Cooking with Preschoolers

posted by Alison Balis Hirsch

Cooking with kids offers a wonderful array of learning opportunities for young children. It provides practice in language arts (vocabulary and “reading” a recipe), science (chemistry and exploring the senses), and developing social skills (cooperation and turn-taking). The kitchen also provides a range of math practice such as counting, measuring, and understanding order.

IMG_5879In my son’s pre-k class, the teachers and children cooked together almost weekly; the recipes coincided with their Letter Of The Week. So for B week they made banana bread and for O week they made omelets. The recipes were simple enough for the teachers and children (ages 4 to 5-years-old) to manage, each having a minimum number of ingredients. My son LOVED the rice pudding so much that I asked his teacher for the recipe. When I saw how simple it was, I suggested we collect ALL of her recipes and create a cookbook to share with other parents, whom I imagined were equally excited to cook with their kids at home. After all, these were recipes already vetted by our experienced and talented teacher.

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As a teacher in the classroom, we sought out parent/caregiver volunteers to assist with cooking projects. Having the child’s special grown-up allowed those participants to engage in the school life of their child, providing them with an opportunity to better know the other children and teachers and also observe their own child in the context of the classroom. It also allowed us to maintain good adult/child ratios while working with small groups of children (typically 4 – 5), in the kitchen. The children who cooked or prepared snack (sometimes it was simply designing bagel faces with cut fruit, vegetables and sprouts) usually delighted in their food and seemed proud to share their creations with their classmates. The learning continued through the service portion of the meal, since the child chefs, with the help of the grown-ups, needed to figure out how to divide what they made into equal portions for their friends. Something like bagel faces required counting and one-to-one correspondence; baking a quiche required cutting it into enough equal-sized pieces to serve everyone.

For recipes that were made frequently, we made recipe booklets that were much more readable for children. Play dough was something we made with children on a weekly basis and for that we created cards, bound by binder rings that had visual instructions and described quantities with pictures.january photos 070

Cooking presents children with plenty of opportunities to learn and is also a great way to teach principles of good nutrition and encourage an adventurous palate: in my experience kids are much more likely to try foods they’ve grown or prepared themselves.

 

Alison Balis Hirsch

Alison has been involved with early childhood education for over 20 years. She received her BS from the University of Massachusetts and her M.Ed. with a focus in Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University. She began her career in Chicago, working in a kindergarten classroom and then in a pre-kindergarten classroom before becoming the head teacher and Executive Director of a non-profit preschool where she worked for 12 years. Alison’s focus is developing hands-on, creative activities that support educational standards and creating beautiful play-based environments that welcome, nurture and excite young children and their families. In 2008, Alison and her husband relocated to San Francisco where they are raising their two children, ages 7 and 5. Currently, she volunteers in a variety of capacities at her children’s schools, collaborating with teachers within the classroom setting in addition to serving on a number of committees where she volunteers with other parents and early childhood professionals in areas such as inclusion, playground and building design, and classroom organization.

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3 Replies to “Cooking with Preschoolers”

  1. What a great idea! We cook often in our classroom. This would make a great end of the year gift to send home with each child.

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