Everyone knows that food is the way to someone's heart, but did you know it can also lead the way to better speech and language skills? Valentine's Day is coming up, so let food be a part of your love language!
Cooking together can be a great chance to bond with your child and develop all sorts of skills. You don't need to be a five-star chef to get to work in the kitchen. Let your little one get involved with making something simple like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or something a little more complicated like chocolate chip cookies from scratch. Just remember to add a pinch of love and a spoonful of fun, and follow these ideas to bake in some speech and language development:
- Following Directions
- Give directions at a level appropriate for your child, but help him stretch his listening skills by adding a small amount of complexity. Can your child already follow short, simple 1-step directions? Then add complexity with extra streps, concepts, or describing words. For example, instead of "open the sugar," try "get a spoon then open the sugar" or "find the ingredient that makes things sweet."
- Give silly directions to help your child fine-tune her listening skills. Try saying something like "get the spoon and put it on your head," and watch her crack up!
- Is your child already a pro at making a ham sandwich? Let her be the top chef and give you directions to follow. If she needs help, prompt with choices like "should I put the cheese on the bread or put it on the plate?"
- Communicating Choices
- Offer different menu options that you are willing to serve. Your child can pick between two entrees, or maybe two sides. Help your child communicate her choice at an appropriate level. If she does not yet use words, help her point to or touch the option she is choosing. If your child uses single words, model a 2-3 word phrase such as “I want cheese” instead of just “cheese.”
- Experiment with cookie cutters. Offer differently shaped cookie cutters and allow your child to choose. Don’t limit yourself to cookies- you can use these fun and easy tools to cut sandwiches, pancakes, or brownies.
- Making Comments
- Remember to model the art of commenting. Don’t get stuck on asking questions or helping your child make requests. Comment on the taste of the food (“oooh yummy” or “yuck, this is so sour! We need more sugar.”) Comment on the process (“uh oh, so messy!” or “wow, this is a lot of work, thanks for helping me!”) Comment on anything at all to enrich your child’s exposure to language.
- Pretend you’re hosting a cooking show and narrate every step as you follow a recipe. Be sure to speak at a level just above how your child speaks to help him stretch his language skills. Remember to pause to allow him to join in the conversation.
No matter what, follow your child's lead, take your time, and have fun! If you need more ideas on how to build language into everyday routines, or have concerns for your child's development, call us at 410-274-0041.
Jessica Krishnamoorthy is a speech-language pathologist at Kid Connections Therapy in Severna Park, Maryland.