If you are a regular reader of Twodaloo, you know that I like to share ways that you can incorporate learning, and especially language stimulation, into everyday activities that you do with your child. Sometimes the best language activities are the simplest! Although I have written an entire post on Building Language in the Kitchen, I thought you might like to see exactly how I use these techniques with my two rambunctious 2.5 year olds, step-by-step. Since we are starting a new Summer Fun theme this week, I chose the classic summer activity of making fresh-squeezed lemonade for your reading pleasure. So, without further adieu…Language and Lemonade!
1. Set Up
Before we began, I set up our work space. Although I often use The Learning Tower for kitchen activities, today I wanted more room to spread out and move around, so I prepared for mess and defined our workspace on the floor with a cheap vinyl tablecloth from Walmart.
Next, I gathered our materials:
- Five large lemons
- Sugar (we used a little less than a cup)
- Water (we used a little over six cups)
- Two pitchers (large and small, both lightweight so the kids could help pour)
- Lemon juicers (found in the kitchen section of grocery or dollar store)
- Measuring cups
- Cutting board/knife
- Wooden spoons
- Crayons and paper (optional)*
Important! Instead of placing all of our ingredients and materials in easy reach, I placed them above us on the counter, visible but out of reach for the twins. This serves two purposes- it reduces stimulation in the workspace to keep down distractions, and it engineers the environment for communication so that the twins have to ask for things that they need to complete the task.
2. Exploring the Lemons
Next, the fun could begin! Here is where, as a parent, you may be tempted to rush ahead with the lemonade making. But don’t do your child a disservice here…take a few minutes to stop and smell the lemons!
To begin, we sat down and I placed a white bowl of lemons on the floor between us. The twins immediately began examining them with all of their senses…touching, smelling, squeezing, rolling, and even licking them! Even though the twins have seen lemons before, they’ve never been given an entire bowl full just to explore at will. You might be surprised at how interested your children will be in something so simple!
While the twins were exploring the lemons, I did a lot of LISTENING and REPEATING their spontaneous speech. They are talking in phrases and sentences now, so I look for ways to EXPAND and EXTEND their utterances during conversation. For example, in the picture above Will is feeling the lemon’s rind and saying “It bumpy, Mommy!” To expand this utterance, I could have respond by repeating his sentence with the correct grammar, i.e. “Yes, it IS bumpy!” That way I am not directly correcting him, but providing him with an accurate language model, therefore expanding his language. To extend his sentence, I could have responded with “Yes, it IS bumpy! The lemon is bumpy and YELLOW!” As you can see, I am not only repeating with corrected grammar, but I am also adding new information to the sentence to extend his language.
For younger children or children who are not as advanced in language, you will have to do more of the talking. While you are looking at the lemons with your child, you can model language by describing the lemons as your child explores them, i.e. “That is a lemon! It is round and yellow.” You can also describe your child’s actions, such as “Oh, you just picked up a lemon! You are rolling it on the floor. I see three lemons in the bowl, one, two, three!” Lastly, you can also describe your own actions during the activity…”Oh, I see a bowl of lemons. I am going to pick one up…ooh, it feels cold!” Although my twins are talking more these days, I still use these techniques quite a bit when I’m doing something new or when they are engaged in a new task and not talking as much.
A word about articulation (speech sounds)…both of my twins substitute the “w” sound for the “l” sound, which is perfectly normal for their age. Instead of worrying about correcting their sounds, instead I make sure that I am speaking slowly and clearly and emphasizing the “l” sound during our conversations. So when one of them says, “It’s a wemon, Mommy!” I say, “Yes, it is a Lemon!” while placing emphasis on the “l.” This is a good practice for any errored sound that you hear in your child’s speech- providing a good model is very important!
Incorporating Additional Media
Something I like to do now as the twins have gotten a bit older and are interested in drawing is give them a chance to represent their knowledge about objects they are exploring in other ways than spoken language. This practice helps build on symbolic representation skills which are super important for language development and later literacy skills, as well as helping young children to express and refine their knowledge. On this occasion I pulled out a few sheets of white paper and a yellow and black crayon. I am beginning to introduce alphabet letters to them within the context of play (I believe it’s very important to make early literacy contextually relevant) so I drew an upper and lowercase “l” for them on their papers. We took turns tracing the letter with our fingers and making (or approximating in their case) the “l” sound, and then I let them use the crayons however they wished. Sydney took a break from the activity for a few minutes, but Will was very interested in drawing circles (because lemons are round) with both colors of crayon. Then Syd rejoined us and they occupied themselves for several more minutes drawing “Mommy worms and baby worms to eat the wemons” all over the paper 😉
Once their interest began to wane, I cut a lemon in half and let them explore the inside by looking, touching, and tasting. They were so excited to discover that there are “tiny triangles” inside lemons and wanted to count them over and over. Then they took a lemon to Daddy to share their fantastic find! As you can see below, Will’s enthusiasm was dampened a bit by the sour juice of the lemon 😉
3. Making the Lemonade
Next, it was time to make some juice! After exploring the juicers for a few minutes (see photo below), I showed them how to use them to extract the juice from the lemons, describing what I was doing using short, clear sentences.
Then it was time for the twins to have a go! We emphasized lots of action words here…squeeze, turn, push, and pour.
*Tip-to make juicing easier, heat the lemons in the microwave for a few seconds and/or roll lemons between hands before cutting!
We poured the lemon juice into a small pitcher using a strainer to catch the pulp and the seeds. We had great fun fishing all the seeds out of the squishy pulp, which was also a new vocabulary word for the twins.
After pouring the juice into our larger pitcher, we gave it another taste and decided it was very sour. The twins were eager to add some sugar to sweeten it up, so I had them find it on the counter and ask me for it to practice requesting in complete sentences.
After each munchkin got to add half of the sugar to the juice (a must when working with more than one child), we stirred it up and added our water. And then there was nothing left to do but taste it!
And the verdict? “Dat WUMMY wemonade, Mommy!”
You may have noticed more pictures of Will than Sydney in this post- that’s because she was in and out of the kitchen during the activity, choosing to spend part of the time playing with her toys. With toddlers, you never know what will hold their attention on a particular day, so be prepared to roll with it! Forcing her to stay in the kitchen with us the entire time would have turned the experience into a chore rather than a fun exploration and would have limited her enjoyment and learning. Following your child’s interests can be challenging, especially when you feel like you have set up something really exciting (and you put a lot of thought and effort into it, to boot), but it’s another part of creating fun and meaningful language experiences.
We used our Family Chalk Board to talk about our lemonade adventure during lunch and dinner. This would also be a great activity to expand with an Experience Book, which could also be used as a photo recipe book down the road.
If you enjoyed our lemonade post, stick around- tons more lemon activities coming this week! If you are looking for more tips on building language in young children, you may like my post on Choosing Language-Rich Activities for Toddlers (with a fun s’mores theme), or check out my Playing With Language series for tons of practical ideas from me and another fantastic SLP mama.
Language and Lemonade Activities: