Where Do Cookies Come From? Making Cookies with Children Who Are Blind or Low Vision
The holidays are here, and traditions abound. One of the smelliest, tastiest, and prettiest traditions is that of making holiday cookies. Everyone loves the idea of cookies, and families are usually eager to taste. Aside from several delicious calories, there is nothing but joy in a holiday cookie. Naturally, the kids love to help. (I personally must have eaten more raw dough than ever made it onto a cookie sheet but that was before we knew that eating raw eggs could be bad. So no raw dough.) Baking is a good way for our little ones to practice motor, language, and vision skills while having delicious fun. Here are suggestions about how your little person can be a wonderful sous chef and build skills and concepts as they make magic in the kitchen.
If possible take your little one to a bakery. Use the word for ‘cookie’ and the sign (right hand flexed and making the motion on a flat left hand as if cutting out a round cookie), if appropriate, as you select a cookie to sample. Repeat the word and sign as you touch, look at, smell, and taste the cookie.
Practice – If possible video or photograph the bakery event; the cookies are the best part of the outing. Later in the day, review what you captured and practice your chosen vocabulary some more. For children with established vocabulary, expand what you talk about to meet their concept level.
Schedule – Plan a time fairly soon after the bakery trip to have a cookie-making party.
Language – Choose the vocabulary you will use during the cookie party and repeat the words (or signs) often.
Writing the list – With your little one, make a list of what you will buy from the store. They can scribble with your help as if making a list. Braille scribbling with a small stylus on a piece of brown bag over a carpet square is fun. So is using that wonderful 20/20 pen, which is like a marker but without the smell or leaking. The idea is that your child will be “writing” for a purpose, to make a shopping list to make cookies.
At the store – Purchase only what is needed for the cookies. Set the items in the cart basket with your little baker. At home, have your child help take items out of the bag.
Remember, some children will require total hand-under-hand support to do all of this. Some will need only a little assistance. Provide help to make the event a real party, not a teaching event.
Set up – Get your child set where they can be an active part of the party. Use equipment, pillows, stools, adaptive chairs, or whatever you have so your baker can be safe, use their hands, and see/smell/hear all that is going on. As you turn on the oven, talk about what you are doing. Use the word ‘hot’ a lot. Ramp up the vocabulary and conversation for kids who are ready for more input. I personally didn’t teach messing with the oven or range part of the baking until children were a good bit older and understood all the safety issues.
Assemble – Use a large plain colored tray and have your child help you put each ingredient on the tray. This is a perfect time to talk about shapes of the items—the egg carton is a rectangle, the eggs are oval, and so on. On another tray, assemble the measuring cups, spoons, bowls, mixer, and beaters. Also, gather the cookie sheets. Talk about sizes and colors and numbers as appropriate.
Recipe reading – Use some version of a recipe that meets your child’s visual and reading levels. Use just a few words in the order that you will mix them. Braille on a card is great. Large print from a computer or 20/20 pen is good. Use the words that include your chosen vocabulary. Some children may benefit from a picture recipe. Snap the real item with your phone and print out a large recipe. Other children might benefit from a recipe that includes parts of the whole item glued to a paper. Put the recipe where your child can feel it and see it.
Mixing – Center the two bowls where your baker can reach them easily. Help mix the dry ingredients into one bowl (one color) and the wet ingredients into another (different color). Follow the package instructions as you add wet to dry and mix. The mixing is a great time for your child to help put beaters into mixer, turn on the mixer, hold the mixer, turn off, and scrape sides of bowl.
Prepare the cookie sheet – Your child can help grease the sheet. Using a small ice-cream scoop, help your cookie maker scoop and drop the dough. Hopefully, they will use vision or adapt to find where to put the dough. You could also use slice cookies for a quick cookie party. Talk about how you are putting the cookies in the oven. And set the timer. (I like those that tick, tick, tick so baby can listen for the bell.) When the bell or buzzer rings, the decorating part of the party begins.
Decorating– Icing can be spread with anything from fingers to butter knives. The idea is to get something colorful on a few cookies. Sprinkles added on top are fun and a good fine motor and vision exercise also. This decorating part can be simple with only one or two steps, or you could add more to it by having your child choose colors of icing, use fingers or a spoon to get the sprinkles, and more.
Eating – Yummy fun for all.