Speech & Language at Mealtime: Toddlers - Center for Pediatric Therapy
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Speech & Language at Mealtime: Toddlers

Why Mealtime?

Meal and snack times are important and consistent parts of your child’s daily routine. These natural opportunities are perfect to provide simulating activities for your child’s language development throughout the day.

Give Smaller Portions

Giving smaller portions provides the opportunity for your child to verbally request “more” of their snack or drink. You can teach your child the simple sign for “more” and consider this as an acceptable way to request more yummy snacks. Rather than piling your child’s plate or bowl with an entire serving, give only a few bites at a time so that they have the opportunity to request more of the food. Move other portions and drinks out of their reach so that your child has to engage (communicate) to obtain the snack or drink. Don’t forget to praise your child for making a request – this is how they know we want them to communicate or participate. Present the additional food item as soon as it is requested as a reward for good talking.

Making Choices

Give your child as many opportunities as possible to indicate their own choice about what to eat for breakfast or a snack. For example, offer two (perfectly acceptable) options and let them indicate their choice. Hold two choices in your child’s view, and ask them which one they want. Encourage verbal answers, and then expand on what your child says. For example, if the child says banana (or points to the banana), you can expand by saying, “I want a banana. It’s a yellow banana.” As your child becomes more consistent at expressing their choices, you can take away the visual information so that your child only has to listen to hear the options.

Additional Tips

The ability to make choices and express wants and needs develops early in life through reaching, pointing, and making eye contact. Verbalizing desires should begin between 12-18 months of age. Research has shown that including sign language when teaching your child to communicate can help a child learn to talk sooner, understand and use more words, and feel more confident in expressing themselves.

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