Mealtime can look different depending on who is there, where you are, and what you are having. A familiar meal, near and dear to me, is sharing Chicago- Style Deep Dish pizza with students, friends, co-workers, clients, and family members. Although I am no chef, I have found “slicing up” my day and spending time in the kitchen, has been a time that I look forward to, and a place where I continue to learn and practice new skills.
It is often that we hear something similar to, “Mommm! I am hungry”, in a groggy voice. This alerts us that our children are on the verge of transitioning into their hangry personality. We know if we do not intervene quickly, we could be a witness to complete chaos. Immediately we run to the cabinet and see what we can make. Mealtime can be a difficult time of day if we do not plan or prep for them. But, why are we doing all the work? Why not involved our kids?
Bringing the kids into the mealtime process works on a range of skills such as: matching to sample items that we are needing for a recipe and identifying numbers and/or measurements within a recipe. These skills can be done for early learners using the aid of a picture schedule (e.g., pictures of each item) to young adults who are working on reading and completing the task (e.g., reading “turn on the oven to 400 degrees” and then turning on the oven).
Once we have prepared the food, we are at a crossroads while it continues to cook. Do we let the kids go back to their other activities, or we have them continue to help prep for mealtime? Keeping the kids in the kitchen will have them practicing waiting for the meal to be cooked. While they are in the kitchen with you, they can also work on finding items such as forks, plates, and cups, to help set up. The more involved we keep them with this process the more likely they will be able to replicate it in the future.
If we establish a norm, that mealtime is a time where we come together, we can start inadvertently teaching conversational skills. We can prompt them to answer “why questions”, answer personal information questions, and work on other target skills they are learning (e.g., using a fork, cutting with a knife, etc.). We can celebrate and/or praise our kids for the permanent product they have helped create. We can learn about their interests, likes, and dislikes and even share jokes such as, “Have you heard the joke about the pizza? I can’t tell it … it’s too cheesy!”
Mealtime works on a variety of academic and social skills. Mealtime is shared across different settings and with different expectations depending on the context. Being involved in the process of picking the toppings, or helping us turn on the oven, will help our kids continue to grow in their independence and daily living skills.
Keywords related to blog: life skills, intraverbal, generalization, tolerance, visual schedule