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Home Schooling in the Kitchen

Have you ever thought of your kitchen as being an educational establishment? Well, it certainly can be, if you let the little people anywhere near it. Whether it’s with your own kids or those of extended family or friends, making things with them in the kitchen is a great way to have some fun together and pass on your knowledge. The younger ones can enjoy helping you and learn some really important life lessons at the same time.
Sure, you may think about what a mess it’s going to be if you invite the kids into the kitchen, but they have to help with this too. Learning to clean up and put things away is an essential part of the kitchen-school curriculum. For more ideas about ‘Fun in the Kitchen 101’ and the benefits it brings, read on:
Healthy foods
Cooking together lets kids see where the food that turns up on their plates actually comes from. It helps them learn what the different ingredients are, where they come from, and how you prepare them. It’s an easy way to talk about ‘real’ food as opposed to processed foods in packets or junk food. Kids who are confident and knowledgeable in a kitchen are much more likely to grown into adults who’ll rustle themselves up a quick and healthy snack, rather than always head for the easy option of junk food.
World cultures and history
The kitchen is place where all sorts of cultural influences come together Pizza? Fried rice? Beef stroganoff? Spanikopita? Sushi? It’s guaranteed that at least some of your favourite dishes originated in a culture that’s not your own. Kitchen time is perfect for talking about the origins of the dish you are making and the ingredients going into it.
It can even turn into a history lesson. Look up some information about the history of spices, for instance, and you’ll see that spices were as valuable in Europe as gold during the Middle Ages, and were the most important influence on the world’s economy at that time. Why? Get the kids to imagine a world without refrigeration or readily available hot water, and they’ll start to realise how spices could be really handy to disguise and improve the flavour of food that was not at all fresh. Learn more about the spice trade, and you’ll read about empires founded, fortunes made – or lost – and piracy, greed and brutal conquests. Whoever thought that a bottle of cinnamon could hold so much history and drama!
Reading and writing practice
Recipes involve reading, and cooking with kids is a great way to get them to read aloud to you, or vice versa. If you’re being inventive in the kitchen and making up your own dishes, or variations on standard ones, get your student to do the writing down of the different ingredients and steps involved. This involves spelling, units of measurement, and putting information together in a logical sequence. It’s great writing practice with a practical purpose.
There are lots of numbers in cooking, and kids will see how maths is an essential tool when you have to measure ingredients or if you are changing the quantities in a recipe. They’ll learn about units of measurement, and how to convert from one to another if needed (doing the necessary maths, of course).
Organisational skills
There’s a lot of time management, planning and organising needed in the kitchen, not to mention the spatial logistics involved in stacking the dishwasher. Cooking involved a complex process of gathering ingredients, doing the preparation and following step-by-step instructions. It’s a great way to get kids to think ahead and plan the stepping stones involved in getting to the end product.
Confidence and independence
Everyone loves food, and kids will beam with pride when they make a dish that their family and friends praise and enjoy. To encourage this, you need to be prepared to taste the offerings that may not be quite so successful (e.g. scones that are more like rock cakes – literally – and pizzas burned to a crisp) and ensure them that all great cooks make mistakes and you have to keep trying and learning. Kids who grow up being confident in the kitchen are learning skills to last them a lifetime. There’s a lot of independence in being able to make your own healthy and tasty food, and not have to rely on someone else.
Safety and concentration
With heat, flames and sharp knives involved, it’s essential that kids are taught safety in the kitchen. Cooking with you will teach them to be aware of their surroundings and to concentrate on what’s going on. They have to focus on what they are doing and pay attention to the safety practices you insist on. Turning on a gas cooker, for example, teaches them to understand and respect the flow of gas and the flame it creates.
Responsibility and cleaning up
The least enjoyable part of cooking – for everybody – is the cleaning up, and your young chefs have to understand that it’s an essential part of the job. Maybe they’ll be a bit tidier next time once they’ve cleaned up all the cake mix that somehow ended up on the bench and the floor! It’s also a good opportunity to talk about basic hygiene and the need for cleanliness in the kitchen to prevent illness. Then, once the kitchen is tidy again, you get to reward yourselves by sitting down and eating some of the yummy things you’ve just made together. Good job!
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