5 Reasons Why Kids Should Be Cooking!

Move the classroom to the kitchen and watch your kids thrive.

May 23, 2020

With our kids studying at home, it is best for them to be actively learning in a stimulating, engaging and fun environment. But did you realize that the best classroom is at home? Your kitchen can be transformed into the ideal center for experiential learning. Take out the aprons and cookbooks and whet your children’s appetite for learning. Studies show that students retain up to 75 percent of the information learned with hands-on training. Compare this to 20 percent retained when they sit passively in a classroom.

Try to be patient and positive when offering kids’ cooking classes! Don’t fret and try not to talk down to your kids. Chances are there could be a big mess and you want to make this a positive experience for everyone. An added benefit of experiential learning in the kitchen is that you can enjoy eating the food you prepare together.

You may even discover that you have a mini chef in the making! Here are five ways your children’s minds will thrive in the kitchen.

1. Develop fine motor skills

Children as young as 18 months can help out in the kitchen, and with assistance and supervision, even toddlers can handle knives. Here are the many kitchen activities that will help fine-tune muscles in the fingers, thumb and hands: peeling potatoes, chopping, mashing, stirring, sprinkling, using a rolling pin, kneading dough, scooping avocado, zesting, squishing, spreading, hulling strawberries, podding broad beans, beating eggs, folding in egg whites, greasing a pan, whisking, opening cans and squeezing lemons.

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2. Improve math and problem-solving skills

When following a recipe, your kids will learn how to precisely measure ingredients and weigh them. Most recipes call for fractions and some will require converting imperial measurements to metric or Fahrenheit to Celsius. To make it more challenging, ask them to double or triple that chocolate chip cookie recipe or cut the recipe in half. When baking, ask your children to determine the ratio of flour to sugar. Make sure they do the math with pen and paper.

With younger children, you can create activities that involve sorting beans or pasta by shape and color, counting items and sequencing ingredients according to their use in the recipe. Toddlers can develop problem solving by fitting the correct lids on food storage containers.

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3. Advance reading and executive function

Have your children read a few recipes aloud from start to finish and explain any terms that are unfamiliar. Explain new vocabulary words and ask them to spell these out. Younger, new readers can alphabetize your spice jars. Using recipes also improves executive function as children must learn to problem solve, complete tasks in an orderly way and juggle several tasks at once.

As they go through cookbooks, they may even pick up some French and Italian cooking terms— a nice segue into the next advantage of using the kitchen as a classroom.

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4. Take a trip around the world

Cooking is an international adventure when you try out recipes from new cultures. Pick a country, then take out an atlas or globe and ask your children to locate it on the map. Learn about the language spoken there, the geography, the climate, the currency and the culture of this place.

Next, gather the ingredients and start cooking. While the food is in the oven or simmering on the stove, ask your children to draw the flag of the country. When you serve the meal, bring the flag to the table and review what your children learned. A cultural dinner enhances your children’s taste buds and opens their minds to new tastes and foreign cultures.

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5. Turn your kitchen into a science lab

When you take out ingredients, ask your children where the food comes from and what the originating plant or animal looks like. You can use this opportunity to teach your children about the nutritional benefits of the ingredients. Use kitchen scraps to start a windowsill garden by placing the tops of carrots, beets or a pineapple in water; your kids will be amazed to see them sprout leaves and will want to then plant them in a pot. How about growing an avocado from a pit or sprouting chickpeas or lentils?

Science enters into the kitchen when you make  homemade mayonnaise while explaining how oil and water react with each other.

How about doing a beautiful and delicious sugar crystal experiment? Or, amaze your kids with a salt shaker volcano. Children will have so much fun in your kitchen-lab, they may forget they are learning!

NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.