Monday, 18 June 2012

Kitchen learning

OK, so it's not easy to find the time to make a marvellous home cooked meal and dessert every day for the family, let alone involve our kids in making it. How many of us have the time to spend hours slaving over a complicated, nutritious meal that the whole family will enjoy? Other things take precedence - work, after school clubs, housework, homework. The question of whether you sit with your children and coax them to complete their homework, or whether you leave them to it, believing that it should be something that is completed independently, is one that can be left for another day.  But if we want to spend time with our kids helping them with their learning, and cook a meal for the family, why not combine the two?

Recently my daughter's homework involved identifying items bought from the supermarket that were measured in millilitres and litres. While I was cooking I was able to ask her how many millilitres a bottle of oil holds, and how many millilitres is in a half litre bottle of milk. Measuring things is an important part of the maths curriculum in primary school, and involving your child in measuring ingredients and talking to them about grams and millilitres is great practice for them. Even younger children can be involved in measuring and working with quantities. Before they begin to use standard measurements they can count the number of spoonfuls or cups to be put into a recipe, and they love to try breaking the right number of eggs into the bowl when making a cake. (Beware, this takes some practice - there's many a time I've ended up with raw egg all over the floor or the table)

Another important aspect of involving children in cooking is teaching them about healthy eating. Talk to them about why you're cooking a particular meal and the importance of a balanced diet. Show them that taking the time (even when you don't think you've got much of it to spare!) to make a nutritious meal, and then sit down and eat as a family, is something you value and try to do as often as you can. For fussy eaters, getting them involved in the preparation of a meal can be a great way to get them to try something new. If they're made it themselves they're more likely to want to eat it.

I know that we live in the real world, and we don't always have the time or the patience to use the mad rush of cooking the evening meal as a learning opportunity for the kids, but once in while let them make a mess in the kitchen and help you cook the dinner - you might be surprised at how much they learn.

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