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By Ashley Woods
Temple Grandin made a wonderful statement in regards to life skills that kids should be learning. “We’re focusing so much on academics that we’ve taken out things like art, sewing, cooking, woodworking, music, and other things that introduce kids to careers.” And I believe that she is 100% correct. Math and science are great parts of education, but that is just what they are. Parts of education. We have become a society so concerned in making sure that we push every child to become scientists and doctors that we have forgotten that there needs to be people to take care of the scientists and doctors. They need to eat. They have to furnish their homes. They will want to listen to music. Who will do those things if we aren’t taking the time to teach our children to become chefs, artists, and musicians? It is for these reasons that my husband and I have decided that we will not push our three-year-old with learning her letters and numbers in a traditional way. She spends so much time in ABA therapy already where she is learning those things that when she comes home, we make it a point to spend our time playing outside, coloring blank sheets of paper, having dance parties while singing, and cooking together. And I am very happy to say that our daughter loves her kitchen time.
Kitchen time is happy experience in our home. She loves making anything that means bringing out the stand mixer. Most times that means cookies. But today I thought we would try something new. Cinnamon Rolls! And as we all know with routines, Chloe kept asking if we were making cookies. It didn’t matter that the dough looked nothing like cookies, or that there were no chocolate chips. It’s like she gets stuck on her thought process of “if the mixer is out, then that means that we make cookies!” She even ate the dough after it was done kneading. And she liked it! Silly girl. Any who, it was a success. We count out the scoops of flour, how many eggs we use, and her favorite, turning on the mixer. It teaches her patience while the dough rises, and she takes so much pride in knowing that she made them when she eats them.
Her having Autism does make for a few challenges during kitchen time. Her tendencies to lick things come into play. Today, she wore a sock on her hand because she had a scratch and can’t stand the feel of Band-Aids. She tries to stick her hand in the bowl and touch the beater when it’s moving because she loves spinning things. But we feel the positives of learning this skill outweigh the negatives. We just watch her close and repeat several times the dangers in the kitchen. We don’t see her Autism as an excuse not to learn these things. If anything, it just gives us more of a reason that she does. Life will be hard. But there are things that she should know that don’t need to be. This is one of those things.
The self-esteem that we are teaching her in the kitchen not only opens up a career path for her if she so chooses, but it also teaches her that food doesn’t just come from the store. It’s a skill that she will master so when that day comes for her to live on her own or with a spouse, I know she will be able to cook for herself and that is one less thing for me to worry about.
Her knowing letters and numbers will come but she only has a few years to be a kid with no obligations. During these short years, I want to know that she had every opportunity to find her passion. Whether she becomes a teacher, chef, a stay at home mom, or a plumber, I need her to know that I will support whatever she chooses. And I show my support now in teaching and introducing new skills and abilities to see what she takes a liking to. Next week we start soccer. Maybe we will pick up a piano in the next few years. But right now she knows that her home is a safe haven where she can try new activities or stay in her routine and bake cookies during kitchen time. And that is a beautiful start.
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