Cooking is a great way to incorporate all areas of the curriculum in a motivating, practical activity or series of activities. Seriously though, with all the Zoom classrooms taking place in homes nowadays parents are carrying some of the extra weight of teaching their children. Learning should be fun so wouldn’t it be nice for kids of all ages to gain new knowledge without them even knowing that the kitchen is their classroom?
Learning through cooking and baking is not limited to using and applying basic math and reading. There’s much more involved than that. It’s in the kitchen, trying recipes from all over the world that a curiosity about other cultures, about geography and about where and how food is grown arises. Other people’s traditions come into the kitchen and your children’s world expands. Being part of the process of preparing food also enhances life skills like gaining more independence, improving social skills, communication and technology. Yes, it’s true we cook and bake to feed the family but there’s so much else going on during meal prep that we don’t even think about. Until we make a point of it.
You can harness all of this by inviting your kids into the kitchen to help out with all the math and reading, measuring and mixing. While in action, you and your children will be together to figure it all out:
And although you might not actively seek to refine your children’s fine motor skills, that’s what’s happening when they are chopping, kneading, whisking, pouring, cutting and rolling.
There is so much hands on learning that can happen when we’re in the kitchen with our kids. The learning opportunities are endless and the connections you build in your relationship; these are the bonus points. When they are involved with you in your kitchen duties, your little ones and even the older ones too, explore, evolve and gain new experience right before your very eyes. And at the end of a cooking session, you all have something delicious to share in eating together that your child proudly made.
For the youngest ones, they will learn about colours and shapes. You can start a conversation about the shapes of cookies and brownies, how to turn one shape into another, cutting an orange, rolling dough and cutting shapes, naming colours of the food you’re working with. They can handle certain tasks for you like gentle stirring or mashing potatoes, or tossing the cheese onto pizza.
Explain to them what needs to happen when doubling or halving recipes. Doubling fractions and reducing them to measurable ingredients. They’ll learn that double 2 TBSP is 4 and that 4 TBSP makes 1/4 cup. Or, that doubling fractions can be done by adding fractions or multiplying by 2, depending on what your child is learning in school. They’ll need to learn that when doubling recipes, the pan size will change too. Pan size is measured by volume, and different pan sizes have different volumes.
Cooking, baking, shopping for ingredients and reading recipes – all of these tasks involved in food prep have literacy all over it. Invite your kids along to help you figure out what is needed before even getting started and they will be honing their reading skills without even noticing. Your child can make the shopping list with you, you can read the recipe to your younger child or, have the older child read the recipe to him or her.
Invite your children to do blind taste testing and they’ll be searching for the words to describe texture, flavours, different kinds of foods and this provides an actual connection between words and senses. It will grow their vocabulary without actual learning, but by doing.
Cooking and baking in the kitchen with your kids is something completely different from any experience they’ll get in the classroom or the Zoom room. It’s a beautiful opportunity for tremendous growth. Just remember to factor patience and kindness into the ingredient list because these add the secret sauce of love and laughter and the warm embrace of human connection that will last long after the pizza and banana bread are gone.
For real though, when you let your kids get into the food preparation with you, they become immersed with you in your world. they learn how to move around a kitchen, where you keep everything that is needed to prepare food and they become comfortable in the kitchen not just at the table. How to hold a knife is something a child would do well to learn, or that washing hands before touching ingredients. Or that the oven needs to be preheated. That measuring spoons are real teaspoon measures. Not to panic if an ingredient is missing, there are substitutes. And that cleaning up when all is done, is part of the deal.
The emotional bond of sharing an experience together and the educational component of working with food makes everything taste better.
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