We live in a world of screens; whether it be an iPhone, iPad, television, video game, or computer, it seems like there’s always something for children to stare at. While I always love and encourage the use of new technology, we should be aware of the effects this has on our new generation, especially on their speech, language, and feeding skills. Here are some reasons to consider taking a break from technology during dinner time:
- Social skills– When children are staring at a screen, they are not practicing pragmatic (social) language skills. Instead, talk to your children so they can practice using eye contact, topic maintenance, conversational turn taking, introducing new topics, and using appropriate gestures and facial expressions. This is also a great opportunity to practice table manners.
- Language skills– Dinner is a great opportunity to practice using language. For younger children, it can be a time to practice labeling and requesting food items and utensils. For older children, this may be an opportunity to practice describing, categorization, comparing and contrasting, or telling a narrative about something that happened during the day.
- Articulation skills– Children can practice their target sounds using words related to the meal or items used to prepare the meal. For example, if the “ch” sound is being worked on in therapy, some target words may be “cheese”, “chew”, “check”, “cheers”, “chair”, “choose”, or “chop”.
- Feeding skills– This one may seem obvious, but dinner is a great opportunity to practice feeding skills! When we watch TV and eat, we tend to focus on the show instead of what we are putting into our body and how we are eating it. This can lead to overeating, under-eating, or unsafe habits. By calling attention to the food instead of the TV, the child is able to focus on their food, how much they are eating, and whether they are using skills practiced at speech (ie. closed lips, a rotary chew, forming a cohesive bolus (ball of food), keeping their tongue on “the spot”, and swallowing safely). Please note it is important for children to remain seated in an upright position during mealtime to avoid choking and aspiration, and to maximize oral-motor skills.
- Relationship skills– Finally, mealtime can be a great opportunity to bond with your child. Take interest in what is going on in their life. Share anecdotes about your day and encourage other family members to share. Keeping an open door for communication will benefit your whole family. Take advantage of the time you have at dinner to reconnect with your child after a busy day.
Breaking the TV habit may be difficult, so start small. Start with one day per week and eventually build up to more and more days without the tube. Then, TV/iPad/video game time can be used as a reward for good eating!
Happy dining 🙂