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Activities to Encourage Conversation, Plus Week in Review

Dear Elizabeth,
How can I use mealtime as a way to encourage my child to talk?
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Creating your own menus for the week can improve your child’s verbal skills
  • A placemat matching game can be a fun way your child can learn about dishes and utensils while engaging in discussion
  • Index cards with interesting questions can be a great way to spark a conversation at meal time
Week in Review
Don’t forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Alec Colchico
Alec Colchico
Imagination Expert
We all realize the importance of talking with our kids, both for their language development as well for the chance to bond with them. Often the best times to have meaningful conversations can be around the family dinner table. Here’s three activities which can help encourage communication with your child.

Create a Menu
Get a large piece of construction paper or poster board for each day of the week that you’d like to plan a menu for.

Next, gather some magazines which have lots of images of food items. You and your child should cut out various pictures of food that you want to include on your menu.

Determine what day of the week (Monday – Sunday) and what meal you would like to plan (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and write that in big letters across the top of your menu.

From all the images you have cut out, you and your child can begin selecting food items you’ll be eating for that specific meal on that particular day.

Glue the images on the appropriate day to guide the meal planning. Remember to label each food item by writing the word for each item under the corresponding picture.

If you can’t find a corresponding magazine picture, encourage your child to draw the meal she has in mind.

Then later throughout the week, you can use the menus to engage your child in conversation about what meal your having next. Since your child has helped participate in the creation of the menu with you, your child will likely be more engaged and excited about their next meal – all while developing their language skills.

Placemat Matching Game
Find a piece of construction paper that fits the typical size of a placemat.

On your paper placemat, place dishes and silverware that are commonly used at meal times – such as a plate, fork, spoon, and glass. Use a pen and trace the outline of those items in their proper position on the placemat.

To make sure your placemat can withstand the rigors of daily use, use contact paper or clear packaging tape to “laminate” it.

Bring out the placemat at mealtime. Have your child match the items on the placemat with the correct dishes and silverware. Remember to discuss with your child the names of each item and what they are used for.

You can create new placemats which can become progressively more challenging by adding other elements, like a salad fork, butter knife, etc.

Conversation Starters
A lot of times, conversations get stopped when the child hears a familiar question they’ve heard a hundred times before, such as, “What did you do today?” Often times, the response from your child is a simple, “Nothing.”

A great way to start a conversation is by generating different questions so that kids are more likely to answer them. All you need to do is simply take some index cards and write down various questions you can ask your child during meal time.

Write sentences on the cards that can really spark an interesting conversation. Be specific with your questions. A few suggestion are:

  • What’s the best thing that happened today?
  • What’s the worst thing that happened today?
  • What are you thankful for today?
  • Tell me about someone you really like.
  • What do you hope will happen tomorrow?

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Topic: Early Learning Areas
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