I don’t know about your family, but around here, we LOVE to cook and bake! Letting our kids be a part of the “food process” in our home has always been a priority from the time my oldest was very little. There were quite a few reasons we did this:
1. Research is very clear that if we help children be a part of the process of growing, cooking, and preparing their own healthy food choices, they’re more likely to make those healthy choices for the rest of their lives.
2. I wanted my children to be able to be as independent as possible in preparing healthy meals for themselves (especially since I have two sons). I’d seen first hand too many of my friends who went off to college and didn’t have the first clue of how to cook anything other than Top Ramen because their moms always cooked for them, not WITH them.
3. In my family, food is what brought us together. I grew up in a family of farmers and military servicemen – we were BUSY people. But we always gathered around the dinner table together and bonded at the end of the day. Continuing this tradition was important to me.
And last, but certainly not least, growing and preparing food provides SO many learning opportunities, especially for young children!
Every subject area that you can think of can be taught through food preparation! Let’s explore some of those possibilities:
– Math: This is a BIG one. So much math happens in the kitchen! Measuring, temperatures, fractions, counting…. your child can learn a lot of useful math skills in the kitchen!
– Reading: Of course there is reading the recipes, reading seed packets to determine how to grow vegetables in the best way, reading ingredients. But there is also the opportunity to incorporate literature into lots of the meals and foods that you prepare. This is something that I have incorporated in my curriculum, A Child’s World, as a part of every theme!
– Science: Another big one here! Obviously growing even a small garden provides plenty of opportunity for science exploration, but the kitchen is filled with science as well! Evaporation, baked goods rising, boiling, freezing, melting…. think of the possibilities for discussion and exploration!
– Social Studies/History/Geography: Now you wouldn’t think this right away, but one of the most important things about a culture is its food. If you take the time to do the research, you can learn so much about a different part of the world and the cultures there just from the food you eat!
Now what’s the key to all of this learning? DISCUSSION! You have to be willing to take the time to invite your child into the kitchen and talk with them as you are cooking. Sure, sometimes it makes a mess, and sometimes it takes a lot longer to prepare a meal… but the benefits to your child are SO worth the effort.
Want to see those benefits in action? Check this out…. This is my oldest son, Charlie, at 4.5 years old. He made this delicious meal of Mussels Marinara entirely by himself, including ordering the mussels from the fish market! All those years of letting him make messes in the kitchen and taking longer to prepare our meals in the evening because he was helping has certainly paid off!
Not sure where to begin with bringing your child into the kitchen? Try making a “Learning Smoothie.” Smoothies are a great healthy snack and are a SUPER easy way to invite your children into the kitchen!
Here’s a super simple recipe to get you started…
(Note: this is pulled from the Arctic Theme from my nature-inspired curriculum, A Child’s World, where you’ll find a fun themed recipe at the end of every theme, along with plenty of suggestions to bring these great learning experiences to your child!)
ARCTIC CHILLER MILKSHAKE
Pairs great with a reading of Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow by Marianne Berkes!
1 banana, previously chilled, chopped, and frozen
2 tsp local, raw honey
1 Tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
1/3 cup of milk of your choice
1. Before making the milkshake, you’ll need to peel and chop a banana into chunks, and freeze until solid.
2. Combine all ingredients in a blender and whip. Add more or less milk to change the consistency to your liking.
3. Serve and enjoy immediately!
Some possible discussion questions:
– Why did we freeze the banana first? Would the milkshake be different if we used a regular banana?
– What happens if we add a little more milk to the blender?
ENJOY your Learning Smoothie! I hope this sparks some great kitchen exploration with you and your child!
Want even more recipes just like this to inspire your child in the kitchen? Check out my ebook Preschoolers Cook for 30 more incredible, healthy, kid-friendly recipes and discussion topics to help you create a beautiful learning experience each and every time you cook together!