As I watched my teenage daughter bake cookies as a mindfulness activity to reduce her current level of anxiety, I was reminded throughout why the occupation of cooking or baking is such an activity of choice for occupational therapists. Not only is it a daily activity that is meaningful to many adults but it can be used to rebalance and relax as well as be adapted into a fun and exciting therapeutic activity for children.
Just by making cookies my daughter practiced so many different hand movements and brain processes and was involved in tons of sensory experiences. All of these could have been graded (made easier or more challenging) by a parent so it suited what they wanted to practice with their child.
Bilateral coordination is the ability to use 2 hands in a coordinated manner and is essential for so many of our daily occupations. My daughter used this skill throughout her cooking as there were so many parts to the process that involved using 2 hands together. A few examples are when she held the bowl to whisk the eggs or stir the mixture, when she sifted the floor and when she rolled the cookie dough into a ball in her hands (or you could use a rolling pin and fun cutters).
Her hand eye coordination was also challenged by cracking and then pouring the eggs; spooning the sugar onto the scales; sprinkling the chocolate drops into the mixture.
She was also working on her hand strength throughout by holding the balloon whisk when whisking the eggs, holding the baking tray with 2 hands, pinching off pieces of the dough to roll in her hands, flattening the cookie dough with her fingers or using a rolling pin.
Although my daughter is very practiced at using cutlery the activity gave loads of opportunity for practicing these skills, she could have been practicing to use a knife to cut the butter or cookie dough, she could have been practicing using a fork to stab chunks of cut up butter and place in the bowl.
She could also have been working on a whole range of sensory experiences such as increasing her tolerance with smells or moving from touching dry onto touching sticky textures.
My daughter was using a written recipe but it could have been pictures, both types of recipes would have been supporting her attention and sequencing skills. She was working solo but if doing the activity with an adult it could have provided tons of opportunity to work on communication not to mention self-confidence, resilience and wellbeing.
Wow! Just think, she was working on all of these amazing skills whilst all I was doing was dreaming of eating a yummy, warm, sticky cookie.