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Supporting Language Development in Infants and Toddlers during Mealtime

Reflections from the Field

Infant and toddler teacher Heather Mulrooney describes how she uses a variety of strategies during mealtime to support language development in very young children. By modeling sign language, labeling objects for children and reading their gestures and body language, she helps them to develop their oral language skills. She explains how mealtimes offer the perfect setting for language development since adults and children alike are conversing. This routine part of the day is a great opportunity to capitalize on the use of intentional language development strategies.

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  • Video Transcript for Supporting Language Development in Infants and Toddlers during Mealtime

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    Heather Mulrooney, Infant/Toddler Teacher, Windham Early Head Start: With infants and toddlers, daily, consistent routines are very powerful. The mealtime setting provides opportunities for language development—adults having conversations with adults, adults having conversations with children, children having conversations with children.

    Heather Mulrooney: And then with language, we’re also using different strategies based on where the child is developmentally. So with an infant we may be imitating sounds.

    Baby: (Vocalizes)
    Teacher: (Imitating his sounds)
    Baby: (Makes noises back)

    Heather Mulrooney: Children may be pointing. So if they’re pointing to an object we would label that object for them.

    Heather: What? What does Ava want? Milk? Ava milk.

    Heather Mulrooney: We’ll begin to introduce sign language.
    Heather: Please? Please? (signs with her hands)
    Heather: Milk? Here; milk.

    Heather Mulrooney: The single words begin to emerge, and then we add a word on to that single word.

    Child: Good.
    Teacher: Is it good when you dip it?

    Heather Mulrooney: And then, again, as they grow, we get them to use their words.

    Heather: (Encouraging boy to ask for soup): More soup. Which one? More soup? Ok, ask Janette.
    Child: Soup.
    Teacher: ¿Mas sopa?

    Heather Mulrooney: There should be lots of language going on.

    © 2016 Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
    Produced by the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.
    May be reprinted for educational purposes.
  • Producers: Terry Surprenant, Sean Leser
    Terry Surprenant
    Editing: Sean Leser
    Videography: Sean Leser, Ken Measimer
  • Special thanks to Windham Early Head Start in Columbia, Connecticut. The development of this video was funded by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood.