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Everyday activities: Mealtimes

Mealtimes are a great way to support language development within your everyday routines. It is something we do a lot so it gives us many opportunities for practise and repetition and it can be motivating and rewarding for children.


Illustration of adult letting child pick their cup

Offer your child a choice between 2 items to encourage them to make a choice and communicate what they want.

Remember as you do this to show them the object as you say the word so they can become familiar with the language and link it to the object. For example, would you like the ‘blue’ cup or ‘red’ cup? ‘milk’ or ‘water’? ‘apple’ or ‘banana’?

Your child might make a choice by pointing, reaching, making a sound or copying the word. As your child makes a choice, model the language for them by labelling their chosen item.

Illustration of child asking for more

A simple way of helping to encourage your child to communicate might be to offer a small amount of snack of their favourite food and hold some back to encourage them to request ‘more’. Allow them plenty of time to respond and you can even model the Makaton sign for ‘more’ to help them communicate.

Illustration of adult commenting on childs eating

During mealtimes you can model language and reinforce important topic vocabulary for your child by commenting on what they are doing and labelling the items. This might include food items (apple, biscuit, toast), utensils (plate, cup, bottle) and descriptive language (hot, cold, empty, full, wet, dry).

Illustration of adult commenting on their cooking

Mealtimes are a good way of modelling verbs or action words for your child. These are words that describe what you are doing like cutting, pouring, eating, drinking and peeling.

Illustration of adult commenting on child drinking

You can model language at a single word level or if your child is beginning to use more single words, try and extend their language by modelling some 2 word phrases, for example, “pouring water”, “drinking milk” and “cutting apple”.

This video is part of the Weekend Word series and explains and demonstrates language strategies you could try at mealtimes.

For more information please contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service at Flockton House on 0114 226 2333.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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