Cooking is a fun and practical learning activity for children. Cooking incorporates math (counting, fractions, measuring), language (naming and comparing) and science (melting, evaporation, dissolving). Children can practice motor skills and enjoy the satisfaction of sharing what they have made with others. Cooking with your child can be a special time to talk about family traditions. It is also an opportunity to expose your child to foods he has never tried, or wanted to try, before.
Plan Ahead for Success
Planning ahead ensures a positive experience for both you and your child:
- Select a recipe or task appropriate to your child's level of development. Two-year-olds can usually stir and tear. Five-year-olds can measure and cut soft foods with sturdy plastic dinner knives.
- Pick a simple recipe to start. A young child may lose interest if there are too many steps or it takes too long.
- All children love to make cookies. Try branching out with salads, soups or entrees. Use these recipes to expand your child’s food preferences.
- Be sure to allow more time to complete the recipe than it would take for you to make it yourself.
- Have all of the ingredients and equipment ready before you start.
- Before you begin, make sure your child washes his hands. If necessary, have him wash his hands again during the cooking process.
- Set up a work area for your child at a table appropriate for his height. A stool at the kitchen counter isn't safe.
- Explain to your child in very specific terms what each of you will do.
- Supervise your child at all times, but allow him to complete as many of the tasks on his own as possible.
- Encourage your child to taste the foods as he goes along.
- Expect your child to help clean up, too.
Enjoy eating the finished product together!
By Christine Berman, M.P.H., R.D. Berman is a registered dietician and co-author of Meals Without Squeals: Child Care Feeding Guide and Cookbook and Teaching Children About Food.
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