Why You NEED To Do Cooking In Your Classroom - The Autism Helper

Why You NEED To Do Cooking In Your Classroom

Like I’ve been saying for the past two weeks, it’s okay that we are (slightly) checked out now that the end of the year is so close. And guess what? Your kids are too. So what’s a fool proof way to grab their attention and sneak in a tiny bit more learning before the sweet release of summer break? COOKING! If you’ve been hesitant to try cooking in your class, let me know convince you. If you already are a cooking loving special ed rockstar, keep at it and up the ante these last few weeks of school!

Cooking activities rock my world because my little bundles of love are always perfectly behaved. Those attention seeking and escape behaviors are sometimes mysteriously gone. Why? Because my kids are chomping at the bit to participate in cooking. What is more motivating than food right?

Real Life IEP Goal Work

Often when we work on IEP goals it is in a contrived, practice based way. We answer questions about a picture, we sequencing pictures of a pretend activity, or practice following directions on a worksheet. That’s okay, we are building up those skills and practicing the concepts. But it’s time to take off the training wheels and really test out those skills. Can you students follow directions when it is necessary and functional towards a larger task (like making a grilled cheese?)? This is why we are teaching these skills. It’s so our kids can use them in real life!

All the IEP Goals

So it makes the skills you are working on more functional – but you are probably thinking, “What skills can I work on during a cooking lesson?” You probably weren’t actually thinking that. But now you are. Short answer: what skills can’t you target with a cooking lesson? Yes, I answered a question with a question. I’m that kid. But seriously though, there are SO many concepts you can target through cooking. From basic communication skills like following one step directions, using prepositions, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and answering questions. Think of all the foundational behavioral principles you get to practice: waiting, turn taking, attending to the teacher and peers, and following group directions. You can tie in math by measuring, working on fractions, dividing the recipe or finished product, doubling a recipe, and budgeting for the groceries. And then there are the millions of literacy based IEP goals with everything from sequencing to identifying and labeling items according to feature and function to reading comprehension to writing complete sentences. #ALLTHEGOALS

It's Reinforcing

This is obviously going to be a highly motivating activity. But the great part about that is that the reinforcer is built right into the activity. This is what we in the fancy ABA world call a naturally occurring reinforcer – meaning that activity will naturally result in a consequence that is reinforcing (we don’t have to add anything). For some of our kids, it is hard to find activities that have naturally occurring reinforcers because things like social attention, grades, or work completion may not be reinforces for our kids. But with this activity the reinforcer is build right in.

What are the reasons you love cooking in the classroom?

Also check out this post for some free cooking visuals!

Sasha Long
Latest posts by Sasha Long (see all)


  1. Following directions, safety skills, sequence, communication are just a few skills they are learning besides learning to be comfortable around the kitchen. Cooking also exposes the kids to a variety of food they may or may not have experienced before.

  2. So true!!

  3. I really like your material on the Kitchen Rules, I love following you and your great ideal since I have moved to teaching High School students.
    Thanks for all you do.

  4. Thanks for reading!


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