Excitement, engagement and enthusiasm is what marks the cooking sessions in Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten. Cooking, a much requested and favoured activity, happens in both grades on a regular basis. Even with online learning, this activity is much in demand with the children looking forward to their cooking session every week.
Cooking involves concepts in science and math as well as practice in following and writing instructions. The kitchen is like a mini science laboratory where children watch materials change colour, texture and form (liquids, solids, gases) and they make predictions and observations; for example, what happens if you use too much or too little water, wrong temperatures, and so on.
Counting (four spoons of…), number recognition (reading numbers on scales and measuring cups), mathematical language (more than, bigger, smaller), and weighing (scales) are just a few of the many mathematical skills that are developed when cooking.
Cooking offers a great opportunity to help with language development. Talking and describing what you are doing exposes young children to new words and terms. Children begin to describe what they are doing, what they see, smell and how things feel. They practise reading skills by reading recipes. Sometimes they even create their own recipe, which helps them understand instructional writing.
Students brainstorm and come up with what to cook. Interesting discussions about health and nutrition ensue. Exploring fruits, vegetables, food grains, and dairy products is an ongoing process. Students begin with simple items like salads and sandwiches, for which they learn to peel, chop and grate and they move on to recipes that involve mixing and cooking. They are introduced to different cooking techniques like boiling, steaming, baking. A visit to the school kitchen during physical school helps them to observe these processes on a large scale. When in school, students often use vegetables they have grown themselves in our garden.
Cooking encourages an adventurous palate, builds confidence and is fun. Children express their creativity through recipe development and food presentation. This could be something as simple as deciding what ingredients to add into a salad, or something more complex, like baking bread or making vegetable fried rice. Stirring, measuring, rolling, squeezing, chopping and spreading are just a few of the kitchen tasks that allow young children to develop their fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills. Children learn to handle and respect real tools such as knives, grinders, spatulas and to understand the sources of heat used.
Cooking helps nurture the child’s self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth. It provides opportunities to encourage and celebrate their work. Children feel a great sense of pride when they feel they’ve successfully prepared a dish for themselves and when taking it to Ms. Zoë to be tasted. Not only is cooking together fun and enjoyable for both the children and teachers, it also creates lasting memories that the children will treasure forever.