Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cooking and Oral Language Development

Cooking: there aren't too many children who don't like to cook!
Cooking is a wonderful experience for children, it's hands on, involves lot's of steps, has an outcome (that's usually yummy) and it's lots of fun.
Cooking also has many learning opportunities, intergrating across a number of learning areas.
Most of us will know how cooking can help develop math skills such as counting, measuring,weighing, area, shapes and number recognition.
We are aware that it can develop fine motor skills and self independent skills.
It can be wonderful for developing social skills such as turn taking, sharing and working together.
It's creative and artisitc.
Then there's the oral language,
here are some ways cooking experiences help develop language and how you can support this in your children.
During cooking experiences there is generally constant chatter about what you are doing, seeing, smelling, tasting and what comes next.
It's often conversational and relaxed.
It develops comprehension. There are lot's question asking and question answering opportunities for you child. They are also required to follow simple instructions and directions. "Add the sugar and the flour and mix"
It develops and introduces new vocabulary and gives children opportunity to use these words in a hands on situation.
It supports semantic development such as labeling objects and identifying functions and attributes of these objects. "This is a grater"
 They get the opportunity to use these objects first hand.
But perhaps the most important of all (and which is sadly most often forgotten)
is sequencing simple events in an oral retell!
Cooking is such a wonderful experience for developing this skill as the children have experienced each step 1st hand!
It's fun, so it's motivational as they cant wait to share with everyone what they have baked!
At around 3yrs of age the ability to sequence a simple set of events emerges.
Miss M was a week off 3yrs of age and handled this really well with some mindful strategies to support her.
Remember: children need opportunities to practice these skills, which is what I am aiming for here.
I'd like to share with you how I did that now, so that perhaps you can do something similar with your own children.

Firstly I chose a recipe that only had 3 distinct steps (remember she is only very young and I'm wanting her to retell these steps in her own words), it also made a nutrious and yummy lunch which was a bonus!
I took a photo of each step and printed them out.
I had 3 cards labelled 1st, 2nd and 3rd and had her select the photo that showed what we did 1st and glued it onto the 1st card. We did the same with 2nd and 3rd. During this task I was doing alot of modelling for her "first we grated the vegies and then we added the eggs"
We did this task only an hour after the experience so it was very fresh in her mind.
We popped these into frames I picked up from Ikea and now she had her very own picture cues to support her.
She had alot of fun sequencing them in the correct order.
She was able to use the pictures to help her use her own words and retell the cooking experience.
I certainly wouldnt go to this much effort for every cooking experience. You could also draw pictures together of what you did first, then what did you do and finally what happened. Encourage your child to retell all steps at once.
Here she is using her picture supports to assist her as she retells the experience to her Dad at dinner time!
In the classroom I would use hoops and get the children to jump through the hoops retelling the steps in the sequence. One for the beginning, one for the middle and one for the ending and concluding.
We used my number ladder instead as I don't have three hoops, however the result was exactly the same.
She got very clever at saying
"Today we made fritta's. First we grated the vegies and then we added eggs and then we cooked em and we flipped em too"
I've used these frames for other sequencing tasks. Here I had printed out pictures of her tooth brushing routine. There were 4 pictures for her to put in order here as I was focusing on her ability to sequence and although there was lot's of talk on what she did 1st and what came next the outcome wasnt an oral retell.
You could do any number of routines such as bedtime or morning routines for you child to sequence.
By retelling steps your child is developing their oral narrative skills.
The easist narratives for children to retell are those which involve common every day routines and procedures. By practicing orally you will be giving your child the very best headstart when it comes to the written form.
Educators will tell you, children who have a rich spoken vocabulary, who can converse, can retell events and experiences and can explain their point of view are usually better equiped when they come to the task of learning to read and write.
Happy cooking and speaking,


  1. Love this post Katey. We do a lot of sequencing type activities and general questioning here too. Miss Daisy has an impeccable memory and I'm sure it's due to constantly discussing daily events and activities like cooking, gardening and others where sequencing comes into our discussions naturally.

  2. What an excellent practical post! I am a huge advocate of supporting the development of children's oral language skills. I would love to share this on my FB page and pin it.

    1. Hi Amie, thank you so much for the feedback. I'd be very happy for you to share.

  3. As a speech-language pathologist, I have to tell you this gets a special nod! Awesome, awesome!

  4. I was referred to this blog by a friend. Great post, really informative. I really enjoyed reading it. This means just pure language and no unnecessary dialects. The little effort you put towards this goal will greatly benefit the child. Language Development

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.