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

Simple Food Preparation – Nothing Hot, Nothing Sharp

Simple Food Preparation – Nothing Hot, Nothing Sharp

When I am working with clients who plan to discharge to the community, either alone or with assistance from a caregiver, I try to work on meal preparation. Depending on the client’s safety, I may not work on using a stove top or knives, but I think that making sure they could prepare a simple meal or snack is important.

Why do I think this is so important? First, it ensures at if they need food, they won’t go hungry. Even if they have a caregiver, there may be times the client is alone, perhaps unexpectedly, when they will need food. Second, most people have a drive to be independent and self-sufficient and getting their own food is an area where people often tell me they don’t want to depend on others. Lastly, when we do food preparation in the kitchen, I have a chance to see many different specific cognitive skills and how they work together dynamically during a functional task.

If you want to work on meal preparation but you are worried about your client’s safety in regard to using hot surfaces or knives, here is a play that might work well for you. As a bonus, since you don’t need a cooking surface, this activity can be done even if you don’t have access to a full kitchen.


Assess and develop executive functioning skills


Great for 1:1 treatment – Good for Concurrent/Group treatment

Time Frame

5-30 minutes

Materials Required

  • Ingredients necessary for preparing a simple food such as pudding, sandwich, bowl of cereal, or frosting
  • Mixing bowls, plates, bowls, and utensils as needed
  • A work space such as a counter or table
  • Written recipes (preferably in large print) for each food available for the client to prepare


  • Clarify client’s dietary restrictions including texture and medical (diabetic, renal, cardiac, etc.)


  1. Ask the client to select a food item to prepare.
  2. Ensure that the client washes their hands and sanitizes the work area prior to beginning. If client does not initiate hygiene, direct client to complete tasks.
  3. Ask the client to identify the items they will need to prepare the food, including ingredients, mixing bowls, plates, utensils, etc. Cue the client to create a list if needed to aid in their ability to recall.
  4. Direct the client to locate all necessary items and place them on the counter or table.
  5. Ask the client to read aloud the recipe/instructions or verbally explain to you the steps for preparing the food item they selected.
  6. Direct the client to follow the recipe. Provide verbal cues and physical assistance if necessary but allow client to complete activity as independently as possible.
  7. Allow the client to eat the food prepared, sharing if socially appropriate and hygiene standards have been adequately maintained.

Special Notes

It is recommended to allow the client to choose from at least two options when selecting the food item to prepare however the therapist may wish to provide only one food item if the client has significant dietary restrictions.

It is important to ensure hygiene standards are maintained throughout the activity so that food can be shared if socially appropriate after it is prepared.

In order to use the activity as a Concurrent/Group treatment, have clients of similar ability levels work together to prepare a selected food or side by side with each making food they selected. Have clients of different ability levels each make part of a more complex food item. For example, one client could make cookies or a cake while another makes frosting.

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