Early Learning at Home: Kitchen Fun
by Susan Franklin
Photo Purchased From iStockphoto.com
Photographer: Greg Nicholas
Since homeschooling is a matter of the heart for most us and the kitchen is typically the heart of the home, it should be natural for learning and fun to occur during those routine daily activities which take place in the kitchen.
But the call of those very tasks needing to be completed often drowns out our child's pleas. And, sadly our, child’s request, “Can I help, mommy?” doesn’t always meet with an enthusiastic, “Sure, sweetheart. Come on in and let’s work together.”
Shouldn't the kitchen be a place where our children feel comfortable to help out, ask questions, and learn about weighing and measuring, reading recipes, kitchen safety and the basics of cooking and baking, not to mention how to get their hands dirty and also how to clean up after themselves?
I try to resist the urge to plunk them down in front of a video every time they want to come into our kitchen to “help.”
Here are some ideas to get your children involved in the kitchen safely when it is safe and reasonable to do so.
To ensure tranquility between siblings, keep on hand several options available such as bubble liquid, dishwater with plastic dishes to wash, a large bowl filled with cornmeal and flour and some spoons and measuring cups, etc.
Here are some activity ideas to spark your imagination. You’ll establish your own unique traditions and discover ways to have fun with your children in kitchen once you start.
FUN WITH A CARROT
If you have a toddler, try to busy her with some plastic dishes and a funnel or sieve and a sponge at the sink filled with lukewarm dishwater. Then review basic kitchen safety with your preschooler and demonstrate how to peel a carrot, using a motion that peels the carrot away from the body. Then let her try it for a while. Take a paring knife and demonstrate how to use a cutting board and how to hold a knife properly. Discuss the concept of “whole.” This is a “whole” carrot. Cut it in halves, then quarters. Another time do this cutting the carrot into eights, sixteenths, and so on. Never walk away from the area where you and your children are working during an activity like this.
Place popcorn, butter, a large bowl and salt on the counter ahead of time. If you have an air popper, show how to measure the popcorn, place the bowl under the chute and add butter to the measuring cup to be melted. Talk about how the heat works to make the kernels pop and to melt the butter.
With a little care and planning, making popcorn balls together can turn into a creative experience. Try different flavors and colors. Put the balls into cupcake liners. Or make ice cream cone popcorn balls with real ice cream cones and decorate with sprinkles.
Build a snowman with three different sized popcorn balls.
If making the popcorn balls seems too unmanageable due to the hot syrup used, how about gluing popcorn onto a large piece posterboard to make a jolly snowman? Use raisins and other food items for facial features.
Try using using cranberry juice to “dye” the popcorn. With older preschoolers, you can make necklaces out of popcorn strung in patterns with cereal or soft candy using a needle and thread. This works best with popcorn that is stale.
Follow the directions on the package and mix up some instant pudding in a bowl with a secure lid. Instead of stirring, put on the lid and let your toddler shake the pudding for two minutes. After shaking, let the pudding sit for five minutes before serving.
PEANUT BUTTER PLAY DOUGH
Mix an 18-ounce jar of peanut butter plus six tablespoons honey and a dash of milk and flour to the right consistency and let them create, sculpt, squeeze, pound, and taste to their hearts’ desire.
You’ll need a pre-made crust or large flour tortilla. Prepare bowls with pizza sauce, cheese, pepperoni, bell peppers cut into various shapes. Let your toddler or preschooler help spread the sauce and cheese. Talk about the colors. Let them taste a little of each ingredient. Discuss the shapes of the pepperoni, pepper shapes, and the pizza itself while working.
Instead of using a tortilla or ready made crust, make dough from scratch and let each child have their own ball of dough to work with and demonstrate how to knead and work with the dough.
I have found that our toddler is usually happy if she has a sink of dishwater, some plastic dishes, and a ladle or unusual kitchen tool to play with in the water. My four-year old loves to dump and stir and is learning about measuring ingredients. An added blessing is that they both love to clean.
Some of my favorite memories of childhood are days spent with my mother, baking Christmas cookies and candy together. I cherish those memories and still use the cookie press we used together when I was as young as five.
Could these absolutely, totally free activities mean more to a child than an expensive vacation or other popular and equally costly material things? Yes. I think so.
So, while you’re doing this, right in the middle of the biggest mess, be sure to get your camera out and capture the moment.
Copyright Susan Franklin. This article was originally published in her Early Learning at Home column and is reprinted here with her permission.
Susan Franklin is a full-time wife and mother of two children. Her first career was in teaching English, Speech and Drama. She now homeschools her four-year old and two-year old and enjoys researching methods and fresh ideas for homeschooling her children. Her hobbies include sewing, writing, cooking, gardening, and scrapbooking.
Growing Together Family Learning Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 3, page 14