Tips for baking with your pre-verbal child

baking with pre-verbal child autism muffins tips how to bake
We’re making lemon and lime muffins in this post, the recipe for which can be found here.

Wee Girl is fascinated by cooking. When I make scrambled eggs for lunch she insists on pushing the stool up to the side so that she can help stir. Same thing with making coffee, wiping down tables — all these things that she sees us doing every day and wants to be able to do herself.

This independence is fantastic and something which we want to encourage. One thing I try to do is bake with her. I don’t do it as often as I should, but we’re starting to get back into it now, and soon I’m going to be trying to cook more savoury recipes with her helping, such as pizza.

Because believe it or not there’s only so much cake a person can eat.

Cooking with your child can be brilliant for building speech and language because not only is it teaching them vital life skills (everyone needs to be able to bake, right?), it also involves following simple instructions. (“Can you tip this bowl of flour in there, please? Thank you!”) Cake can be an astonishingly effective motivator.

Part of what stops me from baking with Wee Girl is how complicated a lot of recipes are. Particularly cupcakes. Having to cream butter and sugar or beat the mixture isn’t doable because she doesn’t like the noise the mixer makes, and there’s no way I’m going to beat the mixture by hand.

Here are a some tips based on my experiences and what has so far worked for us.

baking with a pre-verbal child autism speech language delay

Get everything prepared beforehand.

1.) Make muffins, not cupcakes. Muffins are perfect for cooking with kids. No beating needed; all you do is dump the wet ingredients into the dry, give them a cursory mix and start spooning them into the cases. There’s also no need to worry about the additional step of icing; when they’re done, they’re done.

2.) Don’t cook in the kitchen. Use a low table which helps your child to engage. I usually do this in the living room, which means carting all the ingredients and equipment from room to room. Yes, this is a pain in the backside, but a low table means that you can sit opposite your child, making it easier to communicate than it would be if you were both standing at a kitchen counter.

baking with a pre-verbal child autism speech language delay muffins

Spooning in the cupcake batter

3. ) Pick a recipe that’s easy, without too many ingredients, but not too simplistic. This means thinking about your child’s attention span and how long they will engage for before they lose interest. Bear in mind that the fewer ingredients you use, the less you will have to cart from the kitchen to the living room. Having to nip back to get a few things means more likelihood of your child tipping half the bag of flour into the bowl while you’re away. Or smashing all the eggs on the floor.

4.) Read the recipe through and do any necessary prep. Try and do as much as you can at the table, bearing in mind your child’s attention span. Weighing and measuring, etc, is a fairly vital part of the recipe, so it would be a shame to do this hidden away in the kitchen.

5.) Be prepared for your culinary creations to be… well, not necessarily

baking with a pre-verbal child autism speech language delay how to bake

Hmm, I’m pretty sure that’s not how you add an egg.

something you’d like to eat. Think of it as a sensory activity for your child, rather than  a culinary one. There will be double-dipping (which I couldn’t give a monkeys about, but I know not everyone feels the same way). There will he hands stuck into flour. There is a high likelihood of snot. Yes, in theory you’ve both washed your hands beforehand. But that doesn’t account for nosepicking afterwards, does it? So it’s fine if the thought of actually biting into those lovingly made muffins turns your stomach. They are for the kids, after all. And they make a wonderful treat for unwitting husbands: just don’t tell them about the snot.

6.) Make cleaning up part of the activity. Yes, there will be mess. Yes, it’s a pain in the backside. If you’re lucky you might get away with handing your child a cloth and leaving them to wipe the table, but we all know the soul-sapping bit is putting the ingredients away.

7.) Be patient. Try again. Your child might not be all that interested at first. Maybe they’ll lose interest half way through or refuse to do anything to help. That’s okay. Try again. Try a few times. One thing I have learned with my own daughter is that just because she doesn’t look like she’s paying attention, it doesn’t mean that she’s not paying attention. And hey, even if it doesn’t work, who cares?

You have cake!

baking with your pre-verbal child speech and language autism

Lemon and lime muffins


A Cornish Mum
The Free Range Family
Stopping at two

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About allpastmidnight

Hi, I'm Alison, I am a mid-thirties mum to two children, Little Man and Wee Girl. Wee Girl is pre-verbal and has autism, while Little Man is the sort of happy chatty little guy who gets into everything and sings at the top of his lungs — until the moment he makes eye contact with a stranger and he goes silent. I am cynical, sweary, and a bit disorganised, and I blog about parenting, ASD, food and just about anything else I can think of. Feel free to follow me on any of my social media. I can also be contacted by email at allpastmidnight [at] outlook [dot] com.
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35 Responses to Tips for baking with your pre-verbal child

  1. mummyfever says:

    Fantastic! We love mini bakes, we cook a lot. All thew children from 11 months to 9 years join in #picknmix

    • Thanks. There’s actually a lot even the littles can help with once you let go of the notion that the bakes should be delicious and edible. If they are delicious and edible, then that’s a bonus.

  2. Sara Handy Herbs says:

    What a wonderful post! I love cooking with kids and read this with interest. It is so great that by making just a few adaptions means your daughter and you can enjoy baking together. Some really good tips for all parents with young children too! Thanks for sharing #PicknMix

  3. Fab tips; it’s the mess I need to get over more! This is definitely an encouragement to have a go. Thanks for sharing. #CommentLuv

    • Thank you. It’s pretty fun once you get into it, but it does mean some steeling yourself for the amount of mess creatued. If it really bothers you or you’re worried about the carpets, you could lay down an old sheet or something that can be easily bunged into the washing machine.

  4. We have been baking (err actually using those boxed cupcakes kid) since I can remember and I can see how this helped my son in so many ways. You are right from talking to math to knowing where he can help and when he needs an adult to do the job. Cooking and baking is such a lovely activity to do with kids! #picknmix

    • Nothing wrong with boxed cakes. I think all this convenience foods have come on enormously in the past ten years or so (and in fact I’ve got a ginger cake mix from Aldi that I’m planning to review). They do make things a lot simpler, especially for much younger kids, and are handy if you’re not planning to bake a lot. I did a traybake one from Sainsburys that came with the icing and little chocolate buttons, which was pretty good. It is so much fun, and a handy way of getting them interested in cooking. I just hope we can move onto savoury foods soon, because my blood sugar levels are not thanking me at the moment. Thanks for visiting.

  5. You Baby Me Mummy says:

    Fabulous tips, so useful x

  6. Emma's Mamma says:

    Great post and tips! I tried baking with my toddler the other day but she was too interested in eating everything and she doesn’t like mess so it didn’t go down too well. I’ll try some of your tips and see if it works 🙂 #happydays

    • Ha ha, eating everything is okay, all part of the fun. It can get a little trickier if your toddler doesn’t like mess though; maybe hand her a wooden spoon and let her geton with it.

  7. Astrid says:

    These are truly great tips! I am an adult with autism and can’t cook or bake independently, but I love to help out my staff or my husband (though my husband is a little inpatient). I find that I can sometimes do much of the cooking/baking when the recipe is very clear (so not “cook till it’s ready” but “set kitchen alarm to ten minutes, then remove from stove”, etc.). I do have quite good verbal skills so don’t mean this to compare myself to your girl. I totally agree about baking being a great sensory activity. #SundaysStars

    • Her verbal skills are a tricky one. I suspect some form of verbal dyspraxia is behind why she doesn’t talk. Her understanding is pretty good and getting better all the time. That’s an interesting point you make about recipes; some of them are so poorly written and vague it’s hard to know what they mean. Thank you for visiting and for your perspective. It’s great for me to hear from an adult with autism, as I usually just spend time with my daughter, and she doesn’t tell me much. 😉

  8. Cute. I also do cooking with my son, although we haven’t tried cakes as yet!

  9. What a fabulous post with some great tips. Yes, baking with your kids is therapeutic and educational as well as fun. So long as you don’t mind mess 🙂

  10. Lady Nym says:

    You have inspired me. I was planning on making some fruit and oat bars for the boys today but now I think I’ll make it into an activity with Tyger when Bear’s napping instead of trying to sneak off to the kitchen to do it by myself. I have rarely baked with Tyger because – although he is verbal – his ASD does make it really hard in terms of getting him to follow instructions, stay interested etc. but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying. Thank you.


    • I found at first that it was just a matter of her watching what I was doing. She was interested, and from there it was a simple matter to get her to stir, etc. Following instructions can still be tricky (which is why I don’t recommend it if it’s crucial for the cakes to be edible, :)), but I’ve found if I’m on the same level and face to face, it means she finds the instructions much easier to understand, particularly if I use a lot of gestures.

      Definitely try it, although start with an extra simple recipe if it’s the first time you’re doing it. It can be incredibly frustrating and dispiriting having to clear up lots of things if you’ve had little or no engagement (ask me how I know).

      But having said that I find sweet treats can be a really effective motivator, so even if there’s no interest the first time, if they learn this activity results in CAKE, the next time you may have more luck.

  11. natasham says:

    Oh those lemon and lime muffins look yummy…I must try them sometime, S loves baking and we don’t do it often enough. Thanks for linking up to #happyquacks I’d really appreciate if you could put my badge on the bottom of your post. Thanks xx

    • Damn, sorry about that. I’ll get it done now. Thanks for visiting, and baking with your kids is so much fun. Admittedly the tidying up part is less fun, but it’s still worth it.

  12. Pingback: #HappyQuacks Linky Wk 10 |

  13. acornishmum says:

    Ooh lemon and lime muffins sound lovely! Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix

    Stevie x

  14. Katy (What Katy Said) says:

    Love this, cooking is such a great activity for little ones. Thanks for sharing in #HappyDaysLinky x

  15. Mrs H says:

    This is a brilliant and really helpful post. I love baking with Little Miss H but I do find that I get frustrated easily. I think that the recipes that I am using are too difficult. Muffins sound like the way to go and I will be using your other tips too. Thanks for linking such a fabulous post to #SundaysStars. Hugs Mrs H xxxx

    • I think ithelps to start with simpler recipes and then gradually work up to the more complicated ones. Quick recipes are good too, if you’re finding that you’re getting frustrated. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

  16. Jenna says:

    Amazing tips. Baking with my daughter is something I can’t wait to do so I will bare all of these in mind! 🙂

    Your muffins look super tasty.


  17. dgrauzam says:

    Hi Alison! Thanks for sharing these great tips! I loved this post and thought it would be very valuable to our readers at Special Needs Essentials Blog. Would you please let me repost it? Also, you are free to repost anything from our blog with appropriate credit and backlink. Thanks! Deborah.

  18. Pingback: Cooking With Children: Honey and Soy Chicken Kebabs | All Past Midnight

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