Cooking With Our Senses During the Holidays

The holidays are almost here! And what does that mean for many family traditions? FOOD!  Cooking and baking with your child can be a great way to include them in your holiday preparations, and also incorporate a sensory motor experience, as well as fine and visual motor skills into a no pressure fun family activity.   

Baking can incorporate ALL of your senses:   “Children are more open and have fewer defenses and disturbances when the senses are enlivened and supported. They have fewer anxieties and are less fearful.”1

TOUCH:  For many kids the touch sense can be very regulating and soothing.  Have extra of each ingredient and allow your child to have a sample (try not to worry about the mess!) Talk about the different textures between the flour or eggs, if they like it or if they don’t.  A little too sensitive to touch!? No worries, keep plenty of wipes and a water bin close by in case the sensation is a little too much to handle and they need to wipe it away.  Offer spoons to mix with or toys to bury within. 

SMELL: Talk about the various smells you meet in the kitchen.  From sweet vanilla to bland milk or salt.  And if you are feeling adventurous give each a little taste!

TASTE: Sample ingredients without pressure.  Picky eater!? That’s ok! Offer giving the ingredients a kiss or a lick to work up to taking a bite.  

SOMATOSENSORY: (Input to joints and muscles)  Use those muscles to push, pull or roll dough.  Lift those heavy bags of sugar to pour, etc. 

Cooking not only maximizes a sensory experience but can also work on those fine and visual motor as well as higher level executive functioning skills!  Working on visual scanning? Gather ingredients from throughout the kitchen.  You can give your child hints on where things belong or where to find them to work on problem solving or following multi-step directions.

Practice sequencing by providing the order of which ingredients go into a bowl or what motor acts come next.  Too tricky?  Offer a “first and then” cue or a visual picture schedule to help out!

And of course the fine motor experience of scooping, measuring, putting in a pinch of salt and opening packages!

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Talk with your OT about the best way to maximize your child’s experience in the kitchen!! 

By: Lynne Giordano, MS OTR/L

1– Sensory Opportunities through Baking and cooking by Marcia Maquis