We haven’t had an easy road with our adopted son. In addition to the challenges we faced with his behavior, it also became clear that his learning style was very different from that of his sister. While new concepts came easily to her, he fought tooth and nail to recognize letters. And forget about numbers! It would be years before we would finally understand that he had severe dyslexia and dyscalculia (the number version of dyslexia.) Unfortunately, parenting doesn’t come with a manual, so I hope that by sharing what I learned along the way, I might help you make learning more fun and productive for your kids.
While we didn’t always get along and had lots of power struggles, our son always wanted to help in the kitchen. I’d like to think that this time together was the glue that kept our family from unraveling. He is 14 now, and is a completely different person. He is well adjusted and is learning to work around his learning differences. Food is a good motivator, and I’ll attribute much of his current success to the fact that he spent hours by my side in the kitchen.
Learning in the Kitchen
Fine and Gross Motor Skills
- By spending time in the kitchen, kids will learn about how to move their bodies
- By using cooking tools, kids work on fine motor skills
- Pouring, stirring, pinching and wiping are all excellent motor skills activities that safely in a confined space and how to avoid hot or dangerous equipment will help to regulate kids.
- Did you know that it can take 8-12 exposures to a new food before a child may accept it? Exposures don’t just include tasting! The good news is that kids can eventually become ready to try a new food simply by touching or smelling it!
- Touch, texture, taste and smell are all incredible sensory opportunities in the kitchen.
- Recipes encourage kids to practice symbol recognition and language patterns and sequences
- Children will be exposed to new vocabulary, ranging from kitchen tools and ingredients to cooking strategies and methods.
- Recipes help kids to pay attention to directions – both in an oral and written form.
- In the kitchen, kids get the opportunity to classify, measure, count, estimate, recognize numbers and fractions in a practical and “real-life” setting…with an edible outcome!
- The kitchen is the ideal laboratory! Kids can ask questions, observe, investigate and experiment
- Cooking allows students the opportunity to predict and compare outcomes
- Students can explore how ingredients and mixtures change: mixing, blending, freezing, melting, boiling, baking, shredding, etc…
As my son makes his own breakfast and packs his lunch, it is apparent that he has become a more confident learner because of the time he has spent in the kitchen. For more ideas about how to cook with kids and for lots of educational activities, be sure to visit What’s Cooking with Kids or sign up for the weekly newsletter. Spending time together in the kitchen has changed our lives, and I hope that it makes a positive impact on yours, too.
Michelle Stern is a former high school biology and environmental science teacher and also founded What’s Cooking with Kids, a popular certified green cooking school for children in the SF Bay Area. She is the author of The Whole Family Cookbook, and was invited to the White House to be a part of the launch of Michelle Obama’s Chef’s Move to Schools Initiative. With 16 years of combined teaching experience, Michelle is uniquely qualified to integrate cooking activities into curriculum that educators and homeschoolers are already doing. Her home on the web is What’s Cooking with Kids. You can also find her on Facebook; on Instagram: @whatscookingwithkids; and Snapchat: michellejstern