The kitchen is one of the best places for hands-on home learning. As a former home-economics teacher I love bringing my kids into the kitchen with me. Cooking is an essential life skill, but there is so much more to learn than just the skill of cooking. In the kitchen you can learn health and nutrition, science, math, safety, and sanitation, history & geography, even language arts! Start teaching you kids kitchen skills early by letting them help out in the kitchen while they are still young.
Children learn by using all of their senses and cooking definitely brings in all of the senses- touching, tasting, feeling, smelling, and listening. Children enjoy eating foods they help prepare. There are so many simple recipes that older kids can make on their own. Just make sure they wash their hands!
Here are some ways to let them be involved:
Kids can learn so much about health and nutrition by helping in the kitchen. You can teach them about eating a balanced meal. You can model good health and teach them by example. I created a whole kids nutrition unit a few months back. You can see it in this post.
Math is a huge part of cooking. You have to know a little about fractions to be able to read and carry out a recipe. I remember when I was teaching foods classes, the kids who did not have a firm grasp on fractions really struggled with recipe reading. I have started teaching my kids fractions at a young age so they can understand the concept. Also, be sure to teach them about measuring cups and spoons so they understand what they are.
More ideas for math in the kitchen:
There is so much science happening in the kitchen. You can really have fun with this!! Think of all of the reactions that happen while baking. We all know about baking soda and vinegar, but there is so much more. Why do we use eggs, oil, or baking soda in cookies, cakes, or muffins. What would happen if any of these things were left out? Try it out and see... Who knew there was so much chemistry involved in baking? I took a whole class on it in college- it is so fascinating!!!
Sanitation is not just about hand washing. Kids need to learn the importance of keeping their cooking space clean and sanitary. They also need to learn the basics of food handling. It is important to wash produce. Teach them about raw meats and the need to clean hands and the cooking area you work with while handling them. Keep raw meats away from fresh foods. Teach them the importance of refrigeration and the shelf-life of foods.
Safety issues can include handling knives (you can determine when you feel your kids are able to use knives safely), using the stove, microwave cooking (no metal in the microwave), keeping flammable items away from the stove, how to put out a grease fire (sprinkling baking soda on it)
Even language arts can be taught in the kitchen! Kids can practice their reading skills by learning to read a recipe. Get out a cookbook and let them read through it to find something that looks good to them, then let them help you make it. Let them help you figure out what ingredients you need and teach them where to find them in the kitchen.
Help your kids start their own recipe file box. They can copy their favorite recipes onto index cards and keep adding to them as the years go on. This is something valuable that they can take with them when they go to college or move away from home someday.
They can learn new vocabulary words in the kitchen. Teach them recipe terms. Make a food notebook of recipe terms. Many cookbooks have a glossary of cooking terms in the front or back to help you in reading a recipe.
Here are a few cooking terms to get you started:
boil dissolve dredge
sear cream glaze
dice garnish zest
sift knead grease
whip preheat scald
al dente broil rise
baste shred steep
roux blanch simmer
Above all, have fun in the kitchen with your kids. You are teaching them valuable skills that will last a lifetime. The foods you make and the time you spend doing it with them and for them will last with them forever. You are making memories!