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Education in the Kitchen

Why You Should Start Cooking With Your Children Tonight!

Cooking is more than about eating. It's more than just satisfying a basic need. Cooking is the ultimate way to educate your child. Cooking crosses all developmental domains (cognitive, physical, mental, social and emotional), touches all major educational subject areas and you get to eat many of the teaching materials!

Educating through cooking is not only perfect for us homeschoolers; it's natural. We don't see lines or walls between education and life, so it's only natural to extend the learning to the kitchen.

My son is a hands-on learner and when we're cooking, I can let him do tasks and teach him in ways that fit his learning style. I'm constantly "weaving" education and learning into my son's day long after our lessons have ended; sometimes even before they begin.

Teaching Moments

Trips to the grocery store are perfect examples of how I've woven learning opportunities into cooking and food.

For example, I try not to go to the grocery store when I'm rushed and I try to teach my son one new thing each time we go. I use the self checkout so he can scan the food, bag it, put in the money and get the change (his favorite part). It only took a few seconds to teach him how to check the egg carton for cracked eggs and he knows that when I tell him to use paper bags, it's because paper will keep the cold food colder than plastic.

We eat a lot of guacamole in our house and I've taught him how to spot a ripe avocado. He's in charge of getting the limes, but he's self-taught on why you don't pick the fruit from the middle of the pile.

Kids respond to learning through cooking because they can take an active role in the process, and because it's a hands-on learning experience. When a child assists in preparing a dish, they will often become agreeable, inquisitive, and creative; taking ownership and pride in what they are making.

Even the pickiest eaters love to eat something and what child does not like to make a mess? We are all busy, but I encourage you to take at least one night a week and cook with your kids.

10 Great Educational Reasons to Cook with Your Kids!

  1. Educational areas such as, reading, fractions, counting, sorting, money, reading, vocabulary, shapes, colors, chemistry, science, nature, social studies, geography, art, history, health and nutrition are woven into cooking
  2. Sharing, working in a group and following directions are components of social development
  3. Menu planning involves problem solving and stimulates cognitive and mental development
  4. Preparing and consuming a finished product promotes the emotional areas of self-esteem, selfconfidence and competence
  5. Chopping, whisking, kneading, pouring and mixing with hands encompasses fine motor development, hand/eye coordination and sensory exploration
  6. Cooking teaches kids about kitchen safety
  7. Involving your children in meal preparation from planning to clean up teaches them responsibility
  8. Cooking sparks creativity and encourages imagination and exploration
  9. Cooking food from other countries, parts of the U.S. or time period is a way to teach children about other cultures, geography and history
  10. Cooking utilizes a combination of the 3 primary learning styles: hands on, visual and auditory

Have a Picky Eater?

Many parents are surprised to find out that their kids will try a food in my class that they thought they didn't like or have never eaten before. I tell kids that, "It takes 2 times for you to decide that you do not like something, and one of those times should be when you make it."

So if your child does not like your meatloaf, rather than be offended, ask them to help you come up with a different recipe or pick up a kids cookbook and try a new version together. Encourage your kids to do as much of the prep work as possible. Seeing the transformation of the food from its natural state to a finished product is a critical element in learning to appreciate food and cooking. So when a recipe calls for anything to be chopped, grated, shredded, etc. be sure to have them do it.

Tips for cooking with your kids:

  1. Never leave your kids alone in the kitchen while cooking. It only takes a moment for a dangerous situation to occur.
  2. Have them help with dinner at least once a week. Say, "it's time to make dinner" rather than "dinner is ready" Let them know early on that there is no "dinner fairy" or "lunch leprechaun" that "magically" whips up meals.
  3. Have them help or make the shopping list and take them with you to grocery shop.
  4. Buy food as whole as possible so they can do the prep work (it's cheaper too); like block cheese, whole veggies and fruits, herbs, etc.
  5. Buy them their own supplies and utensils such as a cutting board and a pair of cooking shears and/or pizza cutters, measuring cups and spoons that they can work with.
  6. Only have the kids help on nights/days you're not too stressed and can handle the mess — pick a night like Fridays to let them make pizza (much cheaper than delivery).
  7. Have fun in the kitchen with them! Put on some music, dance around or sing, tell jokes; as long as you're having fun.

Mystery Fruit & Veggie Game

This is a fun way teach your kids about fruits and veggies and introduce them to new foods. It is the most requested game in my cooking classes.

You will need: 10 fruits and veggies (some that your family will recognize and but most should be new ones), a paper bag and a blindfold.

How to play: Place all the mystery fruits and veggies in a paper bag. Decide who will go first, and then blindfold the player. Place a fruit or veggie in the player's hand. The can feel it, smell it and shake it to try and guess what it is.

They get 3 guesses. Each correct guess is worth 10 points. If the food is a specific color, the player can earn 5 bonus points by guessing the correct color, but they only get one guess. The person with the most points wins. At the end of the game try to use the foods in meals or cut them up and taste them.

Roll Up Your Sleeves and Have a Great time Learning and Bonding with Your Kids in the Kitchen!

Kids Cooking with Dori Young

Dori Young

About Author Dori Young

Dori Young, is dedicated to providing cooking education curriculum and programs designed to educate kids and families on how to plan and prepare healthful meals through the Jr. Cooking Club after-school and community programs.

The Jr. Cooking Club is a low-cost community cooking education club where groups of kids ages 3-17 come together to learn about food, health and nutrition, and make tasty morsels with friends while having lots of fun!

More Education in the Kitchen

Updated December 5, 2009