Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Children who have delayed language development usually have vocabularies that consist mainly of nouns (names of "things") and use a small range of rather non-specific verbs (action words). Non-specific verbs are words like "do/did" "go/went" "get/got" and "put".
An example of a child trying to explain how you beat cream to make it thick;
"You do the cream in that bowl like this (mimes) and it get all... all bigger."
An example of a child of the same age with more advanced language skills;
"You beat the cream and it thickens. When it's really thick, you stop."
Children with delayed language can also have a limited number of adjectives (describing words) in their repertoire. Adjectives may be limited to words such as big, little, good, bad and other adjectives that they hear often.
A chef puppet is a brilliant way to explore interesting verbs and adjectives - and this is not simply because we want our little ones all converted to articulate Master Chefs.
We know that when we expand vocabularies in one area, it leads to the learning of new words in other areas. It's sort of like the starter culture in sour dough, right? Vocabularies just keep expanding the more you feed them!
The chef can be used to explain how he makes something, being sure to use some interesting and relevant verbs and adjectives. The puppeteer using the chef can explain that the chef loves teaching children about new words. It is suggested that two or three focus words are used in each session.
Who could forget the Swedish chef puppet from The Muppets?
When children are engaged and entertained, discussions about the meanings of words helps children retain knowledge about new words.
Just think about the word "cutting". Most children will know this word.
The concept of cutting might be refined by learning about the words chopping, slicing, dicing, carving, halving.
Let's take the word "dice".
To help with the learning of a new word, the chef should:
*Have a prop that will be used to explain the word. (It might be some carrots made from playdough).
*Have children repeat the word.
*Explain what it means and give a demonstration/mime. The adult using the puppet may have to do this while the chef directs. ("When we DICE carrots, it means we cut them into little cubes - like little dice.")
*Make links to any word it sounds like. Compare and contrast. ("DICE - it sounds a bit like SLICE and RICE.")
*Make links to children's own life. ("Does anybody have frozen veggies in their freezer at home? Often these are diced. Check when you go home. Ask Mum or Dad if the frozen veggies are DICED.)
*Ask questions using the new word. ("Could you DICE potatoes? Could you DICE a sandwich?")
*Talk about any other meanings of the word. (DICE in a game.)
After the chef session has finished, you can leave the chef out in the play area and encourage children to use their new words.
The CHEF puppet is available in our store and comes with a downloadable tipsheet for use in your programming. You can view the chef in our store here.
Staff from one early childhood centre attended a conference where I presented. They loved the idea of the chef puppet and later wrote to me saying they had incorporated it into their daily routine.
When the lunch was brought out from the kitchen at their centre, the chef would introduce what he had made and how he had made it.
I love this!