Friday, March 5, 2010

What's Cooking?

Parents get lots of advice about things they should be doing with their children to build academic skills. They are rightly reminded that reading to and with their child will help build reading skills and a love of reading. In a similar vein, trips to libraries, museums, and musical events will build skills and interests for children of all ages.

But sometimes reading just one more book is more than a tired, working parent wants to do on a school night. And taking children out to events and exhibits may be problematic when there are younger children who are not ready to enjoy these excursions. A recent conversation with a mom of two boys reminded us that cooking with children can be another way to build skills and interests at home. Think about the skills that go into planning and preparing a simple family dinner -
  • Observational skills are built by reviewing what ingredients are in the pantry or fridge.
  • Children learn to plan step-by-step as they review recipes and decide what they need to prepare a particular meal.
  • Language skills are built by reading labels and recipes.
  • Measuring helps build competence with fractions and arithmetic skills. What if we doubled a recipe? or made only half a box of pasta?
  • Motor skills are improved by cutting (with proper supervision) and adding and stirring foods.
  • Important safety skills are modeled by parents and utilized by children: how to use a stove (with careful, age appropriate supervision), how to deal with sharp utensils, and how to handle hot items.
  • Social interactions include cooperating in a crowded kitchen, taking turns, dealing with mistakes, and dining together with others when the dinner is ready to eat.
Sure, it's more work and definitely more mess cooking with children. But it's great for the children and can one day lead to having competent cooks to share the responsibilities for family meals. Enjoy your dinner!

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