When parents ask me how they can help build language and communication skills, my number one answer across all age groups is the same: get them into the kitchen!
Cooking is “hotbed” of therapeutic activities for language and cognitive (executive function) skills. Cooking incorporates numerous skills including planning, organization, flexible thinking (you may not always have
the right ingredients), sequencing, vocabulary, categorization, social skills and language. From preschool through high school, kids can cook. Toddlers can break eggs, fill muffin tins, and gather
ingredients. Older kids can assist in more complex recipes.
Here are some tips to make the cooking experience a success:
- Try putting a few kid-friendly cookbooks on the table and letting children pick a recipe.
- Having a photo of the
completed dish is helpful as kids need to have the end product
visualized before they plan.
- Read the ingredients and write a shopping list together.
- Buy the food together if kids are young or send older kids to the store on their own.
- If you send an older child shopping, be warned: they will get something wrong, but that is ok. Cooking involves flexibility: use the dried parsley
instead of fresh!
- Make sure to read the entire recipe, and then read it again. This will help familiarize your kids with the method/plan.
- Gather and prep ingredients ahead of cooking.
- Put on some relaxing music to set a tone.
- Throughout the process stress the importance of organization: throw trash away immediately, wash or put dirty bowls and utensils in the dishwasher, etc.
Cooking is a skill children use their
whole lives. Have fun communicating and creating delicious recipes!