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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Benefits of Kids Cooking In the Kitchen

Kids learning their way around the kitchen is about more than getting them to help you peel potatoes or stir the cake batter, although it is nice when they can help you out. Kids cooking is also about more than trying to keep them busy so they're not whiney and bored, although it does make for a fun time. The other benefits I'm thinking of are what they learn in math, science, literature, and art when they cook. Ssshh... most kids don't even realize they're learning school stuff while they're having a good time in the kitchen.

Math and Cooking
Anyone who can cook can do math. So much of what you do in the kitchen involves doing math and that's why children can learn through following simple recipes.

Take, for example, the subject of adding fractions. When kids have to learn fractions by looking at a bunch of numbers on a page, it doesn't always make sense. However, if you decide you're going to make a double batch of chocolate chip cookies and all of those ingredients (most of which are written as fractions) need to be doubled, your son or daughter can find great motivation in learning how to add those fractions together. After all, they wouldn't want to come up short on the chocolate chips.

Science and Cooking
If you've watched many cooking programs, you may have already become familiar with the magic of science that's at work daily in your kitchen. Helping your children notice the science and giving them permission to experiment with it can be a great learning experience. It will also make for fun lessons they won't soon forget.

For example, you could teach the children about the three stages of matter: gas, solids, and liquids. You could boil water and watch it evaporate, you could freeze water to make it into a solid, and you could use water in its liquid form as part of cooking. If you have several kids, ask them to predict how long it will take for an ice cube to become water vapor on the stove top.

You can design experiments that show what happens to cookies if you leave out the baking soda or the flour. My daughter got firsthand experience with this very thing last weekend when we ran out of flour. She found that pancake mix is not a good substitute.

Literature and Cooking
Another fun way to use cooking in your lessons is by incorporating it into your studies of literature. For many years, schools across the country have been serving green eggs and ham to celebrate the Dr. Seuss classic. Your child could prepare the same thing with a little bit of food coloring.

When your kids are reading stories about children in different lands, find recipes for the foods that kids eat in those countries. You can create a whole meal around a foreign country; and cooking up the native food is an educational winner.

Another idea is to set aside a certain part of the day for literature discussion. Your kids can prepare a snack while discussing the book they are reading. It's a good way to get them used to discussing books.

Art and Cooking
One of the other nice things about the kitchen is that it's a great place for kids to show off their creativity. Children can use traditional food items, such as uncooked macaroni, to create artwork. They can also make pancakes to look like butterflies or mice. Ask your kids to create a sugar cookie then decorate it so that it serves as a model of a human cell.

With kids cooking in the kitchen, the time can be both educational and fun. Help them explore new worlds through their kitchen at home!
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