Cooking With Kids for Thanksgiving

Cooking with kids around the holidays is a fun activity that many parents and children enjoy doing together. Encouraging cooking skills is a great way to support a child’s independence and prepare them for adulthood. Performing tasks such as scooping, kneading, cutting, chopping, and shredding are great ways to develop fine motor skills and coordination. In addition, following a recipe teaches children how to follow directions and sequence steps. Some tips for cooking with your children this Thanksgiving include:

  • Safety

    • Educate your children about the dangers of sharp knives, hot stoves, boiling water, etc. prior to engaging in cooking tasks. In addition, it is important to advise them on the importance of hand hygiene before and after handling foods. Some children might benefit from a visual demonstration of proper hand hygiene, or a song to understand the amount of time hands should be washed for. 

  • Preparation

    • Before selecting a recipe, consider your child’s food preferences. By incorporating your child’s interests, they will be more inclined to engage and participate in the cooking experience. Gather equipment and supplies ahead of time so that it is easy for you and your child to locate. Let your child know the ingredients and tools that you will be using before you start. If your child is a visual learner, visual aids might be helpful in the learning process. It may also help to demonstrate tasks prior to having your child attempt it. For more complex recipes, measure some ingredients ahead of time to ease the process and save time.

  • Sensory Considerations

    • Cooking may be overwhelming for some children because it engages all the senses. If possible, avoid cooking with loud tools and use alternative methods such as stirring ingredients manually rather than using an electric mixer. It may also help to eliminate background noises such as televisions and music, which may be overstimulating. Allow your child to wear gloves that are food safe if the texture is overwhelming. Refrain from using items with strong scents if your child has any aversions to avoid sensory overload.

  • Incorporate Strengths

    • If the child is good with cutting, have them start with chopping. Allowing for success will increase the child’s confidence and they will be more willing to try tasks that are more challenging. 

  • Make it FUN!

    • Play food detective

      • Have your child compare and contrast items

        • Temperature

          • Is the food hot or cold?

        • Texture

          • Is the food soft or hard?

          • Is the food chewy or crunchy?

          • Is the food smooth or rough?

        • Flavor

          • Is the food sour, sweet, salty, or spicy?

        • State of matter

          • Is the food hard or melted?

        • Smell

          • Does the food smell fruity or citrusy?

    • Sensory exploration

      • Present different states/consistencies of foods that the child may be more tolerant of

        • Hard boiled egg as opposed to raw egg

        • Ice as opposed to water

        • Applesauce as opposed to apples

        • Uncooked noodles as opposed to cooked noodles

        • Peanuts as opposed to peanut butter

    • Take breaks

      • It may be difficult for children to remain engaged for the entirety of a cooking activity. Be sure to take breaks and enjoy the time spent together!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Written by Tyler Reade, MS OTR/L