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Skills Children Learn from Cooking

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Often people are stressed and hurried during the holiday season. With all of the to-do lists, wrapping presents, sending cards, making treats and preparing meals, it can feel like you have less time with your children. However, you can include your children in accomplishing your tasks. You can spend quality time with your kids or grandkids and get things done. It may take a little longer, but remember the process is just as important as the product, and you will be creating life long memories. Not only will your kids remember the quality time you spent with them, but cooking will teach kids important skills. There are three skills in particular that can be learned from cooking together.

1) Math
For many kids math is a dreaded subject, but masked by cooking, kids will have fun learning. Quantity, fractions and conversions are all important parts of cooking. The measuring cup is an excellent example of how fractions work. Kids will need your guidance as you work through the recipe. Ask questions and be intentional as you cook together. For example, ask how many quarter cups it would take to make a cup, or help your child decide which is the appropriate measuring tool, use teaspoons to demonstrate how two ½ teaspoons is the same thing as 1 tablespoon. Ask questions such as why quantity is important and what will happen if you use the wrong amount. For kids that are too young for fractions, work on counting. Preschoolers will love counting how many cups go into a recipe. Children will enjoy being challenged as you work together.


2) Following Directions
Baking demonstrates what happens when you don’t follow directions. Let kids read the directions and then ask them what comes first, what comes next and what you must do last. This will not only help kids learn the significance of following directions, but will help with reading comprehension and sequencing. If your child is too young to read, read them the instructions and help them follow them step-by-step. Asking them to repeat the steps will help them with cognitive memory skills as well.

3) Making Healthy Choices
Cooking will help kids understand portion size and what ingredients go into various treats or meals. Cooking will give you the opportunity to discuss with your kids what foods are good to eat all the time, such as fruits and vegetables and what foods are good to eat sometimes, such as cookies and chips. Learning how to cook will give children the skills they need to purchase food and prepare it, instead of buying processed foods. Kids may also find new ways to enjoy foods that they have not liked or tried in the past. Often when kids do the cooking, they are willing to try something new. Shopping with kids for a specific recipe, especially at a farmer’s market,  teaches them a little of where their food comes from and also teaches them the value of that food. 

Things to Remember as You Cook
When you cook with your child it is important to create healthy and safe habits. Wash everybody’s hands before you start. Only let adults handle the hot things and the sharp things. Demonstrate how to use potholders and how to safely cut with knives. If kids watch you use utensils responsibly, they will know good habits when they are old enough to handle them. If you are cooking with toddlers or preschoolers make sure anything hot is out of arms reach and explain to them what is hot and should not be touched. When you are through cooking include the kids in the clean up process. Have them help wash dishes, sweep, and put ingredients away. Make it fun, so that clean up is as enjoyable as cooking and becomes a habit. Lastly, leave a lot of room for error. Remember not everything may turn out like the magazine pictures, but everyone learned in the process. This PDF from PennState has great suggestions for age specific cooking activities.

What are some baking or cooking traditions you have with your family? Do you have any favorite dishes you cook with your kids? Read the original article on The Organic Blonde. 

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