If you have been following this blog for long, you know that I love to get my kiddos busy in the kitchen. They are my little helpers; my ingredient-grabbing, dish-washing, egg-cracking, apron-clad cuties. My favorite part of cooking alongside my kids, though? I love the one-on-one time (or usually, the group dynamic of more than one helpful child) while we cook a dish that we enjoy as a family. It’s productive and real-world creativity and meaningful time spent together. Cooking with my kids provides time of memory building (and ALL four kids never forget to ask to lick the beaters when we bake…or that time the flour flew up out of the mixer and all over the fridge…). But, not only are we cooking up memories together, we’re making fun dishes that my kids recall long after the dishes have been washed and the many (Oh, so many!) smudgy fingerprints have been scrubbed.
Teaching Direction Following through Cooking With Kids
Tips to help kids with direction following:
- Model appropriate behaviors.
- Rehearse parts of the cooking process. This is especially ideal for safety concerns, like handling sharp tools or managing the stove.
- Verbal, visual, or physical prompts for appropriate behavior during cooking tasks.
- Practice turn-taking with tasks like stirring and mixing ingredients.
- Organize a child’s participation with written directions. Some kids might need picture sequencing cards or social stories before beginning a cooking task.
- Break down tasks into smaller parts. Children can sequence parts of the task before starting. Use different techniques (written directions, picture cards, strips of paper with directions written out. The child must sequence the steps of a task before starting on the cooking process.
- Verbally tell your child one direction at a time to work on verbal direction following. Allow them to complete the tasks successfully, then add more complex or multi-step directions. Add more details slowly and don’t add more until they are successfully following the next level of directions.
- Provide a written checklist for kids. They can mark off completed tasks.
- Together with your child, draw out the parts of a recipe. A visually organized list is better for some kids.
- Practice direction following with a simple task that the child knows how to do. If they can pour their own cereal and milk, instruct them to tell you or another child each step of the task. Act out or perform the activity as your child tells each step. They will be able to see any mistakes and self-correct, or correct their directions with a little prompting. Telling the step-by-step directions to another person is a great way to practice direction following.
- Discuss transitional words like first, second, third, last. Write out directions for a task like washing hands. Have your child sort the directions into order using the directional words.
More benefits to cooking with kids:
- Problem solving in cooking can carry over to other areas like self-care and management of personal items.
- Improved self-confidence.
- Communication and language development while talking about ingredients.
- Functional practice of life-skills.
- Strengthened family support system through team working on a collaborative task.
- Personal and family well-being development.
- Sensory exploration of new or different tastes, scents, and textures.
- Proprioceptive input while cutting vegetables, kneading bread, stirring ingredients.
- Conversation turn-taking
- Improved self-confidence.
- Exploration of self-identity.
- Individualized modifications can be made to meet the child’s needs and abilities.
- Meaningful tasks encourage carry-over of practiced skills.
- The kitchen is a natural environment and functional work here will lead to carryover of practiced skills.
- Cooking with various textures, colors and scents will encourage kids to try new foods.
- Tool use and practice.