With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many of us will soon be spending a little extra time in the kitchen. Preparing a meal together is a great way for kids to build new skills and to make the holiday their own. Working in the kitchen can teach valuable life skills, as well as strengthen and practice fine motor skills.
Cooking together is a great opportunity to connect as a family, and it can be a motivator for your child, too. Trying a new food is often less scary and more exciting if your child has participated in preparing it themself.
Before beginning to cook together, take some time to talk with your child about kitchen safety. Working in the kitchen is a chance to practice hand washing skills and an opportunity to discuss good hygiene. It’s also very important to discuss the dangers of the hot stove and sharp knives.
Special Considerations for Cooking with Your Child with Autism
The kitchen is full of many different sounds, smells, and textures, and the combination of it all can be overwhelming for a child with autism. When choosing a dish to cook with your kiddo, you may want to minimize the need for any noisy equipment or particularly strong-smelling foods.
Kid Friendly Cooking Tasks
Everyone’s abilities and interests differ, so a kitchen task that is easy for one child may be too challenging for another. As the parent, you can set your child up for success by starting small and slowly building up to more complex skills (hey, it’s the ABA way!).
We always love to capitalize on a child’s interests and to choose tasks that are more appealing. For example, if your kiddo loves to play in water, they may be eager to help wash fruits and vegetables. Similarly, if your child is seeking some additional sensory input, kneading and rolling dough may be a good activity (and a great excuse to bake some cookies!). Here are a few additional kid friendly kitchen tasks our ABA therapists have identified:
- Stirring eggs, dry ingredients for baking, or batter
- Mashing potatoes or avocados
- Measuring flour, sugar, or spices
- Picking herbs
- Adding salt or garnishing a dish
- Using a peeler to peel vegetables
You can also work with your child on setting and clearing the table. If your kiddo is particularly creative, they may want to design a centerpiece for the holiday.
At Innovative Behavior Options, we use ABA therapy to promote independence, and we’re so proud of and grateful for the clients and families we get to work with each and every day. From our ABA therapists and staff, we wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving!