How Cooking Can Help Improve Your Child’s Basic Intellect
Vocabulary development, reading comprehension, counting, adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, measurement, fractions, spatial relations, sequencing, logical thinking, prediction, cause and effect, chemistry.
No, that’s not a list of the skills your child will be developing in third grade this year. It’s a list of all of the skills you are helping your child to develop just by cooking with them. It’s a surprisingly long, and surprisingly sophisticated list.
Are you shocked?
I always knew that I was doing something good by cooking with my girls, but I must admit that I was a little shocked by how comprehensive this list is. And I’m not even listing things like following directions, cooperation and other social skills that I’ve already covered!
Let’s frame all of these skills in the context of an actual recipe. Then, I think it will be easier to see how children can learn so much, even without any overt teaching.
A Simple Waffles Recipe
- 1¾ cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 eggs separated
- 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1½ cups whole milk
- Separate the eggs, putting the whites into the bowl of your stand mixer or in a metal bowl (if you have a hand mixer)
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together
- Whisk the yolks, oil and whole milk together.
- Fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.
- Whip the egg whites to medium peaks.
- Thoroughly fold the whites into the batter.
- For a 9-inch round waffle, use ½ cup of batter. Makes 9 waffles.
What This Recipe Will Teach Your Kids
Let’s take each skill, one at a time. Remember depending on the age and level of your children, not all of these skills may be age appropriate. Use your best judgment; nobody knows your child as well as you do.
And of course, whether or not you choose to overtly ask each question will have an affect on the “natural” setting. I just want you to be aware of how many different skills you can teach your kids while you’re cooking.
Here’s a list of words that you can teach, just from this one recipe. You can choose to use and highlight the words that you think are appropriate for your child. Personally, I don’t think it’s ever too early to start introducing “bigger” words to kids.
Separate, whisk, fold, whip, freeze, teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, baking powder, egg foam/meringue, yolks, albumin, ingredients, peaks, dry ingredients, wet ingredients, waffle iron, any other words that you think are important. Some of these terms may even be new to you so it really becomes a learning opportunity.
Reading comprehension: The ability to provide accurate responses regarding questions concerning written language. Reading comprehension is dependent on accurate reading ability, reasoning skills, attention and memory.
According to this definition, reading comprehension is dependent on 4 other skills, so this is a big one. While this sounds intimidating, it is really as easy as having your child read the recipe, one step at a time (or reading it to your child) and then asking them what they are supposed to do. Then, you just have them follow each step, giving as much or as little assistance as your child needs or wants.
Counting: “How many dry ingredients are in this recipe? Wet ingredients? Total ingredients?” “Measure out 2 teaspoons of baking powder. One”¦..two!” “Measure out 7 tablespoons of vegetable oil. One”¦.two”¦.three”¦.”
Adding and subtracting: “Okay, we cracked one egg. We need to crack three. How many eggs do we still need to crack?” “We need one bowl for dry ingredients, one bowl for wet ingredients and one bowl for the whites. How many bowls do we need altogether?”
Multiplying and dividing: “We’re making 9 waffles. Each waffle takes ½ cup of batter. How much batter should we have?” “How much batter would we need if we were only going to make 4 waffles?” “If we want 18 waffles, how much flour would we need?”
Measurement: “There are three teaspoons in a tablespoon.” “Look, this is how you level off your cup to make sure you have the right amount.” “Let’s see how much volume 7 tablespoons will fill.”
Fractions: “If it take 3 teaspoons to make 1 tablespoon, what fraction of a tablespoon is a teaspoon?” “How much salt would we need to make 18 waffles?” “Which is more: ¾ cup or ½ cup?”
Spatial relations: “What is happening to the whites as we beat them?” “Which bowl is big enough to hold all these ingredients?”
Sequencing: What do we do first: whip the egg whites or fold them into the batter?” “First, we separate the eggs. Next, we whisk the dry ingredients together. Then, we whisk the wet ingredients together.”
Logical thinking: “Could we still make waffles without separating the eggs?” “What does whipping the egg whites do to the batter?” “Why does it tell us to whisk all the dry ingredients together?”
Prediction: “Do you think we’ll break any of the yolks while we are separating the eggs?” “How thick do you think the batter will be?” “What do you think will folding in whipped egg whites will do to the batter?”
“How much waffle batter will we need to make Belgium waffles?” “How many Belgium waffles do you think we can make with the batter we have?” “What do you think will happen to the batter while it is in the waffle iron?”
Cause and Effect: “We added a little bit of sugar to the batter. What do you think it will make the waffles taste like?” “Oh, we used ¾ cups of batter for this waffle, and look at the mess we made! Next time, we let’s remember to follow the directions.” “What will happen to the waffles that we put in the freezer?”
Chemistry: “Oh, look at what happens when you mix baking powder into warm water! What do you think the baking powder will do in our waffle batter?” “Hey, look at all the little bubbles that form when we whip our egg whites!” “Sugar helps things brown. If we leave it out, our waffles won’t be as golden brown as they could be.”
Wow! That’s a lot of teaching and learning! Again, please remember that it is not necessary, (nor is it necessarily advisable) to be too overt in your instructions. At the end of the day, this should be about you and your children participating in a fun and creative activity together. Just be aware of how powerful a tool cooking can be in teaching your kids.