Keep Learning on the Boil in the Kitchen

Written by Norah

Early childhood educator and resource developer.

August 25, 2020

Home with the Kids by Norah Colvin

Your-kitchen-Michael Rosen

This quote is taken from Good Ideas How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher by Michael Rosen.

The thought of having to assist children’s learning at home can sometimes be overwhelming, but it needn’t be that way. Some of the best learning can take place in the kitchen without any extra equipment or expense. All you have to do is include them in preparing the day’s food. We all have to eat, don’t we?

When you involve children in meal preparation, including choosing the menu, purchasing the ingredients, preparing the food and cleaning up, they are not only learning valuable life skills, they are learning in almost every area of the curriculum.

Children love to cook, and by ‘cook’ I mean the preparation of food whether heat is involved or not. They enjoy sharing the food with their family and friends almost as much as eating it themselves.

Some of the curriculum areas in which you are helping children develop skills while preparing food include:

  • Reading — read and follow the recipes for ingredients and method, select the ingredients, read product labels
  • Vocabulary development — learn the language of food and cooking and the preciseness of vocabulary such as the difference between dice and chop, shred and slice, boil and steam, bake and roast; understand words such as mix, stir, sift, fold, blend, boil, bake, roast, fry …
  • Writing — write a shopping list, or list of ingredients to take from the pantry or refrigerator, write a menu or invitations to the family (how lovely to receive a special invitation slipped under the door), write a recount of an event
  • Maths — count e.g. the number of eggs and measure quantities with cups and spoons, count and sort utensils and dinner dishes and cutlery, read and measure times for cooking or preparation, share e.g. the number of cookies or how many slices, measure the size of cooking trays and tins
  • Science — observe changes that occur as you mix ingredients or when heat is added or removed, understand that some of the changes that occur are reversible e.g. water to ice and back again; but that some are irreversible e.g. cream to butter, but not back again.
  • HASS — learn about the recipes that have been handed down through your family and about recipes that have originated in other countries or traditions
  • Music — listen to music as you engage in food preparation, including music from the countries of food you are preparing
  • Art — decorate menus and special invitations, photograph dishes made and keep a record of them in a book alongside their recipes

Life skills they may be learning include, but are not limited to:

  • The ability to look after oneself.
  • Social skills such as cooperation, turn taking, sharing and patience (how long before they’ll be ready?), the etiquette of dining.
  • Safety – with knives, peelers, hot implements, and ingredients including hygienic food handling. While it is not suitable for children to use knives or handle hot utensils or heating appliances when young, and only under careful adult supervision when older, if children are included in kitchen tasks from a young age they understand the dangers and respond to them appropriately.
  • Understand that unless the steps of a recipe are followed in order the outcome may not be what was expected.
  • Organisation and preparation skills: making sure all ingredients and utensils are available and assembled.

One of the fantastic things about food preparation is the opportunity it provides for asking questions: it can be an ongoing edible science experiment, for example:

  • Why do the cakes rise?
  • What makes the water bubble?
  • Why is a cloud coming out of the jug?
  • Where does the water go when it boils?
  • Why isn’t the egg white white before it’s cooked?
  • What would happen if I didn’t put the egg in the cake mixture?
  • Why is some sugar brown?
  • What the difference between the different types of sugar, flour or milk?
  • What happens to cream when it is beaten?

As you have seen, with a little imagination and lots of discussion, any kitchen activity can stimulate a lot of learning.

In the cooking section on readilearn, a website of early childhood teaching resources, you will find the recipe for a crater of the moon cake and some suggestions for associated science learning. These are usually available for minimal cost but, if you are interested in these or any other of the cooking resources, please let me know in the comments and I’ll send you a complimentary copy.

Until next time, have fun learning in the kitchen.


Norah Colvin is a lifelong learner and passionate educator. She believes in the power of education to change lives and is committed to raising awareness of ways to support and enhance learning.

Norah has spent her life learning and thinking about how children learn and how best to support their learning. Her own observations as learner, parent and teacher have enhanced understandings developed in both formal and informal study situations.

She believes strongly in the need for learning to be self-initiated, directed and motivated, and the importance of timely and appropriate support for learners on their individual journeys.

While no longer working with children in a school setting, Norah continues to share her passion for education through writing.

