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Cooking & Baking with Kids – Mix Up Some Fun!

Written By:  Ashley Grossenbacher, MOT, OTR/L

Cooking and baking are great activities for kids for a variety of reasons. These tasks help with fine motor skills, hand and arm strengthening, executive functioning, and provide great opportunities for sensory play.

This weekend we made soft pretzels from scratch. We incorporated an educational piece into the activity by making letters and shapes from our dough. This activity was SO fun and kept my son busy and engaged from start to finish.

Try this easy cookie recipe and notice all the ways you can engage and work on a variety of skills with your own kids.  They will be having so much fun they will not even realize all the great skills they are working on at the same time, and you will enjoy it as well!

Try these ideas for skill development and bake up some extra fun with your cookie creations:

Fine Motor Skills: Improve bilateral coordination (using both hands to complete a task), increase hand strength and improve dexterity with stirring, mixing, kneading, and rolling.  Wait until cookies are on the baking sheet and use pincer fingers to pick up and place chocolate chips or other toppings before going into the oven.

Sensory Input: Enjoy opportunities with your children for tactile, proprioceptive, visual, and olfactory sensory exploration. This can be extra fun for children with sensory processing differences.  A baking activity provides kids with the opportunity for wet/messy play for those that seek these types of tasks, and  also provides opportunities to experience a variety of textures in a natural and motivating situation for children who find sensory play more challenging.  

Executive Functioning: Take advantage of following a recipe and all the skills you can work on.  Referring to a recipe improves a child’s ability to follow directions, make a plan, problem-solve and to create new ideas. Let your child take the lead.  They can help gather ingredients, follow the instructions, and think of ways to improvise.  This allows for increased confidence and independence and can be generalized to many other tasks.  Experiencing success after going through a process and following instructions can be very motivating and is an excellent lesson for children.  In this case it also ends with a delicious reward!

Cookies for Kids

Makes 10 cookies

  • 2 cups (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Assorted colored glazes, frostings, sugars, and small candies


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheets.
  2. Mix butter and vanilla in large bowl until fluffy.
  3. Add sugar and mix until blended.
  4. Combine flour and salt in small bowl.
  5. Gradually add to butter mixture.
  6. Divide dough into 10 equal sections. Form shapes directly on prepared cookie sheets according as desired.
  7. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on cookie sheets.
  8. Decorate cookies with glazes, frostings, sugars, and small candies as desired.

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