Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Make Mealtime Count!

Mealtime is the perfect opportunity for sharing language with young children. Whether you are feeding your infant, guiding a toddler through messy meals, or sharing a special dinner with your preschooler, the kitchen table offers a wonderful setting for developing language skills. Talk about the food you eat. Begin by asking questions or describing the experience to a very young child:

What is the name of the food? How does the food taste? What does it look like? What colors do you see? How does the food feel and smell?

If your toddler responds that he's eating an apple, you can add more description to his answer. "Yes! You are eating a red apple. It's round and sweet. When you were a baby you ate mushed apples - applesauce!"

There is also plenty of opportunity to discuss food while you are cooking or baking together. As a child adds ingredients or takes a turn stirring the batter in the bowl, talk about what is happening. Is the batter lumpy? Smooth? Will you have to crack an egg or measure the flour? The outside of the egg is hard and smooth...what does the egg look like after we crack it open?

As your child grows, adding simple math to cooking can also help enrich their experience in the kitchen with you. How many grapes do we have in the bowl? Can you count five Cheerios? Talk about the different colors, shapes and sizes you see in the food.

Talking about food extends to trips to the grocery store or farmer's market. There are so many opportunities in a grocery store to share new vocabulary to your child. Is that a cucumber or a zucchini? Share conversations about where foods come from. How does the milk get from the cow to the bottle at the store? Where does bread come from? The library also has easy non-fiction books about these topics to share with young children.

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