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. **