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Everyday activities — Mealtimes

Mealtimes are a great way to build some language strategies into your everyday routines with your child. They can be a lovely way of sharing experiences and a good opportunity to interact together and talk about what has happened during the day.

Often food can be a big motivator for children so it can be a great encouragement for language learning. It is something we do many times during the day so allows you to try some strategies in a way that works for you, your child, and the family.

Offering choices

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

Remember 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 may point, reach to indicate what they want or might attempt to make a vocalisation or copy the word. As your child makes a choice model the language for them by labelling their chosen item. For example, “You want the ‘apple’!” or “Yes, the ‘red’ cup!”

Requesting ‘more’

A simple way of helping your child to communicate might be to offer a small amount of  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’.

Modelling language

This might include:

  • Food items (apple, biscuit, toast)
  • Utensils (plate, cup)
  • Descriptive language (hot, cold, empty, full)

Mealtimes are a good way of modelling verbs for your child these are words that describe what you are doing (‘cutting’ or ‘pouring’).

You can model this language at a single word level or, if your child is beginning to use more single words, you can aim to try and extend their language by modelling some 2-word phrases such as, “drinking water”.

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Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily 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 you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

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