Teaching our Special Needs kids at home; Cooking and English

calendarApril 26 2020

Cooking and English (language); Here’s how!

In these days of lock down we are trying to juggle being a parent, housework, day job and teaching our Special Needs kids at home!

But there is a way to turn cooking into easy English lessons!

You may be seeing lots of talk online about how people are ‘giving up’ trying to teach their kids. This is because they are trying to turn their homes into a replica of the classroom. Teaching our special needs kids at home takes a different approach.

Instead of creating a formal learning environment and feeling like a failure because your child is getting distracted, get them involved in an activity like cooking. You can use food to teach Maths, language, science, history, geography and even religious studies! AND you will maintain your Superstar Parent status!!

Food, Glorious Food!

The ideas below should give you some ideas on how to teach your child language whilst learning some vital life skills, in this case cooking!

You can cook anything you fancy, but baking is particularly good because of all the steps involved.

four bread rolls on a baking sheet

Baking is great for teaching.

Before you start

Most of our resources don’t need any preparation. But for cooking, it is usually best to make sure you are ready before you invite your child into the kitchen. I always get the ingredients out and make sure I have the right bowls and utensils ready before I start. I find that if I am rummaging around in cupboards and draws looking for whisks, scales and measuring spoons, our kids will lose interest before we even start.

Choose the right recipe

You probably don’t need me to tell you this but don’t choose anything too complicated. Unless you are a chef in real-life, it is probably best to choose something you would normally cook at home. For example, pizza is great. The dough just needs 4 ingredients, then you can get as creative as you like. Cupcakes are better if your child is impatient, as they cook in just 10-12 minutes.

If you are using a recipe from a book, are there pictures? Is the page clear to read? You might need to think about writing the recipe out to make it easier for your child to understand. You may need to create a recipe sheet using pictures or communication cards to show your child what to do.

Using scales to weigh out ingredients is a great way to learn but often, American recipes that use cups are more accessible. Our daughter loves to use cups and getting the measurements precise by leveling them off with a (blunt) knife.

Just do a little at a time

Don’t forget, when you start teaching while you are cooking, just try one idea at a time. Trying to turn everything into a lesson all at once will just stress you out and your child will protest! Once you get started, it will become natural and you will start to see opportunities for learning in everything you do!


The font (letter shapes) can make a real difference in making words easy or hard to read. You might find your child cannot read a word in one font but can read the same word in a different font type.

Cooking and English

Daily ActivityEnglishLearning ideas

Preparing ingredients Letter search on packets of food Ask your child to choose a pack of food, point to a letter and then ask them to: –
– sound out the letter

– find the same letter on other packets in different fonts
Laying out the ingredients AdjectivesLook at the ingredients and find an adjective (describing words) for each ingredient.
e.g. soft flour, slippery butter.

You can make it harder by looking for an adjective that starts with the same letter as your ingredient.
e.g. fluffy flour, shiny sugar, tiny tomato
Laying out the ingredients Finding letters and words Ask your child to find letters or words in the recipe, then find the same letters or words on the food packets.

Show your child the ingredient e.g. butter and ask them to find the word for it in the recipe.

Recipes and making foodReading, following instructions and comprehension Find a recipe you would like to make and ask your child to : –

– read or point to the words they know

– get the ingredients they know by reading the words

– follow the instructions

– use different words to describe the action in recipe e.g MIX the flour with …change the word MIX to blend, combine

-choose the word in a list that you have prepared that means the same as a word in the recipe.
Making the foodcreative writingWhile you are making the food ask your child to imagine who is going to eat the food.

Invite your child to tell you a story about the food.
You might make one up together.

If your child is non-verbal you can ask questions and get them to indicate yes or no. For example: Will a fairy eat this food? Will she eat it with her friends? Are her friends hedgehogs? Are her friends elves? At the end you repeat the story back; “So, one day a Fairy sat down to enjoy a pizza with her friends the hedgehogs.” Check with your child that this is the story they had in mind.
Eating foodAdjectivesEncourage your child to describe their food
After lunchWritingAsk your child to write a menu or a recipe for the next day

We hope this gives you a few ideas. If you need any help you please post in our Education Forum here.

Please leave a comment below! Tell us how you got on or what ideas you have for teaching Special Needs kids at home!

About Us

Emma Bara has taught about environmental topics and science for years, running whole school education projects, teacher training, science clubs for primary school kids and GCSE Science tutoring. David Bara has years of experience as a SEN teacher and Senior Lecturer of Special Educational Needs. They are the Co-Founders of

David and Emma Bara

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