How to Ask for Snacks Without Words

Your toddler’s life revolves around a few things; play, food, and attention from loved ones. How toddlers communicate these needs vary depending on where they are at within their own language development.

I’ve been in plenty of speech therapy sessions and seen this scenario play out:

-Child brings parent to area of food

-Parent picks up the child and opens the refrigerator/cabinet

-Child points or reaches vaguely towards a specific snack

-Parent grabs the wrong food

-This repeats a couple of times

-Everyone ends up frustrated

If your child is not yet verbal, asking for specific snacks may be difficult. Chances are, the snacks are not all at ground level, where the child can get them independently. This is a good thing.

I encourage parents to place snacks and desired objects out of reach on purpose. Placing desired items out of reach creates opportunities for communication to take place. We call this creating communication temptations, or “sabotaging” the environment.

When the snacks are out of reach, and the child does not yet have the words for a specific snack, communication breakdowns are sure to occur. One way to can decrease some of these breakdowns is by giving the child a way to communicate specific needs. If your child is not yet verbal, we can give them language by teaching them how to point to pictures to request specific items.

Goal of the Activity: Teaching your child to make a SPECIFIC food choice by pointing to a picture.

Materials needed:

Empty packaging of a snack

Scissors

Tape

How to implement the strategy:

-Determine your child’s four favorite snacks.

-Take the packages, and cut out the picture of the food item. Try your best to only cut out the picture of the food, to make it clear what they are pointing to. (Keep any letters, or any other pictures of objects on the packaging out of your cut out.)

-Tape these four items wherever your keep snacks. You can try on the refrigerator door, or pantry door.

-Make sure they are placed at eye-level for your child. Space them out nicely to avoid any confusion as to what they are choosing. Make sure they can easily point to or touch the picture.

-When your child brings you over to the refrigerator for a snack, get down on eye level and show them the pictures.

-Name the objects buy using simple and precise language, “We have, crackers, cheerios, veggie sticks, cheese its”.

-Wait patiently, and see if they reach for or point to one of the pictures.

-If they point to one of the pictures, grab it and give it to them!

Here is a quick video of what this may look like:

Some Considerations:

Once they’ve pointed, avoid asking them to say the name of the object, or request it again. The goal of this activity is to teach them to make a specific choice, by pointing to a picture of a snack. Once they point, immediately get the snack and hand it to the child. We want them to make a connection between pointing to the picture and receiving the item. The faster you hand them the item, the stronger the connection will be made to – point/receive item. You can practice labeling the snack while they are eating. If you’re looking for tips on how to facilitate speech during snack check out this video.

Good Luck!

For more speech and language tips, follow Speech and Feeding Kids on YouTube.


About the Author

DRAKE HASTINGS M.S., CCC-SLP

Drake Hastings is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in speech, oral motor, and feeding therapy for kids. Drake has a passion for working with children and families while helping children achieve goals using a fun and motivating approach to learning.

Drake’s main areas of focus within the practice are feeding therapy, and speech (sound production) therapy. Drake has experience working with children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Apraxia of Speech, Dysarthria, Down Syndrome, and rare genetic disorders. Drake has experience working and collaborating with a wide variety of families and therapeutic team members while treating children of all ages.

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