Cooking is a fun-filled and fabulous way for kids to learn new things and develop new skills. Cooking keeps little minds stimulated, develops self-esteem and lays the foundation for healthy eating habits. Preparation is certainly required for this activity though, as little hands and young minds can only do so much. But given the right tasks, children can reap huge rewards from their exciting new culinary adventures.
HOW COOKING HELPS PRESCHOOLERS LEARN
Developing basic skills
Children can learn basic mathematical skills by participating in simple tasks such as counting eggs or pouring liquids to measure in a measuring cup. You can challenge a child’s mind with questions such as how much of an ingredient there would be if you doubled or halved the amount, or what ingredients come first, second and third in the recipe. Activity challenges are good too, consider getting the children to do the dozen spoonsful of cookie dough on the baking tray or rolling out the pizza dough into a circle.
Children’s recipe books have larger fonts and easy words, inviting the child to practice reading. On the other hand, reading instructions to a preschooler will help them to develop their listening and comprehension skills.
Encouraging an adventurous palate
By including a young child in the preparation of a meal, they will be far more inclined to try new foods. Familiarity is your friend when it comes to young children and food! You can stimulate the new food adventure by encouraging children to sample the food that they are making and telling them how it grows, how it is made and how nutritious it is for them.
Helping children explore with their senses
A lot of learning takes place through a child exploring with his or her senses. The kitchen is a perfect environment for sensory activity. For example, invite a child to knead dough, feeling the texture in his or her hands; watch the dough rise; smell the bread in the oven, and finally taste the bread once it’s made.
Kids love to know that they can “do” things and delight in a sense of accomplishment. Inviting children to help you cook or prepare certain foods makes them feel capable and competent. Make sure you acknowledge their accomplishments in the kitchen. You can praise their work or try naming a dish after the child, such as “Rachel’s cookies” or “Harry’s Bolognese”.
FUN TASKS IN THE KITCHEN FOR PRESCHOOLERS
Choose simple, relatively quick tasks so that the child doesn’t get overwhelmed, bored or tired. Think of the tasks as “jobs”. Make sure each task matches their capabilities and is enjoyable. Here are a few good examples:
- stirring batter
- sifting flour
- pouring water from a plastic jug into a bowl
- helping with adding ingredients
- sprinkling cheese on a pizza
- using cookie cutters
Although cooking can be a highly rewarding activity for preschoolers, kitchens can be dangerous places. Make sure you supervise the child at all times and keep dangerous items out of harm’s way. In particular, be careful of hot stoves, boiling water, oil spitting from a pan and any electrical appliances such as toasters, stick mixers and blenders.
Sharing fun learning times in the kitchen together can be a highly enjoyable activity that may cultivate an interest in food and the art of cooking for years to come – or even a lifetime!
Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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