The kids table at your Thanksgiving dinner. We probably have all either sat at one or put our children at it to save space and noise (not to mention, mess). As a 40 something year old, I sat (and still sit) at the kids table, and my teenage children have followed suit. Was it fun for all those years of my childhood sitting separately from the grown-ups? Absolutely. Did we get to goof off, sneak extra dessert, and poke holes in the bottoms of the Whitman sampler chocolate to see which had nuts and which had the leaky stuff oozing out? We sure did.
As a Speech-Language Pathologist for 20 years working with small children in need of language intervention, would I recommend the kids table to my clients? Absolutely not.
Sounds a little hypocritical, right?. Why was it ok for my young children? Here’s what my years on the job have taught me. If you deny your children the chance to sit at the table with adults, you are missing a tremendous opportunity for language enhancement to occur. Think about how different your Thanksgiving dinner is compared to an average weeknight dinner. For many of us, we are surrounded by extended family: grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and close friends. The table is loud and bustling with activity. Now consider all of the language that takes place at the grown up table that you are exposing your child to with just one meal:
- Vocabulary is expanded- the food we eat for Thanksgiving is not typically eaten on a daily basis; therefore, we are teaching new language. !
- Answering and asking questions. This is a vital skill for all young children in the development of language as it improves their comprehension of language and their ability to formulate responses. New foods and a different table set up encourage questions, as children are often curious about new experiences. Imagine the questions directed to your child from relatives who haven’t seen them for months or a year of their development. So many opportunities for your child to hear questions and formulate replies.
- The opportunity to teach so many different parts of speech. While we don’t often think about how many nouns, verbs, or adjectives we use in a typical dinner conversation, the chance to introduce so many of these is tremendous at the Thanksgiving table. Consider how many times you use adjectives such as delicious, beautiful, tasty, thankful, full, small, big, and all the colors you point out in the course of the dinner. How many verbs do you use such as eat (or overeat!), cut, chew, drink, bake, or cook? The nouns we use are endless, but the opportunity to use words like cornucopia, pilgrim, and harvest are generally only referenced this one time of the year.
I know, having children at your grown up table is not always ideal. It’s messy, it’s crowded, and it’s most certainly noisy. But by denying your children the chance to be there, it’s doing them a tremendous disservice. Let them hear the language and the wisdom of the adults. There’s always another time for a grown up meal… isn’t that what leftovers are for?!