Cooking Skills Worksheets for Students with Special Needs

functional life skills life skills resource special education teachers teacher experience teacherspayteachers Feb 27, 2024
Cooking Skills Worksheet

Some of my favorite memories of teaching stem from my beloved cooking lessons.  It was always a mix of chaos, laughs, near misses, and young adults with special needs scarfing down their deliciously messy plates.  I was actually observed by my assistant department chair, department chair, the district superintendent, and a few School Board members during cooking class, by choice!  That's how much I loved it!  


While cooking was only one time a week, it was a functional life skills class that nearly every student looked forward to during the week.  Since students cooked so infrequently in the classroom kitchen, as opposed to multiple times a week in their kitchen at home, I implemented a Find It! game to play during class. It was nothing fancy,  just a slide in our usual cooking class deck that had students’ names and different items they had to find in and around the kitchen space.  Sort of like the independent work before the food preparation part of the cooking activity officially started.  

We played after we reviewed the recipe but before they gathered the ingredients to start cooking.  It was like a ‘test’ of matching the word with the thing AND then finding the different ingredients or utensils or supplies in the kitchen. Each student found their item at their own pace and once they got the literal ‘thumbs up’ from me that they had found the right thing, they could start cooking.  This helped to naturally stagger the start of cooking, which was helpful when students had to share utensils or appliances, like microwaves.  


We would talk through key reminders and steps of the visual recipe that were areas of weakness from previous weeks before the Find It! Game, helping to keep recipe-specific skills strong heading into meal prep.  The longer I taught cooking, the better I became at making it a meaningful class for modern students.  I'm sharing my top 10 cooking tips below! 


10 Special Education Teacher Cooking Class Tips for Secondary Students


1. Select simple recipes students actually want to cook

The perfect way to get students to buy in is to make meals they WANT to eat outside of class! If students and families aren’t comfortable cooking with an open flame, then choose meals that they would be comfortable preparing in the student’s home. This isn’t to say that students should never be exposed to cooking on the stovetop or using the oven, just consider the likelihood of the student transferring the recipe they learned while in school into their home setting.  And, encouraging healthy eating with recipes that hit all 5 food groups is just bonus points for everyone! 


2. Breakfast, sack lunch, and snacks are appropriate cooking units

Don’t limit recipes to only lunch options.  Be open to teaching breakfast recipes, simple snacks (which can be modified to an adult-style charcuterie board/Lunchable for lunch), and even assembling sack lunches (especially for students accessing vocational education in the community as they will need skills to prepare food to eat at work!) are appropriate recipes to include in an overall cooking unit scope and sequence.    


3. Shop at the grocery store before cooking

Choosing a recipe, shopping the kitchen cabinets, making a grocery list, and then shopping are all part of the whole meal preparation process.  While it may not align for grocery shopping to happen immediately before cooking, being able to grocery shop a day or two before cooking makes sequential sense.  


4. Repeat recipes 

It’s natural for people to buy ingredients and make the same breakfast or lunch a few days in a row.  Repeating a recipe for 2 or even 3 weeks can result in lower food costs because leftover ingredients will be used up and less time spent cooking because students have seen the recipe and steps recently and can move through meal prep more quickly. 


5. Review the recipe before entering the kitchen

Cooking is an essential life skill and the specific order of the recipe steps are learned through practice and repetition!  Take a few minutes before the kitchen cabinets fly open to review each step, filling in important reminders.  


6. Implement an activity to help students become familiar with the kitchen space  

Whether the kitchen is in the special education classroom or another room down the hall, take time during each lesson for students to familiarize themselves with where things are located.  Have students find different types of ingredients that may be specific to the recipe, utensils they will need for this recipe or future ones, or stuff for eating and cleaning up.  This can also be practiced when students are putting away dry dishes or unloading the dishwasher (if you are lucky enough to have one in your kitchen space).  


