Making a recipe and cooking with your children can help your child’s reading, language and planning skills. Children of all ages can get going in the kitchen to learn new skills and increase independence.
Let’s think about toast, a dish that most of us can create from memory:
Open bag of bread
Get a slice of bread
Place bread in toaster
Get a plate
Place plate on counter
Remove toast from toaster
Place toast on plate
Remove butter from refrigerator
Place butter on counter
Open drawer and find knife
Spread butter on knife
Spread butter on toast
Whew! Even something as ‘simple’ as making a piece of toast involves a lot of steps. Some steps are sequential while others are simultaneous.
Sequential tasks of cooking
Sequential tasks need to be completed in a specific order. First you have then place the bread in the toaster, then you have to turn on the toaster. Turning on the toaster without anything inside of it doesn’t make sense if you want to eat breakfast.
If a child is reading a recipe or listening to directions, then they are learning words like FIRST, NEXT, LAST, and THEN. These words help children learn in what order something needs to be done.
Simultaneous tasks of cooking
Some steps are simultaneous, meaning they can be done at the same time. When making toast, your child can get a plate and find the butter while bread is toasting. To some degree, it’s okay if those steps aren’t done in a particular order, so long as they are done before eating the toast.
Words like DURING or WHILE reinforce steps that can be done at the same time something else is being done.
Reading the recipe
If your child wants to prepare something with a recipe, then read or have your child read the recipe all the way through to make sure you have all of the ingredients and supplies. Whether your young Julia Child or Jacques Pepin is making Jello Jigglers or an omelet, it’s important to have everything at the ready when it is needed. Reading through a recipe can help your child determine if steps can be done simultaneously or sequentially.
Breaking steps down
Some food preparation steps are habit or things we do without second thought like closing cupboard doors, using an oven mitt or cleaning the counter. When children are learning a new task, things that are second nature to adults may need to be explained to the child, especially since some of the tasks like returning ingredients to wherever they belong probably aren’t included in a recipe.
Go ahead and get cooking with your child! Not only will you have time with your child as you encourage independence, reading, language, and planning skills, but you’ll enjoy something delicious.