For some reason, pediatric therapy clinics have an obsession with pancakes. Multiple times a week the smell of syrup and butter drifts through the clinic hallways and makes its way to the office, where a crew of therapists wait for an OT and client to deliver extra cakes. On days where someone makes pancakes in the morning, the statistical probability that more pancakes will be made increases dramatically. Pancakes make sense for therapy- OT’s like to use the executive functioning and motor planning steps to meet goals, and SLP can use this as an opportunity to help kids correctly pronounce “syrup.” Because I am writing this in the morning and I am hungry, my plan for this post is to explain what occupational analysis is while using the task of making pancakes.

Occupational Analysis is the processes of breaking down an activity to determine task demands and the range of skills involved in performance, as well as the various cultural, psychosocial, or ecological meanings that might be ascribed to it.

The following is an occupational analysis of making pancakes:

  • Child will wash hands prior to beginning cooking task. Requires sensory experience of wet textures and sequencing steps of water, soap, water, then dry with towel.
  • Child will read directions, requiring skills of sequencing, initiation, and planning.
  • Child will obtain bowls, spoons, and measuring cups for task. Requires executive functioning skill of initiation and planning/organization of materials.
  • Child will visually locate pancake mix from pantry and milk from fridge. This requires visual perception skills of figure-ground and scanning.
  • Child will open containers, requiring fine motor skills and motor planning.
  • Child will use a tool (measuring cup) to scoop the correct amount of pancake mix from box and dump into bowl. This requires working memory in order to have the correct amount of mix based on instructions, motor planning for scooping and dumping, and sensory modulation of tactile experience of mix.
  • Child will pour milk into measuring cup. This requires working memory in order to have the correct amount of milk based on instructions, and motor planning for pouring.
  • Child will mix batter with spoon until smooth. Requires gross motor coordination, grip strength, and execution of task (ability to stop when completed).
  • Child will turn on hot plate with pan on top. Requires safety awareness, visual perception to locate correct temperature, and fine motor skills to turn knob.
  • Child will pour batter into pan using liquid measuring cup. This requires use of tool, execution of pouring correctly sized pancake, motor planning to pour batter into pan, and tactile processing of sticky batter.
  • Child will use critical thinking to determine whether pancake is ready to be flipped based on visual cues of bubbles in pancake. Requires working memory, visual discrimination, and problem solving.
  • Child will set the table while pancakes cook. This requires executive functioning skill of shift, as well as planning/organization of materials.
  • Child will serve the pancakes on a plate to others. This requires social participation, motor coordination, and organization.
  • Child will use utensil to cut and eat pancake. This requires appropriate utensil grasp, fine motor skills, and motor coordination.
  • Child will discuss or review the steps of a task, what was easy and what was hard. This increases self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses, as well as working memory of what occurred.
  • Discuss social component of sharing with others, or reflect on memories of having breakfast with friends or family.

Pancakes are a process. They require a wide range of skills for successful creation, and are a gateway to addressing goals in executive functioning, motor planning, or social participation. In therapy, as in life, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

By: Bethany Domoto, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist