Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking with Kids

The holidays are coming and for many of us that means baking and canning and cooking and otherwise making many messes in the kitchen. What a great opportunity to include our children not only in family traditions but also an opportunity to teach them when they are not aware they are learning. There are so many things children can learn while in the kitchen: waiting, taking turns, the importance of directions, measuring, dumping, stirring, pouring, hot and cold, fast and slow, ordinal numbers (sequence of numbers -- first, second, third...). And the list could go on and on and on. You are working on all areas of development with one cooking activity: cognitive, motor, social, adaptive, and communication! Yes it will be messy and yes it will take twice as long and no your pie or bread or cookies won't look perfect, but the look on you child's face and the pride in their voice when they tell someone that they made that is worth all the mess and struggle! So make it a deliberate activity and plan ahead. Establish right at the beginning that you will take turns and that there are some things that are parent jobs and the kids will have to wait till they are bigger for that one. I bake with my daughter a lot, I started when she was able to stand on a stool by herself. Yep, I was nuts, but we both had fun with it. She loves to help in the kitchen, I don't let her help with supper when I'm tired and out of patience but we definitely have special times and things that we make together. This weekend she helped her grandpa make pizza, they mixed the dough and he showed her how to knead it, they both put the toppings on and we had a great supper. She was so proud of her pizza that she ate all the toppings, things she has refused to eat in the past. Oh, yes, there were some slices that were all mushroom and others that were mostly olives, but that's a skill we'll work on as she helps make pizza more often.

Here are just a few ways you kids can help in the kitchen:
  • read recipe out loud together (you can find simple picture recipes too on the Internet)
  • name different ingredients and foods
  • wash fruits and vegetables
  • count out how many of something is needed
  • tear lettuce leaves
  • put fruits, vegetables, cheese, etc into a salad
  • place toppings on a pizza
  • stir ingredients
  • measure with a spoon or cup
  • use words like full and half
  • shake salt or pepper a certain number of times
  • cut soft foods with a plastic knife
  • mash soft foods

You may need to hold the bowl while your child stirs or guide his hand while he pours. If you child has limited motor skills then make sure to think ahead and figure out which steps she can do on her own and which ones you will need to help with. Even the most motorically challenged child can help and is so proud of themselves when they do. Use some hand over hand to start with and then give them a chance to see if they can do it themselves. Here is a great time to explain why hand washing is so important, who wants to eat other people's germs? Blech! Crock-pots are great tools, kids can put the ingredients in and even turn it on and then just wait, it does all the cooking for you. It really is all about the tools you find that can allow you child to be successful while helping you in the kitchen

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