Monday, October 4, 2010

Tiny Chefs

Sometimes the most fantastic little moments happen when all of our best laid plans have gone awry. And that’s precisely what happened at our house this afternoon. My little one has a terrible cold, and I thought that trying a new craft activity would be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I planned to make some homemade craft glue during nap time (recipe to follow – check back soon!), but my daughter had other plans. Terribly congested, she refused to nap, but I decided to attempt the craft anyways. And trying to keep her occupied while preparing the glue, I stumbled upon an activity she loved more than any I had planned…
I often let my daughter “cook” while I am cooking – giving her an assortment of pots, bowls and utensils and watching her imagination bloom. But today I took it one step further and actually gave her ingredients  - a little bowl of flour, a little bowl of water, and utensils for scooping, pouring and mixing. Was it messy? Absolutely! But my daughter sat happily in her highchair, totally absorbed in her play for a good twenty minute stretch (and this in spite of having a cold and missing her nap!). The disaster I cleaned up afterwards was so small in comparison to the enormous smile on her little face. It was absolutely worth the effort.
Cooking with kids is a wonderful learning activity, and can be adapted for little ones of any age…
·        Little Babies – Position your little one somewhere where he can safely watch as you prepare dinner. The sights, sounds and smells of cooking provide a wonderfully rich sensory experience, and your little one will be learning language as you talk and sing to her while you cook.

·        Older Babies – When your baby is able to sit supported in her highchair as you cook, give her an assortment of safe plastic utensils, small bowls, storage containers with lids, and measuring cups to play with. Your baby will develop important fine motor and relational play skills - banging toys together, taking objects out of containers and putting them back in, and stacking and nesting, to name just a few.

·        Toddlers – Bite the bullet and give your little one some real ingredients to explore while you are cooking. It will be messy, but this is a great multisensory play activity that will spark your child’s imagination and lead to wonderful opportunities for conversation and language learning.

·        Older Children – Have your child actually help as you cook. Depending on their age and level of development, this may mean stirring (fun even for toddlers), measuring, or even reading the recipe for you. Cooking is a fabulous activity for learning to follow directions and understanding concepts of quantity and measurement. And there is no better way to get finicky eaters to try new things than to actually involve them in the cooking process.
And as an added bonus…
·        Cooking with your child, at any age, is a wonderful way of teaching healthy eating habits and important lessons about nutrition. You’ll also have opportunities to pass along your cultural heritage and family traditions!
Some of the most vivid and wonderful memories I have of my own childhood are of cooking with my mom. The sunlight streaming through the kitchen window, the feeling of warm, gooey dough in my hands, and the smell of cinnamon and apples emanating from the oven all come back to me as though it were yesterday. I’m looking forward to making those memories with my own little one, and there’s no reason to wait until she’s older…

No comments:

Post a Comment