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.