As a little girl, some of my fondest memories are of times spent in the kitchen helping my mom bake cookies. We would pull a chair over to the counter and I would scramble up to start the adventure. Measuring, dumping ingredients and trying to wield the mixer so the ingredients didn’t splatter all over the window; these were tasks that I performed with pride. The reward of a tall glass of cold milk and a plate of warm cookies were well worth the agonizing minutes that I spent asking, “Is it time?”
Cooking in the home – or the classroom! – offers children of all ages chances to grow in so many ways! Here are just a few:
- Children experience math concepts when cooking through measurement, counting, sorting and sequencing of steps. They also experience quantity concepts such as full and empty, many and few.
- Science skills are fostered by utilizing their senses, discussions of food groups, observation and prediction, chemical change and comparison skills such as wet vs. dry.
- Motor skills are strengthened through kneading, pouring, rolling and stirring. Fine motor skills are enhanced by using plastic knives to cut and grip utensils.
- Literacy is expanded through an increased exposure to new vocabulary. Children also love to write their own recipes! For younger children, teachers can write while the child dictates their steps.
- Culinary experiences offer children the opportunity to explore traditions and cultures of their own family as well as those of their classmates. For many families cooking and family meals are steeped in traditional meals and treats made and passed down through generations. These traditions become a child’s history and memories, and provides a terrific opportunity to involve parents in the classroom.
By watching adults model the skills needed to create various foods, children are gaining the knowledge needed to make healthy food choices and the opportunity to practice, in a hands on way, many of the above concepts. Some teachers may shy away from cooking with children because of the mess. But messes are just another part of the cooking process that children can help with! In my preschool classroom, the small broom and dustpan were a favorite among students.
I encourage you to pull out the pots and pans, rolling pins and mixers. Why not try out a new recipe, like this one from Cook and Learn: Pictorial Single Portion Recipes? It is a great example of a recipe that allows children to break the tasks involved into simple, sequenced steps. Cooking with children is rich in rewards for everyone involved, not to mention you get to share a tasty treat when you’re finished!