As the holidays draw near, I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen. And with restrictions still in place limiting indoor dining, I’ve been busy cooking now more than ever before! With Christmas comes cookies, cookies….. and more cookies. Yum! This year I have a very mobile and curious 18 month old child. This means I spend time in the kitchen when she is napping or I find a way to include her when she is awake. While it takes a bit more preparation and patience, including her allows for quality time and the opportunity for education.
I am going to provide you with five speech and language areas you can target when baking christmas cookies. These tips can really be applied to anytime you are in the kitchen – making cookies, cleaning dishes, or baking a lasagna.
- Following directions – The entire process of making cookies involves following directions. If you don’t follow the directions, then the cookies don’t turn out very well. For older kids, have them help read the recipes and follow the steps in order. For younger kids (like mine) provide simple directions they perform. I might ask her to ‘hand me the spoon” or “pour in the sugar” while providing physical support.
- Vocabulary – Baking allows us to use words we might not in everyday conversations. Exposure to new words is crucial in those early years. Action words like “mix, pour, spread, stir, blend” are commonly found in recipes. Go over new novel words and explain the meanings. Then, let your kids get in on the actions and stir or mix the ingredients.
- Sequencing – Baking requires us to follow a sequence of events to get to the desired outcome. Before starting a baking recipe, review the overall process with your child. This can sound something like “First, you mix the ingredients. Then, you scoop them onto the cookie sheet. After that, the cookies bake. Finally, they cool off and you decorate them.” Mommas, you can make this as simple or as complicated as is appropriate to the age of your child. For my 18 month old, I would say something like “First, we make the cookies. Then, we decorate them!” Even though she doesn’t verbalize these phrases yet, she is certainly taking in the process. Ask your child to direct you through each step to help her process the chain of events.
- Requests – Once your cookies are baked, it’s time to decorate them! Get a few colors of icing and types of sprinkles. Practice requests by having children ask for each color icing or type of sprinkle. They can practice making complete sentences like “Can I have the blue icing?” or “Give me the green sprinkles”. For younger ones it can be as simple as learning to use words to request. I prompt my daughter to say “give me” or the color of the desired icing “green” before I hand her the requested item. If your child isn’t verbalizing yet, model the verbal request for your child. Help her use the physical sign of tapping her chest with her hand to make the request.
- Articulation – This is for the older children who have base language, and are struggling with specific speech sounds. Look through the recipe and find 5 words that contain that target speech sound. Review them with your child, and then have her practice those words while you are making the cookies. Make a game of it and allow the child to earn a new color icing or another cookie to decorate by saying the target word 5 times. Offer praise for correct sound production and provide a correct model of the word for errored production.
Don’t stop here, mommas! Once you’ve finished baking cookies, have your children help you clean up. Narrate what you are doing to expose the children to more language and have them help as they are able. You can incorporate simple directions like “bring me the plate” or “throw away the napkin” to continue great speech practice.
If you don’t want to get messy and actually bake ( I get it, COVID has worn us all out) then use playdough and practice these steps by making pretend cookies. It’s just as effective! Or, click on the image below to get this FREE activity.
Now, get busy and make some cookies!
Congratulations to the giveaway winner, Samara E!! Thanks to everyone who participated. If you want to pick up either of the books for yourself click on the picture below: