Picture of pumpkins in a pile. The text reads "Using pumpkins to support early language".

5 Ways to Use Pumpkins to Support Early Language Skills

It’s that time of year again, and pumpkins are all around us! Pumpkins are a fantastic thing to use in your therapy sessions to support and develop early language skills with your little ones! Here are 5 easy and fun ways you can use pumpkins in your Speech and Language Therapy sessions to support early language skills, with minimal prep!

1) Explore Pumpkins- it’s a perfect early language activity!

This is a really easy and fun activity for your little ones, and it requires minimal prep! All you need to do is gather a few pumpkins of different shapes, sizes, colours and textures. Then, in your therapy sessions, allow the children to explore the pumpkins at their own pace.  You can use language strategies such as commenting (parallel and self-talk) (“You have a big pumpkin”, “that pumpkin is very bumpy”, “oh, you licked the pumpkin!”), choices (e.g. “do you want the big pumpkin or the little pumpkin?”, “do you want the bumpy pumpkin or the smooth pumpkin?”), and copy and add, amongst others.  This activity is perfect for targeting a range of vocabulary too, with a huge range of nouns, verbs and especially adjectives to choose from.

I recently shared this target words list over on my Instagram feed after I’d been to a pumpkin patch with my son. I love the variety of words and phrases you can target.

2) Get messy with pumpkins- for the sake of early language skills!

As I mentioned above, if you gather together a bunch of pumpkins of different shapes, sizes, colours and textures, then you have a ready-made sensory activity! Encourage your children to touch and smell the pumpkins. You can use lots of describing words to talk about how the feel and smell (‘bumpy’, ‘smooth’, ‘rough’, ‘hard’, etc.).
But, not only that, if you don’t mind getting a little messy, you can cut the top off a pumpkin and encourage the child to feel inside! Now you can talk about even more words like ‘seeds’, ‘scoop’, ‘wet’, ‘sticky’, ‘slimy’…and ‘gross’?! (Maybe that’s just me!)  You can also target exclamatory words like “eww”, “yuck”, or “wow”. AND you can talk about verbs like ‘wash’, ‘wipe’, ‘dry’ etc. afterwards.

3) Develop early language skills with a pumpkin sensory bin

Sensory bins require a little bit of prep, depending on what you want to put in them.. but they’re worth it for what you get out of them! Make a sensory bin to use in your therapy sessions; you can include anything you have to hand, and can easily incorporate a range of target words, language strategies and skills!

Here is an example of a Halloween themed sensory bin I made (I shared it over on my Instagram feed recently).  I included some small “munchkin pumpkins” as they’re smaller, so are easier for children to hold. I also included things that were orange, purple and black, to compliment the “That’s not my Bat” book.  It’s good to include things that are different textures too, so you can keep targeting a bigger range of vocabulary.
This entertaining activity doesn’t need to be kept solely to the run-up to Halloween though! You can easily use this throughout October and November with any other pumpkin or autumn/fall themed activities/books you have!

4) Decorate pumpkins to encourage lots of communication

This is another engaging activity, and one you can use along with language strategies such as communicative temptations, choices, playful witholding and commenting!
Instead of carving a pumpkin, use stickers, googly eyes, pom poms and anything else “crafty” you have lying around to decorate a pumpkin.  The important thing with this activity is that you keep hold of all the things the child will need, so you have the glue and crafty things. By doing so you’re creating communication opportunities, through the use of communicative temptations and you can playfully withold the items to encourage them to communicate! The child then needs to make a choice of what they want to put on the pumpkin next, request more things to put on the pumpkin, inititate an interaction, and you can encourage them to tell you what’s on the pumpkin so they can practise naming too!

If you don’t want to use actual pumpkins, you can get the same outcomes with a pumpkin shape drawn on paper, or with a paper plate, as shown below! This activity works great if the child uses a form of AAC to communicate, too!

5) Play “Where is the pumpkin?” and target communciation skills

If you are working on early prepositions like ‘in’, ‘on’ and ‘under’, you can “hide” a pumpkin in various locations, and encourage the child to tell you where it is.  You can offer choices “is the pumpkin in or under the chair?”, and encourage the child to tell you where to hide the pumpkin too (using single words or phrases as appropriate).
If you want more pumpkin-themed prepositions activities, this resource is full of engaging activities you can use in your therapy sessions throughout October!

If the child isn’t quite ready for prepositions, you can still “hide” the pumpkin around the room and go on a “pumpkin hunt”; when you find a pumpkin, you can model the language they could use.  You can easily encourage their communication skills such as pointing, gestures and initiating, with this activity. Also, if the pumpkin is in a silly place, or you pretend you can’t see a pumpkin, then it will provide an opportunity for the child to communicate with you and tell you where it is!

These are just a few ways you can use pumpkins to support early language skills in your Speech and Language Therapy sessions.  If you’ve enjoyed this post and want to save it for next year, or want to share it with colleagues, why not pin the image below?