We are already well into the school year! Halloween may be over, but it won’t be long before we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. As the holidays approach, I often try to think of fun ways to incorporate the festivities into therapy sessions. One of my students’ favorite way to celebrate the holidays is through food crafts.
During food crafts, I have students make inferences about what we are going to make, how we will make it, why we are making it, and safety/hygiene. I have them answer WH questions, practice good articulation, focus on social skills (don’t lick the spoon!), follow simple and multi-step directions, predict the next step, explain vocabulary related to the holiday, and many more skills. I will often pair crafts with short videos about the holiday’s origin or a tradition. I may also pair it with a short story, short video, or book centered on the main idea of the craft. For those activities, I conduct them just as I would normally but link them to the food craft. For example, I would show a Derby hat clip, ask questions about the clip, and then have them infer how we are going to decorate our cookies.
The hardest part of a cookie crafting activity isn’t figuring out how to work on their target skills, but finding an easy and cheap idea that matches the holiday. My goal in this post is to give you several ideas and materials to address goals with the fun that is food crafting! The most universal food item for food crafting is the sugar cookie. You can often buy large packs of them at any grocery deli for a decent price and there are so many things you can do with them! In this post, I’m going to give you a few of the ideas I have used with my students.
(It is important to note that I make a food allergy list at the beginning of the year before doing food activities. I also work with middle school students who are almost all able to let me know what allergies they have. I also ask students prior to holiday activities about whether they are allowed to celebrate.)
For Halloween (because it will be good to have for next year):
You will need a sugar cookie, mini marshmallows, icing of any color (or white with food coloring to let students choose), candy corn, and either writing icing or disc sprinkles for pupils (I used disc sprinkles).
To make monster cookies, each student gets one sugar cookie. They are instructed to cut it in half. You will then ice the bottoms of each half. Marshmallows are placed along the curved edge of the cookie and the sides are sandwiched together. They can then either ice the top of the cookie or dip candy corn and marshmallows into the icing to add horns and eyes. They are given the opportunity to either follow directions or be creative, depending on what you would like. They can add one eye and two horns, three eyes and two horns, or one horn and two eyes, etc.
SUGGESTED STORIES/ACTIVITIES: Frankenstein (there are adapted texts available and short story versions online), No More Monsters for Me by Peggy Parish; I Need My Monster https://youtu.be/QwCxW7Nx4Ec
Vampire teeth cookies-
For Vampire teeth follow the same steps as the Monster cookie. Cut in half, put icing on both halves, apply marshmallows for teeth, and sandwich together. Then dip two candy corns into icing and apply where vampire teeth would be. You will not add icing or items to the outer parts of this cookie. Below is an example that uses chocolate chip cookies and almond slivers as the vampire teeth. I usually avoid nut products when making food crafts because of allergy risks. You will apply the candy corn where the almond slivers are to create the teeth.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: Dracula (again a quick search can find adapted texts/short stories); http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/free-printable/reading-printables/real-dracula; Stellaluna https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLRIvyWUzxs (Readworks has a unit for this story as well)
To turn cookies into Turkeys, you will need sugar cookies, candy corn, orange writing icing, red writing icing, vanilla wafers (mini), and candy eyes (writing icing or candies can be a substitute).
Use the writing icing to attach candy corn along the edge of one side of the cookie to form feathers. The photo example below shows a rice crispy treat turkey with a pb cup as the face. Use the same design but change the treat for a cookie and a mini vanilla wafer to replace the pb cup. Attach the wafer using the icing below the feathers. Attach candy eyes to the top portion of the wafer (or pipe on eyes or use candies). Use orange writing icing for the nose and red to create the wattle.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: http://www.readworks.org/passages/thanksgiving-fact-or-fiction; http://www.readworks.org/passages/thanksgiving-day; http://www.readworks.org/passages/first-thanksgiving-meal; http://www.readworks.org/passages/attack-leftovers
Melted snowmen cookies-
You will need sugar cookies, large marshmallows, white piping icing/royal icing, red piping icing/red licorice pulls, orange writing icing (small), black writing icing (small), and mini M&Ms.
