
Emotions: The characters and animals in this book have excellent facial expressions! Ask your child to describe the facial expressions, ask how they feel and why they feel that way. For example, on the first page you can model by saying, “Farmer Jake’s eyebrows are up, and his finger is across his chin so he feels confused. I think he is confused because he can’t find the turkey.” You can also talk about a time that you felt confused and ask your child if they have felt that way. This book also uses the words “grumbled” and “groaned” many times, so you can talk about what those words tell us about how Turkey feels.
Conversations: What was your favorite part of the book? What would you have done if you were turkey? Do you like Thanksgiving? What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? Tell me about your favorite Thanksgiving memory. If you could go anywhere or do anything on Thanksgiving, what would you do? What is your favorite holiday? Encourage your child to ask you these questions and follow up on your answers. They might need help, and that’s ok too!
I hope this gave you some new ideas for how to use this book to build communication skills! Happy reading - and playing!