Hi friends! In honor of Better Speech and Hearing Month, I have teamed up with Katie from Let’s Grow Speech to bring you a fun and information-packed series called Playing With Language designed to highlight easy ways to stimulate language that you can do at home with your little one! In case you missed them, so far in this series I have shared fun ways to Build Language with Sensory Play, tips on Building Language with Small World Play, Building Language with Art, and all about Building Language with Music. And don’t forget to check out Katie’s posts- she’s written about storytelling, pretending with playdough, building activities, and playing outdoors. Today, for the last post in our series, I’m sharing tips and tricks for Building Language in the Kitchen!
Involving your children in the kitchen is a wonderful way to encourage language development. Cooking gives me plenty of opportunities to introduce descriptive vocabulary as I talk about all the ingredients and give the twins an opportunity to experiment with them. They get a chance to observe, demonstrate, and use action words such as stir, mix, cut, and roll. Cooking is a great way to work on sequencing and storytelling as you discuss and recall the steps in a recipe, and if more than one child is involved it is a great time to practice social language (“May I have a turn?”). Older children can practice finding and reading recipes, gathering the necessary ingredients, and even writing their own recipes for higher-level language and literacy activities.
This post contains an affiliate link for your convenience.
When choosing recipes to use for language stimulation activities, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Choose recipes with a few simple ingredients.
I like to use a mix of familiar and novel ingredients to keep the kids learning new vocabulary and (hopefully) tasting new things to expand their toddler palates. However, too many new tastes at once might be off-putting or overwhelming for some kids. You know your child- choose accordingly! A good example might be making a simple fruit salad using a few favorite fruits and then a new one that your child can help you pick out at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Choose recipes that allow children to take part in most of the steps.
This may seem obvious, but don’t choose recipes that include lots of fancy chopping or other techniques that aren’t toddler-friendly. They need hands-on experience in order to internalize new language. Standing there watching you do it is not hands-on experience 😉
Choose recipes that you make regularly to allow plenty of repetition.
Repetition is key for language development. Children benefit from repeated exposure to new words and concepts, so simple recipes that you can incorporate frequently are great ones to involve your children in. For example, we have cinnamon toast at least three days a week (we would have it every day if I allowed it). I think the twins love it because they enjoy the process of making it even more than the finished product! But at this point they can name all the ingredients and kitchen items we need in order to make it, explain where to find them all in the kitchen, and sequence the steps of the activity. So, cinnamon toast it is!
As you can see by my short list, choosing appropriate recipes isn’t difficult. Keep it simple and balance new ingredients and vocabulary with what’s familiar to your kids. Some of our favorite things to make in the kitchen include cinnamon toast, mini pizzas, cheese quesadillas, cookies, and cut-up fruit creations (we have just started practicing cutting soft fruits with small knives).
Here are some things that have made cooking with my twins a smoother experience:
The Learning Tower.
Although pricey, our Learning Tower (Amazon affiliate link) has been revolutionary when it comes to getting the twins up on my level at the kitchen counter. I love it because they can fit in it together and it is much safer than standing on a chair. Plus, it keeps them corralled if I have to put something in the oven or use the range. If you are interested, you can buy one new, find one at a retail shop or site such as eBay or Craigslist, or even DIY your own.
Use “Play” Ingredients.
This is a tip that I got from my friend Ann at My Nearest and Dearest. When she bakes with her son and her home daycare charges, she keeps an extra baggie of flour and a couple of bowls handy to occupy them during lulls in prep time (such as between batches of cookies) or when she is doing something off-limits to the younger kids, like using the electric mixer. Ann has an awesome post called “Baking With Toddlers: 5 Tips” where you can read more about using play ingredients and more really good tips for cooking with little chefs.
Expect a Mess!
I believe I include this tip in every advice post from sensory play to art, but it rings true every time. Do what you can ahead of time to minimize the mess (wear old clothes and/or aprons, cover the floor of your workspace with a plastic tablecloth if desired, etc.), but otherwise, let it go. My twins are deep in the “do it myself” phase, which means lots of splatters and spills, but I try to remind myself that they are learning to be independent and expanding their language skills, so it’s worth a bit of mess. Plus, they love being involved in cleanup, so messes can be used as teachable moments, too!
Once you have chosen your recipe and prepared your space, the fun and learning can begin! Similar to what I’ve explained in my other posts in this series, all you have to do in order to stimulate language with cooking is model language (narrate what you are doing with simple phrases and sentences, emphasizing key words), repeat what your child says using extensions and expansions, and give your children hands-on experience with new vocabulary and concepts. If your child is a little further in development, you can have them recall and retell the steps of your cooking adventure, using picture supports as needed. You can also use pictures of the steps or ingredients of your recipe as sequencing cards.
12 Perfect Recipes for Cooking with Kids
Here are twelve fun recipes from other great kid bloggers that would be perfect for cooking with kids! Click on the links below the photo to view each recipe.
Clockwise from top left:
I can’t believe May is already over- this concludes our “Playing with Language” series! But don’t forget to hop on over and see what Katie’s got for you this week (click on the photo below to check it out).