Beyond Cooking: 10 Experiences in the Kitchen for Children

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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About 52BrandNew

I am a single stay at home mom who is determined to live life to its fullest.
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18 Responses to Beyond Cooking: 10 Experiences in the Kitchen for Children

  1. I had never really thought about all the skills that you could work on in the kitchen.

  2. Keitha says:

    Great ideas. Thanks for sharing. We will have to try a manners meal out soon. My son is horrible about eating with his fingers.

  3. Great round up. I like the idea of having a fancy dinner to practice manners… that way I don’t have to always harp on the kids at every meal to have “perfect” manners but they are being exposed to how to behave when they are in those situations where they need to use their very best manners.

    • 52BrandNew says:

      Yes, I just want to have a peaceful dinner on most nights. I don’t want to nag while I am trying to enjoy our meal. The fancy dinner makes it so much more fun!

  4. Crystal says:

    This is a great post, and it’s nice to have reminders of things children can do as they learn. It ties in nicely with a project I have on the go as well!

  5. wilhcarm says:

    Nice round up of useful, practical, and educational ideas. I remember my chikdren doing some of those things like washing clean dishes, measuring but not for real meals, and playing grocery store. Carolyn

  6. I really like the taste testing idea. It would work really well for categories that kids aren’t super crazy about like lettuces, cheeses, or different types of bread. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Karyn says:

    Such a great post! I love involving my kids in the kitchen as well!

  8. LOVE IT! What a great post. I love all of the links and especially love that you allowed your son to explore cleaning dishes in such a fun and no pressure way. YEAH!

  9. I can’t wait until my two girls are old enough to help me in the kitchen. With my oldest at two years and the other at seven months, I find myself throwing together Mac and cheese or fish sticks most of the time. I would really love to get back into making my curry chickens or pot roasts, but time is never available. Thanks for these tips!

  10. My kids love being in the kitchen too. I really like your mindful manners meal. I haven’t really taught them too much about manners yet (they are 3 and 1) but I think my three year old is more than ready.

  11. 4l1c says:

    Love this post. Children love helping and we often don’t let them because of time contraints. And then we wonder when they are teenagers why they can’t do anything ! These are great ideas.

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