Parenting Tips

Holiday Cooking with Kids: 8 Fun Ways to Boost Learning

Learn, play, and bond together as a family in the kitchen.

By Lee Scott on November 22nd, 2016

2 little girls cooking with their mother
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Holidays are a wonderful time to share family traditions or invent new ones, especially in the kitchen. My kids get very upset if I make a change to a traditional recipe or forget to cook something, so I need to make sure to include the whole family while planning holiday meals. We have always had fun in the kitchen together, experimenting with cookie recipes, creating fun appetizers, and even while mashing the potatoes. A few years ago, we experimented with bacon and chocolate mashed potatoes. It sounds weird, but it tasted great! Cooking is a great way to "play" together as a family.

Cooking together and playing in the kitchen also creates a highly enriched learning environment. Think of cooking time as a learning time that includes essential life skills, along with early reading and mathematics. It is also a wonderful time to bond with your child.

Here are 8 ways that cooking supports each learning area:

1. Language & Literacy
Reading recipes and food labels helps to build vocabulary, letter recognition, and comprehension. Ask your child to name the first letter of each ingredient or, for older children, ask them to read the recipe's ingredients to you.

2. Mathematics
Children practice counting skills and learn how to measure while following a recipe. They also learn about time along with early addition skills. For example, you can ask your child to count the number of teaspoons needed in a recipe.

3. Science
Cooking definitely involves science. You can talk about what would happen if you changed the amount or salt or sugar or cooked the cake too long. Create mini experiments by changing a few items in a recipe. Were they successes or flops?

4. Family & Community
Many family traditions take place in the kitchen. Make a favorite family dish together, and share the story of when you first ate that dish as a child. You can also create a dish that becomes a new family tradition.

5. Creative Expression
Creativity in the kitchen is fun! This can range from how you decide to decorate a cake to experimenting with new ingredients in the recipe. Ask your child for her ideas on what to make or what colors you should use for decorating cookies.

6. Executive Function
Children learn important planning and organizing skills while cooking. Help your child make a list of ingredients and plan a meal. Visit the grocery and ask your child to help you get the items on the list.

7. Social & Emotional Skills
Cooking helps children learn to collaborate and share ideas with others in the family. A child can also develop a sense of accomplishment while decorating cookies or making pancakes. Ask your child for input on what to cook and praise his efforts in the kitchen.

8. Health & Well Being
By actively engaging in cooking activities, children learn about food and nutrition. They also develop fine motor skills while rolling dough, using cookie cutters, and mixing ingredients. Talk about which are the healthier foods and experiment with those foods (i.e., dipping carrots instead of potato chips).

Share with us on Facebook the fun things your family creates in the kitchen for the holidays.

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