Introducing your child into the kitchen at an early age is a great way to get them involved in the beginning stages of cooking. As a working mom, I completely understand the time restrictions one might have. Balancing work, household chores, and everything else does not leave you an incredible amount of time to set aside and begin experimenting in the kitchen. I tell the parents of the children I work with to start on a non-crazed weekend. Maybe a Sunday morning tradition you can begin with your family. It does not have to be a huge investment! Here are 5 simple things you can incorporate into your kitchen to help your child become more aware and independent.
Unloading The Groceries
This task is great because it teaches organization, problem-solving (What can we do if there is no more room? How can we make the groceries fit?). By having your child put items away, they are using a ton of skills simultaneously (bilateral integration, visual skills, cognitive skills, fine motor, and gross motor skills).
Washing Produce or Dishes
So many of the clients I work with love water play. Having your child rinse fruits & vegetables helps them feel like they are contributing to the meal and improving their self-esteem. Washing the dishes provides sensory input as well as improving their grasp (maintaining a proper grasp on the sponge and the item they are washing). It also promotes bilateral coordination (skills using both the right and left sides of the body at the same time).
Mixing, measuring, pouring, stirring are all great activities to help your child’s fine motor skills grow. You can have them scrabble an egg, measure sugar, mix the ingredients together. Watching a task from start to finish helps develop your child’s sequential patterns and motor skills that they will use throughout their life.
Encourage Their Creativity
Whether it is trying a new recipe, mixing spices, or having fun decorating desserts, encourage your child’s creativity. Ask them pertinent questions like “What would you add to make this better?” At any age, you are able to work on your child’s creativity. Buy edible glitter or paint and have them paint a cookie or cake. In my book
, I have a recipe for pizza faces utilizing various vegetables and toppings. Pretend you are scientists and need to mix various ingredients to create a delicious recipe. There is no limitation on what you can create!
Use Your Sensory Skills
My children love the scent of vanilla. Every time I bake with them, they will automatically open the cap and take a good sniff followed by a “yummy”! When you walk into a house and smell freshly baked cookies, it gives you a sense of warmth and home. This is the same reason why realtors will use this trick prior to showing homes. The scent of the cookies creates a safe and happy environment for you and your family. Playing games, such as scent matching, is a fun way to improve your child’s sense of smell. Start by dipping a cotton ball in a scent (vanilla or peppermint). You can start with 2 cotton balls and then slowly add different flavors. Have your child sniff the cotton ball and see if they can match the scent or point to which one it is. This fun activity helps picky eaters become more comfortable with various scents.
Use your visual system to look at the colors or find the ingredients, discuss textures (hard vs soft, cold vs warm, etc.). Look up recipes together to make. This is a great way to get your child passionate about the foods they eat!
For any questions regarding these activities, Occupational Therapy, or my services, you can send me a message
or find me on Instagram – @playwithyourfoodbook.
Sarah Appleman MS, OTR/L is the author of “Play With Your Food” and is a specialist in her field.