7. Visual recipes in a digital slide deck 

Forgo the file folders filled with paper recipes and consider creating digital slide decks of recipes.  If there is a class library of iPads or students are 1:1 with their laptops, then this is a great way to reduce paper flipping with dirty hands.  Create Google Slide decks with one recipe step on each slide and then share as View only.  This is great because if you want to make a small adjustment to everyone's recipe in the middle of cooking class, you can!  And, students can access these recipes outside of school too, making it more likely they will use the recipe while cooking at home! Another perk of digital slide deck recipes is less verbal prompts while cooking!  If you’ve opted into digital recipes, drop a few slides in with a large red stop sign between steps.  Use the stop sign to prompt students to pause.  This is a great time to check in on student recipe progress and redirect, adjust, or re-teach an upcoming skill.  The best part is that students will reach those stop signs at different times during the class period, allowing you or other support staff to intervene less.  


8. Assign cooking spots

Seat assignments, but for the kitchen.  Have students post up at the same spot in the kitchen each time they cook.  This will quickly become part of the routine of cooking and help students navigate the kitchen a little easier as they become more familiar with where things are according to where they meal prep.  


9. Stock the kitchen with adaptive equipment

It’s likely there will be a few students with special needs who have difficulty with fine motor skills in cooking class, and this coordination weakness will directly impact their ability to use standard cooking utensils and complete basic cooking steps, like mixing.  Since coordination is a common challenge for students with developmental disabilities, add adaptive kitchen equipment to make cooking more accessible.  I’ve listed a few of my favorites on my Amazon Favorites page.  


10. Cooking requires a variety of academic skills and important life skills

From reading (recipe steps) to measuring (math skills) and safety (sharp and hot things), being in and around the kitchen while cooking demands lots of attention and mental focus.  Therefore, the time immediately after cooking, while students are eating their creations, may not be the best time to expect students to practice new social skills.  Throw a cooking show on the TV for background noise and inadvertent cooking skill exposure and let students decompress, enjoy their meals, and recharge for the next lesson.  



What I would have loved to have during each cooking class (but just never had the time to create) was a worksheet reviewing key kitchen and cooking skills.  A go-to resource that I didn’t have to think about, but addressed a ton of skills my students needed practice with AND previewed skills we were going to be learning about in the future.   


Interested in some ready-made lesson plans that are perfect for teaching cooking skills to older students? I’m not the only one who wants fewer things to prepare while also having more helpful resources for students. I mean, right?!?  


Let me introduce to you the Kitchen Skills Practice Worksheets!



I created the resource I wish I had years ago.  By design, this resource has 36 pages, which just happens to be about the same number of weeks in a traditional school year.  It also has four consistent quadrants, each addressing a different functional kitchen and cooking skill.  

The Kitchen and Cooking Skills Practice Worksheets are part of a line of functional skills resources designed to loop around (or even introduce) key skills in a variety of areas.  If routine speaks to your teaching style, then give the Functional Reading Comprehension Worksheets, Vocational Skills Worksheets, Safety Skills Worksheets, and Student Transition Plan Worksheets a once over.  And no, it isn't a coincidence that there are 5 different sets of these worksheet resources, the same number of days in a school week.  Let the routine be predictable and the new set of daily set of questions be exciting!! 



Kitchen & Cooking Worksheet Skills Include:

1. Cooking mindset

2. Interpret common recipe terms or phrases

3. Name the kitchenware

4. Food Groups

5. What buttons to press on the microwave

6. Measurements

7. Kitchen Safety (check out a free preview of a Kitchen Safety lesson)< LINK to lead magnet

8. Reading and recipes

9. Calculating cook time

10. Where to store food

11. Setting the table

12. Leftovers

13. Doing the dishes

14. And more!



Why the Kitchen and Cooking Skills Worksheets Resource is Awesome

  1. Introduce New Cooking Skill Ideas 

    1. While using the 36 pages in order is very Type A, they can be used in any order.  Find the page with the skill you want to introduce or review and just shuffle the rest around, be wild! 
  2. Review Key Kitchen and Cooking Skills