Have the students apply white icing to the entire cookie. It looks better if they apply it in an odd shape that doesn’t look perfectly round. Give them a marshmallow and instruct them to squish the marshmallow to make it look somewhat flatter. Attach the squished marshmallow to the cookie. Be sure to place it off center! Use black writing icing to make arms on the cookie and a mouth with eyes on the marshmallow. Use orange writing icing to create the nose. Mini M&Ms are placed on the cookie for buttons and a red licorice string or red piping icing is used to create a scarf.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: Frozen; https://youtu.be/YhnSYfgASAo (Short Frozen story that has rhymes and antonyms); Sneezy the Snowman https://youtu.be/-RiHfYElP-M; http://www.readworks.org/passages/winter-coming; http://www.readworks.org/passages/let-it-snow; There was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow https://youtu.be/xjqfZp8YXwk; http://www.readworks.org/passages/life-cycle-snowman
You will need sugar cookies, mini-pretzels (plain or fudge dipped), red M&Ms, chocolate icing, candy eyes, and mini-vanilla wafers. (The picture shows the cookie with a different flavor, any type of cookie will work).
Apply chocolate icing to the whole cookie. Place two mini pretzels on the top of the cookie for antlers. Toward the bottom of the cookie (opposite the pretzels) apply the mini wafer. Use piping icing or candy eyes and place them above the vanilla wafer. Use icing to attach the red M&M.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer https://youtu.be/vzfJdSmTNdk; https://youtu.be/QOK6Xxtareo; History of Rudolph http://www.altogetherchristmas.com/traditions/rudolph.html; Frozen story about a reindeer (to remove Christmas element for those who don’t celebrate) https://youtu.be/cxtdovty0KA;
You will need sugar cookies, icing of any color you prefer, mini M&Ms, Rolos (in the tube with the wrappers on).
Have the students put icing on the entire cookie. Have them attach the Rolo to the top of the cookie with icing. Then allow the student to create patterns and designs using the mini M&Ms.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Nightmare before Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and The Grinch that Stole Christmas. You can also show clips of these movies and ask questions about specific scenes.
Bonus- Marshmallow snowmen on a stick-
If cookies are getting old or aren’t your thing, this might be a better food craft for you. You need 3 marshmallows (large), black writing icing, Oreos (thin or pulled apart), Rolos or mini pb cups, pretzel sticks, fruit by the foot, orange tic-tacs, and cake pop/sucker sticks.
The students will first place the marshmallows on the stick. Then they will create the hat. The student will take an Oreo and apply icing to the center. Then he/she will add the Rolo to that icing. Another swirl of icing will attach the hat to the snowman’s head. Then apply dots of black writing icing to create eyes, a mouth and buttons. Use a knife or toothpick to poke holes for the nose and arms. Apply pretzels for arms and the tic tac for the nose. Lastly, use a section of fruit by the foot to create a scarf. I find it works better when folded in half length-wise.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: See above suggestions for Melted Snowman Cookies.
For New Year:
You will need white icing (optional), black writing icing, another color writing icing, and colored sugar (any color).
With this cookie you can put icing on the whole cookie or just pipe on the designs. It is up to you! If you put it on the whole cookie, put a layer of white icing. Then carefully write the numbers on the clock for 12, 3, 6, and 9. Place 2 dots between each number. Put clock hands on pointing to midnight or just before. Put a circle of colored icing around the edge and apply colored sugar.
You will need sugar cookies, white icing, writing icing in various colors, sugar or other types of sprinkles, and toothpicks.
Put white icing over the whole cookie. Make sure that the icing is thick enough to drag a toothpick through. Apply a large dot of colored icing in the middle or in different places on the cookie. Or you can apply rings of different colors on the cookie (this is what the picture shows). Drag the toothpick through the icing to create an exploding firework design. Add sprinkles to the cookie. The below example is for Fourth of July and doesn’t include sprinkles. You can make changes to make it work for New Years.
Love monster cookies –
Use Halloween monsters but in pinks, red, and white. Use Valentine candy corn or conversation hearts (for horns/ears).
(Sorry, no photo for this cookie. Refer to Halloween cookie).