Connect with Norah on her blogs and She can also be found (occasionally) on Facebook and Twitter.


You May Also Like…


  1. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord Blog Magazine and commented:
    A wonderful post by Norah Colvin who is a an educator who has dedicated her career to discovering how children learn and providing tutorials for others to enable them to teach more effectively. In this guest post on Charli Mills Carrot Ranch, Norah turns our kitchens into a classroom and shares all the elements that make time there, cooking and talking into a wonderful learning experience. A terrific post and with home schooling still in place for many children it is very helpful.. please head over to read..#recommended

  2. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

    Excellent post and one of the reasons that I am such a fan of domestic science for boys and girls in school, apart from the fact it gives them the life skill to cook healthy food for themselves.. thanks Norah and Charli.

    • Norah

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, and for sharing the post on your own wonderful Smorgasbord Blog Magazine, Sally. You share so much helpful information about healthy eating and nutritional advice, your blog is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to know more.

      • Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.

        Delighted to share Norah.. brilliant post which will be very helpful for everyone still home schooling.. and thank you for your lovely comment it means a great deal..hugsx

  3. beth

    i love cooking with kids, always have included it in my classroom and i encouraged parents to do so at home, especially during school at home. i think some of them who hadn’t done this before were pleasantly surprised by what a positive experience this was. as you said, so much to be learned from this

    • Norah

      Thanks so much, Beth. Kids love cooking, especially when they can get to eat the results. That can’t happen with every experiment, can it? I’d say that’s pretty much the same for big ‘kids’ and little kids, wouldn’t you? I’m so pleased that you suggested cooking to your parents and that they discovered what a great activity it is, in so many ways.

      • beth

        and, they will eat absolutely anything that they have had a hand in cooking – a bonus

      • Norah

        It is indeed!

  4. Daniel Kemp

    My granddaughter used to help me in the kitchen.

    • Norah

      What a wonderful experience for both of you, Daniel.

  5. Jules

    It is so very important to teach children how to use the kitchen and all thereof. Especially in more recent years when school curriculum has taken away many ‘extras’ such as what was called Home Economics in my day.

    Through involving my ‘Boys’ in the kitchen and also with them being in Scouts they have no problem ‘fending for themselves’. And we always teased they would make good life partners knowing how to do basic cooking.

    One of our ‘Boys’ now cooks regularly for his crew on his shifts at the firehouse. While we like to tease about early mishaps – best to laugh at those and not get angry… the kitchen becomes a friendly room instead of one to avoid. 😀

    The kitchen wasn’t my favorite room as my folks were semi-perfectionists.
    But I’m lucky that my own partner will pretty much eat whatever I cook – and I’ve grown to enjoy my time alone or with company in the Kitchen.
    Just the other day I made a new recipe (recipes are guidelines… though in baking you do have to be more careful) with a soup featuring eggplant, because I was able to get that veg at the farmer’s market. I even froze some for winter.

    Thanks Norah. A very enjoyable post. My DIL is the STEM teacher at her school and I’m sure she employs many of your wonderful suggestions.

    • Norah

      Thanks for sharing, Jules. My ‘boy’ is the chief cook at his house too and his children say he is the world’s best cook. They get a bit caught out though when they say it in front of me or say I am in front of him. I’m happy to concede on this one. I’m a pretty plain cook. I did do home economics (domestic science) in year eight but other than that didn’t do much cooking until I left home. Then I had to learn the hard way. My daughter is an excellent cook too. She puts a lot of time and effort into what she does. She’s a lot more patient with food than I am. When I want to eat, I want to eat now!
      I’m sure your DIL would be doing all of this and more.

  6. OIKOS™-Editorial

    I love this posting very much. Norah has so many fantastic advices, also enabling the very useful communication between family members During primary school times my place was in kitchen too. Less for helping, more for eating between the dishes. Lol But i had a place for asking all my questions.Michael

    • Norah

      I’m so pleassed you were able to ask and have your questions answered, Michael. Kitchens are great places to hang around for an odd titbit or two, aren’t they? When I was growing up, we kids used to fight over licking the beaters or scraping the bowl. Nowadays kids can’t do that if raw eggs were used. Such a fun activity lost, but I guess we’re safer this way.

