Today we are discussing a festive cooking activity for Cinco de Mayo. Although it can be messy, there are many great reasons to cook with your kiddos. They can learn new vocabulary, measurement skills, sequencing skills, and more! Typically on Cinco de Mayo, people celebrate with foods like tacos, nachos, and quesadillas. We enjoy those foods too, but many kiddos do not. In fact, all of them are a textural nightmare for children with sensory issues, or picky eaters. If your child happens to enjoy tacos, here is a post where we talk about language skills you can target during taco night.
Luckily, you do not need to love salsa to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Dessert tortillas are here to save the day! First, we’ll share the recipe. Then, we’ll discuss two different levels of language skills and how to make this activity work for your child's specific needs.
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1/4 cup Sugar
3 Tablespoons Butter
The simplicity of this recipe makes it kid friendly and allows for practice of language skills! You could choose to enjoy the tortillas plain, or if you want a dipping component, get some whipped cream, chocolate hummus, or fruit salsa. The possibilities are endless!
Emerging Language Skills
(This is for kiddos who do not consistently verbalize, or do so using 1-2 word utterances.)
Core Words: want, more, no, get, put, on, in, I, you, eat
Nouns: plate, baking sheet, brush, tortilla, butter, cinnamon sugar
Simply create utterances ranging from 1-3 words by combining the core words and nouns listed above. Remember to reinforce your child’s attempts at communication or their imitation of utterances with praise for their efforts! Here are some examples of utterances to model:
Put on plate.
Put on tortilla
Put butter on
Put on brush
Put cinnamon/sugar on
Put on sheet
I want eat
I want more
I want butter
I want tortilla
Expanding Language Skills
(This is for kiddos who communicate using complete sentences, but need to work on building vocabulary and/or developing narrative skills.)
While helping your child prepare the tortilla chips, model the use of higher level vocabulary. Here are some suggestions:
- We are going to combine, or mix, the cinnamon and sugar.
- Dredge the brush in butter. That means we will dip the brush and make sure it is coated, or covered, in butter.
- Once we put butter on one side we will flip the tortilla to brush the alternate side. We must disperse, or sprinkle, the cinnamon sugar evenly!
- Slice, or cut, the tortillas into triangular shapes.
Describe the steps necessary for cooking the dessert tortillas as you complete the activity with your child. Make sure you model the appropriate use of sequencing words such as first, then, next, and finally. At the end of the task, ask your child if they can retell how to make the recipe. You may need to provide prompts to help them list all the steps.
How do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo with your kiddos? Share in the comments below!
Get Ready for S'More Communication
Christmas Tree Brownies
The spring weather usually translates to more time outdoors for most families. Children thrive when exposed to fresh air and exercise on a regular basis. It is also never too early to teach healthy habits! This week we are discussing how to help your child improve both their fitness and functional language skills. We will be discussing three different forms of exercise and communication skills to target during the activities.
This post is geared towards children with emerging language skills. These kiddos are not consistently verbally communicating, or they are doing so with 1-2 word utterances. We’ll provide target vocabulary for each activity . Create various combinations of the words listed to form several 1-3 word utterances. These will be models for your kiddo to imitate. Provide positive reinforcement for any attempts at communication.
Walking or running is a fantastic form of exercise that requires no equipment. Many local fun runs or themed 5Ks also have shorter walking or running events for children. These events can provide incentive to practice during the weeks before the big day! Attending such events also adds a fun community component.
Target Core Vocabulary: want, help, go, more, all done, fast, slow, no, I, we
Verbs: walk, run
Examples: we go, I want go, go more, go fast, no slow, no more, I want walk, run fast, no slow run, I want help, no more help, run more, walk slow more, i want help, I run
Depending on your child’s motor skills, you can choose to play with a large or small ball, or even a frisbee. Keep in mind the activity shouldn’t be too frustrating, so pick an item that your child can easily catch.
Target core vocabulary: want, more, help, get, go, play, all done, no, up, down, fast, slow, like, turn, I, we, my, you
Nouns: ball, frisbee
Examples: I want more, more help, ball go up, get ball, get frisbee, my turn, no frisbee, I like ball, no more ball, help get ball, ball go fast, frisbee go slow, my ball, we play ball
Some kiddos may not be interested in the idea of exercising just to be healthy. Your child may be more motivated to simply play at the playground. This option provides many opportunities for movement too!
Target core vocabulary: want, help, more, all done, go, up, down, turn, no, on, I, you, me, my, we, on, fast, slow, like
Nouns: slide, swing, ladder, bars
Examples: I want slide, help me swing, go on slide, go fast, I go up, no more slide, I like swing, no on slide, more swing, I want more, all done slide, go fast, my turn, my turn swing
What type of exercise does your kiddo enjoy the most? Is it not one of our activities? Comment below and we'll provide some vocabulary suggestions!
