5 Great Cooking Toys for Kids with Special Needs

Children imitate those around them especially their parents. They watch how they cook and bake so naturally, a great toy for them to play with is pots and pans. Whether you have kid-sized pots and pans or you use ones from your cabinet, pots and pans are an amazing tool for your child. Pots and pans help your child’s imagination grow and allows them to entertain themselves. I remember watching my little brother sit on the floor and play with pots and pans for what seemed like forever. Encouraging your child to use their imagination and creativity allows them to develop good problem-solving skills. You can have your child work on problem-solving skills by asking them to “make” 3 different meals with the toy food, or asking them to make a full menu (with both product and price a parent can help write it out if they are too young). Practicing problem-solving skills at a young age is crucial for developing more advance complex problem-solving skills for when you get older. Prior to actually cooking with pots and pans, here are some fun activities you can do with them.

Pots & Pans
-Take the lids off and see if your child can match them to the corresponding pots.
-Pour water into a large pot then place it next to an empty pot. Have your child use a ladle or turkey baster to move the water from one pot to the other.
-Make music out of pots and pans. Turn the pots upside down and give your child various spoons, wooden, metal, etc. Allow them to bang on the pots and listen to the different sounds it makes. 

Cutting Play Food Toy
This toy is amazing to help build your child’s fine motor skills, meal preparation, identification, and labeling of foods. This toy is so great because not only does it look so similar to real foods, but it also allows your child to practice cutting in a safe way. Have your child copy a recipe with various vegetables listed to make “soup”. Your child can look at the recipe, find the vegetables that are in it then cut them and put them in a pot. This teaches the proper sequencing needed to follow for recipes.  You can then even have your child assist in creating an actual soup from this recipe.

Wooden Pizza Counter
This toy encourages cognitive development such as sorting and counting. This toy allows the child to create/prep a pizza, cook it and charge the customer. Making change is a great way to practice simple mathematical skills in a fun way. The cute little pizza topping pieces are made out of Velcro and are perfect to work on fine motor skills. Have your child cut the pizza. Using the pizza cutter requires your child to have a stable wrist. 

BBQ Game
I love any game that utilizes tongs. Having your child use tongs is a great way to improve your child’s fine motor development. Tongs allow your child to work on bilateral coordination, crossing midline, opening the webspace, improving wrist stability, and eye-hand coordination.

-Have your child stack blocks using tongs.
-Take a bowl and fill it with colored pom-poms. Have your child use the tongs to organize the pom poms by color. They can place them in cups, bowls, or plates.
-You can rip pieces of play-doh then have your child use the tongs to pick up the play-doh and pretend to “feed” it to a doll.

Play-doh Hamburger
As an Occupational Therapist, being a fan of Play-doh comes with the territory. I already dedicated a previous blog to it. Play-doh is a great way to enhance your child’s fine motor skills, hand strength, bilateral coordination, and tactile tolerance. This game is a fun way to improve your child’s tactile tolerance. They can make pretend burgers and get used to the feeling of the play-doh. Having children mix, push and squeeze the play-doh helps them improve their sensory processing skills. When your child sees the various layers of the hamburger (green lettuce, red tomato), their visual system will process this information. It is important for your child to “see” colors in their foods. Why do so many restaurants spend so much time on presentations? Stores, markets, and commercials all rely on our visual system. They use colors to get you to try to buy their products. You can use the same methods to get your child to try new foods. Use bright-colored peppers and fruits to entice your child’s visual system to want to eat new foods!

 

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. 

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