Building Language in the Kitchen

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!

Building Language in the Kitchen- tips, tricks, and recipes

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.

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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.

Building Language in the Kitchen- tips for using cooking to stimulate language in toddlers and young children, also has a roundup of 12 kid-friendly recipes!

Clockwise from top left:

Avocado Chocolate Chip Cookies from Nothing if Not Intentional

Banana Bear Pudding by B-Inspired Mama

Kid-Decorated Quesadillas by B-Inspired Mama

Thomas the Train Breakfast by Play Trains

Frozen Yogurt Covered Berries by Mess for Less

Tree Snack by Fantastic Fun and Learning

Watermelon Ladybug Snack by Twodaloo

Healthier Granola Bars by My Nearest and Dearest

Fun with Fruit by Mess for Less

Frozen Yogurt Dots by Housing a Forest

Banana Chip Breakfast Bars by Buggy and Buddy

Colorful Pancakes by Fun-a-Day

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).

Building Language with Books


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  1. This has been such a fantastic series, Stephanie. What a great resource to parents.
    Thanks for including links to our posts!

  2. Love the idea of pretend play for creating language opportunities and your pictures are great!

  3. A great post Stephanie and what a terrific series too! My son, being another budding chef spends loads of time in the kitchen cooking with me too – insists on wearing his apron when he wakes up rather than a dressing gown! Lol!

  4. We plan to do even more cooking together this summer, so the timing of your post is perfect! I love the idea of using “play” ingredients. Tinker will love that!

  5. Those twins are adorable! Thanks for the links to the kid-friendly recipes – these will definitely come in handy. And I’m digging out the plastic tablecloth to put under the workspace right away!

  6. First, your Two-Daloo sweeties are precious. 2nd, I’m going to warn you – I’m pretty excited to find your blog {from KBN} and can’t tell you enough how excited I am that you are a speech language pathologist {you might find me lurking here for a while!} :-) Wonderful tips and recipes – my little one loves to cook with me.

  7. This is really great- my son is at the point where he will ask a question and then repeat exactly what our answer is in question form- it’s so cool to follow his language development. I love the idea of mixing cooking and language- it’s so FUN for them!


  1. […] The twins were actually able to help quite a bit with the preparation of the shakes- I cut the watermelon flesh into long “fingers” so they could use their knives to practice cutting.  Once all the watermelon was cubed, I froze it on parchment paper and then let the kids transfer it to the blender along with all of the other ingredients.  This recipe is not an exact science- play around with the ingredients until you get the taste and consistency that you like.  The results were delicious- the yogurt made the shakes nice and creamy, and the drizzle of honey added just the right amount of sweetness.  For more toddler friendly recipes and how to use them to enhance language development, visit my post on Building Language in the Kitchen! […]

  2. […] For details on how to stimulate language through cooking activities with toddlers, check out Building Language on the Kitchen. […]

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  5. […] you’ve read my popular post on Building Language in the Kitchen, you know that I love real cooking with kids for language development as well. That post includes […]

  6. […] At our house, baking is one of our favorite ways to relax. Beyond that, cooking is a great tool for hands-on learning. The use of measuring tools encourages kids to apply the math skills they’ve learned, follow step-by-step instructions in a recipe, and consider the nutritional components of the food they eat. It’s also a great tool for language development. Check out this post from my friend Stephanie (a speech and language pathologist) for more tips on how you can build language in the kitchen. […]