TomTag life skill of the month – cooking – Apr 2016

life skill cookingBeing able to create quick and healthy hot meals becomes increasingly important as children get older and need to learn skills for independent or supported living. Following simple recipes provides opportunities to work on reading and listening skills, sequencing, nutrition, hygiene and learning to use kitchen tools.

The key thing to remember is to start with recipes that are simple enough to follow with limited assistance, building up slowly to add in more complex skills over time.

xmas cooking 20132We’ve already looked at preparing some non-cook simple meals for breakfast, snacks and lunches in our Life Skill series November blog using symbols from our Food & Drink Basics pack.

A new extended version of this pack is now available, Food & Drink Extended, which includes 120 symbols in total. With this pack, TomTag can be used to help teach skills for preparing, cooking and serving simple hot meals such as beans on toast, cheese on toast, hot sandwiches and egg recipes.

Cooking skills with TomTag

Here are our tips for using the Extended pack to teach cooking skills with TomTag.

Wash hands widgit imageHygiene

Don’t forget to use the opportunity to teach or reinforce rules about hygiene in the kitchen. We’ve included symbols for washing hands and wearing an apron but you could also use blank stickers to add reminders to wipe worktops or store food in the fridge, or use some of the symbols from our domestic chores Clean & Tidy pack.


pan widgit imagePreparation

Show the images for the utensils and food that will be needed to create the recipe you have chosen and check you have everything listed before you begin.

You might also want to incorporate a shopping trip as part of your preparation to find all the ingredients you will need. Take a TomTag loaded up with a list of ingredients to the shop and use it as your shopping list. For more shopping with TomTag tips, read our Life Skill blog from last month.


oven widgit imageKitchen safety

There are lots of skills required in the kitchen besides dealing with the food itself. Knowing how to turn cookers and ovens on and off correctly, taking appropriate precautions with hot equipment, learning safe use of sharp knifes and other utensils are all essential skills to be learnt before a young person can be left to cook unsupervised.

Build on these skills gradually and move on to the next stage only when the individual is ready and capable of showing the necessary responsibility.


spaghetti widgit imageChoosing recipes

beans on toast recipe tagsStarting with something simple and achievable will boost confidence and increase the changes of the young person being willing to try again next time, possibly with a more advanced recipe.

Using a set of TomTag button holders and the symbols we’ve included in our Extended pack, you can quickly create step-by-step instructions for numerous simple recipes such as beans on toast, soup, sandwiches, eggs (scrambled, fried or boiled), cheese on toast and pasta with sauce.


serve imageServe it up

Be sure to give compliments and praise and encourage them to keep building on their skills. Let them be the first to taste what they’ve made and ask for suggestions of what they’d like to try next.

Serving and sharing meals with others offers opportunities for practising communication and social skills too.


Other resources

Jamie Oliver’s Home Cooking Skills website has a simple and visual layout and many of the recipes even include step-by-step photo illustrations.

Cooking with Autism also have a useful site with easy to follow recipes written in simple language.

 

Food & Drink Extended sticker pack retails at just £7 and includes 2 copies each of a whopping 120 symbols!  It is also available to purchase as part of a new set I can do it in the kitchen which retails at £16.75.

 

Symbols in our sticker packs are produced under licence from Widgit Symbols
(c) Widgit Software 2002-2014 www.widgit.com

TomTag life skill of the month – simple meals – Nov 2015

nov carrotsInvolving children in meal choices and preparation can help to improve their eating habits and establish a healthy relationship with food. They’re also learning important life skills vital for future independence.

Food preferences and eating habits often develop early in life. Helping to prepare their own meals can encourage an interest in healthier foods or persuade picky eaters to try or experiment with new or previously refused foods. It can also provide a wonderful hands-on, multi-sensory experience.

nov coffee sandwichLearning to make a hot drink or sandwich would also be a great starting point when developing independent life skills with older children or young adults with autism.

Our newest sticker pack – Food and Drink Basics – includes symbols related to preparing and serving hot drinks, breakfast, snacks and simple lunches.

You could use them with TomTag to:-

  • Create step-by-step instructions for making breakfast, snacks, simple lunches and hot drinks.
  • List the food choices available to your child for breakfast, lunch and snacks.
  • List each family member’s food preference as a reminder to those preparing the food.

Whichever way you choose, here’s a few simple tips to follow.

nov cutThe right task

Choose tasks that are appropriate to your child’s developmental level. Starter tasks might include washing fruit, cutting soft vegetables with plastic knives or spreading butter on toast.

Move on later to more complex tasks requiring greater motor skills, concentration and focus such as using a peeler, chopping with sharper knives or boiling a kettle.


nov snackTalking points

Having children help in the kitchen provides a natural opportunity for education on a number of topics.

Teaching children to wash their hands and kitchen surfaces before preparing food or showing them safe ways to use knives helps them to understand the importance of kitchen safety and hygiene.

Practice reading and maths skills by comparing packet labels and counting or measuring out ingredients.

Talk about the effects our choice of food has on our health and lifestyle. Try out the NHS Change4Life Sugar Swaps app for a fun way to find out how much sugar is in our food and drinks.


nov fruit saladFoodie fun

Fun with pumpkins!

If children associate food with enjoyable experiences, they’re more likely to be receptive to trying new foods and eating healthily. Fun meal preparation activities can be particularly helpful if you have a child with sensory issues around food.

Cookie cutters are brilliant for turning boring sandwiches into enticing nibbles. A selection of different coloured fruits or vegetables look great laid out to make a rainbow. Our old favourite Pinterest is a fantastic source of fun food ideas for kids.

If you’ve got anything left over from halloween you could always take some inspiration from this pumpkin horse!


nov wash upLet it go!

Be sure to give compliments and praise and encourage them to keep building on their skills. Let them be the first to taste what they’ve made and ask for suggestions of what they’d like to try next.

Having kids help out often means a bit more mess to clear up afterwards. Try to be patient and allow for a little extra mess whilst they’re still learning. Check back to October’s Life Skill tips and you might even get them to help out with the clearing up too!


 Other helpful resources

Various april-June 2009 054Get free visual recipe sheets for tasty treats and snacks from The Autism helper.

Try The Eating Game from Canada if you’re looking for a more comprehensive visual food planning tool.

Cheeriosmilkandspoon is Sarah’s personal blog account of parenting a child with food aversions and eating challenges.

 

Baking with children

grand day gromit
When was the last time you enjoyed a family baking session? 1st-7th December 2014 is Wallace & Gromit’s Big Bake week so it seemed like a good excuse to talk about the benefits of baking with children.

As well as a chance to spend some quality time together and enjoy a sense of shared achievement, baking with children can help to build their self confidence and has numerous additional benefits.

Maths and science

Counting and measuring ingredients puts maths skills to use in a meaningful and practical way. Get a real hands-on science experience by making observations and predicting change.

measuring

Reading & sequencing

Practice reading skills, learn new vocabulary and don’t forget to follow the steps of the recipe in the correct order!

Listening & speaking

Talk about what utensils and ingredients you need to prepare before you begin.

Discuss what might happen if you missed out an ingredient or step of the recipe.

Involve the child in making choices about decoration or variations.

speaking

Full sensory experience

Children use their senses to learn more about the world around them.

Touch – feel the difference in textures of ingredients

Sight – does it looked baked yet?

Hearing – listening and discussing

Smell – there’ll hopefully be some wonderful aromas to enjoy

Taste – enjoy the fruits of your labour and appreciate that wonderful home-baked flavour!

Fine motor practice

Rubbing a mixture into breadcrumbs or using cookie cutters can develop the strength children need in their fingers to help with writing skills and self care issues.

Let’s get messy!

I often use baking to engage with my autistic son.

His current interest is Eddie Stobart lorries so a lorry cookie cutter and green food colouring were all we needed to turn our favourite cookie dough into the iconic lorries!

Eddie Biscuits

On other occasions I’ve used his obsession with numbers to encourage him to get involved in making number-shaped biscuits.

Need some inspiration?

There are so many free recipes and resources on the web these days – check out Jamie Oliver and Baking Mad for some of our favourites.

And finally……

Remember to praise them for their culinary achievements and don’t forget to encourage them to help you wash up afterwards!