This article is written by Roxanne Bracknell. All content provided is for informational purposes only. Always adapt and apply suggestions based on your child’s needs.
Cooking is an invaluable and essential skill. One of the most enjoyable and rewarding things you can do is teach your child to cook.
As they become developmentally ready, children can start preparing family meals for the evening. Yet, a whole host of challenges can arise when teaching children with disabilities.
Here are six things to think about when teaching children with disabilities to cook.
Teach proper hygiene
Everyone needs to practice good hygiene — especially when handling food. Again, make it fun. There are plenty of colorful posters you can download for free that display each step to correctly washing your hands. These can be extremely useful when teaching children with disabilities about hygiene as they will be able to relate to large pictures more easily than blocks of text.
Make it fun
It’s important to keep a positive atmosphere when teaching children with disabilities something new. Use regular reinforcement and be enthusiastic during the entire process. Make it seem like cooking is the best and most exciting thing in the world.
Teaching children with disabilities to cook should be done in stages. There’s very little point asking them to help you prepare a full roast and expect them to remember or learn anything. This is because there will be a lot of new things for your child to be introduced to, which can often be distressing for children.
The first meal you cook can be as simple as you like: baking fairy cakes are a great example. There will be a low risk as the only cooking done is in the oven. Further, preparing the batter is a very sensory experience.
You can pick up a range of multi-colored utensils from most supermarkets. The advantages of color coding your cooking are threefold: it keeps things bright and fun, it makes it easy to distinguish between utensils, and it helps prevent cross-contamination. For example, most cutting board sets come in a variety of colors to spot the spread of harmful bacteria from raw meat.
Use a visual recipe
This is similar to the hygiene posters previously mentioned. It might take a bit of extra time, but your child will benefit from a visual recipe. If you have a tablet, then you could display an online one while you cook. If not, you might find that printing off the recipe along with various pictures is just as useful. There are hundreds of recipe posters available online.
Think safety first
Make sure you are supervising your child throughout the cooking process. Because most of us cook more than once a day, it’s easy to forget that there are several potential hazards. There is a danger of cuts, burns, and falling items, so it’s important to talk with your child ahead of time. Always ensure they do not touch a hot metal pan or tray, for example.
After safety, the most important thing you can provide your child with disabilities during cooking is enjoyment. If you create a fun and positive environment that your child enjoys then they are much more likely to be enthusiastic about cooking in the future and will learn a lot quicker.
Roxanne Bracknell is a writer and mother to an amazing little boy. She writes about her parenting experience and tries to share tips and insights wherever she can. Find more of her resources here.