Cooking and baking are an important part of our homeschool rhythm. I believe it is an important part of our kids’ education to learn how to take care of themselves and their family. Learning life skills includes growing their own food, grocery shopping, cooking their own food, cleaning and maintaining a home. So the kids are often included in my household duties of laundry, dishes, gardening, cooking, and baking. They are not expected to do it all the time, save for a few chores that they regularly help with, but they are included often enough that they learn the skills they need for adulthood.
Skills Learned in Cooking and Baking
There are many reasons to include cooking and baking in your homeschool rhythms. Reading are recipe requires literacy. Measuring ingredients requires math. Observing and discovering how ingredients work together, cause and effect of heat and cold on the ingredients teaches science skills. Gardening and understanding where our food comes from teaches science and agriculture. Learning how to prepare a meal from start to finish teaches life skills. Working together to make a dish uses communication and team building skills. Having to learn patience while waiting for the cake to finish baking before you can eat it. Learning to cook with and eat real food encourages healthy eating and prepares for a life of health. Picky eaters, like my six year old, is more inclined to try new foods if he has seen where it has come from and has prepared it himself.
Things to consider
Learning skills in the kitchen is a gradual process. Preschoolers will start with simple tasks like stirring or adding ingredients slowly with parent help. Recipes and shopping lists can be adapted for pre-readers with pictures of ingredients and foods. Getting out measuring spoons, spatulas, and mixing bowls are also easy but important tasks. As kids get more comfortable with simple tasks kids can learn to measure ingredients with supervision and begin peeling and chopping fruits and vegetables. Start first by modeling, then offer the child to try with close supervision.
Once the child has practiced and become more confident they can be left to tasks of peeling and chopping on their own. For example, my almost 9 year old is confident enough with the knife that he often requests the job of chopping veggies. My 6 year old however is just being introduced to using a knife. However, he is our go-to cheese grater because he loves to do it.
While my 6 year old has basic reading skills I read the recipe to him while pointing out the important words and measurements. Doing this often will make him more comfortable with recipes. My 8 year old can read the recipes and work on finding the correct measuring tools. Discussing whether to use liquid or dry measuring cups and modeling how to fill them evenly are important and quickly learned.
Both boys are familiar with shopping lists and recipes and how to navigate them. I love finding stores like Lidl that have kids carts so the boys feel independent as they journey the store in search of their items. Added bonus: when grocery shopping, having the kids with a task keeps them focused and well behaved in the store!
Simple tasks like washing dishes and loading and unloading the dishwasher are great ways to get young children involved in the kitchen and learning life skills. Our boys earn money for doing chores. My oldest son handles putting the clean dishes away and the younger one puts the silverware away. Occasionally the kids will help wash dishes as well. Who doesn’t love to splash in the sink?
I couldn’t help including these next pictures of my oldest son in his holiday baker’s outfit! Ikea for the win! While not the healthiest option, pull apart cookie dough is a great way to get kids baking. Just give them the package and a cookie sheet and they can do the rest.
As you do more baking with them you can model and teach how to bake cookies and cakes, and even harder things like pies and scones. While making a quiche I showed my son how to flute the pie crust and off he went! This is a skill I didn’t learn until much later and he’s already been introduced to it at age 8!
Making their own meal is actually on my oldest son’s chore chart. If he helps me make a meal or makes a meal for us he can earn money. He loves helping and is so proud when he can provide the meal for his family! The boys will make their own lunches, make pancakes on the electric skillet, make waffles in the waffle maker, whip up some scrambled eggs, or make simple pizzas to bake. I’m always close by to monitor and help if needed.
If you aren’t already cooking and baking with your kids, encourage them to join you in the kitchen! Its not too late to start! Why not have one meal a week that you make together as a whole family? What a great bonding activity!