Cooking and baking with children with special educational needs

The children have been enjoying simple cooking and baking activities again this week.

Hands on!

Sometimes it’s easy to be put off doing activities that are rather messy.

But then again, sometimes the rewards far outweigh the mess!

Today has been a classic example:

I chose a simple recipe for savoury bites, using self-raising flour, butter, eggs, mustard, cheese and salami.

*ALLERGEN ALERT: WHEAT, MILK, EGG, MUSTARD please check your own ingredients, against your own family’s needs *

My good-old Be-Ro Flour recipe book (that is falling apart at the seams from years of use) has the following recipe in it:

100g Self raising flour

pinch salt

pinch mustard powder

50g butter spread

100g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

A few slices of Salami, chopped into tiny pieces

The eggs were Lion marked, within date and had been kept in the fridge since purchase. This makes them the safest they could possibly be; just in case they are consumed via the raw dough!

Heat the oven to 180 degrees or Gas mark 4

Mix together the flour, salt and mustard

Rub in the butter spread, or blitz in a food processor or mixer

Stir in the cheese and Salami

Add sufficient egg to make a dough

Roll out to 1cm depth

Cut into shapes or strips

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes.

The children helped to weigh out the ingredients: practicing their scooping and pouring skills. I often start by helping them considerably, using a hand-over-hand technique, until they relax and flow with the actions. I gradually ease the amount I control their movements; until they are able to do it for themselves… however messily!

The next step is stirring, which again, starts with hand-over-hand. Children soon pick up in this action and want to do it for themselves. I tend to give them a rounded dinner knife for this job. It causes less mess than a big spoon, when it is inadvertently waved about!

Rubbing in the butter spread takes a braver individual. That can get very messy. One option is to give your child a small amount in a nearly empty butter tub, to explore, whist you do the rubbing in or blitzing. Some children find the stickiness too much of a sensory challenge, so try to go at your child’s pace. For your child to want to join in and actively participate, they will need to enjoy it and have fun. If you’re gritting your teeth and furrowing your brow as bake, your child will likely not enjoy it either!

Grating cheese is often a popular activity, as long as the cheese isn’t too sticky, little fingers don’t get accidentally grated, and it can be snacked on as you work. Remember that most baking ingredients can be consumed in small quantities, if you are sensible about it. Stirring in the cheese and finely chopped Salami is a rewarding job for a child, as the mixture changes colour and consistency.

Breaking and beating the egg can be done hand-over-hand… there’s something very rewarding about breaking an egg. If you break it into a small jug or large mug, you can easily fish out any bits of shell, using a big piece of the egg shell to scoop them out. Popping the yolk with a fork and then giving it a good stir, is also very appealing to children. You can soon give it a quick beat with the fork once they’ve had a go.

Your child should again enjoy stirring the egg into the dry ingredients, and watching the mixture change consistency. You will need to finish the job off, as it will quickly become rather too stiff for them.

Once the dough has come together, put some flour on your’s and your child’s hands, and the work surface. Knead the dough for a minute (or squash it, hit it, thump it, or whatever floats your child’s boat), before rolling it out to a depth of 1cm ish.

Use a dinner knife or some cutters / shapes to make individual portions.

Place on a greased / nonstick baking tray and bake until golden, about 10 – 15 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack before enjoying!.. Ours were demolished whilst still warm; although I did manage to save a few to send home with the children’s families.

NOTE: We have had to work very hard for months, to get to the stage where sensory processing difficulties and sensitivities interfere less with cooking and baking activities. If your child has issues with any of the ingredients, don’t stress over it. Break it all down into tiny steps and build up steadily over time. Work out what is possible first, and start from there.

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