Today we are talking about using a classic craft material...dot markers! These are fantastic for small children or kiddos who have fine motor delays and find it difficult to grasp thin markers. But make no mistake, children of all ages can enjoy arts and crafts with these tools. For extra fun, or a sensory component, purchase a scented set! We just recently got the ice cream scented Do-A-Dots and love them! We also purchased a dinosaur themed dot book to use with the markers. However, you certainly do not need a coloring book to target the language skills we will be discussing.
As we’ve done before, we’ll be breaking up the post into two separate sections: Ideas for kiddos with emerging language skills, and ideas for those working on expanding language and vocabulary. Scroll to the section that best applies to your kiddo.
(This is for kiddos not speaking or communicating using 1-2 word utterances.)
Core Vocabulary: want, more, like, no, put, on, help
Describing words: (These will depend on the colors or scents of the markers you purchase.) Some of ours were: big, small, pink, blue, purple, sweet, delicious, messy, neat, clean, big, small
Nouns: marker, paper, hands (Do not forget to label the item(s) depicted in the picture you create or color.)
While using the markers to make pictures, comment on the actions of your child or on the actual drawing. Combine the target words above to form 1-3 word utterances. These are easier to imitate than longer, complex sentences. Here are some examples:
As always, provide tons of positive reinforcement for any communication attempts!
(This is for kiddos using sentences, but they need help building vocabulary or producing narratives.)
1. Pattern Practice: Create color patterns with the dot markers and ask your child to complete the pattern. This is actually an important skill for a variety of academic tasks. As you practice, you can increase the complexity of the patterns you provide.
Target vocabulary in sentences:
I want you to complete the pattern. That means to finish it by adding more dots.
Can you predict what dots should come next?
This pattern has more colors. It is more complex.
2. Art Vocabulary: Take the opportunity to teach your kiddo about pointillism. You can explain that this is a form of art where a large picture is formed by many tiny dots. Search for some pictures on the internet to provide examples. Then try to make some pictures in a similar style using the dot markers.
Target vocabulary in sentences:
Artists use different mediums. That means they have different ways of creating art.
Pointillism is a style of art made with tiny dots.
3. Practice telling a narrative. In general, a great way to build story telling skills is to expose your kiddo to narratives frequently. Besides reading stories, you can explain what you are doing on a daily basis. Remember to model the use of sequential words (i.e. first, next, then, last). During this task, it can be done with any picture you draw. Here’s our example for the picture below:
I’m going to make a face. First, I’ll use the pink marker to create a mouth and a nose. Then, I’ll use a green marker to form the eyes. Next, I’ll use the purple marker to add some hair framing the face.
Today I brought my children to the playground. This is something I haven’t been doing frequently since my daughter is only two months old and we have been mostly staying home, adjusting to the new normal. As my son played, I observed the following interaction:
A mother rushed over to the slide area. There were six school aged children gathered at the bottom of the slide, seemingly having some sort of meeting. As the agitated mother rushed over and started yelling, I noticed that a little blonde boy sitting at the edge of the slide was attempting to push a girl away from him. It was a futile attempt since she had already slid down and was wedged behind him. The other children were shouting for the boy to “Move!” and the girl’s mother came closer to the boy and began shrieking, “Oh no! You better not be hitting my baby!”
The boy’s grandfather immediately intervened, informing the angry parent that the boy is deaf, and only speaks in sign language. After a brief interaction, the boy signed “I’m sorry.” to the girl. This was translated by his grandfather. Both parties left seemingly embarrassed by the interaction, for different reasons.
As a speech therapist, I sat there pondering how the situation could have been avoided. I decided that the girl’s mother should have investigated the situation before reacting. I found myself imagining a different ending to the story. That mother could have walked over and thought,
WHAT DOES THIS BOY NEED?
If she had asked him, or even just thought about it for a second, the answer would have been clear. He needed an effective communication system to play with his peers. He needed to be reassured that he was okay after being startled by a child sliding into him, because he couldn’t hear her coming.
After the children left, my son and I played, while I continued to ponder how important it is to ask the question of so many children having a hard time.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
My son began playing with an older boy who wandered over. I mentioned to his mother that her son was very sweet for playing with my son. She explained that he has autism and was comfortable playing now that all the other kids had left since it was quieter. We chit chatted so more and then she pointed out how odd another child at the park was acting. He was pacing between two poles, with some repetitive movements, near the bus stop. Rather than being quick to judge, the question passed through my mind again,
WHAT DOES HE NEED?
Here’s my point:
Within this twenty five minute period at the park, we encountered two people with disabilities and another child with characteristics of autism. All of these children would have greatly benefited from understanding, acceptance and the question, WHAT DO YOU NEED?
You see, this is April, the month specifically for Autism Awareness. And there’s a whole lot of talk about how we need more than awareness. We know autism is here. We need acceptance of those with ASD in our community. They need more kindness, more understanding, and less judgement. But how do we spread acceptance, not just awareness? What if it all starts with the question, WHAT DO YOU NEED?
National Library Week starts today! To get in the spirit, we are listing ten different ways to promote reading or library related activities. We hope you try some of these suggestions not just this week, but in the weeks and months to come. Developing a love of reading requires consistency. It can be challenging for parents juggling so much, but also very worth it! Here are some of our favorite unique ways to celebrate library week:
Spring has sprung! Gardening presents opportunities to practice many different language skills. It also is a wonderful sensory experience. But what if you are like us and don’t exactly have a green thumb? A spring time sensory bin can save the day! This bin brings the fun of garden play without the mess or responsibilities of continual watering and maintenance.
To make our bin we went to Dollar Tree and the whole thing cost under ten dollars to create! The base of the bin is black beans. We also obtained some children’s gardening tools and small plant pots for scooping purposes. The additional items we added to the bin were different types of artificial flowers. (We taped the bottoms for safety to ensure they weren’t too pointy!) If you have a larger bin, adding some toy bugs might be fun. Since we were using a smaller bin, we kept it simple.
How you use your bin depends on the language abilities of your kiddo. This post will be broken into two sections to focus on the two different types of talkers we frequently see in therapy. Scroll to the section that best meets the needs of your child.
Emerging Verbal Behavior: Working on 1-2 Word Utterances
Core Vocabulary: want, help, more, no, all done, put, in, like, I, it, that
Verbs: dig, scoop, plant, pick
Nouns: garden, flower, bin, bean, pot, rake, shovel, spade
While your child explores the bin, you can demonstrate pretend gardening play by “planting” different flowers in pots. You can dig and scoop the beans with the various tools provided. As you’re playing or observing your kiddo with the bin, comment on the actions occurring. Model 1-3 word utterances by pairing the core words and verbs with the target nouns listed above.
Here are some examples of useful phrases:
I want help
I want flower
No more flower
Put pot in
Put flower in
Flower in pot
I like that
I rake beans
No more rake
If your child imitates these phrases or makes any attempt to communicate, be extra responsive! Answer them accordingly, or expand on their utterance. Provide positive reinforcement for communication by giving them the materials they are requesting as quickly as possible. Also, compliment them for using their words.
Expanding Language: Building Vocabulary and More
This section is for kiddos who speak using full sentences. The goal is to work towards learning new vocabulary words or telling narratives.
Increasing exposure to new words: Whether you are using the bin to simply explore or for pretend garden play, there are a plethora of adjectives and nouns you can introduce to your child. If you want your kiddo to have a robust vocabulary, you must model new words in the appropriate context for them consistently. Pick some target words to use repeatedly as you play with the bin and see if your child will imitate them after playing for a bit. When they utilize the target words in their own sentences, provide positive praise (I.e. “I like how you used some new words!” “Wow, that was a long sentence! Good for you!”).
Here are some suggested adjectives we used when describing various portions of the bin:
tall, silky, exotic, sharp/pointy, hard, deep, smooth, rough
We also used some nouns to label names and parts of flowers:
stem, pistol, petals, leaves, hydrangea, daisy
Try to use more interesting color shades than basic pink, blue, or purple. For example:
Magenta, cerulean, lilac, lavender (Colors vary based on your artificial flower selection.)
Telling Narratives: If your child uses simple sentences, you will have to model this skill by summarizing what their actions are or combining their utterances. Start by saying something like: “Tell me how you plant the flowers here.”
- If they just show you the actions, provide a narrative yourself. (I.e. Oh I see. First, you dig with the rake. Then you scoop some dirt in the pot. Last, you “plant” your flower by pushing it into the pot! Great job!) This sort of skill requires repeat exposure, so continue telling narratives in your daily life. Describe your actions when you’re cooking a meal, or driving somewhere. Make sure you use sequencing words like first, then, next, last, finally. Then you can try asking the question again the next time your child plays with the spring sensory bin in the hopes that they can tell a narrative after hearing some more from you!
- If you ask your child and they respond with single sentences, combine their sentences to make them longer. At the end, you can say, “I like how you told me the directions! Now I know what to do!” to reinforce the skill.