Cooking with your children teaches and improves valuable skills they learn in school math and science classes and associated labs. Learnings from this ‘simple’ activity can include:
- quantity, weight and volume measurements
- the importance of nutrition and what vitamins and minerals they can find in the foods you prepare
- reading and following instructions
- chemical reactions induced by mixing and cooking
Leaning to cook gives kids control of their nutrition and calorie intake while imparting skills that benefit their ability to work in a lab and perform complex experiments.
The first step is to get your kids to look up recipes on the Internet or in a cook book. Watch YouTube videos which demonstrate different cooking techniques. At Halloween my daughter especially liked the numerous videos for spider cupcakes.
Once you have agreed upon a recipe, get them to make a list of all the ingredients. The next step is to set out all the implements and ingredients. This helps to reinforce the importance of preparation before starting an experiment in the lab. Check that everything is in good working order. Discuss stove and electricity safety. This is an excellent way to learn how to safely handle equipment in the lab.
Ask your child to read the recipe from start to finish. Reading and following recipes teaches them how to follow instructions; a skill that will help with exams, lab work and experiments at school. Get your child to read the instructions out loud so that they can practice reading at the same time.
When encountering unfamiliar cooking terms such as folding, whisking or beating, ask your child to use the index where they can find definitions. This will help to reinforce the idea that unfamiliar words should be looked up. Teach your child to measure accurately. Accurate measuring techniques will ensure success with both baking and experiments. Older children can investigate the chemical reactions that take place as the ingredients combine.
Remember that the most important thing you should strive for in this activity is that everyone has fun. This is not only an excellent learning opportunity, but it is also a great activity to share and interact with your children. This can be made into a time when your kids (and you) can have fun playing with their food. Here is an easy recipe for cutout sugar cookies that are perfect for the holidays and for the beginner chef.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups flour
In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour.
Divide dough in half. Shape each half of dough into a 6-inch-long roll. Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Roll out and cut with a cookie cutter and place onto an ungreased cookie cooking sheet pan. How thick you roll the cookies out is your preference but we try for a little less than a quarter of an inch thickness. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool. Decorate with icing sugar and candy. Admire for a moment and then test the finished experiment!