In the first weeks of school, we’ve made banana bread, banana/blueberry muffins, and AMAZING green smoothies (recipe is attached). Here’s what some of our preschool critics had to say:
- “I don’t like it – I LOVE it!”
- “These bananas are perfectly rotten.”
- “You can’t taste the spinach at all.”
- “You add apple, banana, and avocado.”
- “Can we make something with strawberries next?”
As adults, we often tend to see cooking as primarily goal oriented. (At my house, very often the goal is to get dinner on the table before the family melts down…). Whereas, for children the main event is the process itself. Cooking with children is fosters TONS of learning. It provides an incredible way to explore math (measuring, counting, using part/whole relationships, sequencing of events), science (cause and effect, changes in matter, time, temperature), and language and literacy (speaking, listening, following simple directions, reading recipe cards). The list of ways in which cooking fosters academic learning goes on and on...
When I think about the WHY behind cooking with children, I like to consider the ways in which cooking nurtures children’s sense of confidence, competence, self-esteem, feelings of accomplishment, and willingness to engage in relationships with food ingredients and other people. As human beings, we are naturally drawn to building relationships through food experiences. We eat as families, we celebrate milestones with meals, and we go out to restaurants when connecting with friends. As the children chop, mix, stir and measure, they are also building community. Cooking or sharing a meal brings children together around a common interest or goal. And, through these experiences, they learn to see themselves as part of something bigger. They develop and awareness of self in the world and community – and this leads to a greater understanding of social norms and conventions, characteristics, and practices. This was so evident as the prekindergarten children worked yesterday to clean the vegetables that they brought back from Miller Farms. They scrubbed potatoes, carrots, and onions. They separated cabbage leaves, cut kale and enjoyed their harvest with friends by breaking bread over communal pots of soup.
Now… back to more cooking nuts and bolts (or should I say spoons and bowls?). When planning cooking projects, I look for recipes that will build the children’s food literacy in hopes that they become open to trying new foods and familiar with healthy foods, where they come from, and how ingredients and flavors mix. I understand that some children are picky-eaters... However, remember that cooking with children is about the process; getting children to eat what they make is not the end goal. I remain neutral and instead focus on helping the children to consider their likes and dislikes.
When selecting recipes, I am mindful of food allergies and look for ingredients that are safe for ALL children. Additionally, I look for ingredient quantities that can be easily multiplied and divided so that every child is able to do every step in the recipe. This is critical and enhances the learning experience. It simply is not fun if you’re waiting for a bowl to come around for your turn to stir or if only one person gets to crack an egg… Every child will have his/her own bowl and will participate in the entirety of the project.
If you have recipe suggestions or favorites that you would like to share – please do. And, if you would like to participate by cooking with your child’s class or by shopping for ingredients, please us know. We would love to have your support! Cooking in the classroom truly is intentional teaching and a delicious recipe for learning.