Sunday, January 3, 2010

Experience Cooking with Kids - Memories Your Children will carry forever

I found through my kids that cooking is a great advantage and a powerful tool. Through cooking and being in the kitchen, they have gained confidence, developed language skills and their imagination.

These are pictures of a menu that my son came up with. He used ordinary stuff he found around the house – pictures of food from books and magazines and toy food and play money. He glued them to a note pad he found lying around and he presented it as his menu with vegetables, meat and fruit and the prices to go with it.

Over time, he also wrote a cookbook (with me to help). He decorated it himself and we wrote down the recipes – some were ours and some were from books. He was extremely proud of the cookbook because it was his creation and we were always referring to it to cook. We are slowly building on the cookbook with family recipes and recipes we pick up as we go along.

These are simple activities but fun and the children learn a lot;
- Have your kids work together to write a cookbookand let them decorate it as they like – use things from around the house – colored paper, perhaps a hard cover for the cover of the book, pencil colors and other stationery. They could also paste dried leaves, spices and other things from the kitchen. Don’t forget teaching also happens when they label them.

- Help your kids write a menu – have them decorate it. Let them have a go at what to serve – appetizers, main meal, and drinks and so on.

- Always also have a note book handy to copy recipes which you and your kids can later transfer to the family’s cookbook

These activities teach children:

(i) Language skills – Understanding, Reading and Writing

Children are exposed to vocabulary – the younger ones learn words. Flash cards are fine but it is nothing like showing them the real thing. Pictures tell a thousand words and it sticks. Example – What is this? This is butter.

Bigger children learn to put together words – make them read recipes and the instructions and at the same time start a recipe book. Allow them to be free with their imagination.

(ii) Help children understand the importance of instructions

Cooking is really about following directions. A step by step method allows children to understand the importance of following instructions and you can show them the implications/dangers/consequence of not following directions.

If you are cooking with more than 1 child – assign them tasks and accountabilities and at the same time encourage them to work together. Cooking is a great opportunity to reinforce. - Concepts like “sharing,” “cooperation,” and “taking turns.” which also prepares them for life.

(iii) Grow the kids confidence
One of the greatest gifts that a parent can give to their children is to instill confidence in them. Cooking is a wonderful tool. There is no need to spend money on courses and seminars and such. Allowing children to start and complete tasks and giving them responsibility builds their self esteem. Cooking is especially wonderful for shy or timid children - the whole cooking process and what goes into is real confidence booster.

Remind yourself of your objectives. Children will make mistakes and a mess, especially the first few times. Allow them – the cooking experience must be positive, fun and relaxed. Help them clean up. Turn everything they do into a learning experience. And if you are too tired to teach them or not in the mood– that’s ok too because your children are having fun WITH YOU. This experience will become memories which they will carry forever.

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