Language Play: Winter Activities & Talking with Your Kids Encourages Language Development

How to Get Through the Winter: Talk to Our Children

Spread the word about the importance of talking and reading to our children, and stay active in the winter! Peruse Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events for opportunities that get you out and engaged in your community… especially in the when it’s cold outside! (Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield)

A long time ago, when I worked as a receptionist, I noticed that during a New England winter, people either looked energized or run down. Since I totally knew why people looked tired after colds, flu, freezing temperatures, and never-ending snow removal, I decided to focus on the ones who were energized, as a kind of sociological study. I simple asked them how their winter was going, and their answers explained it all. They stayed active. They skied, ice-skated, snowshoed, made snowmen, and took trips to local events. They worked with the weather, not against it, and they loved to talk about what they were doing.

When I work with children, the ones who tell me they did nothing over the weekend are the ones I worry about. They’re not going to talk much, and that’s what my job is all about. Once I get kids talking, I see where gaps are in their abilities and figure out how I can help them express better. I prefer this natural method of probing their vocabulary, grammar, and narrative skills.

When kids are active, they come in with enthusiasm and lots of stories. It is natural to want to share a fun experience using language. I work with some kids with limited or no language, but when they’re happy and thinking about their good experiences, they find an icon to show me the topic. They just need to share…

So first, we all need to be physically active in winter, as well as go places and do things. Then we need to share our experiences with each other. We need to talk about it with our kids.

Speaking of talking with our kids, there’s some interesting research being done about why middle-class kids are ahead of peers who live in poverty when they both enter school. It turns out that a major factor is how you talk to your babies and toddlers! Kids who just hear commands (eat your food, close the door) only learn basic vocabulary. When adults around them talk, they don’t understand the vocabulary; so they tune out and don’t absorb new words (Think about learning a second language. You need some basic vocabulary to know what someone is talking about.). But if adults are using lots of vocabulary directed at their babies and toddlers (we have to buy apples at the grocery store to make a pie for grandma’s visit), and the child sees their parents do what they’re saying, they’ll learn lots of vocabulary. And when they listen to adults around them, they can absorb even more words which gives them an advantage throughout their academic experience. Of course, this includes reading aloud to children as well. By the way, TV doesn’t help; it must be direct from the parent/guardian.

Unfortunately, few parents who live in poverty are aware that the way we talk to our children can make a huge difference in their children’s future. But people are working on this. Here’s an eye opening article in the New York Time that supports this practice: “The Power of Talking to Your Baby.” Please read this article! This means that we all can make a difference by spreading the word.

Well, back to the winter! I have a young student who sees me before going skiing every week. He used to have difficulty expressing his feelings, but he always tells me that he is feeling “a big happy because I am going skiing today.” How great is that!

So spread the word about the importance of talking and reading to our children, and stay active in the winter! Peruse Hilltown Families List of Weekly Suggested Events for opportunities that get you out and engaged in your community… especially in the winter!


Kathy Puckett

Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at

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