By: Elizabeth Brennan, M.H.S., CCC-SLP

Think about your favorite meal. Is it sweet? Cold? Hot? During mealtimes, we incorporate a variety of senses other than taste and may not even realize. People tend to focus on taste or smell more than any other sense we have. Now, I’d like for you to think of the process of making your favorite food. What are the step? What ingredients do you need? How do you get that perfect consistency? I want to tell you more about how the process of cooking can be a great option for putting language skills to use.

During some of my speech sessions, I enjoy using cooking as a tool for sensory integration while working towards speech and language skills. Cooking can be a great way for our children to follow directions, identify familiar, household items, formulate sentences to communicate needs, and describing. Plus, our kiddos get to create and try new foods!

Provide Visuals:

My friend Maxo has speech and language goals working towards topic maintenance, using phrases to describe and request, identify, and follow directions. He has benefited greatly from visuals of appropriate sentence structure (pictured below) when requesting items from his mom during sessions, and pictures to refer to when following directions. At the beginning of each cooking session, I show Maxo a video of what we are making to get ideas flowing in his head and to show him the finished product of what we are going to try at the end!


During this session, we made a fruit pizza! 

Incorporate Sensory Input: 

Hear: Maxo listened to various directions throughout his session to make the perfect dessert!
Touch: He was in charge of rolling out the dough and pressing it into the pan.
Smell: He asked his mom to place the cookie in the oven to bake (the smell was amazing!).
Gross Motor Development: Maxo mixed the cream cheese frosting in a large bowl and spread it all over the cookie once done.
Sight: Maxo identified the various fruit topping and decorated how he like d
Taste: Lastly, he tasted this sweet treat and shared with his family.

If you are interested in using cooking to work towards language goals, start out small. I recommend Jell-o, as it is a simple recipe and a good test to see if cooking peaks your child’s interests. Plan out what you would like to see your child accomplish. Is it sentence structure? Touching new textures? Trying new food? Following fun directions? And from there, you can create visuals, such as, a list of items needed to be found in the pantry or simple directions they can follow. Since beginning cooking sessions with Maxo, it appears that he has found a task that keeps his interest for the duration of his session, and a new passion that he can share with his family.

Finding engaging activities that your child is interested in provides a self-motivating way for them the opportunity to practice and learn new skills. In turn, this increases carryover and allows the skill the stick! Cooking or baking can be a great way use sensory integration while targeting language skill development.