You will need sugar cookies, a large amount of white icing, food color (red, yellow, blue), black writing icing, non-zipping sandwich bags, fruit rollups (optional), heart shaped candy (optional), sprinkles (optional), small heart cookie cutter (optional), and starburst (optional).
The above list of supplies can be narrowed down to less items. You have the students start by mixing the white icing with food coloring to create yellow, red, blue, and pink icing. Have the students apply the yellow icing to the whole cookie. Pause and have the student choose an emoji to create. You can have them create happy faces, kiss faces, love faces, surprised faces, mad faces, or any emoji you feel is appropriate. They can create hearts, lips, tongues, and other red parts of the face using cut outs from fruit roll ups, molding starburst, conversation hearts/candy, or any candy that you feel will work. The students should use black icing to draw eyes. They can also pipe designs onto the cookies using the sandwich bags as piping bags. (Make sure you make the hole in the corner of the bag small to make writing easier).
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: Pete the Cat Valentine’s Day is Cool (https://youtu.be/dfWWknIWYCE); http://www.readworks.org/passages/how-say-i-ruff-you; Happy Valentine’s Day Mouse https://youtu.be/-IAIu8Icipo; History of Valentine’s Day https://youtu.be/CaRgHQjC1WE
***For the Emoji cookies, you can print out versions of the emoji that are the options to make and discuss the emotions they represent, why they are relevant to Valentine’s day, how you can tell when someone feels this way, discuss a time that the student felt that way, and even make social inferences about these emotions.
Some examples of faces:
For Super Bowl:
Stadium cookies –
You will need sugar cookies, white icing, food coloring in green, sandwich bags for piping, and multi-colored ball sprinkles.
This cookie is easy. Have the students put white icing on one side of the cookie and green on the other. To the white side apply sprinkles. To the green side, pipe yard lines.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: Goodnight Football, Kids Snippets News- 2015 Super Bowl Highlights (This is a funny video that starts with super bowl and moves on to the Grammys. You can use it to determine why it is funny, infer the age of the speaker, start a discussion about the Super Bowl, etc.) https://youtu.be/X7zoI8zFD6k, You can also use last year’s commercials to work on language goals or social skills.
For St. Patty’s Day:
Leprechaun hat cookies-
You will need sugar cookies, green icing, jumbo marshmallows, licorice pulls/strings (black), yellow piping icing/writing icing or a small square of yellow starburst, cup of water, food safe paint brush or toothpicks, and green sugar.
Have the students put green icing over the entire sugar cookie. Using a small cup with water, either put the large marshmallow on the toothpick and dip it into the water or use food safe paint brush to paint on the water. Once the marshmallow is wet, roll it in green sugar until completely coated. Place the marshmallow flat side down onto the center of the cookie with icing. Use the black licorice pull to create a ribbon around the base of the hat (this can be done with writing icing as well). Use yellow writing icing or small cut square of yellow starburst to create a buckle.
(Sorry, no photo for this cookie)
You will need sugar cookies, blue icing (substitute green if you’d like), mini marshmallows, and skittles/fruit loops/lucky charm marshmallows.
Have the students cover the top of the cookie with icing. Then have them use the candy/cereal to create a rainbow on the cookie. One mini marshmallow goes at the end of each side of the rainbow (clouds). You can also do rows of colors instead of one arch with multiple colors.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: History of St. Patrick’s Day https://youtu.be/xOqWT2tk9Js; http://www.readworks.org/passages/saints-snakes-pirates; The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever https://youtu.be/eEH1yXZFAEo;
Bunny Bottom Cookies-
You will need sugar cookies, Regular size vanilla wafers, 2 pastel colored icings (or white), round candies like M&Ms, heart shaped sprinkles, pink starburst, mini marshmallows (white or colored).
For this cookie, you can switch out candies, you just want to be able to create paw pads with them. Round candies of two sizes, heart shapes, or moldable candies would all work. Have the students put one color icing over the entire sugar cookie and the other color over 2 vanilla wafers. Have the students place the wafers on the cookies to one side and slightly hanging off. Apply the candies to the tops of the vanilla wafers to create paw pads. Place the marshmallow on the sugar cookie to be the bunny’s tail.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: For older students, Video about the history of the Easter Bunny https://youtu.be/MQz2mF3jDMc; For little kids, Video about rabbit facts https://youtu.be/0e1mXp8BNEY; Duck! Rabbit! (Good for younger kids and gives you a lot of discussion points!) https://youtu.be/hPCoe-6RRks, Little Bunny Foo Foo (Good for young and MSD students to address social skills and inferences https://youtu.be/FvQZwtxCQ5w.
