In need of something to do with your children in the cold winter months? Warm up your ovens and do some baking! Occupational therapists are always stressing the importance of carry-over of skills in the home, as well as increasing a child’s ability to function as independently as possible.
OT Skills Development
Baking is an activity that addresses many “OT skills” in ways you may not have thought of. For example, your child will be working on their problem solving skills, bilateral coordination (using two hands together), sequencing skills, manipulating tactile input, hand strengthening, hand-eye coordination, and simple math. All of these skills can be practiced while making long lasting memories of baking with your child. Bonus, there is a yummy treat waiting at the end!
Problem solving skills: You can address this skill by having your child pick out the ingredients at the grocery store. Have them first look in cabinets and decide what ingredients are already in the house, and which ingredients need to be bought. Bonus handwriting task: have your child write a list of ingredients to buy at the store.
Bilateral coordination skills: Using a rolling pin, holding a bowl with one hand and stirring with the other, even rolling dough into balls are all ways your child will be using both hands together to complete a task.
Sequencing skills: Baking is a special kind of science; a recipe must be followed in the correct order, or your treat might not turn out right. Create a checklist for your child to follow step-by-step directions.
Manipulating tactile input: Have your child use their hands instead of a wooden spoon to mix together dry ingredients. Using your hands to knead dough is gooey texture that children are not exposed to on a daily basis. If your child is sensitive to tactile input, ensure then they are able to wash their hands as soon as they are done. Feel free to use latex-free gloves for those that are extra sensitive.
Hand strengthening skills: Hand strengthening does not always have to be tedious and boring. Using a fork/whisk to whisk eggs, using a spoon to mix wet and dry ingredients together, and kneading dough are all ways to make hand strengthening a bit more fun.
Hand-eye coordination: Having to pour ingredients or batter takes more skill than you think; if you miss you may have a big mess to clean up! Using icing to decorate cookies is another great way to practice hand-eye coordination.
Math Skills Also Improved
Simple math skills: I bet you never thought about using math while baking! Using measuring cups and measuring spoons, as well as counting are simple ways to incorporate math into your baking experience.
One of the best benefits of using baking as a way to incorporate OT skills into your daily routine is having that reward of eating what you created. Now go find your favorite recipe, or try out a new one!
Written by: Melissa Melnick, MOT, OTR/L