Turn Up The Heat!
There are few other classrooms that offer so many early childhood learning benefits to young children than your own kitchen. Cooking with kids in both your classroom and at home not only allows young children the opportunity to learn about different foods, but also it enhances their math, science, language, and fine motor skills.
The Benefits of Cooking With Young Kids
Have you ever walked into a classroom where a cooking project is underway or into a home kitchen where a little one is helping out? Chances are, the kids involved are completely engaged by the activity. And it’s no wonder as there are so many valuable things to be learned while kids work alongside their parent or teacher in the kitchen.
It’s no secret that tossing your little one an apron at an early age will help promote healthy habits. Early childhood learners are famous for being picky eaters – perhaps they do not want different foods to touch each other or maybe they pitch a fit if things are sliced in the “wrong” direction. Possibly even more frustrating, they’re often simply unwilling to taste anything unfamiliar. However, when they are allowed the opportunity to help prepare meals, they become more willing to try something new with an open mind.
There are also various academic benefits to cooking with young kids. Early math skills are easily promoted as early childhood learners follow steps in recipes, count the number of scoops and develop an understanding for various liquid and solid measurements. Furthermore, think of your kitchen as a mini science laboratory – children are able to watch various reactions when ingredients are combined or how different foods react to heat or cooling.
Early childhood language skills are also targeted in the kitchen as young cooks learn how to follow directions, read through recipes, and increase their vocabulary with each new culinary experience. And of course, a great deal of sensory learning takes place with any cooking project. By exploring various ingredients and textures, kids are able to activate different senses, including taste, touch, feel, and smell. And – if you’re cooking something on the stovetop, they may even be able to hear the sizzling, popping, or hissing.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking With Kids
As a parent or teacher, there are a few simple tips and tricks that can be implemented to make sure your time cooking with young children is both successful and enjoyable. So check out the list below and head into the kitchen – it’s time to get cooking!
- Start off simple – don’t try to tackle a five-course menu. Choose one item that your child(ren) can easily help prepare.
- Have all of the necessary ingredients out and/or prepped (i.e. dicing or chopping) ahead of time – remember, when cooking with young kids, they’ll immediately want to be involved so be ready when they are!
- Assign age appropriate tasks – stirring batter, rolling dough, using cookie cutters, or tearing lettuce for a salad, etc., are all good options. As young children’s fine motor skills improve and their confidence in the kitchen increases, you can move onto more difficult tasks such as measuring items or beating eggs.
- Be sure to remain in the kitchen with young children at all times. Spend time to teach them the importance of staying away from the stove when it’s on or touching things when you explain they’re hot or sharp – safety is always the most important thing to keep in mind.
- Praise little ones for their efforts and final product. For example, naming a dish after them (Polly’s Pancakes or Jake’s Jumping Jell-O) will help boost their confidence and keep them interested.