For many families, Taco Tuesday is a weekly tradition. Besides quality time together and a delicious meal, there are many other benefits to having a weekly taco night. Structuring your dinner carefully can lead to tons of opportunities to target language skills. Unlike most of our other posts, we will not be allotting a specific amount of time to this task, because Taco Tuesday is not meant to be rushed!
Nouns: Taco, toppings (lettuce, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, sauce), plate, napkins
Verbs: want, put, eat
Adjectives: delicious/yummy, crunchy, hot, cold, spicy,
Pronouns: I, my, you
Questions: Do you want_________?
Core Vocabulary: more, no, eat, like, help
1. Set up all your ingredients and toppings near each other. The idea is to set up a taco assembly line for your family.
2. Make your tacos first, but make sure your child is paying attention to the process. Narrate your steps as you move from topping to topping. For example, you might say something like, “First we get a tortilla. Then we fill it with turkey.” (or whatever protein you choose) Next, help your child through the process of making their own tacos. First of all, children love preparing their own food. Secondly, if you make each taco for them, they will miss out on the language benefits of discussing each ingredient before adding the item!
3. When they are making their first taco, you can target yes/no responses by asking the question, "Do you want_____?" for each topping. (i.e. "Do you want lettuce?) You can model appropriate yes/no responses if your child gestures or makes a face. (They are still communicating, just not in the mode that is desirable to us! But we can shape their responses into more meaningful verbalizations with modeling! And if you practice this week to week, you will see some improvement through the consistency of the activity!)
4. Be cheap with ingredients. Not because you don’t want to feed your family, but because it allows for extra opportunities to request “more.” So when you give them some cheese, put one tiny shred on the taco. Then you can laugh and say "Is that enough?!? NOOOO!!! We need MORE CHEESE!" If we want them to request, we have to model the expected behavior! You may have to do this with each topping on the first taco. Then as you are making the second taco, pause and wait even if there is an awkward silence to allow your child the opportunity to independently ask for the toppings they want. 5. If your child wants to try independently constructing their tacos, and they become frustrated fitting in the desired ingredients, model requesting HELP to decrease the frustration.
6. If you child has ASD, pronouns can be especially challenging. Model appropriate use of them while you're actually eating dinner. If you play your cards right, you can squeeze in some introduction of describing words too! Here are some examples: "MY taco is crunchy because I put on a lot of lettuce." "This taco is spicy because I used the red sauce. Is YOURS spicy?" "I love tacos! They are delicious! Do YOU?" Just using a few of these statements is good because you do not want the conversation to seem too forced or unnatural.
7. Most importantly,l remember to have fun and just enjoy your family! We all know Tuesdays are just Monday's ugly sister and we need some tacos to help us survive! So do not put too much pressure on yourself! You do not have to use every vocabulary word. Just try to target the ones you can when the opportunity arises. There's always next Tuesday!