      • OIKOS™-Editorial

        I am sure your advices are very helpful and appreciated too, Norah! The so called “convenience food” is a bad habit.Outsourcing the cooking is at least outsourcing the midst of a family. Lets hope one can save the tradition. Enjoy your day, Michael

      • Norah

        That’s true, Michael. There seems to be a lot that gets outsourced in these times. You have a wonderful day too.

  7. Jim Borden

    who would have known there is so much to learn from cooking? wonderful post…

    • Norah

      Thanks, Jim. That’s exactly what I mean. All that thinking and learning is going on and no one suspects. 🙂

      • Jim Borden

        you teachers are pretty sneaky… 🙂

      • Norah


  8. Ann Edall Robson

    Our children were in the kitchen from the very beginning, even before they could walk/talk. I would read the recipe books to them, tell them stories about the people who had passed the recipes to me, and explained why it was a finicky favorite made only on special occasions. They each had their own cookbooks, which are now in my library waiting to teach the next generation. They learned how to measure, read, and experience the consequences of not following directions.

    Norah, this is an excellent guideline. The encouragement to teach the simplest things to our children will become life long skills. I can’t think of a better place to start than in the kitchen.

    • Norah

      Ann, I love what you shared with your children. How wonderful to have some of those special recipes that are passed down through the generations. I have a collection of my mum’s recipes and a few recipes from aunts as well. It’s good to make those dishes for family occasions and let the stories flow.

  9. alexcraigie

    This is so true! My daughter has done exactly this sort of thing with her children. Her son (14) is a confident cook and uses a huge variety of fresh ingredients. We’re lucky to have all three children (plus grandchildren) live near to us and Fin can rustle up perfect poached eggs on toast for 15 without help or hassle. He also loves science. His mother encourages STEM subjects at home and school and there’s a real enthusiasm there that reaps dividends.
    Your guidance here is excellent and you make it sound fun and an exploration that adults and children can both enjoy and benefit from. Formal instruction is often forgotten but a relaxed hands-on approach leads to an understanding that fixes things in the mind.

    • Norah

      Thank you so much for your supportive comment, Alex, and for sharing what happens in your family. I loved hearing about Fin and his cooking exploits. Is he a professional chef or a scientist in the making? I guess time will tell.
      I reall appreciate your final comment that ‘a relaxed hands-on approach leads to an understanding that fixes things in the mind’. So true.

  10. dgkaye

    Norah, you make cooking and learning fun 🙂 x

    • Norah

      I think it always was fun, Debby. But thank you. ????????

      • dgkaye


  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Yes! It takes more time and patience, but soon enough you have independent and intrepid culinary artists, or at least young people who know how to feed themselves. Families that eat prepared microwave foods are robbing themselves and their children of much more than quality food; they’re missing out on all these skills and social/emotional benefits that you mention.

    • Norah

      That’s true too, D.
      It makes me wonder about the advancement sthat occurred with each generation and whether each may have felt the younger ones were missing out, e.g. not have to thresh and grind the wheat, gather the berries or hunt the game. 🙂

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Can I repeat my story of the teenager who claimed to be able to cook pizza? Asked how she did it she described taking it out of the packet and shoving it in the oven. Sadly that’s what many people old and young think cooking is. Not that I’m much of a cook – too late – but I’m glad I learnt how to.

      • Norah

        I know. Let’s hope we don’t experience the Day of the Triffids. Many of us (yes, I’m including me) wouldn’t survive.

  12. Jennie

    This is spot on, Norah! There is so much learning that happenes in the kitchen. From counting and measuring, to science, to using real tools, cooking is a marvelous teacher. Best of all, it pulls families together.

    • Norah

      Thank you, Jennie. Yes, it does all of those things and more. 🙂

      • Jennie

        It does indeed! You’re welcome, Norah.

      • Norah


  13. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Enjoyed your words probably more than enjoy cooking, Norah. Perhaps I need a child to help me!

    • Norah

      Maybe, Anne. It does make it more fun.

  14. H.R.R. Gorman

    If you still have cash, you can also teach about how money works. Like what is a quarter, a nickel, etc.

    • Norah

      That’s so true. Money is a great way to learn mathematics. 🙂

Discover more from Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading