Cooking with kids to Promote Development and Learning

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Cooking is not only a fun, engaging activity for children, but one that has been used for years as an important teaching and development tool for all ages.

Social-Emotional Development: Hands-on cooking activities help children develop pride and confidence in their skills and abilities. The act of following a recipe can encourage self-direction and independence, while also teaching children to follow directions and use thinking skills to problem solve.

Physical Development: Chopping, squeezing, spreading, and mixing are all cooking skills that help develop a child’s small muscle control and eye-hand coordination. It’s impossible to separate hands-on cooking activities from physical development for young children.

Intelligence Development: Cooking inspires children’s curiosity, thinking, and problem solving, offering new opportunities to make predictions and observations. Additionally, cooking offers authentic opportunities for students to understand and apply their knowledge of measuring, one-to-one correspondence, numbers, and counting. As they follow a recipe, children organize ingredients, follow a sequence, and carry out multiple directions.

Language Development: With its own vocabulary, cooking is a great opportunity for language development. Take advantage of opportunities for children to match pictures to words and articulate questions inspired by their new experiences.


Guideline for food preparations with toddler

  • Display recipes to create opportunities for children’s literacy and math skills to develop.
  • Write recipes on large paper so all children can see. Use pictures and numerals as well as words.
  • Adapt recipes to incorporate local produce, traditional foods, and new tastes. Trail mix, for example, can be made from all sorts of combinations of whole-wheat crackers, whole-grain cereals, and dried fruits.
  • Wash hands.
  • Choose safe tools, such as wide craft sticks, plastic dinnerware, and unbreakable measuring cups and mixing bowls. Model the safe use of all tools.
  • Arrange all ingredients and tools so they are easily accessible.
  • Read and point out each step in the recipe. Connect print to the ingredients and steps to follow by writing experience stories, inventing new recipes, and charting children’s preferences.
  • Make sure children are fully engaged in every step. Resist the urge to do tasks for them to avoid a mess or move the activity along.
  • To avoid choking hazards, cut foods such as grapes, raw vegetables, and meat into 1/2-inch chunks. Do not serve popcorn to children younger than age 4. Insist that children sit while they eat.
  • Describe each item as it is added. Talk about its name, color, shape, and texture.
  • Closely supervise toddlers as they work.


Author: Bibian Okoye

A Retired Chief Nursing Officer, PGDip IHM

2 thoughts on “Cooking with kids to Promote Development and Learning”

  1. This is some great advice and something that many of us parents don’t do enough of. How many kids love cooking things with their parents, especially if the parent makes it fun and cooks something tasty. I think too many times, we parents will be to critical with the kids and ruin their cooking experience. Thank you for this great tips.

    1. Thanks Rich for your comment I really appreciate it
      You see cooking should be a basic life skill in our kids, after all, being comfortable enough in the kitchen to pull a few ingredients into a simple meal, is healthy. A hungry 13 year-old who can cook, home alone after school, may decide to stir-fry some leftover rice with whatever is in the fridge; his non-cooking peer is left rummaging through the pantry for anything that can be eaten straight out of the box or bag. Cooking is a source of pride for the children who can take care of themselves in this way, or feed a friend or sibling. It should be a necessity for we parent to help this children learn this habit when they are very young.

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