Kids in the Kitchen: Fun AND Learning
by Amy M. O’Quinn/Originally posted at the National Writing For Children website
Children learn by doing! This age-old maxim is certainly true, and the theory works in the kitchen as well as in the classroom. Almost all children, especially when they are young, enjoy helping their parents cook and dish up yummy culinary delights. Yes, it can be messy. Yes, you could probably do the job in a fraction of the time without little helpers underfoot. However, consider the rewards of letting your kids don an apron and wield a whisk:
First and foremost, children learn about teamwork and how to follow directions. And most importantly, you are not just creating meals together—you are creating memories!
Children learn about safety and cleanliness, but they also learn about good nutrition. With childhood obesity becoming an ever-growing epidemic, children need to be exposed to healthy foods and habits.
Surprisingly, many young adults do not know their way around a kitchen. Children who learn important culinary skills at a young age are already one-step ahead of the crowd. Cooking is a life skill that will pay off big dividends in the years to come. Learning how to be self-sufficient is also a big booster to self-confidence. Moreover, learning how to chop, stir, mix, roll, pour, and cut, etc. develops fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination.
The kitchen is a classroom!
Below is a list of just a few educational things children learn while cooking:
History: Many families heartily embrace their culture and heritage, and learning to cook ethnic foods that the family has enjoyed for generations is a way to connect the present with the past, while ensuring knowledge for the future. Children can also learn about the history and origin of various other foods as well. In essence, cooking is universal.
Science: Cooking is really a science in itself. Children will learn first-hand about chemical reactions, how temperature affects food and cookware, what ingredients will combine well and those that will not. They also learn about the different food groups and how to classify. In addition, the five senses will get a good workout as the children learn about eye-appealing colors and combinations, or tastes/smells such as sweet, salty, bitter, bland, sour, pungent, sharp, and textures such as smooth, rough, grainy, soft, etc.
Math: Many parents discover that cooking is a great way to teach fractions, measuring, weighing, ordinal numbers, counting, geometrical shapes, symmetry, etc.
Creativity/Art: When children are allowed to experiment and try new skills in the kitchen, they develop creativity. An appreciation for pleasing colors, composition, and presentation is also fostered. Who knows, you might just be training a future chef, baker, or food artist.
Reading/Literature: Studying a recipe definitely enhances reading skills and comprehension and emphasizes the importance of following directions. But there are also many ways to incorporate great literature while learning to cook. For example, after reading Homer Price, make doughnuts. How To Make An Apple Pie and See the World is a great lead-in for baking pies. The Duchess Bakes A Cake might inspire cake baking and learning about yeast. And the Little House on the Prairie books definitely inspire learning about good old-fashioned vittles and down-home cooking. It might also be fun to plan a ‘theme’ meal and use relevant recipes and cooking skills to prepare for a special memory-making occasion. The ideas are endless!
Here are a few more suggestions for books that lend themselves to cooking activities, but you can find a whole list of books that contain recipes at Cooking Up Reading:
-Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
-If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff
-If You Give a Moose A Muffin by Laura Numeroff
-Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
-Cook-a-Doodle-Doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
-Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
-Country Bear’s Good Neighbor by Larry Dane Brimner
Earth's Kids - Cooking For Kids
Modern Mom - Cooking Projects for Kids
Fork and Bottle - Books and Cookbooks for Kids
Family Fun - Cooking With Kids
Cooking With Kids Website
PBS - Parent Helpers
Nick Jr. - Recipes
Scholastic's List of Kid Cookbooks
Kid's Cooking Activities Website - List of Best Kid Cookbooks
Mollie Katzen - Kid's Page
Cooking With Children Can Be Easy (Kathy O'Reilly)
So now that you know that cooking with kids can be educational as well as fun, what are you waiting for? Grab your apron, preheat the oven, round up your kids. . . and start cooking!