How to Improve Fine Motor Skills with Visual Recipes


Who doesn’t love a good snack?! Not only do my students love making food during school, but these visual recipes work on so many skills! I am able to target almost all of my occupational therapy IEP goals with them! Visual recipes are my go-to activity with self-contained classrooms. Typically, at the secondary level in particular, my students are working towards transition or life skills goals. What better skill than cooking! I often tend to co-treat with speech therapy with this population of students, and the visual recipe bundles also target speech skills! It is a win-win!

What’s Included?

All of the Visual Recipes include the following components:

  • Visual Recipe
  • Tools and Ingredients List
  • Sequencing Page
  • Survey
  • Tools and Ingredients Worksheets
the visual recipe, Tools and  Ingredients List, sequencing Page,
Survey, and Tools and Ingredients Worksheets for the Monster Cookie Shake recipes

What are the October Visual Recipes?

I love a good theme! Servicing students in grades K-12+, I have quite a variety in my caseload. While I love all the different skills I get to target with this wide range of students, sometimes treatment planning can be really challenging. Fall is one of my favorite times to do weekly themes! It makes planning easier, and there are just so many fun things that happen in fall! Check out what recipes come in the October Visual Recipe Bundle:

  • Monster Cookie Shake
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Pumpkin Pie Cup
  • Harvest Mix
the cover pages of the visual recipes for October: monster cookie shake, grilled cheese, pumpkin pie cup and harvest mix

What fine motor skills are addressed?

Of course there are always ways to adapt the activities to meet all of your students’ needs, but below are some of the main fine motor skills I plan to target with each of these recipes!

Monster Cookie Shake

the monster cookie shake recipe with a food coloring dropper next to it

Students will be building grip strength and bilateral coordination [2 handed skills] by scooping the ice cream. Smaller fine motor strength is needed to pinch/squeeze the small food coloring containers and to crush the cookies. Students will have opportunities to practice life skills like pouring, measuring and using a blender. I have students with self-feeding goals, so eating the recipes after helping to make them is another great way to build skills like utensil use!

Grilled Cheese

the grilled cheese recipe next to a toaster

Students may use a toaster and a toaster oven for the first time with this recipe! Going over life skills like safety with hot cooking equipment, not putting metal utensils in a toaster to get things out, etc. can all be addressed in this recipe! Students will need fine motor skill to peel the cheese slice wrapper and they can practice cutting with a knife. Many of my students tend to also be picky eaters. We never force food or the need to try anything, but I have found that exposing my students to different foods through these recipes has expanded their food repertoire! I thought it might be fun for students to use a pumpkin cookie cutter to cut out the grilled cheese [especially for those who don’t eat crust!].

Pumpkin Pie Cup

the pumpkin pie cup recipe next to a measuring cup filled with milk

Opening containers is in all of these recipes if you don’t provide the set up! I encourage you to have the students do as much as they can independently from start to finish! This also works on problem solving, executive functions and sequencing skills! Students will have to open the instant pudding box and packet. Spooning mixture from one container to another can be pretty challenging, so this is a great recipe to practice that! Just like the Monster Cookie Shake recipe, students will be pouring, measuring and crushing cookies. If you plan to use these recipes once per week throughout the month, it will be neat to see how the students improve from the start to the end of the month!

Harvest Mix

person pressing the buttons on a microwave

This is the only recipe this month that uses the microwave! I tend to partner with my life skills classroom teachers to teach this skill. The classroom teachers typically do an entire lesson [or more!] on safe microwave use, and for my students who are still struggling with the task, I jump in to support. Occupational therapists are great at task analysis and adapting tasks for student success! I encourage you to check in with your OT if you have students who really struggle with some of the components of these recipes! This recipe has pouring as well, but this time with dry cereal [rather than liquids!]. Dry material pouring is easier [and less messy] than liquid, so consider starting with this recipe! There is also measuring spoon use in this recipe that is a great fine motor life skill [and includes math!]. Other repeated skills include pinching/squeezing food coloring and opening the cereal bag/box. However, spreading with a spatula is a new challenging fine motor skill in this recipe! I often work on spreading with a knife when my students learn to make toast or peanut butter and jelly. The utensil grasp, hand placement and graded pressure in that activity make it challenging for some students!

Quick Tips to Add More Fine Motor

In addition to the tidbits added below each of the recipes above, I wanted to share five other ways that I like to incorporate up/downgraded fine motor components to my sessions when I am using the visual recipes!

  1. Don’t have time to prep these activities? Always have students open the containers and participate in the set up and clean up! Locating the materials, opening them, washing the dishes afterwards, etc. are all great skills to practice!
  2. Does your student have scissor skill/cutting goals? Cut out the sequencing pictures and then glue them in order! You can work on scissor skills and sequencing as a prep activity!
  3. Does your student have handwriting goals? Have the students write out their own recipe cards to take home after the activity!
  4. Do fine motor limitations make the worksheets included challenging? Downgrade the comprehension tasks by using stamps rather than a pencil to mark responses on the worksheets!
  5. Looking for ways to extend these activities or more “jobs” for students when working in a whole group? Don’t forget that table setting, taking orders, serving food, etc. are all GREAT life skills and pre-vocational skills that our students can practice! Include those things!
a table cloth, plate, napkin and plastic forks on a table

I’d love to see how you are using visual recipes in your classroom! Which are you and your students’ favorites? Did you adapt any of the recipes to fit the needs/goals of a specific student? Share in the comments or over on Facebook! I look forward to seeing your creativity with October Visual Recipes! If you are looking for more fun things to do in you classroom, the October Activities Bundle includes the four recipes above and tons of other fine motor activities, worksheets, etc.!

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