If you’re looking for fun educational activities that your children can enjoy regardless of the weather, head to the kitchen! Better yet, utilize kitchen activities while you need to get things done around the house or are preparing a meal.
At Solstice Behavioral Health & Consulting, our team utilizes a play-based system to introduce children to new situations and reinforce learned behaviors that build on life skills. Helping in the kitchen can be a wonderful way for parents to support their children’s learning goals
Here are some simple, fun activities for toddlers to try as an introduction to helping in the kitchen:
1. Wash fruits and vegetables. Have fun washing the food you are about to eat. Make some space in the kitchen sink for your child to play with water and food. Better yet, take a colander to the bathtub and teach them to wash produce just like they wash their hands. This is a fun and easy way to teach your child to help in the kitchen and may even help them try new foods.
2. Measure ingredients. Measuring ingredients is a great way to reinforce multiple skills. Start by placing larger items into a pot such as beans or potatoes. If your child’s fine motor skills are up to the challenge, work with smaller items & spices in measuring cups.
3. Stir batter. Stirring batter for pancakes can be an exciting experiment for your child. They will watch their creation transform as they stir and learn how different ingredients come together to make some of their favorite snacks.
4. Fill muffin tins. Once they are finished stirring, they are ready to pour! Practice pouring from a large pitcher, or for an extra challenge, give them a spoon and have them scoop each muffin into the tray. 2-3 scoops per muffin cup and top with their favorite fruit or topping.
5. Trim herbs. If your recipe includes herbs like mint, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, or thyme, let your child pull the leaves from the stems for you while you work on other tasks.
6. Make a salad. Have your toddler tear lettuce leaves for a salad, add in the extra ingredients, and then toss everything together once it’s time to eat.
7. Prepare simple meals or snacks. Sandwiches or snacks like ants on a log are a great place to start!
8. Set the table. This is a great way to involve your toddler in preparing for meal time and work on basic counting skills.
9. Unpack groceries. Your child will feel more involved if they help you unpack the week’s groceries. They will also be able to interact with new ingredients while they practice organization. This is also a great way to plan where their favorite snack will be placed for them and give them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.
10. Clear the table. Teach your toddlers that cleaning is everyone’s responsibility by having them bring their cups and plates to the sink after each meal.
The Benefits of Cooking in Early Childhood
Kitchen activities can develop your child’s social, motor, and educational development. Here’s how:
Explore and develop the senses.
By learning about ingredients, children can explore and develop their senses – colors, smells, and tastes. Let your child smell different spices, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Use fruits and vegetables to highlight shape, texture, and color and teach their names. Explain what objects are and what you do with them.
Develop motor skills.
Children become more dexterous when they help with simple kitchen tasks such as scooping, pouring, and sorting. Practicing these fine motor skills can improve writing skills and overall coordination.
Practice math skills.
Counting objects such as beans, herb sprigs, and even spoons can enhance a child’s basic math skills. Talk about addition, subtraction, and fractions while cooking delicious meals.
Working with you and your child on a project from start to finish (for example, baking cookies) gives you the opportunity to focus on a task for longer. This focused practice can later be transferred to other tasks such as reading, homework, and chores.
Develop and expand your child’s palate.
Experiencing the cooking process in the kitchen helps develop a child’s taste buds. This is especially helpful for picky eaters and preschoolers. Encourage your children to taste the ingredients you use and provide opportunities to participate in meal preparation. Participating in the cooking process will spark a greater interest in the food you are serving.
The kitchen is a great place to work with your child on core and fringe vocabulary skills. Talk through the steps as your show them and have your child recite the instructions as they go. Easy communication practice and workflow memorization.
When cooking together, your child will learn about the important and enjoyable role teamwork plays in everyday life. They will experience first-hand what you can achieve as a team.
We hope this post inspires you to be creative in the kitchen with your young children. Share your favorite mealtime practices with our staff to share with other families and to connect home lessons with their center-based curriculum.