1. Be prepared! Have everything, I mean everything, out that you are going to need. If you don't, I guarantee a mix up somewhere! In the picture to the left, I have all of our ingredients, measuring tools and bowls ready to go. I also pre-blended the cooked spinach and cacao powder to make things go smoothly. The boys are so excited to cook when I am ready that they are happy to play in the living room until I call them to have fun in the kitchen together! Being prepared can also go beyond one cooking activity. Prepping and having things ready for the week makes time in the kitchen more enjoyable during cranky hours and keeps the family eating healthy!
3. Teach Safety. Let your kids know what the safe kitchen tools are for them to touch and what the dangerous ones are, tell them about oven safety and that they cannot get near an open oven. You will be surprised how much they can understand and will respect when told to them in a respectful, loving manner! The "freak out" when a child grabs a knife or comes to close to the stove does not benefit anyone, so pre-teach when your kids are going to be in the kitchen.
|Happy Coconut Faces!|
4. Have Fun! Just enjoy this time with your kiddos. Cooking from scratch is not easy and we spend A LOT of time in the kitchen in my house! There are plenty of times that I wish I was in there alone, but then I think, I will never ever have this time with my kids again, they are learning great life skills, lets all just enjoy it! Believe me, my house is usually insane between 5 and 6 pm and I am ready to pull my hair out, but when I remind myself to have fun with the kids and that everything will be clean and calm in a few hours, it does help, I promise!
What Are We Working On?
proprioceptive; how much pressure to use, auditory; following directions or jamming to music in the background while cooking :), organization, motor planning, and life skills! You can grade the activity to the level of your children, meaning, they could be as involved as making the grocery list to just the pouring, mixing and licking of the tasty mixers! The benefits truly are endless so families, get cookin'!
What are we working on?
In the photo directly above, Lukey, who is 20 months old, is challenging his balance by walking across the soft, unsteady couch cushions while also engaging his vestibular and proprioceptive systems. Looking at the middle photo, Henry is in the background dragging the cushions off of the couch and placing them on the floor. This is a great 'Heavy Work' activity that can organize and calm a child. The sky is the limit and pretend play is the cornerstone to our couch cushion game. Often times, children have a difficult time expanding on their play skills. Using a concrete item such as couch cushions and pretending they are sharks, for example, works to expand play and creativity. Adult facilitation may be needed to enhance these skills, but that depends on the age, level of pretend play and the goal. This game also works on gross motor skills (again, walking on the cushions and jumping from the cushionless couches, aka boats to the docks!). Turn taking is also involved and a great deal of social interaction is going on! All in all, our Saturday morning is not lacking in skill building while having a blast!
WOODEN BLOCK BUILDING
Due to Lukey's age, Henry and I saved this activity for nap time. Henry is into building right now and Lukey is into demolition. This makes for some sibling battles, which on this day, I was not willing to referee! These old school blocks that I picked up at a yard sale are heavy duty and sturdy and can make virtually anything under the sun. Again, imagination and creativity can take you anywhere!
What are we working on?
Visual-motor skills are the focus of this activity allowing the hands and eyes to work together in a coordinated manner to construct a final product. We also work on naming shapes, that proprioceptive system again, and the tactile sense. Of course, pretend play leads and carries us through because without the motivation to continue, you really can't focus on other areas of development.
Working on a vertical surface is a great way to help kiddos strengthen their shoulder girdle, which in turn aids in fine motor development and intrinsic hand control. If you don't have an easel at home, simply tape a large piece of paper to a door or a wall you don't mind getting dirty. OT areas of focus include: fine motor skills, fine motor strengthening, intrinsic hand strengthening, finger isolation, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills, bilateral skills. Working on an easel is also a tactile activity (finger painting, touching crayons, markers, textured paint brushes, chalk), it incorporates proprioceptive functioning, enhances ocular motor skills, works on colors, shapes, and turn taking. You can have your kids stand, sit in a chair or sit on a small therapy ball to include core work and trunk strengthening while playing at the easel. Finished products can be placed on the fridge, hung on a string in your children's rooms with decorated clothes pins, or framed for some wall art. Therefore, building self-confidence in your artists as they see their work displayed!
There is a level of heavy work involved in this activity, as I allowed my older son to help me carry the pool and also shovel some of the snow into the pool. Again, we're engaging the tactile senses (touching the snow, feeling varying temperatures), self-help skills (donning and doffing mittens), a small amount of fine motor skills are involved (squeezing the snow, crushing the castles and finger isolation, drawing in the snow), bilateral skills, visual-motor skills (building castles, making various size castles with the stacking cups helping to understand small, medium, large), visual perceptual skills (guessing what Mom drew in the snow), and oral motor skills (chewing on the snow and awakening the mouth with a cold, cold temperature)! This honestly entertained the boys for 2 hours in the kitchen, and I felt good that we brought a piece a nature in for the day!
I hope that you have enjoyed reading about some of the activities that we like to engage in on weekends at home. Upping the ante or adding in variables can also make an activity fun or increase the amount of developmental skills you are focusing on, without even meaning to! If you think that your child is demonstrating challenges with any of the skills areas discussed, these activities are not meant to take the place of consulting with an occupational therapist. I think that it is important for families to know how much you can incorporare the sensory systems and enhance development with activities in the comfort of your own home!