Cooking with Children: A Recipe for Learning

Sizzle, bubble, crack! These sounds are all noises toddlers can hear coming from the kitchen. The loud noises, delicious smells, and unfamiliarity of the kitchen can make it the most desirable place for a young child to want to be. As a parent, we may find that a majority of our free time is actually spent in the kitchen. Dr. Mary Zurn, Vice President of Education at Primrose Preschools says, “kitchen time can be a great way for families to regain some lost, but valuable, family time.”


The kitchen is a place for learning and sharing. It provides as a place for families to enjoy spending quality time together that could otherwise be lost. Often being the most popular place in the house, Dr. Zurn says, “Children can also develop a sense of responsibility,” from participating in daily activities in the kitchen.


Not only can children learn about safety, responsibility and sharing, but they can also begin to learn about healthy eating habits if they engage in cooking or baking with you. Here are some tips parents can follow to ensure a safe, fun learning environment for their children.


1.) Set Ground Rules. This is the first step to guarantee your child will be safe when he/she is in the kitchen with you.  Children need supervision when they’re in the kitchen, so establish a list of basic safety rules and make sure children are always within sight. Teach children to wash their hands before andafter handling food to avoid spreading germs. Discuss on a regular basis what’s safe to touch and what’s not.

            Tip: Keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward so no one bumps them accidently and spills something hot!


2.) Build Up Skills Gradually. Learning and developing basic skills is easy to do when children are cooking and/or baking. Fine motor skills are used consistently and are important for youngsters to practice. As your child’s coordination develops, begin to build upon their skills step by step. Walk them through basic activities such as cutting, blending or cracking eggs. As they master one skill, move them on to something harder. By allowing your child to master a skill you will instill the necessary confidence within them that is need for them to tackle harder tasks.

Example: Start your child off with a dull spreading knife cutting soft items such as butter or bread. Move them up to a sharper knife cutting denser items, such as fruits and veggies.


3.) Engage Your Child Meaningfully.  There are many tasks you’re child can do independently. Although you may want to do everything, you should let your child try to do some thing on his/her own. There are many jobs they can do that will give them a sense of accomplishment. For example, rolling dough, mixing batter, measuring, mixing, pouring and many more. Even very young children can get involved – give them some pots, pans and wooden spoons so they can pretend to cook with you or use them for music-making. The tuneful accompaniment will let you know they’re safely engaged and give them a way to feel like they’re helping too.


4.) Keep it Fun. Let’s face it; cooking is messy. Even when the children aren’t around messes are made. This is a great opportunity to teach your child how important it is to clean up after you cook/bake. If your child makes a mistake and the egg ends up on the floor and not in the bowl, offer them some guidance and let them try again. Stay calm and relaxed and you are both sure to have a good time!



When your meal is complete, be sure to compliment your sous chef on a job well done. Offer them the first taste of whatever you cooked together and ask them what they would like to make next time. Bon appétit!


Submitted by Dan Gilbert on behalf of Primrose Schools. For over 25 years, they have helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, earlychild care services and education.  Through an accelerated Balanced Learning® curriculum, Primrose Schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially. Dan has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering.


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