Nutrition Literacy with Healthy Start! Cooking and Learning with Children

Cooking is a wonderful learning opportunity for children. Don’t be afraid to invite children in the kitchen to help you. Whether it’s at home, at the childcare centre or in the classroom, children have so much to gain from preparing meals and snacks.. Encouraging children to help you in the kitchen  will increase their knowledge and curiosity in several areas.

Children will develop math skills by counting and measuring ingredients. Introduce math principles by cutting portions of food. The concepts of subtraction, addition, multiplication and division are easy to demonstrate visually with foods.

Help build literacy skills by saying everything you do aloud. Children will better understand the principles of steps and sequences. Teach them new words like cooking instruments and ingredients. Recipes with pictures will help children associate food with words.

Fine motor skills will also improve as they practice skills like scooping, pouring, chopping, peeling and stirring. Give children specific tasks depending on their age and skill level.  For example, young children can remove cauliflower florets with their hands, wash fruits and vegetables, and tear off and rip lettuce leaves. The older or more experienced  children can cut soft foods like a banana with a plastic knife or shape cookie dough. Check out page 81 of LEAP™ Food Flair for more excellent examples of what children can do to help you prepare your next meal together.

Here is a kid-friendly recipe to get them started in the kitchen:

Salad in a Bag (LEAP™ Food Flair, p. 134)

What you need:

  • ½ cup (125 mL) Romaine lettuce or spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. (30 mL) Grated carrots
  • 3-4 Mandarin orange sections
  • 2 tsp. (10 mL) Ranch or Italian salad dressing
  • 2 Whole grain crackers
  • 1 Plastic, sealable sandwich bag

How to:

  1. Set out bowls of prepared salad fixings.
  2. Let each child each fill their own bag.
  3. Pour in salad dressing and close the bag for them.
  4. Children shake their salad then open it and eat with their forks as a snack (with whole grain crackers) or to start a meal.

Serves one child

 

We’ve started using whole grain flour!

- Educator (SK)