Planning the Cooking Experience
1.) At first, cooking projects should have few steps such as taking peas out of a pod (children ages 3 – 5), making a gelled pudding, popping corn or making cranberry sauce. This gives the children the experience of working with food. The careful washing and preparing of vegetables and fruits is another single activity.
2.) Gradually, the experience could become more complex by incorporating more steps.
3.) Always be receptive to the children’s suggestions if they are within reason as to what they would like to make.
4.) Be alert to the many ideas for food preparation which arise spontaneously out of other activities and experiences.
Planning the Cooking Experience
Safety is very important when children are using real kitchen equipment. Impress upon them that safety comes first and teach them how to use kitchen gadgets properly. Make adjustments when needed, substituting safer options for dangerous tools. Here are some tips that can help your child’s kitchen experiences to be safe and educational:
1.) Help children become aware of sharp knives, grater, parers. Solid plastic knives (from picnic sets) have a good cutting edge and can be used by very young children.
2.) Keep all potentially dangerous utensils away from young children. Under very careful supervision, they might be able to use a grater or plastic knife.
3.) As the opportunity arises during cooking, point out the dangers of very hot water, the danger of burnable objects too near the stove (hotplate), the importance of turning off appliances after using them.
4.) Make sure all pot handles are turned toward the back of the stove and tell the children why; make sure handles are turned away from the edge of the table.
5.) Show the children how pot holders are used to avoid burns. Remind them that a wet potholder does not protect from heat.
Suggestions for creating a positive cooking experience for young children (ages 3 – 7 and beyond). Set up a cooking area in a corner of the family kitchen which is scaled to a child’s size. A low table or counter top that can be established as the child’s own work space for cooking is helpful. Miniature kitchen tools that are real makes learning fun!
1. one small refrigerator with freezer OR a specific portion of the refrigerator and freezer in the kitchen. This could be a low drawer or shelf.
2. one toaster oven for baking (it is safer for beginners and scaled to a child’s size).
3. one hot plate (same as above, although a stove can be used safely with supervision).
4. a low counter/work deck and cupboards to store utensils scaled to a child’s size (for example: apple boxes make nice cupboards; set a wooden top over several apple boxes and cover with contact paper).
5. a low counter top to place wash basin for washing dishes; place near a sink so water is available.
6. kitchen utensils scaled to a child’s size: knives, scrapers, eggbeater, wire whisk, spoons, mixing bowls, spatula, pancake turner, cake pans, cookie sheets, baking brush, measuring spoons, measuring cups, grater, muffin tins, etc. (keep alert for small items that work well for children; Corning stores have mini rolling pins, graters that are used for garlic and lemon zest and works well for kids tograte carrots and cheeses. Tupperware has child sized bowls and dishes; Echo has cake pans, bread pans, and baking sheets that arejust the right size for use in a toaster oven).
7. Clean-up supplies in small scale; dish towel, sponge, hand towels, hot pads, etc. Small bottle of dish soap.
Play is a child’s work. And work is child’s play. This is illustrated so well in the kitchen! Children enjoy helping with putting cans away, chopping vegetables, setting the table, and stirring up a batch of cookies. Through imitation they learn from cause to effect, how to measure and count, sequencing, how to read a recipe, and much, much more. Instead of discouraging them by scooting them off to a toy kitchen or to make mud pies in the back yard, enjoying their help in the kitchen can create countless memories and provide them with a wealth of learning experiences. For the next few days the discussion here will be about cooking with kids. We’ll start with ideas for sharing with toddlers through early elementary children and then progress to food experiences for middle school and even high school students. Children who practice food experiences with their parents, starting at a young age, learn the benefits of a healthy, nutritious diet. It is a well known fact that if kids get to help prepare a recipe in the kitchen they are generally willing to taste and enjoy the end result. The kitchen experience can help them explore new tastes, textures, and nutrients. Additionally, children will achieve a sense of belonging as they contribute to family mealtimes. A sense of accomplishment will result. Quality time between parent and child happens naturally when time is spent experimenting and preparing healthy foods in the home kitchen! Cooking is a skill that your children will use for the rest of their lives. If children learn to eat healthy as kids, they are more likely to eat healthfully as adults. Skill in the kitchen gives children self-confidence and a willingness to try new things. These kids will be less likely to be swayed by peer pressure, and as teens will enjoy spending time in the kitchen as an avenue to avoid boredom. So, stay tuned the next few days for posts that will share ideas for helping your youngsters enjoy time in the kitchen with you!
Most mothers and fathers can provide deeper security, sheerer closeness, sharper instincts, longer continuity, warmer responses, more logical control and more natural examples than the staff of the best care center or kindergarten. Without ever ringing a school bell, monitoring a recess or opening a course-of-study manual or even knowing the inside of a college, their teaching and care in their home are for their children under eight or ten easily superior to the most skilled professors outside it.
Raymond Moore in Home Grown Kids