As a young child, I remember sitting on the counter top watching my mother cook, begging her to help stir and, of course, lick the spoon! I didn’t realize until now how beautiful those memories were. Believe it or not, I was learning, too. Sharing the cooking experience with even the youngest child can have lasting positive impacts on their cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. What’s better than an experience that is both educational, child-friendly and tasty?
Just imagine a child getting a box of muffin mix out of the pantry. They immediately look at the pictures and read the ingredients needed. They are counting out the number of eggs and gathering measuring spoons by matching the label on the box to the 1 tsp label on the spoon. Learning to measure carefully and accurately (especially when doubling a recipe) is a skill that can only be taught through experience. Too much salt can be disastrous whereas too much sugar or cinnamon is usually never a bad thing. Cracking eggs without getting shell in the mix is a challenge that even adults struggle to master. Practicing cracking eggs into a separate bowl strengthens motor control, and let’s face it, we could all use a little practice! The ingredients have been added, now it’s time to stir! What a great feeling it is to watch a child’s facial expressions in wonder as they are seeing the eggs, flours and oil change right before their eyes. This is a great time to talk about the physical changes that each ingredient goes through in the baking process. Before, during and after baking, it’s fun to take out some crayons and draw pictures of the cooking process. It’s great cognitive practice to write or discuss what they are noticing and how they think the treat will taste. As you watch the timer count down…. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BEEP! Now it’s time for the most important part: Taste testing for quality assurance!
Cooking is a love that knows no age limit! You can give step by step picture recipes and access to a microwave to the youngest child, or have your teenager help with cooking the Thanksgiving meal for your family of 20! You can find easy to follow picture recipes at the following link: http://www.uni.edu/ceestem/recipes
Amp up the cooking experience by donating meals to your local nonprofit or giving to a family in need in your community. Sharing cultural recipes and cooking traditions is a gift that keeps on giving for generations to come. Tis’ the season, so get cooking!
Authored by Amber Denton, First Grade Teacher at Bang Elementary School and former Early Literacy Leadership Academy Resident Teacher