Talking to your kids matters. Babies and children are constantly learning from what they hear, especially from speech directed to them.
Language teaches us new information and it’s also how we understand and organize all of the information we already know. So if someone says that a new food feels smooth or sticky or rough, we can think back to all the other things we know are also described as smooth, sticky or rough and already know something about this new food!
This can seem small because we do it all the time, but the inferences we make, the way language teaches us about things we haven’t directly experienced, is an amazing teaching (and learning) tool. Using language to talk about what we’re doing while we’re doing it is a huge help to kids! It’s especially helpful in activities like food play where the point is to learn about something new.
The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) came out with a great article this month describing how important it is to be able to predict/infer what will happen next. They highlight research studying the theory that children with Autism suffer from “predictive impairment” where they have difficulty inferring what will happen next, which can lead to extreme anxiety.
Words and language help us structure and get through unpleasant or uncomfortable experiences. There is some comfort in the control of being able to describe our discomfort as well as knowing it won’t last forever.
So describe and narrate what you’re looking at, touching, smelling or doing with food (and toys, for that matter). The more words you use around your children, the more words they’ll have to understand future, similar situations!
So go ahead, have fun and get silly with it. Make your own movie–narrate your play!
Enjoy! Happy food play!