by Julie A. Daymut, M.A., CCC-SLP
Cooking is a great activity to do with your children—you spend time together, make
something delicious, and have fun! As well, cooking can help children learn and
practice many skills. Following recipes requires children to plan (have
the ingredients), prepare (get the ingredients and cooking tools ready),
process (read and understand the directions), and perform (follow
the directions using the ingredients and cooking tools). From start to finish, children
must follow each step of the recipe. They learn to complete a task and then enjoy
the result of their hard work—the food!
When helping your children learn to cook, pick simple recipes with just a few steps
and a few ingredients at first. Then progress to more complex recipes with more
steps and more ingredients. If your children cannot read yet, read the recipe to
them and have them repeat the ingredients and steps back to you. And…be creative
with cooking! Besides food, you can make fun things like homemade clay or soap.
Creating your own “special recipe” is another fun idea. As you are cooking, teach
your children about both kitchen and food safety. And be sure to supervise your
children during all cooking activities.
What Skills Can Children Learn from Cooking?
Cooking is a hands-on activity that can help children learn many different skills.
The list below outlines some skills children can learn as they follow instructions
for various recipes.
- Language skills – When cooking, children must understand
certain vocabulary. They need to know vocabulary for cooking tools like
oven, mixer, and whisk. Flavors—salty, sweet,
bitter, etc.—and textures—sticky, gooey, melted,
etc. are also important to know. As well, children can learn figurative language
related to cooking terms such as “a baker’s dozen,” “a piece of cake,” and “in a
- Math skills – Math is a very important cooking skill.
Children need to know numbers and counting in order to measure and add
ingredients. They must be familiar with measurements like teaspoon,
liter, and “a pinch.”
- Critical-thinking skills – Recipes provide opportunities
for children to practice skills like following directions, sequencing,
and recalling details.
- Fine-motor skills – When cooking, children manipulate
(move with their hands) different ingredients and cooking tools. Getting supplies
out of the pantry, mixing ingredients, and placing toppings
are examples of fine-motor skills to practice in the kitchen.
- Healthy-living skills – Cooking healthy foods is important
for your children’s growth and development. As you cook together, you can teach
your children about the Food Groups, good nutrition, and the importance
of physical activity combined with a healthy diet.