People often say that the kitchen is the center of the home, and obviously lots of good things happen there. You may not think of it as a place where your kids can learn, but you’d be wrong. Teaching your kids the skill of cooking itself is, of course, worth the time it takes. But it’s more than just an important survival skill—it’s a way to learn about a whole variety of things.
Cooking is science
This might be the most obvious one. Everything that happens when you cook involves science, from toasting a piece of bread to boiling an egg. Choose simple recipes with a smaller number of steps, so you can really focus on one science lesson at a time. Here are a few that demonstrate basic science lessons (and that they won’t mind eating after you’re done):
- Pancakes: When the baking soda in pancakes is mixed with the milk, tiny carbon dioxide bubbles are released—it’s one of the reasons cakes (good ones, anyway) are fluffy. Want to show your kids how important it is? Make two batches of pancakes—one with baking soda and one without.
- Meringues: As long as we’re talking about making things fluffy, meringue cookies are easy to make, delicious, and show another kind of leavening—the kind where you physically force air bubbles into a liquid. Kids will love using the hand mixer to make the egg whites foamy, and the finished product is a crunchy, delicate treat.
- Hard-boiled Eggs: Eggs whites are full of curled-up proteins, and when you heat them, the proteins come uncurled and bond with each other. That’s how a runny egg white changes into a firm one. Try taking the boiling eggs out of the water at different times, so you can show how a yolk goes from runny, to a little firm, to just right—and even way too firm and rubbery.
How to involve the Littles: Let them take a turn stirring, or give them their own pancakes and eggs to pretend play along!
Cooking is math
No matter what you make with your child, make sure you do the calculations with them. Whether it’s the fractions of measuring spoons and cups, or simply counting out the right number of eggs, putting a recipe together is a great exercise of basic math skills.
How to involve the Littles: Let them count along, or give let them their very own cooking and measuring set!
Cooking is nutrition
It can be hard for kids to understand why they can’t, for example, just eat cookies at every meal. But cooking is a chance to show them exactly what goes into the food they eat—and just as importantly, what doesn’t. As you’re cooking, try explaining what each ingredient brings to the overall finished product, and what each one does for the human body.
How to involve the Littles: Let them identify the healthy foods in this adorable play food set!
Cooking is culture
The best way to experience the culture of another part of the world is to go there—but cooking something from that area is the next best thing. Choose a dish from China or Brazil, or anywhere else that interests you, and make cooking it an adventure. Go to the store together if you need any exotic ingredients, read about the history of the place the recipe comes from, and last of all, eat the delicious food.
How to involve the Littles: Have them experience the world of food while they are pretend playing with this multicultural food set!
Cooking is patience
It’s no secret that kids sometimes have trouble waiting for things. But cooking simply won’t be rushed. Whatever recipe you choose, it will take as long as it takes. Making a recipe together is great opportunity to teach your kids that waiting is just part of life—and that there’s often a reward at the end.
Cooking is confidence
Of all the things your child can learn from cooking, maybe the most important is confidence. If you offer guidance more than instructions, you might find that feeling a sense of ownership of the process helps your child’s self-esteem and determination. after all, encouraging that is the name of the parenting game.
Send us some pics of you and your child(ren) cooking in the kitchen at firstname.lastname@example.org.