10 July, 2011

Summer in the Kitchen With Kids

Summer is the PERFECT time to get in the kitchen WITH your kids!  I know the thought of that horrifies some type A's out there, and others are wondering quite frankly, why?  Well, cooking with your children is not only a chance to spend quality time with them, but it's also a great way to keep them brushed up on Math, Science and Reading skills over the summer!  For the itty bitties out there cooking with mom or dad, they will learn valuable skills too!  Itty bitties will benefit from learning skills like how to pour, stir, and clean up, as well as overhearing and seeing all the other aspects of cooking.

First, choose one of Laura Numeroff's books such as If You Give a Moose a Muffin or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to read together, and then make some muffins or cookies!  I think it's pretty evident as to how cooking with your kids can incorporate subjects learned in school, but just in case you're not quite sure how...here's some ideas!

Math can be very abstract to some children.  Cooking can actually help these abstract concepts become concrete. With cooking, you can make it as complicated or as simple as you want.  You can teach addition, fractions, measurement all the way up to volume, chemistry and data analysis!  We'll just stick with some of the easier ideas here.

*  Let them use the measuring cups and spoons.  Ask them for the basics...1 "whole" cup or 1/2 a cup of flour, sugar, chocolate chips, etc. Show them how 1/2 and a 1/2 makes a whole.  Get more technical and ask them to use the 1/4 cup to make a 1/2 or a whole!
*  Make the recipe bigger than it is.  You can teach the concept of doubling here by adding fractions for the older kids or just measuring it out twice for the little ones.  Introduce multiplication if you'd like!
*  Don't be afraid to use math vocabulary while cooking, so that they are hearing the word while doing...halves, whole, add, combine, etc.
*  Teach time...you need to know how long to bake the cookies in the oven or let the vegetables sautee!
*  When you're done baking something like cookies, have them count out how many were made, then "divide" them into groups to give to people!

Science just means fun for most kids!  Cooking can get as messy as you want for the purpose of teaching it!  In the kitchen is one of the best places to teach science to kids as so many things can happen.

*  Teach about the 5 senses.  Encourage them to look at the ingredients, smell them, touch them, taste them...and for hearing, ask them about the sounds of a kitchen (whisks, blenders, water, eggs cracking, etc).
*  Go ahead, make a mess and start mixing!  Have the kids combine different ingredients to see what happens to them!  Mix cornstarch and water, always a fun one!  How about flour and water?  What happens?  Why?
*  Let them watch the changes of state from solids to liquids, liquids to solids, and liquids to gasses while you're cooking various things.  Melt some chocolate, boil some water, freeze some ice cubes and then leave them out again.
*  Make ice cream in a baggie!  This is great for letting kids see the stage of liquid to solid as well as feeling something get colder (thanks to the salt).

Reading always becomes more fun when it's brought to life.  A cookbook is something where what you're reading always comes to "life"!  First, start with a book where something is being eaten or made, and take that idea into the kitchen and make your own!

*  Read the recipe to your child or have them read it to you (If they are too young to read, have them bring you the ingredients you read...following directions is an important literacy skill)
*  Once you have all the ingredients, double check!  Make sure you have everything needed by re-reading...another important skill
*  Now read the steps for combining the ingredients.  Check comprehension...do they know what the steps are?  
*  Explain abbreviations...what are they, what is the abbreviated word, why do we use them?
*  Define words in the recipe like whisking, folding, spreading, and whipping.

See, taking your kids into the kitchen can be a GREAT learning experience this summer...and a great bonding experience!  You can stretch it even more by creating a shopping list before you go to the store, examine quantities of ingredients in packaging, paying for groceries, or writing a note to someone who will receive the delicious baked goods when you're done!

Happy Summer!

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