Get cooking (or no-cooktop-cooking) with kids and stir up a lot more than an interest in healthy eating.
Preparing food not only provides opportunities for active involvement and lets the children use all their senses, but so much more – the possibilities are amazing.
Cooking is a “grown-up” thing to do and many children today have little experience with it. Schools are hesitant to undertake it in fear of allergies and safety concern, so grown-ups at home, it is up to you!
Experience teaches. Intergenerational learning is something I am passionate about. How wonderful for those ‘significant others’ in a child’s life to share their skills and learning with young people. Parents may have to instigate the cooking sessions (hot or cold food or drinks) with those ‘significant others’ as many seniors with whom I have discussed this topic are shy or ‘do not like to interfere’. Pity, because it could be a great opportunity lost – especially today with busy parents who no do not have time to devote to such activities or don’t cook themselves.
Interesting stuff to discuss or explore before or after the cooking session: from whom or where did the recipe come; how appliances or tools work – an opportunity to involve the males; use the senses – colours, smells, taste, sounds, touch; waste of food and natural resources; energy used; cost of providing the food; where some of ingredients come from; waste produced – packaging, left-overs and what to do with them. The opportunities are endless – just possibilize. You may even stimulate interest in growing some vegetables, herbs or fruits in the garden or in pots.
Simple no-cooking activities or preparing food without cooking are wonderful starting points for teaching and learning basic skills in mathematics, science, social studies, art and language arts.
No doubt you will have some favourite recipes and some in your head that you can come up with. Write them down or up on a board with (to model the process) or for the young participant/s to read and follow. When doing so, use a similar method to that used in a recipe book: What you need; Steps (explain to participant/s that you begin each step with a verb – doing word eg. grate, chop, stir etc). See how great it is to reinforce those basic skills and then produce a reward in the end!
Relax and enjoy the process, converse about the food groups, where some of the ingredients come from, how the appliances or tools work, the cost involved in waste of food/ingredients/packaging – environmentally and monetarily. Remember that you are encouraging learning so don’t just tell – give your opinion but later, check out facts with the participant.
Cooking is an enjoyable, exciting, motivating, valid learning experience. Bon appetit!
Jan Couper M.Ed.; M.Env.