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Recall when family meals, sit–down-at–the-table-meals, were an everyday occurrence? Today it seems like more and more families are either eating on the go or maybe even in shifts. Family meals do not have to be a thing of the past. Enjoying a sit-down family meal at least once or twice a week will benefit all family members – regardless of age.
Making time to have a sit-down meal once or twice a week will give you the opportunity to catch up with everyone. Not only will you enjoy becoming reacquainted, you can even help your children improve their language skills.
The following ideas for “Table Talk” with your infant through early school-age children have been adapted from PBS Parents. You can find more information at http://www.pbs.org/parents/readinglanguage/articles/tabletalk/main.html
Find the time. With everyone’s busy schedule, it may be hard to get everyone at the table together. Try to have a few days a week when you are able to eat together. If everyone is not able to eat together, make sure you sit with your child while she eats.
Remove Distractions. Turning off the TV, turning down the radio, and not answering the phone are all ways to take the distractions out of mealtime. Also, make sure you have everything you need for the meal at the table. That way, no one will need to get up from the table and you will be able to enjoy the conversations taking place.
Include Everyone in Conversations. Even the youngest member of your family can be a part of mealtime discussions. By including young children, you will teach the important aspects of a conversation.
Take Turns. When including your child in the conversation, make sure to allow time for her to respond. With infants, this may mean making faces and imitating sounds. As your child grows, respond to conversations she initiates. Ask questions about her day and what she did. As your child gets older, you will be able to ask questions about her day and practice the “give and take” of conversation.
Eat and Play. With older children, you can play while you eat. There are many ways to work educational games into your dinner conversation. You can ask your child the number or color of certain items on the table and then talk about those items. You might discuss the food you are eating and where it came from. As your child gets older, you may even work on problem-solving by discussing add or removing items from a plate or dish.
Set an Example. If the words just do not come out right, do not worry. You do not need to correct what your child is saying, but rather model appropriate language and grammar. If you are using correct grammar and speech, your child will learn from you.
Tell a Story. Use mealtime as story time. Whether you are reciting your child’s favorite story from memory or telling your own stories, sharing story time will help your child in her language development.
Plan a Picnic. Take your meal out of the home. A picnic in a park, or in a location other than home, will give you and your child new and different things to talk about.