My kids love to cook and bake with me, but there is so much more to teach kids in the kitchen. So many new experiences can be done in the kitchen!
1. Mindful Manners Meal: Sometimes we practice manners by having a special meal where we especially focus on putting our napkin in our lap, waiting until everyone is seated before we eat, and chewing with our mouths closed. I take out a tablecloth and candles to set the mood. Since my daughter loves Fancy Nancy, we try to put a very fancy spin on our meal by dressing up, wearing lots of accessories, and remembering to keep our pinkies up when drinking our tea!
2. Taste Tests: We recently had a fabulous time with friends when we did an Ice Cream Taste Test. I took our taste test outside, but you could follow Teach Mama’s advice and try an apple taste test in the kitchen. Choose a favorite food to critique, and have fun!
3. Science Experiments: There are countless science experiments that can be done with everyday cooking ingredients. Mixing baking soda and vinegar is a classic that never disappoints young children! Here’s a comprehensive list of 100 experiments that is sure to please—and teach!
4. Food as Art: You could do simple macaroni necklaces or potato prints or you can get really creative and turn your meal into art like Tiffany does at Cute Food for Kids. I prefer process to product, so we stick to the macaroni necklaces in our household!
5. Use Food to Learn Geography: One family created The International Dinner Project, in which their children choose one country a week and eat a three course meal from that country. They are eating their way around the world without even leaving their kitchen!
6. Extend a Book: When food is featured in a book, why not try it at home? Extending a book using food will surely help your child remember the book better! After we read The Little Red Hen, we baked bread at home, something we don’t usually do. The Educators’ Spin On It has a wonderful series called Little Hands That Cook With Books. They choose a topic, like blueberries and give lots of ideas for books and recipes that go together.
7. Teach Your Child to Clean: When my son was 2, he loved to wash the dishes. I would give him a bunch of plastic containers and let him wash and dry them all by himself. He would stand by the sink for at least 20 minutes. It might not have been the best use of water, but I was able to nurse his sister or cook dinner while he played. Allow your child to use the broom or the dust buster. Glittering Muffins agrees and includes their little one in lots of cleaning activities. Play is the best teacher of all!
8. Learn a Technique: When I am cooking with my children, I don’t often have the time to teach them proper cooking techniques. That is why it is sometimes better to teach a technique when you are not actually cooking. Creative Family Fun has a great post about teaching knife skills to children and Nurture Store has one about teaching children to crack eggs.
9. Measuring: Give your children a couple of measuring cups and uncooked rice. Let them explore and discover the difference in a 1/2 cup and a 1/4 cup. Have them fill cups of varying sizes with rice. Does the rice go all the way to the top or just halfway? Can a short wide glass hold as much rice as a tall skinny one? These investigations teach a child about fractions and volume. You can do more formal instruction with older children, but simply playing with the measuring cups will suffice for younger ones.
10. Pretend Play: Allow your children to play with real kitchen items. Could they turn your kitchen into a diner by making a menu and becoming a short order cook? Maybe they would prefer to line up canned food and play grocery store. Rainy Day Mum had her son create a pretend recipe with real ingredients. Imaginative play promotes language development and social skills. Most of all, it is fun!
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