Guest blog: Learning cooking at childcare

From Mrs. Q: Over the past four months, my son has really gotten interested in preparing food with me in the kitchen. He’s so curious about what’s happening on the counter that we just leave a chair sitting in the kitchen so he can climb up and check things out. I think his new interest has to do with the fact that I am preparing so much food at home this summer AND that he is getting older and wants to help more than ever before. I’m really, really enjoying having him by my side. When I slice a veggie, his job is to grab them and throw them into a big bowl. He loves having a job.

I was contacting by Primose Schools about submitting a guest blog post and I was curious to learn more about their approach since my son attends a childcare center. I appreciate it when childcare centers and schools plan activities that are creative and promote useful skills. Enjoy!

A Recipe for Fun: Cooking with Children in the Kitchen

Modern day cooking can be fun, addictive and an easy way to teach meaningful lessons. At times the amount of time we spend in the kitchen as parents can take away from the time we spend with our children. This does not have to be the case. Instead, utilize the time you spend in the kitchen cooking or baking by engaging your child. This is not only a great way to spend quality time together, but you can also teach your child valuable skills and life long lessons while having a great time together.

As Vice President of Education at Primrose, Dr. Mary Zurn puts it, “The kitchen is often the most popular place in the house for families to gather. It’s a place for learning and sharing, where the family can enjoy quality time. Children can also develop a sense of responsibility by participating in daily tasks.” Primrose Schools provides a balanced learning curriculum, incorporating activities such as cooking, into the different ways of learning and educating.

By following these four simple guidelines, you and your youngster will have the recipe for a successful learning experience:

  1. 1) Build up skills step-by-step. Children can develop many essential skills in the kitchen, such as following recipes or counting eggs. For more advanced skills however, start slowly and have your child master easy tasks before attempting harder ones.  Older children can gradually be taught to use a knife. Start them off with a dull knife, cutting softer items first such as cheese or fruit. As your child’s coordination develops, they can move on to slicing or sawing vegetables and dough with a plastic knife.
  2. 2)Engage your child meaningfully. There are many tasks children can do independently. Simple jobs like mixing batter, rolling dough and measuring water can boost a child’s confidence and give them a sense of accomplishment. Tearing lettuce, adding sprinkles to sweets and sprinkling cheese onto pasta are also safe, satisfying tasks children can easily accomplish. Even very young children can get involved – give them some pots, pans and wooden spoons so they can pretend to cook with you or use them for music-making. Your child may not be a future recording artist, but at least you know your child is close by and banging away happily.
  3. 3)Set some ground rules. Establish a list of safety rules with your children before you begin cooking. Little things like, making sure the handles of pots and pans are turned inward on the stovetop so you and older children don’t accidentally bump them and spill hot liquids or food are just as important as teaching children to wash their hands before and after handling food to avoid spreading germs. Children need supervision when they’re in the kitchen, so always keep them within sight.
  4. 4) Keep it fun.  Most importantly, make sure you have fun with your child. Even if everything else goes wrong, at least you will have had fun doing it, together!

We all know cooking can be messy, even when the children aren’t around! Instead of stressing over the “oops” moments offer guidance and let your child try again. This is a better way for them to learn hands on.  Your child will not only feel a sense of pride, but will also be happy to have your approval.

Now that your masterpiece is complete, sit down and offer you little sous chef the first bite of whatever you made. While enjoying your meal Discuss what it is you might like to make
next! Bon appétit!

Submitted by Emily Patterson on behalf of Primrose Schools. For over 25 years, they have helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early child care services and education.  Through an accelerated Balanced Learning® curriculum, Primrose Schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially. Emily has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering.

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8 thoughts on “Guest blog: Learning cooking at childcare

  1. Anyone have great online resources, like kid-friendly recipes, they can share?  We subscribe to Chop Chop and love it, but it only comes out quarterly and we’re itching for more.  Yes, I know many recipes can be kid-friendly, but pics of kids actually making and eating the food helps me “sell” it to my son.  Thanks!

    1. Bettina at The Lunch Tray reviewed a kids’ cook book recently.  You might be able to find it at your public library:

  2. This is a great idea.  I teach children with special needs, and I love cooking with them.  Last year, I was in a wing at an off-site location, and we had a full kitchen ADL room.  My kids, ages 5-7 with mental retardation, and I made cookies, pudding, pancakes, and most memorably, pizza dough and pizza “bowls” (I told them that yeast was really alive and they named the little pieces!).  This year I don’t have access to a kitchen, but I still cook with my autistic 11-13-year-olds.  We’ve made S’mores, grilled cheese using a sandwich maker, and pudding, and I’ve also made them cut up chicken nuggets with a fork and knife.  Because these are older boys with vocational school looming, I’ve extended it into daily living skills–my boys set the table, clear the table, and wash the dishes (with supervision).  I love it, the boys love it, and my paras even love it–it’s a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and turn “snack time” into life skills.

    1. I love that! I think all students would benefit from this kind of instruction. Life skills are good for everyone — we all need to grow up and live independently. Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. I worked at Primrose with 16, four year olds and we did have cooking lessons….HOWEVER, it all came down to the teachers. If the teachers wanted to do these lessons then they would, however if they didn’t want to put the time, energy, and preparation into the lesson then it didn’t happen. I loved cooking with 4 year olds because it was always something that they loved. I wished I had time to cook with my 4th graders now because I think that there could be some powerful measurement lessons involved.

    1. Totally agree. It all comes down to teachers. Good teachers are so key. Thanks for commenting!

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