How Cooking Can Give Your Children Self Confidence AND Learn How To Follow Directions
Cooking with kids is often employed by creative and intrepid classroom teachers. Remember though, that you are your child's first and best teacher, so take a page out of the teacher's manual and cook with your children. Cooking promotes language development, cooperation, following directions, sequencing and a host of other skills, both social and academic. It pays to start early.
Please be sure to check out my Squidoo lens called Teaching Your Kids To Cook. It describes more of the benefits of teaching your children cooking in your own kitchens and is part of my new segment called Kids Can Cook.
Children begin to develop large muscle coordination long before they develop fine motor coordination, so while you wouldn't ask a two-year-old to measure out a teaspoon of baking soda, you could certainly ask him/her to hand you the box of baking soda. With young children, you also can ask them to get plastic containers out of the cabinet or just talk to them about the ingredients you are using. You can play naming games ranging from "point to the butter," to "What is this called?" depending on the child's language development.
Exposure to vocabulary is vital in a child's language development, but it just seems silly to show a toddler flashcards. Language play is much more meaningful and has more impact when it is presented in a relaxed and context-based environment. The non-teacher translation of that is to teach cooking terminology while you are actually cooking.
When you get right down to it, cooking is really about following directions. We all start cooking with the directions right in front of us. If we practice enough, we can cook with the directions stored in our heads. Cooking with kids is a wonderful way to reinforce following directions. You can show real life examples of what happens when you do and do not follow directions. Use high heat instead of low heat, and you end up burning your onions. I'm not suggesting that you ruin your food, but I think it is important to talk to your kids about why you do things in a certain way and what could happen if you don't.
Cooking with two or more children can be stressful, but this scenario also gives you the opportunity to teach cooperation. You can assign separate steps to different children (Jimmy, you crack the eggs, and Mary, you stir them in), or you can have the children share steps (Jimmy, you crack one egg and stir it in; Mary, you crack the next one and stir it in).
Either way, it's important that you encourage them to work together and frequently reinforce the enjoyment of cooking as well as pointing out how proud you are that the children are working together. This is a great time to use words like "sharing," "cooperation," and "taking turns." Again, teaching these concepts in a natural, contextually rich setting will help to reinforce the concepts with your kids.
One of the greatest gifts that cooking with your kids can give is helping to instill confidence in your children. Knowing that they can start and then complete a task can help to build self esteem and confidence. Knowing that they helped to put lunch, dinner or dessert on the table and that the rest of the family is enjoying it can really be a confidence booster, even for the most timid or shy children.
Now, remember that your kids, especially at first, might be hesitant in the kitchen and will certainly make mistakes. It is up to you as the parent to encourage your child/children every step of the way and to frame mistakes as learning experiences. Always keep the "feel" of the cooking experience positive and relaxed. Learn to laugh at the little mistakes, and buy stock in Brawny!