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A New Way to Think About Your Kitchen
Your kitchen can be an endless source of stimulation for children, and a playground for children and adults alike. For young children (and for many adults), cooking is certainly more than eating the result! Each cooking task has a set of favorite “go to” utensils, more utensils can reshape raw ingredients before serving or cooking, the transformation of food by cooling or heating can change appearance and flavor, and combinations of different foods spawn new recipes and cookbooks every year. Cooking is an opportunity for children to socialize with their fathers, mothers, caregivers, grandparents, and siblings. Everyone can enjoy the process!
For young children, cooking-related activities involve all the senses of touching, hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting:
TOUCHING can begin with a stool at the kitchen sink filled with water. Playing with the different sizes and shapes of containers is a valuable first step toward measuring and pouring. Feeling the roundness of an orange, the roughness of a nut shell, or the softness of dough will begin important associations between an objects shape, its name, and its use (or not!) as food. Later skills include careful measurement, including conversions like milliliters to tablespoons, and also grinding, chopping, and slicing (careful with your fingers!).
HEARING the sound of pouring water between containers, or the sounds of metal on metal can bring joy to a toddler and pain to an adult! See if you can detect the beginning of rhythm in your child’s play with pots and pans.
SEEING the relative sizes and shapes of different kinds of dry beans can lead to sorting games for young children, supporting small muscle development and eye-hand coordination. (But BE CAREFUL! Young children like to put beans in odd places—such as their noses.) Color perception increases when comparing different foods (e.g., apples and oranges) and when comparing the texture of the raw and cooked form of the same food (e.g., potatoes, eggs).
SMELLING makes the kitchen an inviting place! Children can begin to identify the smell of oregano, hot peppers, lemon peel, garlic, soy sauce, and cinnamon when you use them in cooking. The smell of cooked food and baked goods will bring your children to your kitchen long after they have families of their own.
TASTING needs no introduction, but you can learn about the preferences and reactions of children to the four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Remember that sitting and tasting, along with watching and waiting during the cooking process, are important skills for the youngest children.
Nancy J. Ferreira in her book titled “The Mother-Child Cook Book” notes that for young children learning to cook, “the process of preparation should not be so complicated that it detracts from their seeing, feeling, tasting, and sometimes hearing the food.” In our linear world that takes us from shopping, preparation, cooking, and eating in the shortest time possible, this may be a good time to slow down the process and create learning opportunities for children along the way.
Prepared by Mary Deming, MOTAL Board member
Reference: Nancy J. Ferreira, The Mother-Child Cook Book, Pacific Coast Publishers, Menlo Park, CA 94025, January, 1970. This book will be hard to find, but the internet provides many resources on cooking with children, for moms and dads, families and caregivers.
Artifact of the Month
We are building a virtual
exhibition of our artifact collection. The selection for
The Wonder Number Game
Learn about this!