Habitot Children's Museum

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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111

Parenting Q&A

Parenting Question of the Month How can I make parent-child cooking activities work at home?


Parenting Q&AYou have to put food on the table and you want to spend time connecting with your child. Cooking together can actually help you do both - and as a happy by-product, kids are often more willing to eat things they help prepare. The trick to making parent-child cooking activities work is to identify those tasks young children will be naturally good at and that don't need much adult assistance.

Cooking together is a great time to do what early literacy experts recommend for building toward reading success: narrating the daily tasks of life, telling children what you are doing and why. Don't be afraid to use the proper terms like measuring spoons instead of little spoons. Counting out amounts as you cook helps with number sense; using verbs like mixing, stirring, boiling, baking, etc. builds vocabulary; and talking about how foods change, for example watching raw eggs change as you cook them, is a part of early science understanding. You may not realize it, but your child will watch you and learn from your example of washing your hands before cooking, taking care with knives, turning pothandles away, etc. A special apron for your child can help him feel like a grownup.

Your 1-year-old can get pots out of the cupboard, shred lettuce for a salad, and drop fruit in and push the buttons on the blender. With a plastic knife, your two-year old can cut pieces of celery or cheese. Those hand-held cheese graters are great for kids. Your three-year old (with clean hands) can mash meat together for meatloaf or hamburgers. A four year old can use a whisk for mixing batter and can pour out pancakes. A five year old can make balls of cookie dough and put them on the baking sheet. Be creative with ways your children can help and be patient as they gain new skills. Expect a few spills, and make clean-up a part of the cooking fun!

Here are some simple ways to share the joy of cooking with your child:

  • Give your child ‘child-safe’ scissors or a plastic knife so she can cut soft foods and fresh herbs.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables together. Talk about the different colors, shapes, sizes and textures.

  • Stir or whisk liquid and dry ingredients together and notice the changes.

  • Use a rolling pin to roll dough, crush cookies, or make bread crumbs. Do it in a zippered bag and there will be less mess.

  • Cut fruits like oranges, apples, or kiwis, or hard boiled eggs in half, and talk about what you see inside. Deviled eggs are fun and easy for children to make.

  • Squeeze lemons or limes, add a sweetener of choice and water to make lemon/limeade.

  • Let your child spread butter, cream cheese, jam or nut butter with a butter knife or sandwich spreader.

  • Shape hamburgers or meatballs with your hands.

  • PS. Habitot's hands-on cooking class will take place on Thursdays, 10:00 am - 10:30 am, starting January 12!
    Parenting Resources

    Chapelle, Emily. Cooking with Kids: 5 Ways to Get Children Involved in the Kitchen. Kathy Maister's StartCooking.com Web Site: http://startcooking.com/blog/406/Cooking-with-Kids--5-Ways-to-Get-Children-Involved-in-the-KitchenM

    Cooking with Young Children. Nutrition Education Network of Washington. http://nutrition.wsu.edu/ebet/brochures/YoungChildren.pdf

    Van Horn, Dr. James E. Kids Can Cook — and Learning Is the Secret Ingredient! Better Kid Care Project Penn State: http://betterkidcare.psu.edu/caringforkids/caringforkids3-5.pdf

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