    1. That independent living skill you reviewed 3 weeks ago (like measuring cups vs measuring spoons) is still as important as the skill you are teaching today.  That’s why spiraling back around to previous tips and reminders is so important!  Thankfully, this resource naturally lends itself to reviewing past key skills while also introducing new ones you probably will be covering in future cooking classes.  
  3. Print Once, Always Ready

    1. Control+P and boom, you’re ready!  Who doesn’t love a resource where you only have to do 1 thing to be prepped for class?  They did make binder clips of all sizes for this exact reason.  
  4. No Repeating Questions

    1. Yes, coming back to skills is important, but repeating questions on a resource like this can make it B-O-R-I-N-G for students.  So, no questions are repeated.  Each page contains a new, fresh set of four questions.   
  5. Age Appropriate

    1. Since high school and transition-age students are NOT oddly shaped (you know, like the football-shaped, overly huge heads) the graphics aren’t oddly shaped either (actually, they were custom-made for me and my resources!).  The worksheets also include mature font, colors, and a clean, clutter-free design.  Because using age-respectful resources matters!  



5 Ways to Use The Kitchen and Cooking Skills Worksheet Resource

  1. Use as Part of a Weekly Morning or Class Warm-Up

    1. From what I know, Cooking class is usually taught one time a week.  So, it’s obvious that you could use 1 page a week to last the whole school year.  But, the time of day is up to you!  This resource could easily be used before or after cooking class or, even in the morning to remind students they have Cooking class later in the day.  
  2. Use Daily

    1. While this workbook is a great weekly resource, if you grabbed this resource in the middle of the school year, don’t fret!  Use a new page every day and it will easily span 2 months.  If you do want a daily life skills resource, one that covers a full array of life skills AND has 5 brand new questions every day, this Daily Life Skills Warm Up Activity Worksheet is a great option! 
  3. Supplemental Material for When a Lesson Runs Short

    1. The lesson that took 60 minutes in September suddenly only takes 47 minutes in April.  Those are 13 precious minutes and Kitchen and Cooking Skills Worksheets are a great way to meaningfully fill that time between the end of class and the next! 
  4. Homework

    1. I’ve written before about how I always had a family request that I send their student home with homework And, I get it, meaningful practice at home that is ‘required’ because it’s homework and not a parent or family member who just wants their student to practice transferring the skills they learned from school to home will get more buy-in.  So, the Kitchen and Cooking Skills Worksheets are GREAT for sending as homework each week.  With visual answer keys, students could also self-check their answers! 
  5. Skill Review During a Holiday Break

    1. (In your best Oprah voice...) You get a few worksheets for Winter Break, you get a few worksheets for Spring Break, and you get a few worksheets for remote learning due to bad weather!  There are 36 pages and could easily be spread out over a few long weekends and breaks from school to help keep student’s learning fresh (with nearly zero prep for you!).  

These worksheets are about to become the best part of cooking class! 



A Different Cooking Class Approach


Circling back around to my time teaching Cooking class…

Each year I taught my beloved Cooking class my approach and end goal changed a bit.  While I initially wanted students to learn how to make a full meal completely independently, which I believe is a natural mindset as an educator and an important goal for students, I ended with the hope of increasing both my students' cooking independence AND comfort level in and around the kitchen.  Because, sometimes it’s not about checking all the boxes under 0 Prompts/Independent on the Cooking Skills Rubric that makes a successful student chef. 

Beyond just independence, a cooking class is sometimes about discovery, exposure, involvement, and interdependence.  

While cooking and eating is, most frequently, a solo activity, so much bonding, quality time, and culture is shared in the kitchen, even when an individual is just physically present, completing no specific step in a recipe.  Being amongst family and friends, and even supportive staff, in a kitchen, is part of the experience.  Having an awareness of what is going on at the counter, oven, or kitchen island is proof of learning.   

Independence does not always have to be the goal.  Safety, understanding, and comfortable involvement, even if just by proximity, can be enough.  



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