Language in the Kitchen

With Thanksgiving this week, remember that the kitchen can be a great place to get your kiddo involved! Think of all that goes into getting food onto the table, from planning your menus to food preparation, and all the language involved in each task! Let’s talk about ways you can involve your child in this fun process. Make sure to include your child in the following:

• Meal planning
• Preparing a shopping list
• Going to the store
• Meal preparation
• Clean up time

Don’t worry I won’t just leave you with a list. I’d like to talk about how you can include your child in each one of the activities mentioned above. Here we go!

Meal Planning
Who doesn’t like to decide what’s for dinner? You can create a list together with your child of all of their favorite and the family favorite choices for the upcoming meal. This is also a great time to talk about food groups and things to include in every meal. If you happen to be crafty or just love organization you can go crazy with color coordination and make cards for each food group with proteins, grains, vegetables, etc. that can be included in each meal. If this is all too much for you no big deal just set up a simple written out menu. Some goals to target depending on the age of your child can include:

• Categorization of foods
• Learning days of the weeks/months on the calendar
• Sequencing for families that like to have themed meals (etc. Macaroni Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc.)
• Sorting foods by their food group

Shopping List
This one is going to be a little more simple. You can pull out your recipes and talk about what you will need to prepare each meal. You can teach your child to make your list in whatever way you prefer. You may think about where items are located in the store or have them sorted by category again (breads, meats, dairy, etc.). Setting up the shopping list should focus on:

• Sequencing items by placement in store or in order of when you will cook each meal
• Sorting items by their food categories
• Introducing new vocabulary

At the Store
This is a great way to give your child some control. This can be their time to shine and really run the show. If your child is able to read you could split up the list and each of you can handle finding the items. This is much more advanced so I would start out working together to decide where items are located and getting them to the cart. Things that can be targeted at the store are truly endless, however here is a list of some ideas below:

• Vocabulary (find items that are new to the child)
• Sequencing (going in order to find items by their food category)
• Spatial concepts (the “Lucky Charms are below the Frosted Flakes”)
• Problem Solving (If we have $5 for bananas how many pounds can we get?)
• Social interaction (Let talk with the cashier and possibly handle payment)

Making Dinner
Let them help with as much as you feel comfortable with. Again, this is another area where you have a ton you can do. The ideas are really endless:

• Problem Solving
• Sequencing
• Spatial Concepts
• Safety awareness
• Vocabulary Awareness
• Following Directions

Clean it up!
Have them help out with clearing the table, doing the dishes, and putting it all away. They should be included in the entire mealtime routine. This will help them be able to follow a pattern. As you target mealtime and help in the kitchen they can become more involved. Start out small by having them just get the dishes and bring them to you. You will also want them to stay in the kitchen and be with you after so they will know what steps will come next. This also a great time to really focus on some safety tasks if your child struggles with pragmatics. Some things to discuss:

• Safety with kitchen tools
• Water temperature
• Being careful at the stove
• Naming different kitchen tools
• How to use a dishwasher
• How to use the microwave
• Safety with microwave, dishwasher, and disposal

As you can see the possibilities in the kitchen are just limitless. Just have fun and always be looking for teachable moments!

Gina McCurry M.S. CF-SLP

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, hearing and/or feeding development, please contact Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **

Self-Talk and Parallel-Talk

When I work with families that have “late talkers”, generally preschool-aged children with limited verbal output, I am often asked what can be done at home to improve outcomes. Although there are a multitude of answers, I always suggest stimulating language with self-talk and parallel-talk. Self-talk simply means describing what you are doing while parallel-talk refers to describing what the child is doing.

In theory, self-talk and parallel-talk are meant to be incorporated into existing daily routines and experiences. Unlike some other interventions, self-talk and parallel-talk should not be burdensome or require a parent to set aside time to complete “speech therapy homework”. However, this does not mean the intervention is any less beneficial. According to Finestack and Fey (2013), the benefits of indirect language stimulation include increases in vocabulary, intelligibility (ability for a child be understood), and socialization.

With self and parallel talk, the parent is the model that provides exposure to language that the child can then imitate. Below are some examples of how to use self and parallel talk during daily routines.  

Lunch Time:

Lunch is an opportunity to engage in both self and parallel talk, beginning with the meal preparation. Situate the child to be able to see what you are doing. The parent’s monologue could begin like this: “It’s time for lunch. I’m hungry. I’ll open the fridge. I see an apple. An apple is red. It is also a fruit. I am cutting the apple into slices. What else should we eat?, etc.”

Once the child has the meal in front of him or her, parallel talk begins because the child is now involved in completing actions. Here the dialogue could take the form of,  “You are sitting in your chair. Are you ready for lunch? Oh, you are eating the apple. Mommy likes apples, too. You got your drink. That cup has milk inside., etc.”


Pretend play emerges around 12 months of age. Playtime is an excellent time for parallel talk because the child is already actively engaged in an activity. As an example, let’s consider a child playing with blocks. If the child is stacking the blocks and then knocking them down, parallel-talk could sound like: “Wow, you are making a tall tower. It’s so high. You put the red block on top of the blue block. You kicked them and they all fell down. Oh, you are going to make another tower., etc.”

This parallel-talk could easily transition to self-talk by making a new activity with the blocks such as building a road for cars to travel on.

Final Thoughts:

At first, self and parallel talk can be uncomfortable because you are talking aloud when perhaps knowing the child will not respond. Remember that the goal is exposure to language. There should not be any expectation that the child will respond. There is no one right way to implement this intervention. If your child is already in speech therapy, it is likely the therapist is already using this technique. The therapist can provide models and examples and become an ally for at home implementation.

-Erin Norwig, M.A. CF-SLP


Finestack, L. and Fey, M. (2013). Evidence-Based Language Intervention Approaches for Young Talkers. In Rescorla & Dale, Eds. (2013). Late Talkers: Language Development, Interventions, and Outcomes

**If you have any concerns with your child’s speech, language, hearing and/or feeding development, please contact Curlee Communication Consultants at (865) 693-5622. We have a team of experienced speech-language pathologists that would love to meet with you and discuss options for your child. **