A play kitchen is a favorite speech therapy toy because it is functional and engaging! There are countless ways to use and adapt this versatile toy that kids love! I’ve used toy kitchens to work on many goals – expressive and receptive language, articulation, and social skills.
I recommend getting a play kitchen that has a good assortment of toy food and kitchen utensils (e.g. plates, knife, pan). The more pieces, the better! Some kitchens have sound effects which can be a good tool to use for cause/effect and joint attention when working with young children. Here are some ideas on how to use a play kitchen to expand speech and language!
One of the first forms of communication is joint attention or a shared focus on something. You can follow the child’s lead by mirroring their actions and putting your attention on their focus. Model gestures, such as pointing and eye contact to direct their focus and reward it. For example, when they look at a desired item and then make eye contact/point to it.
Practice the social skill of taking turns. For example, take turns cutting food or cooking something. This can be a sharing lesson or working on “my turn” “your turn.”
CAUSE AND EFFECT
A critical part of development is a child realizing their actions have an effect on their environment – this aspect of language development comes before words. A favorite cause/effect game for every student is knocking a toy on the floor!
Since playing with a kitchen is motivating, it is a great way to coax a child to make requests. Withhold the toy food and kitchen tools (pot, knife, spoon, cup) so the child needs to request via non-verbal communication (signs, pointing) or verbal communication (single word, complete sentence) depending on their ability. I also like to place the items in a clear container so the child can see and request, without the ability to grab it.
Toy kitchens are a great open ended activity to work on generalizing articulation skills. Incorporate speech sound targets so your student can practice with a less structured activity. I have also incorporated articulation drill practice with play food like the ones depicted in the picture below.
Work on functional vocabulary, for example, food, colors, numbers, common verbs (eat, cut), etc.
There are lots of functional opposites with a play kitchen: hot/cold, on/off, open/closed, clean/dirty, same/different, big/little.
Target identifying nouns, verbs, prepositions, descriptors and so much more! “Where is the apple?” “Who is cutting?” “Where is the big knife?” “What is in the oven?”
Possessives include: my, mine, our(s), your(s), his, hers, its, theirs. During a play period you can allocate certain toy items that belong to you and the child to work on “mine” and “yours”.
Negation can be a tricky concept to teach and learn! Examples of negatives include: no, not, never, none, no one, nothing, don’t, can’t, won’t. “Which food is not red?” “There’s no food!” “It’s not hot!”
Work on spatial concepts such as, in/out, on/off, in front/behind, top/bottom, and next to/between.
Work on “who” “what” “when” “where” “why” and “how” questions.
Have the child identify the category or list items in a category. Example categories: food, kitchen tools, hot items, cold items, colors, sizes.
Work on “which things go together”. You can present the child with objects and have them select the two that go together and tell you why. You can also provide them with an object and have them tell you something that goes with it. This is easier since you don’t need to have all the items!
“What is a knife for?” “What do you use to drink?” Talk about kitchen associated items and their uses.
SAFETY LIFE SKILLS
Working on vocabulary and object function helps with kitchen safety. In addition, target specific safety questions: “Should you touch the oven or stove when it is on?” “Can you use knives by yourself?” “Is it ok to play with matches or lighters?”
VERBS & VERB TENSES
A toy kitchen is perfect for working on action words: cook, eat, cut, open, etc. Work on present progressive verbs (cooking) and past tense verbs (cooked) forms as well.
MEAN LENGTH UTTERANCES
Incorporate expanding language while playing by modeling an additional 1-2 words based off of what the child says. For example, if the child says “banana,” you can model “yellow banana” or “cut banana” or “I see banana.”
There are multiple aspects of sequencing you can target. You can have the child follow directions with sequencing terms (first/next/last). You can even work on higher level sequencing by telling a story or demonstrating actions with the kitchen items and then having the child retell or tell what happened in correct order.
Provide directions for your student to follow. These can be basic 1-step directions “give me the cup” or more complex directions “put the egg in the pan and then put the apple in the oven.” Incorporate descriptors, pronouns, prepositions, and temporal concepts (“Before you eat the apple, cut it.”)
PRETEND PLAY/ROLE PLAY
Imaginary play is critical to development. Model pretend play if the child is not yet demonstrating these skills – pretend to eat food, cook dinner, or wash the dishes. Incorporate role play by being certain characters – pretend you are the mom feeding the baby.
ON-THE-GO PLAY KITCHEN OPTIONS
APP: Toca Kitchen is popular app that allows you to target many of these same goals – but with the convenience of an app!
INTERACTIVE BOOK: I created a Kitchen Interactive Book. It’s definitely a more portable, convenient option and a great way to expand language with adaptability on-the-go.
I hope this gave you some new, fun ideas to implement in your therapy sessions!
Thanks for reading!
Do you use a play kitchen for therapy or your class? What else do you work on?
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