I am teacher at a secondary special needs school and I am also a mother of a 3 year old girl. In both these spheres I have seen the value of cooking as a life skill, an educational tool and also just for fun.
At school, cooking is taught both as a subject and as a social activity. We run a ‘foody-Friday’ where the students plan, prepare, cook and eat together in their tutor groups. For some students this is one of their few experiences of eating as a social activity. This activity stimulates communication skills and social skills as well as cooking skills. Cooking is also used to teach practical number skills with weights and measures, portions and cutting all being a great way to explore maths skills and make them relevant. It also teaches the basic chemistry behind cookery.
Cooking is also a life skill. To live independently, you need to have basic cooking skills. For our students it is especially important to ensure that they have the skills that they need in order to have some independence, but cooking is important for all. I will never forget the friend who attempted to make cauliflower cheese at university by putting a whole, raw cauliflower into the oven with a packet of cheese sauce; nor the friend who burnt a dozen eggs without creating a single fried egg worth consuming!
At home I have always tried to involve Munchkin in cooking, but two events recently made me reassess how I do this in order to ensure that she benefits fully from the activity. The first was a play-date with a friend and her son where she suggested the kids make banana bread and the second was a free parent and pre-schooler cooking course, called Sticky fingers run by Coram at my local children’s centre. (Find yours here)
I am a self-confessed control freak, but I hadn’t realised how this had impacted on my cooking with Munchkin. With banana bread making, my friend let the kids have ultimate control over everything. They weighed and measured, stirred and poured and had great fun. Yes they made a mess and yes, some of the measurements may have gone a little awry, but it made me realise that it’s not a perfect product that is the ultimate goal, its taking part and enjoying. Munchkin wanted to be a part of the whole process at my friend’s house, where with me she often gets bored half way through and wanders off. I also need to remember that a little flour can always be cleaned up!
The cooking class, with the brilliant course leader, David, also taught me to let go and Mucnhkin was given control of the chopping (with table knives not sharp ones, but not something I’d have tried alone) and she loved it and was a lot better than I’d have thought. The class itself also focused on healthy eating and gave me some new meal ideas and forced Munchkin to try foods she’d turn down at home – one of the positives of peer pressure! Most of all, she and I had fun cooking together.
So, there we go, kids can and should be encouraged to join in with cooking. It benefits them in life skills, mathematical skills, sciences skills ad it stimulates them creatively and socially. It can be a bonding and enjoyable experience for kids and parents alike. From icing fairy cakes to helping to make dinner, from an early age kids can be involved in food.
This blog was originally written for West London Mum and posted on her site in March. Click here to see the original post.