November 8, 2014

Building Speech & Language Skills in the Kitchen don't really have a lot of educational posts for parents on here, so I thought it may be high time to write one!

With Thanksgiving coming up, I have been encouraging my students' parents to involve their children in the cooking and meal preparation process. There are so many great opportunities to work on speech and language targets while slaving away in the kitchen, in addition to opportunities for teaching children some useful and necessary life skills. This post has some ideas and is separated into sections based on the therapy focus. Feel free to share this information with your own students' parents. I have compiled this information in a (FREE!) downloadable handout that is available here.

  • Vocabulary: Cooking provides multiple exposures to novel ingredients and utensils. Vocabulary like grater, zest, sage, baste, whisk (etc.) is not commonly used in every day conversation, so you will be able to introduce your child to these new concepts by having them help you out while preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Following Directions: This skill automatically gets targeted when following a recipe.
  • Sequencing: Following a recipe provides an opportunity to work on sequencing skills. Talk to your child about what to do first / next / last.
  • Describing: Exposure to a large variety of ingredients and dishes will allow you to work on describing them. You can talk about textures, smells, tastes, as well as physical appearance of a specific food item.
  • Categorizing: You can practice categorization skills by grouping the ingredients for a particular recipe by food group: dairy, meat, vegetable, etc. For younger children, you can have them sort by size or color.
  • Answering Questions: You can work on targeting simple Wh-questions during and after the meal preparation process. What ingredients do we need? Who helped you? Why did we need to measure? How many eggs do we need? When do we need to take the turkey out of the oven? Where is the oil? etc.
  • Listening Comprehension: You can read the recipe to your child and have them tell you what they remember.
  • Narrating Personal Events / Recall: Have your child explain to someone how they helped out in the kitchen and / or how they prepared a particular dish.
  • Problem-Solving: Throughout the cooking process, ask your child questions that will stimulate their critical thinking skills. How can we keep the lemon seeds from falling into the juice? How can we separate egg yolk from egg white? How can we make a triangle out of this square cheese slice?
  • Word level: Have the child find ingredients that have their speech sounds and have them practice saying it out loud.
  • Sentence level: If the child is a reader: have them read the recipe to you while paying attention to their speech sounds.
  • Conversation level: Encourage the child to use their best speech sounds while having a Thanksgiving dinner conversation.
  • Taking Turns: Practice taking turns during dinner preparation.
  • Perspective Taking: Have your child help set the table -- have them think about who is coming to dinner and how many plates will be needed.
  • Conversation Skills: Thanksgiving dinner is a great opportunity to practice working on conversation skills (eye contact, turn-taking, topic maintenance).
  • Manners / Etiquette: Thanksgiving dinner also lends itself for targeting manners -- frontload your child prior to dinner by talking to them about etiquette: chewing with their mouth closed, not taking the last food item without asking, etc.

Of course these ideas are applicable year-round. If you have any ideas to add, feel free to leave a comment!

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