Cooking with your child can be a special parent-child time, messy perhaps, but fun.
What parents may not realize is how packed with learning this precious time can be.
Cooking expands your child’s development in math, literacy, language acquisition, fine motor, physical, cognitive reasoning and more. Plus, children who participate in food preparation are often more likely to try new and different foods, as they begin learning a life-long skill.
Just getting your preschooler started in the kitchen? Follow this simple “recipe” for Friendship Fruit Salad, incorporating many objectives for learning and development.
First, introduce the idea by asking your child what fruits they want to use as they shop with you in the store.
Next, create index cards with pictures and the name of the fruit written on the card. (literacy skills)
You can download pictures from the internet, or use your phone to take pictures of your child holding the fruits at the store or home. (technology)
Let your child help to cut the fruit, using a child-friendly table or butter knife (physical, fine motor development). Allow them to use a serving spoon to dish the fruit salad into bowls then enjoy using forks. (social-emotional / fine motor).
As you cut and later eat, help your child develop descriptive language. Talk about how the fruits looked in the store, what were next to, how they smell, feel and taste. Interject descriptive language, replacing “it’s good” with words like sweet, sticky, have seeds, bumpy, cold. (language acquisition)
After your treat, make a graph (mathematics). Each family member can put an “X” under each of the fruits they liked. Have your child count the totals and write the number under each column, if they can. Alternatively write the number for them and ask your child to trace the number. While discussing the graph, interject concepts such as more and less, longer and shorter, and addition concepts. Make sure that you express your ideas too so that a child feels engaged, not quizzed.
The next day, or on the next trip to the store, review the different ingredients that were put into the fruit salad. (cognitive development)
As you progress to other recipes begin teaching fractions by cutting, or using measuring cups and spoons. Ask, “Would you like to cut your sandwich in half or quarters?” Once cut, count the pieces then push it back together to show how the four pieces still equal the one sandwich. (math)
Ask your child for their ideas and choices when possible, helping them understand that their ideas have value. (social / emotional confidence)
Incorporate great literature into cooking projects.
Read the story “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” by Laura Numeroff and then make muffins together. Read “Curious George Makes Pancakes” by Margaret and H. A. Rey's and make pancakes for breakfast. “The Doorbell Rang” by Pat Hutchins involves making cookies and division concepts.
Most important to this or any recipe is to keep it fun. See your child losing interest? Stop and try again later, perhaps when you enjoy the leftovers.
Childhood time is fleeting, but simple cooking activities can create wonderful memories, and help develop your child’s emotional and cognitive growth, and confidence in their abilities.
Regina Abraham has more than 20 years experience teaching in early childhood classrooms, including her current role as a preschool teacher at Summit School of Ahwatukee. She was a presenter at the NAEYC national conference on the educational benefits of cooking in an early childhood classroom, and cooks weekly with her students.