Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Little Hands in the Kitchen

About two years ago I got this great idea for a blog theme but never took it anywhere.

I had been getting some ideas from the book Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, which is about simple, week-by-week activities parents can do to help "prepare their children for kindergarten", beginning at birth. The activities were mostly related to developing small large and motor skills, hand/eye coordination, concepts such as bigger/smaller, same/different, following directions, role playing, etc. Mostly stuff that parents naturally do with their kids, except this book made it all in planned "lesson" format.

I started some of the activities when he was one but never was very consistent with it.

Then one day, when Hunter was around one and a half, I was reading through the book with the purpose of making lesson plans from it, I realized that most of the activities were things that didn't really need a special sit-down lesson time to do at all. I realized that, just by helping me in the kitchen or in the laundry room or in the workshop, he would develop all these skills and more, besides that he finds real-life objects far more interesting than the homemade toys / games they suggested.

From this new approach to parenting of "teaching while including [in real-life activities]" came the idea of what I originally called Preschool in the Kitchen. I sat and thought about all of the incredible learning opportunities that there are in letting your kids help you out in the kitchen. From math, science, small motor skills, to problem-solving, safety, and even social skills, the possibilities are endless!

Here is a little introduction to some of the educational possibilities of working together in the kitchen:

Math There are so many possibilities, including counting, bigger/smaller, more/less, sorting, measurement, conversions, fractions, symmetry, percentages, division and multiplication, etc. Math is present in every recipe and many wonderful problem-solving activities result from it.

Science  Explaining why bread rises when we bake it, what makes water boil, where food comes from, what happens when salt dissolves in water, why lettuce wilts, why milk sours, and so, so much more are present discussions each time you step foot in the kitchen.

From simple explanations about food that you give to your toddler to experiments and observations that you can do with you high-schooler, there are many, many things to be learned about this topic at the kitchen counter!

Dexterity  Stirring, sifting, stacking, sorting, pouring, spreading, squeezing, mashing, whipping, turning, prying, pulling, twisting, pounding, cutting, scooping...

Every activity from baking bread to the simplest task of opening a can of soup is filled with opportunities for small and growing children to use their hands and develop excellent dexterity.

Sensory Smelling spices, running your hands through soft flour or squishy dough or over a rough pineapple, sampling the tastes of ingredients and finished foods, hearing popcorn pop or butter sizzle, seeing cheese melt or muffins rise... The kitchen is a great place for tiny babies to older kids to stimulate their senses, experiences new things, and grow their brains by doing so.

Safety, Health, and Hygiene Why we wash our hands, why we cook meat thoroughly, why some foods need to be refrigerated, how to be safe around ovens and stoves, and more are important elements in working in the kitchen.

Nutrition Talking about vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, calories, and more helps kids understand the importance of eating right as well. From the simplest tasks of categorizing foods into groups (dairy, grains) or talking about what foods have vitamin A, all the way up to college-level nutrition, the kitchen is a great and natural place to learn about this important topic.

Thinking Skills Figuring out problems, asking questions, predicting outcomes, and drawing conclusions abound. Watching and witnessing a million "if...then"'s, causes and effects, reactions, how's and why's, and so much more develop critical thinking skills, logic, and memory.

Social Skills Working together, taking turns, exercising patience, talking through problems, and following instructions are big requirements for kitchen time. Kids must learn to exercise care, forethought, and obedience, not just because "I said so" but because it is vital to the success of the project.

It is a wonderful place for parents and kids to connect and enjoy each other, as well as for siblings to have fun together doing something interesting and productive rather than squabbling over meaningless toys.

Language Working together in the kitchen provides a large amount of language opportunities, including a huge amount of conversation, explaining and discussion, whether it's about a science phenomena or just light-hearted, fun talk about life.

Reading labels, instructions, recipes, and vocabulary words is great for kids of all ages (even parents of babies and toddlers can make their own large print vocabulary words and instructions suitable for small ones to read).

Character and Life Skills Even though time spent together in the kitchen is definitely in the spirit of fun, discovery, and play, you are still teaching kids important lessons about life and developing a strong worth ethic. The Bible says that "if any would not work, neither should he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10). That applies to kids, too! Kids, right from the start, are expected to participate in life as far as they are able, to help feed the family in what little way they can.

When children are involved in something that is important, worthwhile, and meaningful, they know they are wanted, needed, and important. This alone builds a true sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and confidence that parents' words alone can never suffice.

Kids are learning, even if it's just a small way, about the economy of life - what it takes to run a household and feed a family. Being part of life, rather than just a bystander, develops a sense of thankfulness, gratitude, and appreciation to parents, rather than taking parents for granted because they wait on their children hand and foot. Kids are also learning important life skills that they will need as adults - and what could be more basic and vital than how to prepare food?

Besides self-worth, gratitude, and family economy, and life skills, children are developing patience, perseverance, and dedication by being given the opportunity to work through problems and overcome obstacles.

This is in no way exhaustive - it's just the beginning! I'm really looking forward to starting this new blog theme. Let me know if you would like to join in!

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits... Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." 
Psalm 103:2,5
Hunter is 4 years, 7 months old

1 comment:

  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    Wow, your website is just beautiful and Hunter seems like he is just a delight! What an inspiration!


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