Teachers often avoid cooking with young children because of the danger associated with hot appliances. But you can cook a wide variety of snacks and meals without using heat. We’ve included a few “cool” recipes in this article along with a list of benefits cooking offers to young children. So roll up your sleeves and get cooking!
The Benefits of Cooking with Young Children
Child care experts agree that children appreciate a wider variety of food when they participate in preparation. And, don’t be surprised at the number of skills you help children develop along the way. Here are just a few of the reasons cooking should be a regular part of your curriculum.
- Cooking encourages creativity. Allow children to make decisions, add extra features, and do as much of the work as possible. Praise youngsters for experimenting and making something different. For example, the Happy Face Salad activity below gives children the opportunity to be creative and unique.
- Cooking teaches how things change. Through various processes in the kitchen – heating, freezing, grinding, and beating – food is made ready to eat. Cooking can be a great extension of your science units. Through the simple mixing of ingredients or watching water boil or freeze, for example, children can experience different states of matter.
- Cooking builds self-confidence. Realizing they can take part in and contribute to the adult world, provides great satisfaction for children and develops positive self-esteem.
- Cooking experiences develop children’s small motor control. Using cooking tools, such as shredders, graters, grinders, and melon ballers develops fine motor skills and adds to a healthy self-concept.
- Cooking teaches about sex roles. Food preparation is available to all children without regard to sex. Teachers may need to dispel the notion that preparing food is only for girls as cooking activities are of great interest to boys.
- Cooking teaches about other cultures. Food preparation is universal to all people regardless of socio-economic level or culture. Invite parents or community volunteers to lead the children in creating a cool cooking snack from another country or culture.
Recipes for Cool Cooking
Encourage young children to add their own measure of creativity with these easy, no-heat recipes. Create recipe cards for nonreaders by drawing pictures on index cards.
Bugs on a Log
Scrub celery sticks with a vegetable brush. Cut into three-inch pieces. Fill the groove with cream cheese or peanut butter. Place raisins on top for bugs. This is a great cooking activity to complete during a bug unit.
Cut cheese into bite-size triangle shapes. Slice into a square, then into two triangles.
Cut carrots in circles. For extra fun, count the circles and sort from largest to the smallest.
Cut celery in rectangles. To strengthen math skills, measure the length.
Cut cucumbers in circles.
Directions: Put the various foods into separate bowls. Then have each child create a colorful and nutritious kabob using toothpicks.
Silly Play Dough
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Directions: Have the children mix all of the ingredients together and knead to a smooth consistency. Give each child a piece to knead on wax paper and for modeling the dough into different shapes. Be certain that none of the children have peanut allergies before beginning this activity.
Happy Face Salad (ingredients per child)
1 pineapple ring
2 tablespoons cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated cheese
2 stuffed olives
Directions: Have each child assemble the pineapple ring on a plate. Then have them add a mound of cottage cheese in the center, grated cheese for hair, olives for eyes, raisins for a mouth. Encourage the children to create different types of faces – happy, sad, excited, etc.
Carolyn Ross Tomlin is a former assistant professor of education at Union University. She is the author of What I Wish It Hadn’t Taken Me So Long to Learn available from www.1stbooks.com or toll-free 1-888-280-7715.