Developing Children’s Motor Skills Through Cooking

Healthy Living

Having good motor skills helps children develop the necessary coordination to independently complete tasks like tying shoes, buttoning a shirt, working zippers, and holding a pencil. Working on fine motor skills (use of the hands) also helps young children develop cognitively and understand the world around them.

If you have a toddler or preschooler in the house, baking can be a great activity for helping them work on fine motor development—and lots of other skills, too. In fact, baking activities present an opportunity to work on your child’s sensory development, mathematical thinking, and scientific exploration. Here are some tips for cooking with toddlers and preschoolers:

Choose a simple recipe

This activity is all about your toddler, so pick a recipe that’s easy to make and will allow them to be very hands-on in the process. Basic cookies or a fruit smoothie would work great.

Talk about texture

As you and your toddler handle the ingredients, observe how each feels on your hands. The word/feeling association will add another layer to the activity that will aid their cognitive development by reinforcing vocabulary.

Let your child be hands-on

Try not to guide your child’s hand too much—allow them to scoop and place ingredients. This is where they will be working on their fine motor skills. Go slowly and allow your child to explore and talk about each ingredient.

Count and measure

Introduce your child to the different measuring tools and talk about how one is smaller than another and what you measure with them. Count aloud each time you scoop and place an ingredient.

Talk about taste

When it comes time to enjoy your creation, reinforce that the food is the outcome of the preparation you did together. Ask your toddler to describe how the food tastes and help reinforce that vocabulary.

Adapting for baby

If you have a baby in the home who is sitting on their own, you can adapt this activity to help develop their fine motor skills as well. Instead of cooking a recipe, fill containers with different textured food items like uncooked beans, oats, or seeds. Allow your baby to explore the different textures and watch you scoop and pour ingredients with a measuring cup. This simple activity will introduce them to the concept of volume and how containers can be filled and emptied.

Be sure to check out our art therapy exercises to help manage your child's emotions.