We can all agree that cooking is a fundamental life skill. From whipping up a quick snack to impressing your family with a delicious and nutritious meal, it is vital to everyday life.
Apart from being an engaging activity, cooking is also an essential part of teaching children about one of the major components of life – food!
Food has always been an excellent teacher – encouraging people to discover new flavours, explore cultures through cuisine or learn about their nutrition. Cooking in turn is such a versatile tool when it comes to teaching our little ones.
At Genius, our Nutritional Ninja program enhances meaningful mealtimes with children and encourages them to form healthy relationships with food. Our program educates children about the importance of enjoying various meals to fuel their bodies, and why food can be exciting and enjoyable as well.
Here are a few ways cooking can be delicious and an educational experience for little learners.
Nutritional Ninja is one of the activities offered at Genius as part of our Life Skills program, where children can see and assist in preparing food. It’s a course often carried out by our in-house chefs, that helps our little learners to build their knowledge and explore the benefits of food and nutrition, and how this can impact their overall wellbeing. We hope this lays the foundations for a healthy relationship with food, as well as knowledge about nutrition and mindful eating.
Learning through cooking
Preparing a meal can provide many incidental educational opportunities. The simple activity of having a child measure out a recipe enhances their mathematical and literacy skills. Having your little one count out the ingredients and assist in measuring ingredients supports activity-based learning.
Little chefs can actively apply their numeracy skills in the kitchen by counting how many tomatoes are used in a pasta sauce, measuring the water to go into the pot or weighing the amount of flour used in the recipe.
Active learning is critical as children begin to apply these concepts such as counting and reading to their real-life experiences, making a stronger connection to these important skills and in time drawing on them in their everyday life.
The kitchen provides a sensory-rich wonderland to explore through preparing and creating meals. From touching the seeds on a strawberry, hearing the sounds of a pot bubbling away, to tasting the sweet, salty and sour flavours. These opportunities provide endless occasions to explore and understand their senses.
You could enhance these sensory occasions by asking questions about certain scents and flavours. Questions such as does the fruit tastes sweet or sour? What does a tomato smell like? Is an orange smooth or bumpy? Exploration through cuisine educates little ones on science based concepts like estimation, questioning and prediction.
Whether it be stirring a pot, rolling dough or chopping up vegetables, these activities assist in developing a little learner's fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Practising these sorts of movements develops children's muscles and strength and helps them in being able to hold a pencil and use scissors when they go to school.
Activities such as beating an egg and mixing a batter are great ways to develop these muscles. Simple activities such as chopping, peeling, grating and rolling develop vital skills and provide opportunities to develop fine motor skills, coordination and hand-eye coordination. There are a number of ‘child-safe’ tools you can buy to prevent any injuries in the kitchen too – kiddicutter knives and graters are a good example of this.
As little chefs assist in the kitchen and learn to cook, they will see how science and maths play a vital role in the kitchen, enhancing their cognitive development. They will learn about matter and how a liquid can become a solid and solids can melt into a liquid.
Their curious nature will be mesmerised when they see a liquid quiche put into the oven to only discover that once cooked, the quiche is then solid and firm. These activities are a great chance to ask children to predict what they think might occur to the food once it is cooked.
These simple conversations when cooking leads to cognitive development. They will also learn about predicting, actions, segmentation, following directions, reading and maths.
If you want to hear more about our Nutritional Ninjas program, we encourage you to reach out and contact one of our centres today! We’d love to invite you in for a tour, and show you all the wonderful things on offer when you enter the world of Genius.
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