During some of our Smart Talker pre-school groups we like to include a snack time. During which, children are encouraged to sit around a table together to enjoy a drink and healthy snack. This isn’t just so we can have a rest and parents can have a good chat with their friends. It is actually a fantastic and powerful opportunity to encourage communication.
This situation provides children with the following opportunities:
· having a good reason to communicate i.e. the motivation of food or drink
· making a choice of snack and drink which is really important
· Increasing their confidence
So what should we be doing?
· Working on language and communication skills is most effective when done in real, everyday situations. We need to make sure we are giving a child a reason to communicate, an opportunity and a means. (The means can be pointing first, then answering a forced alternative e.g. ‘do you want water or juice?’, ‘... banana or raisins’ etc. Put the one you think he/she wants last to begin with so he can copy easily at first.
· When you are offering them a choice of snack or drink, get down on their level; make sure you have their attention by saying their name first, or tapping them on the arm.
· Try and only give them a little bit at a time so they have to ask for more. The word ‘more’ is a good word to build from 1 to 2 words; e.g. ‘more juice’, ‘more banana’ etc. Be careful to look out for non-verbal cues as some children may not feel confident to ask for more, or have the language skills or vocabulary to do it. For example, a child may look in your direction holding out their cup, I would respond positively to this communicative attempt and model the language to the child i.e. ‘ you would like more juice, X would like more juice’; repeating key words i.e. juice will really help your child learn new vocabulary.
· A further point, although it is lovely for us to hear children expressing their P’s and Q’s, this can be very confusing and hard for some children. If a child is saying single words it means that they are at an early stage of language acquisition. If, therefore, you ask them to say 'Please' or 'Ta' before you hand over the required toy, piece of food, drink or whatever, they will be very confused. If you want to encourage a child to put 2 words together, ‘more + biscuit' is more functional, they won't be able to say 'more+biscuit+please' until much later because this is actually 3 words together. (please read Libby Hill’s blog for more information on please and thank you, http://www.smarttalkersblog.com/2011/12/please-dont-teach-your-child-to-say.html)
· Snack time provides an opportunity for children to request something in the best way they can, and push them to do a little more in a safe and motivating way. Therefore, working on their expressive language skills.
· Children will also benefit from the social aspects of eating together, such as turn taking. If you take time to watch and listen, you will often see children sharing their snacks, or talking together.
One of the biggest causes of language delay today is that we don't expect enough of our children and we give them what they want without making them work for it. We take away the opportunities and reasons to communicate so their means of communicating doesn't need to progress.
Take a step back and see every day activities as opportunities for communication...
So don't just provide food and drink, use snack or mealtime to help your child's language skills!
We can show you how if you come to one of our sessions www.smarttalkers.org.uk