Cooking with Kids — In Occupational Therapy and at Home
By Heather Forst, OTR
Occupational therapists at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare are trained to evaluate and treat a child’s or adolescent’s ability to participate in day-to-day life. We focus on everyday activities that involve school/work/community life skills, vision, sensory processing, cognitive skills, hand use, and upper extremity strength. Our occupational therapists can help children work on any of these areas during their therapy sessions. Participation and returning to everyday activities plays an important role in children’s social development and can strongly influence long-term mental and physical health.
For many children, being involved in meal preparation, cooking a meal, or eating a meal (or all of the above!) is an important part of their day-to-day family life. Occupational therapists at Gillette may incorporate cooking activities into treatment sessions with their patients to address a variety of therapy goals. For example, a child might participate in cooking during treatment sessions to learn kitchen safety, the ability to follow multiple-step directions, problem-solving skills, or even strengthening and endurance! Gillette’s rehabilitation therapies department has its own occupational therapy kitchen designed specifically for this purpose.
Involving your child in meal preparation can have many benefits, including: allowing children the opportunity to practice their math skills using the fractions involved in measuring ingredients; exposure to new smells or tactile sensations which may be helpful for kids with sensory sensitivities; and learning important lessons early-on about kitchen safety. In addition, research has shown that children who are involved in meal preparation may be more willing to eat the new food(s) they have helped to make.
What are some of your favorite recipes to make with your kids?