By Vanessa Rasmussen
Children of all ages and gender, benefit from spending time in the kitchen. Cooking teaches children the spirit of cooperation, a little bit of math, and a bit of chemistry. But best of all is that it teaches them to appreciate the effort and artistry that goes into the preparation of food. Besides, they’re far more likely to eat something if they’ve helped make it. Cooking also provides children with a sense of personal achievement by giving them a peek into the adult world they so often imitate in their play.
Children have a natural fascination with cooking and baking. It has to do with their general need to touch, explore and fiddle with whatever gadget is put in front of them. This is not a bad thing, and can be rather educational when adult supervision is present. With easy to understand recipes, kids are introduced to basic math skills, reading and comprehension. The ability to follow directions is one of the most important skills a child needs for a successful school experience.
Children can learn a lot from cooking. In fact, from an early age, they can see how separate ingredients are mixed together and then transformed into something else. For Kindergartners and First Graders, measuring solids and liquids turns into a teachable moment. They can also see how ingredients are divided into various parts. The idea of heat and degrees of hotness also invites interesting discussion. Older children can delve deeper into this concept.
Cooking with children can be great fun, but do keep in mind the following suggestions:
- Cooking activities require time and energy spent gathering materials and ingredients. No matter how much preplanning is done, adult facilitation is necessary.
- Keep an eye on your child when he/she is in the kitchen. Even though the child is not helping you in kitchen work and is just watching or playing with pots and pans, it is advisable that you supervise the child for any possible mishaps.
- Teach your children to wash hands before handling any food product or cooking.
- Do not hold the child while you are handling hot equipments.
Make sure that hot foods and liquids are kept away from kitchen countertops and table edges so that the child does not topple it over.
- Kids under 10 should not handle electronic gadgets, stoves, sharp kitchen appliances such as knives and scissors or hot dishes. Instead give them simpler tasks such as wiping the table or washing the vegetables.
- Tell children to wait until the dish is done to ensure that it is fully cooked before sampling it. This will help prevent illness.
- Don’t get flustered by the mess. Encourage the kids to help you clean up after the cooking sessions.
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby and emergency phone numbers posted in a conspicuous place so you can make calls quickly.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.