Empowering occupational therapy practitioners with a playbook of functional tasks to use with their geriatric clients

Kitchen Scavenger Hunt

Kitchen Scavenger Hunt

During the last couple of years, I’ve worked to address cognition more fully in my occupational therapy practice. I found that one of the most effective ways to do this is to analyze the cognitive demands of functional tasks and intentionally focus on those parts of the activities as I complete them with clients.

This activity is great for co-treatment with PT (they address mobility while I address cognitive skills such as organization, attention, safety awareness, etc.) and it’s a good preparatory activity for meal preparation. I also use it to introduce education about safety, energy conservation, and work simplification that I can follow up on during future meal preparation sessions.


Assess and develop motor and cognition skills in preparation for more difficulty IADL tasks such as meal preparation; educate about home safety, energy conservation, and work simplification


Good for 1:1 treatment – Great for co-treating with PT for client who require mobility assistance

Time Frame

10-30 minutes

Materials Required

  • A kitchen space which includes a variety of challenges
    • doors to open
    • high and low shelves or cabinets to access
    • obstacles to navigate
  • 10-15 items to locate and retrieve from a variety of location in kitchen space


  • Create a list of 10-15 items to locate and retrieve in kitchen space – Note: If using a list that was created previously, ensure that all items are still available in kitchen.
  • Place items strategically around kitchen to grade level of challenge
  • Place or remove obstacles and safety hazards in kitchen space to grade level of challenge


  1. Provide client with the list of items to locate and retrieve. Explain to client where items should be placed as they are retrieved.
  2. Provide cuing and physical assistance as needed to ensure client safety and success throughout task.
  3. Educate client regarding energy conservation, work simplification, safety, and use of cognitive strategies as topics are relevant during the task.
  4. Depending on time available and client’s activity tolerance, instruct client to return all items to the location from which they were retrieved.

Special Notes

This play is a good example of a functional task to develop selective attention skills as clients are required to locate and retrieve specific item while ignoring others.

Before therapists complete this play, they may wish to gather information about the activities their client completes at home as what their home environment like and use this information to customize this play to the clients. For example, if the client is wheelchair bound at baseline and modified their kitchen to have wheelchair height counters and storage space within reach from wheelchair level, it may not be a priority of the client to practice retrieving item from shelves that are reached by standing.

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