Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cooking with Kids

Dawn at 4Real asked about teaching kids to cook.

Here's how I do it: tell the littles we're doing cooking math, don our aprons and have at it. Yes, it's as simple as that. Yes, there's a big mess. Yes, the recipe probably won't come out as nicely as when you don't have "help". Yes, they do rapidly learn how to work in the kitchen and, how to clean up after themselves!

We call it cooking math because the whole time we're working we're figuring "what if we doubled the recipe", "what's half of a half cup", "what shape is this", "can you get out the big rectangular pan", "how much will it take to fill the pan", and other practical math lessons.

This goes way beyond water tables and measuring sand. This gives the children a concrete lesson in how math affects us everyday. They are so proud when Dad comes home and oohs and aahs over whatever we've created.

In addition, we link the cooking/baking lesson to something we've been studying or reading. Many children's picture books have recipes included -- Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco, Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin, A Song for Lena by Hilary Horder Hippely are just some of the books with a recipe that ties to the story.

But you can go beyond this. Last year, when we studied pioneers, we made "Haymakers Switchel" -- a beverage with ginger and molasses that quenched the thirst of the haymakers in the fields. When studying the middle ages we found reference to marzipan as being a treat during the feasting -- so we made marzipan for the family as a surprise. When we did a Paul Bunyan unit, we made popcorn blizzards and HUGE pancakes -- with little stick figures skating on the butter. Studying the Little House books has reaped many dinner suggestions (and even more dessert treats).

Cooking with children is one of the ways to get the everyday things into a homeschooled child's curriculum. Let's see them try that in a "traditional" school!

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