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Teach Your Child to Cook

"A Man, A Can, A Plan" is your text for helping your child assemble easy meals

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Kids' cookbooks, from personalities like Emeril and Rachael Ray and cookbook mainstays like Betty Crocker, seem to be multiplying these days, but though the dishes featured in them may have snappy names and kid-friendly flavors, the long lists of ingredients and instructions may be too much for a child with learning disabilities, developmental delays, and other special needs to handle. While A Man, A Can, A Plan isn't intended as a kiddie cookbook -- it's aimed at guys who don't want to mess around with fancy preparations -- it works well for children who respond better to picture prompts than long lines of text (and who also dig Spagetti-O's). Most of the ingredients are presented in photographic form so your child can easily grab what's needed, and while you may have to read and convey the instructions, they're often as simple as "Dump everything in a bowl." To give your child some good practice and successful experience with cooking, follow these teaching tips:
  • Work with your child each week to pick one or two dishes to prepare together.
  • Bring your child along to the store to pick out the items for the recipes you'll be making.
  • When it's time to cook, have your child gather the ingredients, then prepare them by opening cans and doing any necessary chopping or measuring (just like the "kitchen help" does on cooking shows) so that your child can dump items in when called for.
  • Help your child become a creative cook by letting him or her suggest additions or substitutions to recipes.
  • Use Breaking Bread, Nourishing Connections, which also has illustrated recipes as well as meal-planning tips for people with special needs, as a supplemental text.
Simple illustrated recipes will help your child take charge of the cooking experience. But anytime you're cooking or baking, even if you're using a more complex recipe than the ones featured here, you can usually find some step your child can help you with. Consider typing recipes out in larger type and smaller steps, having your child help you find pictures of the ingredients in magazines, and making your own illustrated recipe notebook together.
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