Cooking presents a wealth of learning opportunities for your child. A simple relish tray or a cheese and meat tray offers an opportunity to sneak in early math skills such as counting, categorizing and creating patterns. When you are making pizzas, tacos or quesadillas, encourage your child to set up "stations" for the different ingredients. Ask your child to child sort the ingredients by type, size or color.
Encourage your children to assign a number to each food item. We call this "rational counting." Any set of objects that can be seen, touched, heard or imagined can be counted. This sounds so simple, but this is math. This is the foundation that we need to lay down before we can ask our little learners to do more than they are ready for. When you count with your children and they realize that the last number word represents the total number of objects in the set, that is cardinality.
In the mood for pancakes? Combine the wet and dry ingredients, ladle the batter onto the griddle and see how the batter changes from a liquid into a solid when the pancakes are cooked. This is chemistry in action!
But there's more cooking in the kitchen than early STEM concepts. Let your children take over some of the safer food-preparation tasks such as assembling ingredients, peeling, mashing, rolling and stirring. Let them spread, sprinkle, measure and pour. All of these activities will help build fine-motor skills.
Build your children's language and communication skills by asking them to describe the tastes, smells, colors and textures of the dishes being prepared. Are they sweet or spicy? Creamy or crispy? What color is each dish? Name some of the ingredients in each recipe.
Encourage your children to get creative! Give them 5-10 pieces of cut fruits or veggies and challenge them to create people or animal figures with toothpicks. We don’t want to be wasteful, so only allow your children to use what they can eat.
Keep it simple. Keep it fun. Cook up a storm and the learning will take care of itself!