Using Cooking Outdoors as a Language Tool
Whether you have a grill, a fire pit, smoker, or an old fashioned trench full of charcoal, cooking is a great way to help children learn new language skills. Teaching them to identify foods, drinks, and cooking utensils is a great start. Suggest having the child help with food prep, or if they are old enough, help with cooking.
Start with the ingredients
Suggest teaching the child the word for the foods to be prepared in their first language, then work on identifying them in their non-native dialect. Start with the color of a vegetable or fruit, then talk about its taste, texture, and use. “This pepper is spicy.” “The apples are green.” This type of discussion encourages younger children to associate colors and food, and they can learn new language skills for identifying foods they eat in their daily lives, as well as for learning to cook.
What are you sipping?
Ask the child to identify their beverage, and those around them – in their language and non-native language. You can discuss whether the drink is hot or cold, if it is sweet or sour, “Lemonade is sour. What is the word for ‘lemon’?” Asking children to identify the taste, color, and all about their favorite drink is a great way to get them talking. “What is it you like most about strawberry milk? What color are strawberries?” Asking simple questions that can relate back to language skills is a great way to reinforce speech and new learning patterns.
What do you use to make it?
Next, you can suggest the child identify the tools in their place setting, or used to help cook the food. “Great! That’s a fork. Can you tell me where a spoon is? What’s your favorite thing to eat with a spoon?” Helping with food prep will also get children talking. Discussing the names and colors of the fruits, vegetables, and other foods you cook are a great way to recall language skills that may have been forgotten since the end of the school year. Whisking, breaking eggs, and any number of things can all be used to help kids communicate in and out of the kitchen. Suggest getting into cooking as a family as a way to get children curious about the world around them.
Overall, cooking outdoors, or even indoors, is beneficial for speech-language learning. Food provides many opportunities for growth in therapy areas both inside the office and when the child is at home. Have you ever organized a picnic or other food-related activity for the kids in your practice, or have you been able to encourage parents to uses similar opportunities at home?