If you’re like me, food is your friend. It’s important to have a good relationship with food, so exposing children to a wide variety of foods is a great way to set that standard. Sure, they may still prefer Mac and Cheese out of the box or frozen chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs. However, continuous exposure to lots of different foods will offer the opportunity for them to get more adventurous with their meals! The key to getting kids on board with new foods is cooking with children!
Getting Children Involved
Mixing, slicing, and preparing meals or snacks can help children to get a hands on approach to exploring food. Different foods have different textures, smells, tastes and colors. So, by giving children the opportunity to participate in the preparation process they are learning to love and appreciate the food. Everything tastes better when you have put in the hard work to make it yourself! This applies to children too. Children are so much more likely to be willing to try something new if they had a hand in creating it.
Educational Benefits To Cooking With Children
Aside from reaping the benefits of a more diverse diet, cooking with children can open all kinds of educational doors. Cutting up foods (safely and with proper supervision) is a great way to strengthen hand muscles and work on fine motor skills.
You can also see the very basic and early stages of division when slicing up food. Let’s say you are cutting up a stick of butter into four pieces. You can take this opportunity to show your child that four equal sized pieces of butter equal one whole stick. And just like that, we have fractions!
Adding ingredients can be a math experience as well when cooking with children. Measuring uses math to determine how much of each item needs to be added.
When we cook, we often follow a set of specific instructions (also known as a recipe!). Reading the steps and following along helps children to see that language and literacy play a big part in all aspects of life. They are also learning that following specific directions can lead to the outcome you are looking for!
When making something like a cake, typically dry ingredients are mixed together prior to adding wet ingredients such as water, oil and eggs. Children can watch as the mixture changes from soft, dry and powdery to a wet, sticky and thick batter. Changes in texture and consistency is actually early chemistry.
Once food is placed into the oven or onto a stovetop, we can begin to discuss changes in temperature. For example, heat can change powdered jello pudding (and its mixture of ingredients) into a smooth, hot, and water consistency. Placing it into the refrigerator to cool after will then cause it to solidify into a smooth, creamy, and cold pudding!
Of course, while cooking with children these lessons may not be outwardly discussed each time. Just giving children the opportunity to be part of the cooking process is beneficial. Food is a social event and when you share in at the process of cooking, it can provide memories that your child will cherish for years to come. With Thanksgiving right around the corner now is your time to get your children involved in the kitchen. Start by having them help with a meal once a week. Be sure to make it fun and not a chore.
About The Author
Sarah Proctor has worked with young children for over 25 years as a teacher, childcare director, nanny, and mom of two girls. She has her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration from UMass Amherst. In addition, Sarah has her Director 2 certification from the Department of Early Education and Care.