After your child has been introduced to tasks related to preparing foods to be cooked your next step is to introduce them to the actual activities related to cooking. These activities really are only appropriate for older kids who have the ability to follow instructions related to heat safety. These activities can be a great way to practice multi-step instruction following, vocabulary use and interpersonal communication skills.
Reading a Recipe
The first activity that you will want to complete with your child is learning how to read a recipe. You will of course want to start with a simple recipe that creates something that your child likes to eat like cookies. To start with you will want to create a recipe card for the recipe that you will be preparing together. Use the extra large recipe cards so that you can print large enough for your child to easily read the instructions.
As you read the recipe card together you will want to get out the supplies and ingredients that it calls for. This will help your child to connect the recipe card with the activities required for cooking. If your child can read then have them read the recipe for you so that they can practice talking and reading. If they can’t read yet then you can read the recipe to them as they follow along and then have them retrieve the items for you. To make things easier for them to find you can label the items and point to where the child can find the items. You can also use picture exchange cards for this activity.
Following the Cooking Instructions
Learning the vocabulary for cooking is not easy for kids with autism. Cooking vocabulary refers to cooking techniques that they will not be familiar with like bake, broil, boil, sauté, stir, etc… It is because of this that you will want to demonstrate what each vocabulary word means. If you are making cookies then you can read from the card “stir in chocolate chips” then mime stirring motions as you read this instruction and point to the chocolate chips. Then read the instructions again and have your child pour in the chips to the dough, give them the spoon and use a hand-over-hand instruction method to show them how to stir in the chocolate chips.
This is a very advanced activity that should only be done with kids that are ready for it. Learning how to use the stove is something that can be very dangerous, so hold off on this activity until your child is in their teens. You will want to start with baking and work your way up to using the burners. Make sure you go over how to keep from burning yourself on the over or burners, how to turn the stove on and off and what are appropriate items for using on top of the stove and in the oven. To help improve oven safety you can create a picture book on oven use for your child. This picture book will show what pans to use for cooking on top of the stove, what pans can be put in the oven and it should also include oven use step by step instructions.