Guest Post: Cooking with Kids

Today I have a guest post from special education expert Denise Keene who kindly offered to share some thoughts on cooking and learning with kids. You can get more education info on her site Masters In Special Education.

Cooking with the Kids

If you like to cook then you probably understand the many skills that go into making a tasty meal or treat. Cooking as a means of hands-on learning is used by some parents and even by some schools through “home economics” courses, so the value of this form of education is understood. If you are looking for a fun way to teach basic life skills to your kids, cooking may be the way to do it.

When I cook with my children, I allow them to take part in as much as they want to, even if it makes a mess. Allowing them to take part in the whole process gives them the opportunity to learn as much as possible. For example, when making a dish that requires measuring out a liquid, allow your child to pour it into the measuring cup. You may need to guide them by holding their hands while they pour; otherwise you could have a major mess on your hands. Measuring out flour and sugar for baking is also very fun for children and is a great way to teach the importance of measuring precision in baking.

When I am baking something in the oven, I allow my children to help me prepare the food but stress the importance that I put it in the oven. I have an oven that does not get hot on the outside, so I turn the oven light on and allow my kids to take peeks to see how the heat transforms the food. This teaches them the importance of safety around kitchen appliances.

A great way to teach your children about the effects of cold temperatures on food is to make homemade popsicles. Also, show them how putting liquid over high heat changes it to a gas. Chemistry in the kitchen!
Occasionally, I will cook different ethnic dishes to teach my children about other cultures, as well. For example, I made Cuban chicken and rice a few days ago and talked to my children about where Cuba was, what language was spoken there, etc.

There are some parents who are leery about allowing their children to use certain kitchen tools, especially knives. I will say that I haven’t allowed my children to use the larger knives. However, I will allow them to spread icing on a cupcake with a butter knife and use a julienne peeler. I have also held my children’s hands and guided them in slicing different foods with a paring knife. As with all other items in our home, I have been explicit with my children about safety in the kitchen. They know that they should never use a sharp knife or any other possibly dangerous tool without my supervision or guidance. When children understand the possible danger, they will follow your requests.

Cooking in the kitchen is such a great, proactive way to teach and learn real-life skills, including fine motor skills and multi-tasking. My children have also learned about fractions and ratios and how to tell time and the importance of timing through cooking. Not to mention, they now understand the work that goes into preparing a meal, and they are more willing to help clean up!

Denise Keene has been a Special Education teacher for 15 years and likes to write articles about various related topics. She also owns the site Masters In Special Education.