For Cinco De Mayo (because it’s my birthday, so we have to do SOMETHING J):
You will need sugar cookies, piping icing of bright colors (I gave the students 3 choices: yellow, green, and red), multi-colored sprinkles, and either dots candy or spice drops. Students prefer dots candies, but sometimes they are hard to find in large quantities).
The student will pick a color (or two) of icing. A circle, slightly larger than the base of the candy, should be drawn in the middle of the cookie. The candy will be placed in the center of the circle. Then a line of icing will be piped around the outside edge of the cookie. After the cookie is iced, allow the student to push sprinkles onto the cookie where there is icing.
You will need sugar cookies (soft bake work better for this one), chocolate icing, Oreos, shredded coconut, green/yellow, orange food color, red M&Ms, and yellow and orange starburst or white icing with sandwich bags (optional).
If you got soft bake cookies, fold the cookie without breaking it to form a shell. If you didn’t, then cut the cookie in half. Have the students crush the Oreos in a plastic bag (Sensory play!) and transfer them to a bowl. Add some chocolate icing to the mix to bind the Oreos together. Spoon the Oreo mixture into the “taco shells” and sit to the side. Place coconut into the bags and add a drop of green food color. Have students shake bags until coconut is green. This is the lettuce! For cheese, you can either cut the starburst into shredded cheese, use coconut with yellow and orange color, or make yellow/orange piping icing. Put the “lettuce” and then the “cheese” on the taco. Then place red M&Ms to be the tomatoes.
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITIES: History of Cinco de Mayo (Good for Middle school, high school) https://youtu.be/tCQRu5wrgHk; Cinco de Mayo Day of Mexican Pride (better for younger kids) https://youtu.be/kyCC1eFgeys; Cinco de Mayo celebrations (No words, but good for describing and discussing with younger students) https://youtu.be/vc6j5az1b3M
Derby hat cookies-
You will need sugar cookies, vanilla wafers (original size), golden Oreos, sprinkles, a few different colors of writing icing, and any candies you feel you could use to decorate.
This cookie is fairly creative and easy. You will have the students build the hat by placing using icing to attach the Oreo and vanilla wafer to the center of the cookie. After that, they can use icing, candy, and sprinkles to decorate their derby hat.
Have the students put icing on the entire sugar cookie. Divide the golden Oreo in half, trying to keep the crème all on one side. Let the student choose which side they want to apply to the sugar cookie (the crème can act as a bad around the hat. Use icing to attach the wafer to the top of the golden Oreo. Ice the Oreo/wafer combo. Use licorice ropes/strings to create ribbons on the hat. Use piping icing to create designs, use sprinkles and candies for decorations.
(Sorry, no photo for this cookie)
SUGGESTED BOOKS/ACTIVITES: http://www.readworks.org/passages/no-horsing-around; History about fashion and hats at the Derby https://youtu.be/7bMZRLgF7P0; 10 facts about Derby https://youtu.be/0hc3U-AQmqs; History of Derby Hats https://youtu.be/fu8Vm4Vatrc; The Derby Museum has a few things you might be able to use. I liked the PDF for guessing states that the horses were from using context cues and inference skills, http://www.derbymuseum.org/education/downloadable-activities.html
Tic Tac Toe Cookie:
You need a sugar cookie, writing icing, sprinkles/sugar, and 2 colors/types of candies.
This cookie is easy and can be used for any holiday! Have the students draw a # on their cookie using writing icing of any color and coat in sugar or sprinkles. Use jelly beans, red and green M&Ms, Lucky Charms cereal marshmallows, orange and brown M&Ms, or conversation hearts (any candy that matches the holiday you are celebrating). You need two colors/styles (one for X and another for O). You can also apply royal icing to the cookies the day before if you want to make them more colorful.
–Jessica Oliver, SLP st TJ and Lassiter Middle Schools