The holiday season can be filled with special treats, family gatherings, and festive meals! It can also be the perfect time to bring your little one into the kitchen. Cooking is a terrific way to spend time together. It can also be a wonderful time to create meaningful learning moments and help your child build important math, science and language skills. There are many ways to get your child involved in the kitchen, from reading recipes aloud together to mixing, adding, and pouring ingredients. Giving your child age-appropriate responsibilities or “jobs” can also build confidence and help develop social-emotional skills. Below are some easy ways to get your child involved in cooking this holiday season. Together have fun in the kitchen and take advantage of the many, everyday learning moments all around!
Cooking together provides the perfect time to introduce your child to healthy foods. Take a trip to the grocery store and pick out different ingredients needed for a recipe. Talk about where the food comes from. Afterwards, involve him in the preparation as much as possible, such as tearing lettuce leaves for a salad, snapping green beans for a side dish, or washing fruits and vegetables. Children are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in the preparation. Allow him to explore foods with all his senses. Encourage your child to touch, smell, feel, and taste a variety of nutritious foods. Together, observe different ingredients being mixed together and watch how they change as they’re being cooked or baked.
Cooking is a great time to explore math concepts, such as measurement and counting. Count how many cups of flour are needed for a holiday recipe or use different tools to measure ingredients. Use math words such as half and full or compare two different measuring cups and see which has more or less. Setting the table for a family gathering can also help your child learn important math skills, including one-to-one correspondence. If there are five guests coming to dinner how many place settings are needed? What about eight guests?
Cooking with your child is a wonderful way to introduce her to new, unfamiliar words. Label all the foods or ingredients needed for a recipe. Introduce the names of cooking utensils, including colander, spatula, and whisk. Have her measure water or flour and as she pours emphasize words such as teaspoon, tablespoon, or measuring cup. You can even point out the different recipe steps, including what comes first, next, and last. When sitting down together to share a festive meal encourage her to use words to talk about new and familiar foods she is trying, such as spicy, crunchy, flavorful, or sweet.
Making a meal together is also a great way to learn about science concepts. Support your child’s curiosity by turning him into a little science investigator in the kitchen. Encourage him to ask questions, make observations, and form predictions. For example, what will happen when ingredients are mixed together or when the batter is placed in the oven to bake?
Of course, remember to always practice kitchen safety by staying with and supervising your child at all times. Teach her the importance of food safety by encouraging her to wash her hands before touching the ingredients. Also, keep her away from sharp or hot objects and instead, provide plastic utensils and other safe kitchen tools she can use such as wooden spoons, rolling pins, and whisks. Finally, have fun in the kitchen and let your child know how her help was important!
Happy cooking and happy holidays!