Snack and Meal Time

“Mealtime can be an important time to encourage communication. A nutritious meal is of little value to a child if it is not eaten and enjoyed. Make it one of your goals to serve meals in a relaxed, social atmosphere. Think of mealtime as a communication time, a time when you can converse with, nurture, and obtain feedback from children. Consider removing the distractions of scattered projects, unfinished activities, and the television from the eating area.” Excerpt from Department of Health NY

Whether in your care or at home, meal times are ideal for building children’s language skills.


When children are just discovering language:

  • Start snack or meal time with a song or finger play. This helps prepare the children for what is about to happen. Sometime it can help settle them for the meal.
  • Give babies kitchen objects to play with in the high chair while you prepare the food – measuring cups, wooden spoons, plastic bowls. And make sure they have their own spoon when feeding them.
  • Include toddlers and preschoolers in meal preparation whenever you can. They can cut bananas, tear lettuce, mix salads and sauces.
  • Have children set the table, handout napkins, cups, cutlery or even some of the food (like a basket of crackers).
  • Label the foods that you are preparing or serving – if appropriate let the children taste.
  • Label your actions – cutting carrots, washing lettuce, pouring milk, etc.
  • Describe how foods taste and smell.
  • Offer choices, as this will give the children the chance to hear the names of food and objects that we have at the table.
  • When a child is finished, you can model words like “all done”, “finished”, “all gone.”


When children have more language:

  • Talk about what has happened so far during the day or about something that will happen after the meal/snack.
  • Talk about topics that interest the children. Listen to them and then expand or extend with new words and ideas.
  • Learn about children’s like, dislikes and opinions. You can start with the food and then move to more abstract topics.
  • Encourage the children to tell stories. These can include the stories you have read at circle time, events from home or even made up stories.