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A Recipe for Teaching Skills in the Kitchen

Baking and cooking are great pastimes, especially when they involve fun recipes like mini pizzas, dipped pretzels, and mug cakes! Spending quality time in the kitchen with your child can help build important skills while exposing them to new experiences and making delicious food. So, how do you get started? We spoke with Joey and Katie from our Speech & Occupational Leadership team to get their insight on tips for cooking with your child and fun recipes to try at home.

Benefits: Working together in the kitchen can increase your child’s exposure to new ingredients in a new and fun, stress-free environment. Your child is able to help decide what ingredients to include or avoid based on their preferences, which helps them to be more excited and comfortable with food. Cooking is also a great way to strengthen your parent/child bond in a low-pressure environment where your child doesn’t have to eat but simply have fun preparing. Keep in mind that every child is different when it comes to the level of support needed in the kitchen. Because you know your child best, consider their current skill set so you can choose the activities that are safest for them to take part in.

Preparation: Before getting started in the kitchen, it’s important to focus on maximizing ease and minimizing frustration. Some key steps to take are 1) simplify complicated instructions, 2) show your child what they’ll be making, and 3) pre-measure all ingredients for your child to easily add. We also recommend making necessary modifications in advance, such as having gloves available in case your child is sensitive to certain textures, setting up on a surface that’s easily accessible to them, showing pictures of what ingredients are needed to be gathered to give a visual list, or making two small batches so you can model each step for your child as they follow along. It will also help if you know which activities you want to do complete, along with having a plan for what parts your child will be participating in. For example, it could be their responsibility to gather the necessary items before starting, like utensils, measuring cups, and bowls or they could be responsible for mixing all the ingredients together or helping to wash all the dishes afterward. The main takeaway is to have a plan for how your child will be included and remember there isn’t a step too small to be meaningful.

Finding a Recipe: Choosing the right recipes is important for your child to have a positive experience in the kitchen. Recipes that are straightforward, customizable, and contain familiar ingredients are a great place to start. Include your child in the recipe choice by showing pictures of the potential recipes for them to choose from. Any recipe that has simple and manageable steps is good to try because it’s easier to integrate your child’s interests into the process. This could include cutting cookies into shapes of their current interests like trains, animals, and characters, or decorating with their favorite-colored sprinkles.

With these strategies in mind, we selected a few recipe options to try at home with your child:

  • Cookie Fruit Pizza: With a sugar cookie as the base, this combines a familiar sweet with some new fruits to explore.
    • Bake cookies or use a premade cookie as the base
    • Spread a layer of frosting, cream cheese, or yogurt on top of the cookie
    • Cut up various fruits your child might enjoy
      • Strawberries
      • Bananas
      • Blueberries
      • Etc.
    • Place fruits on top of the cookie and enjoy!
  • PB&J Snack Skewers: A great snack for adults and children alike. Plus, everything is way more fun when it’s bite-sized and on a stick.
    • Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
    • Cut into quarters or 1-inch sections
    • Alternately stack grapes, sandwich pieces, and banana slices onto a skewer
    • Serve with a favorite juice or drink for a quick and easy afternoon snack!
  • Kiddie Crunch Mix: A create-your-own version of trail mix. See what ingredients your child decides to mix together to create new flavors or textures.
    • Pre-measure multiple ingredients to give options for your child
      • Mini marshmallows
      • Pretzels
      • M&Ms
      • Etc.
    • Give your child a big bowl and see what they make!
  • Dipped Pretzel Rods: This classic snack is a fun and easy way to make delicious pretzels and be creative with decorating.
    • Melt milk, white, or dark chocolate into a bowl
    • Take any pretzel rod and dip it into the chocolate
      • Make sure there’s a semi-even layer all the way around the pretzel rod
    • Lay dipped pretzel rod onto a baking sheet with parchment paper
    • Before the chocolate hardens, add any decorations
      • Sprinkles
      • Drizzle other chocolate on top
      • Crushed peppermints
  • Chocolate Mug Cake: This treat is super simple to make, and the best part? No oven required!
    • Mix the following ingredients in a medium bowl:
      • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
      • 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
      • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
      • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar (add 1 tablespoon more for extra sweetness)
      • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
      • ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon milk
      • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • Once the mixture is smooth, pour into a microwave-safe mug leaving extra room at the top for the cake to rise
    • Microwave for about 1 – 1 ½ minutes
    • Check if it’s done by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean then the cake is ready
    • Add any preferred toppings and dig in!

In the end, increasing participation and engagement in the kitchen opens many learning opportunities for your child like essential skills such as measuring, organizing, basic math, and how to work through new sensory experiences in a safe way. We hope these recipes help in sparking creativity in the kitchen as well as providing you more quality time with your child or family!

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