Life with kids is busy- I understand! That’s why as a speech-language pathologist, I always encourage parents to embed language activities into everyday life.
If you have a child who is not using many words yet, you don’t have to set aside time during the day for “speech practice”. Take the strategies you are learning from your speech-language pathologist, and easily apply them to meal time with your child. I have outlined ideas and easy activities below.
If you are working on single-word utterances, target 2-3 words for a week during meal times. Common words to work on during this time are “more”, “open”, and “done”, but you can work on any functional word you like! Ideas for language development include:
- Place cheerios in a tupperware container. Have your child say “open” or use the American Sign Language sign for “open”. Give your child a handful of cheerios. Repeat this during snack time and practice the target word 5-10 times.
- Place a handful of goldfish on your child’s highchair tray. When she is finished eating them, model the word “more” and have her repeat. Or, have her use the American Sign Language sign for “more”.
- When your child is finished eating, allow her the opportunity to tell you “done” with words or sign language.
Ideas to target 2-3 word phrases:
- Offer your child his favorite snack. Model the phrase “more goldfish” when he is ready for more.
- Using the Tupperware container, model the phrase “open box” for your child before opening the Tupperware and giving him his snack.
- Build upon the utterance “done”: Model the phrase “all done” or “all done snack” for your child.
Another helpful strategy for children who are not yet talking or who are working on expanding their utterances is self-talk. When using self-talk, a parent will narrate what she is doing while she is doing it. As you prepare a meal in the kitchen, tell baby what you are doing! “Mommy is stirring the soup. Mommy is getting bowls for everybody. Mommy is cooking dinner”. When your child can see what you are doing and hears the language that is paired with the activity, it helps build a strong connection for language comprehension, and later expression. You might feel silly narrating what you are doing, but your baby is learning!
Remember to always meet your child at his current level of function, and to keep these activities fun and engaging. If your child seems frustrated, try simply modeling the target word you are working on. Most importantly, always contact a licensed speech-language pathologist if you have specific questions related to your child’s communication skills.
Tell us in the comments... do you use any of these strategies during meal time with your child?