Your mother may have told you not to talk with your mouth full, but restaurants are a great place to develop language in young children! Some parents allow screen time while waiting for food, but having a child on a screen means they miss out on the experience of interacting with people, which is part of what dining out is all about! Here are some ideas to get the language learning going:
Have your child tell their order to the waiter or cashier, even if it is only telling them their drink order. It is important to have your child experience talking to a variety of listeners in safe environments.
Play ‘I Spy’ games while waiting for your food. “I spy something yellow.” “The mustard!” This teaches them to describe items by function and appearance.
Bring small toys the child can play with, and use items at the table to build upon their play. Sugar packets make great train tracks or food for animals, while half and half containers can be used for building a city.
Include your child in meal preparation. Talk about different actions as they help stir sugar into your coffee, spread the cream cheese, or shake the pepper.
See if your child can find certain letters or numbers on the menu.
At home, set up a pretend restaurant and use baby dolls and stuffed animals as customers. Teach the child to role play being the waiter, chef, customer and cashier.
Enjoy making the most of mealtime!
Caitlin Montgomery, M.A., CCC-SLP
St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf