Are you interested in working on your child’s speech and language skills but don’t have the time to do it?  Here are some fun ways you can work on speech and language during meals and snacks that you have every day!

Speech and Language During Meals #1: Request Foods

You can have your child work on requesting objects by having him ask for all of the different foods that are for dinner/lunch/snack.  If you want to make sure your child eats a little of everything, start by giving him a small portion of each food.  Then, when he wants more of something, have him ask you for more.  You could keep all of the food by your place or give some to your partner or older siblings so your child has to request things from multiple people.  The amount of language you expect your child to use should be based on his current skills.  Try to make your child use slightly more language than he is currently comfortable with.  For example, if your child uses one word to request (“cookie”), make him use a two word phrase to request (such as “want cookie”).  If your child has trouble asking for things at all, a single word (the name of the food/drink) is the best thing to shoot for.  If your child has more language, you can have him ask using  a full sentence with correct grammar.  You could also have your older child say the name of the person he’s speaking to so he gets their attention before speaking (“Mom, could you pass the green beans please?”)

Speech and Language During Meals #2: Recall the Day’s Events

Talk about your child’s day during meals.  Ask your child to tell you about what she did so far that day.  For younger children or children who have more difficulty with the language of this, try asking very specific questions about their day, such as “what did you eat for lunch?” or “who did you sit by on the bus?”.  You may want to start with questions that you know the answers to so you can help her if she gets stuck.  For older children, try sequencing events from the day by talking about what happened first, next, and last.  For example, if you went to the store with your child during the day, ask her what you did when you first got to the store, what you did next, and what you did last.

Speech and Language Druing Meals #3: Make a Plan

Talking through a plan of the rest of the day will not only work on your child’s speech and language skills, but it will also mentally prepare your child for the upcoming events.  First, talk about all the things that have to happen in the rest of the day.  You could talk about going to school, taking a nap, taking a shower, getting ready for bed, doing homework, etc.  Make a plan with your child for what order these things will be done in.  Then, if there is any free times left in the day, ask your child to make a plan for what he would like to do during those times.  Ask him questions like “what would you like to do?”, “how will you do it?”, and “why does that sound like fun to you?”.  You could even write your plan on a piece of paper to increase organizational skills and exposure to writing.

Speech and Language During Meals #4: Have “Good Speech Sound Time”

If your child has trouble saying specific sounds, working on them a little at a time can be a great way to improve her intelligibility.  Choose a sound that your child is able to say when she focuses on it but that she forgets to say correctly in conversational speech.  Set a time limit and tell her that during that time you’re going to help her remember to use that good sound.  Having an activity to do during that time (such as a meal or snack) is a great way to pass the time.  If your child can’t stay focused for an entire meal, just set a timer for the first few minutes of the meal and work your way up to the entire meal or snack.  Every time you hear your child miss that sound, gently remind her about it.  You could say “Oh, I hear our sound!  Listen, “rrrabit”.  Let’s try that one again.”  The nice thing about working on speech sounds this way is that your child knows you’re not going to bug her all the time, just during that 10-15 minutes.  Then, after that you can leave her alone.  As she gets better at this, you can increase the length of your “good speech time” sessions or you could add more sessions through the day.

Speech and Language During Meals #5: Describe Your Food and Drink

Does your child need help learning adjectives?  Meals are a great time to talk about textures, smells, and tastes.  You can talk about how the foods feel with your hands or in your mouths.  Exploring foods with your hands is great for picky eaters who aren’t ready to taste a food yet.  You can also have your child smell the foods before he eats them.  This is also good for picky eaters because it gets it closer to his mouth.  If your child is ready, he could even give a non-preferred food a goodbye kiss!  Once your child does try the food, talk about how it tastes and feels in his mouth.  You can talk about if it is sweet/salty/sour and about if it is crunchy/chewy/juicy, etc.

I hope this gives you some ideas about how you can work on speech and language during meals and snacks.  For more great speech and language tips delivered directly to your inbox, don’t forget to sign up for our weekly email newsletter and get a free gift!