Montessori Activities, Preschool

Littles in the Kitchen: Cooking with Young Children

My son is three years old, and he really enjoys cooking and baking with me. I always planned on teaching my child how to cook, but I didn’t think we would start this early. I actually got the idea from my friend, I was at her house one day and she told me that her son had helped her make some cookies… a light bulb went on in my head. My child could help me in the kitchen if I had myself mentally prepared (lol). Young children have an affinity for creating and eating, cooking is a natural fit. The following tips have helped us have an exciting and successful time in the kitchen. 

Create Familiar Foods

Essentially this is not the time to experiment with a new creme brûlée recipe. Make something that you know you can make well. If you are comfortable with the recipe then there will be less mistakes and anxiety about forgetting a step. If you bake with a box mix that’s just as good as from  scratch. The point is for your child to gain experience with the process of creating food. 

Prepare your Space

Take out the ingredients and supplies that you will need before starting. For instance, do the eggs need to be at room temperature, should the butter be melted, is the oven preheated? By taking care of these steps ahead of time you will save yourself time and energy. I am notorious for starting to cook a meal to only find out part way through the recipe that I don’t have all of the ingredients. Don’t let this happen to you when you are with your littles. 

Talk about Safety

Are there steps in the recipe that are safe for adults but not safe for children? Let your little know ahead of time that you will pour the batter into the waffle iron or take the hot cookie sheet out of the oven. This is a great time to discuss the importance of listening and following directions. If your child is using utensils for the first time, such as a potato peeler, demonstrate how to correctly use the utensil before your little uses it.

Kid Size Cooking Utensils

Set your littles up for success by giving them kitchen tools that re the perfect size for their hands. This will eliminate messes that occur due to a child using something that is too heavy or large for them to handle. Montessori Services has a vast array of kitchen tools for small hands. We’ve purchased several items from this company and my son is so excited when he sees “his” kitchen utensils. 

Make a Mess, Clean it Up

More than likely things will get messy and that is perfectly okay. If you set expectations of an incident free cooking experience this may be unrealistic. I know that some children are neat and meticulous leaving little evidence of their ever being somewhere. But my child leaves a trail wherever he goes and the kitchen is no exception. The best part about making a mess is that a mess is made to be cleaned. Don’t leave your child out of the cleaning process. Explain that part of using the kitchen is cleaning after ourselves, just like we would put away toys after playing.

The cleaning process is fun for children because they are able to spray water, use sponges and make bubbles. You don’t need to have a child size sink to make this magic happen. Put a sturdy chair with a tall back at the kitchen sink and help keep your child safe while they wash a few dishes. They may enjoy this more than they enjoy creating their food. 

Share your Treats

Your kiddo will be so proud of themselves for creating something they can eat. But the real confidence will come when they are able to share the treat with someone else. Make enough pancakes for the entire family to eat for breakfast or make enough cookies to share with the neighbors. This project can turn into a gratitude and hospitality lesson. Your child will be thankful that you helped them create and then will learn the value of giving to others. 

If your child makes some cookies and gives them to their grandparents you may just win the parent of the year award. (not that you need to prove anything to your parents lol)

Endless Benefit and Possibilities

As you can see the time spent with your child in the kitchen has innumerable benefits. We didn’t even discuss the academic benefits such as measuring, counting, reading, setting timers, sequencing, chemical reactions, types of energy…I could go on and on. Ok so let’s get started. This simple Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar recipe is delicious and makes enough to feed a gaggle of preschoolers. It’s Dairy free (because we use almond milk, coconut oil and real chocolate chips) but it is adapted from the recipe on the back of the Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chip package. 

Happy Baking!

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