How to teach through cooking
Introducing your kids to cooking is not just the start of building a great life skill. From maths to geography, we have plenty of ideas for expanding your child’s knowledge through food.
The kitchen classroom
Remember that everything is new to a child, so you need to explain each detail, and ask as well as answer questions. What colour or shape is this ingredient? How does it feel? Encourage them to smell and taste ingredients, and ask them to repeat the name. This is still beneficial for older children who already know the answer, as they’ll be keen to show off their knowledge. Once I started cooking with my daughter Maisie (aged 7), I realised that the kitchen could also be a classroom. Here’s how I bring in other core subjects.
From whether produce grows above or below ground, to the chemical reaction when you mix ingredients together, there’s more science in cooking than I’ll ever know – but what I do know, I try to pass on.
Children can measure ingredients with digital scales – far easier to manage than traditional ones. Also, if you are making anything that needs to be divided, or discussing how many people will be eating the dish, get your child to do the counting.
Talk about where ingredients or recipes come from; maybe you’ve been on a holiday where they saw lemons on a tree, for example.
Older children can keep a recipe journal, or go through books and copy out the names of recipes they want to cook. You can also get them to write shopping lists or read the recipe before you start cooking.
What can they do?
Aged two: Basic tasks such as whisking, mixing with a wooden spoon or greasing a tray or tin.
Aged four: Roll meatballs, dip food in breadcrumbs, layer a lasagne, top and smooth a pie with mash, rub together a crumble mix.
Aged six Chop ingredients with a butter knife and make basic cakes from start to finish.
Aged eight: Stir a simmering sauce or work at the hob – as long as they are well supervised.
Aged 10: Place trays in the oven and remove hot trays with the use of oven gloves.
Get all the ingredients you need to hand. I don’t like to measure them out beforehand, as doing this and reading the packets is part of the learning process.
Make sure your child is level with the work surface. I’ve invested in a pod (visit littlehelper.co.uk) that elevates a child and allows them to safely cook at the same level as you. If they are standing on a chair or box, make sure it’s sturdy and won’t topple over.
Never leave a child unattended – even for a moment. Not only is it unsafe, but given the opportunity, younger children will start adding extra ingredients and ruin the recipe!
Try to keep their space as clutter free as you can – clean up any spillages as they happen and remove equipment as it’s used.
Do you have any games or techniques you use when you're teaching your kids to cook? We'd love to hear about your ideas below…