Cooking is one of the most educational activities you can do with children. It encompasses nearly all subject areas. They are exposed to fractions, measurement and counting. They will observe the chemical reaction of ingredients mixed together to form something new. They will learn new vocabulary. They will follow directions. They will learn a life skill. They will learn about health and nutrition. They may learn about their family’s culture or about a new culture depending on the type of food they are preparing. They will learn to work together to make something wonderful.
There a few things you can do to make cooking with children easier and to facilitate learning while you cook. Gather all necessary ingredients before calling the children to the table. Gather all measurement tools as well. Label ingredients that are not already labeled and label measurement tools. This is an opportunity for children to practice letter and word recognition and to become familiar with measurement tools and fractions. When I called my boys to the table, we looked at all the ingredients and talked about the measurements.
Having the recipe written simply is a great way to get them involved. My seven year old is just beginning to read. My four year old is not reading at all. They were both very interested in finding the ingredients on the table and matching the names on the containers to the list on the wall. My seven year old is just beginning to spell and was really interested in spelling out the ingredients. This turned out to be a great reading activity!
The math comes in when you begin adding ingredients. Talk about the size of the measuring cups and spoons and break ingredients down according to how many children you have. For example, if you need 1/2 cup flour and have two children, they can each put in 1/4 cup. Have them find the correct measuring cup and count the scoops going in.
Talk about the ingredients and how they change as they are mixed together. Describe ingredients as liquid, solid, sticky, powdery, etc. My four year old was very interested in how each ingredient tasted. I let him sample several and he discovered that brown sugar was awesome and flour was pretty nasty when consumed alone.
Talk about what you are making. It is a family tradition? Is it a new food you have never tried before? Is it something you tried while traveling? Talk about the cultural aspects of the food.
Discuss the ingredients and whether or not they are healthy. Is this a food you can eat all the time or a special treat to be enjoyed only occasionally?
The educational possibilities are endless when cooking with children. Make something delicious while teaching valuable skills!
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