When we think of pizza, we think of something more than a cheesy, delicious snack. From an SLP perspective, a pizza making activity provides a sensory experience along with the opportunity to target following directions, vocabulary, requesting, commenting, and more! Plus, it is tasty! Our local pizza place allows children the option to make their own pizza for just $4.99. If this is something available to you, it is fantastic for parents because no bulk ingredients need to be purchased and there is no mess to clean up! But before we discovered this a few weeks ago, we have been making bagel pizzas for quite some time at home.
Materials: dough/bagel/English muffin (some bread component), sauce, cheese, pepperoni or desired toppings
Nouns: pizza, plate, dough/bagel, sauce, spoon, cheese, pepperoni (or other toppings)
Verbs: stretch, knead, pull, put, spread, sprinkle, bake, eat
Adjectives, cheesy, delicious, tasty, hot, cold, greasy, savory, crunchy
How you use the above mentioned vocabulary is going to depend on what skills you are trying to target with your child. You can't do it all at once and it is best to pick one skill to address based on your child's language level. Keep in mind that this is a great activity to repeat and once it is a familiar task, you can continue building your expectations with repeat exposures. If your kiddo is tactile sensitive, it may be best to just let them try this as a sensory experience without placing language demands on them. You can always add the language component once pizza-making becomes a routine event. The instructions below are broken down based on the target skills.
Eliciting 1-3 Word Utterances:
1. As your child completes each step of the pizza making process, model simple utterances for them, to both instruct and describe what is happening. Try to use some core vocabulary so you can allow for repeated exposure to the same words. These words are also useful during other activities. We suggest PUT ON, HELP, and MORE.
2. Start by stretching and kneading the dough. (Skip this part if you are using a bagel.) You can say, "Let's stretch!" or "Let's pull!" As the process continues, you can say, "Stretch more!" or "Help me pull." You can also say, "More help." It is good to model utterances requesting assistance so that your child is being exposed to vocabulary that will help them decrease frustration.
3. Spoon the sauce onto the dough/bagel and spread. Model utterances such as:
Help with sauce
4. Next, you will add the toppings. Begin with the cheese and then add pepperoni or any other desired ones! Some phrases to model are:
Put on cheese
Put on more
Help me put on
Put on pepperoni
5. Your child may not copy many of your utterances, especially if they are consumed with the task because it is the first time they are doing it. But revisiting this will give them other opportunities to use the utterances you modeled. Once they have done it already, you can question them at each step of the process (i.e. "What should we do next?" or "What are we doing?")
1. The first step to building vocabulary is exposing children to new words during engaging tasks. This skill is for kiddos who have already mastered requesting and commenting with simple utterances and are working on language expansion. Model some or all of the target words above. When giving directions or describing actions, do not select simple words. Avoid using "Put on" repeatedly. Instead use more specified verbs (i.e. Knead the dough. Spread the sauce. Sprinkle the cheese.)
2. There are tons of opportunities to comment on all the steps in this process. We gave you some adjective suggestions above. You can also discuss the various textures and temperatures of the ingredients before and after cooking.
3. Provide choices of words and see if your child can identify some appropriate uses of verbs or adjectives. Children can demonstrate knowledge of many more words than they actually use! Do this by providing choices occasionally, but not too often or it will disrupt the natural flow of your conversation (i.e. How can we describe this cheese? Is it shredded or grated?)
1. Before you begin, decide if you are targeting one-step or multi-step directives with your child. Then carefully construct your demands during the cooking process to fit your goal.
2. Provide positive praise when your child correctly follows directions! This will build their confidence.
3. Do not give extra support unless necessary to build independence. For example, start by simply saying the instruction. If your child seems confused, repeat the direction. If this is still not enough support, provide a visual cue, such as pointing to the next ingredient. Finally, you can intervene if they are still having difficulty.
As you can see, there are many ways to use pizza making to meet your language demands and you do not want to try working on this all at once when it is an unfamiliar task. Most importantly, do not forget to enjoy your time with your child and your pizza!