Cooking with Kids Part 2 – OT Perspective
Cooking is an activity that happens in all households. While it seems like an everyday, monotonous task, it is filled with wonderful learning experiences when shared with children. Cooking with kids? The reaction from many may be, “that isn’t something I look forward to.” This is understandable. Letting kids “help” nearly always takes more time, energy, and creates bigger messes than simply doing it on your own. But, children are naturally curious and eager to do fun things. Involving your child with cooking has many benefits if you can look beyond the mess! So, exactly what are these benefits, and how do you go about including kids in the cooking process?
Cooking Encourages and Promotes Learning
- Following recipes promotes reading. Even preschool children can follow simple picture recipes or help locate ingredients by the letter/sound that it starts with.
- Measuring develops math skills. Children learn about various types and methods of measurement. Count eggs or cups of sugar as you add them to incorporate simple addition and subtraction into cooking.
- Cooking with kids is also a fun way to expand vocabulary. Describe how foods feel, look, smell, and taste.
- Explain how foods change with temperature or by adding other ingredients to incorporate science into cooking. Discuss how certain foods can help our body.
- Children learn the importance of following directions. Following a recipe from start to finish helps build the skills for planning and completing projects.
Cooking Provides Opportunities to Develop Motor Skills
Hand strength, using both hands together (or bilateral coordination), and fine motor control and coordination are integrated into cooking activities through a variety of ways.
- Squeezing pouches and piping bags, kneading dough, rolling small pieces of dough between the thumb and pointer or middle finger, and sprinkling sprinkles by using only the thumb and pointer finger all help to develop hand strength.
- By using a rolling pin, rolling food items into balls for meatballs or cookies, stirring, and opening and closing screw off or pull of lid containers, children develop bilateral skills.
- Measuring, pouring, stirring, mixing, and using cooking utensils all involve fine motor control and coordination.
Cooking with Kids Encourages Them to Try New Things
Therefore, it provides many sensory experiences which can be helpful with those hesitant or picky eaters.
- Allow children to explore food through touch. Kneading dough, rinsing vegetables, tearing lettuce, and peeling fruits involve touching foods and becoming more comfortable with them.
- Let children smell and take small licks of foods. Talk about how they look and taste.
- Having children participate in cooking and explore foods helps develop positive associations with food.
Finally, the greatest benefit of cooking with kids are the memories created. It is a way to share family traditions that have been passed down through the generations. Your child’s curiosity and eagerness to learn will help them build lifetime skills. In other words, all the mess was well worth the fun.