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Ready Steady COOK!

“Cooking is at once a child’s play and an adult's joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” – Craig Claiborne

As adults, teachers and parents, we love to see children growing and becoming independent. In my opinion, one of the most wonderful social and educational experiences which we can share with our children is cooking. And of course, enjoying the delicious result afterwards!


Everyone can agree: cooking is an essential life skill and cooking together provides a relaxed way to work on motor, math and language skills. It opens up avenues to discuss nutrition and taste, as well as explore the wonders of sights and smells.


Working side-by-side in the kitchen creates the perfect opportunity for discussions about food choices and the impact those choices have on the body and the environment.


A recent group project of ours was focussed on Oceans and Marine Life. This project confirms for me that talking with children about our planet, and showing them solutions for some of the problems we are faced with, is crucial. A good example of this is how the children concluded how to solve the micro-plastic pollution problem. After discussing the situation, we went to the supermarket for our weekly shopping and the children decided not to use plastic bags for the items bought but only recyclable ones, making them a little more environmentally conscious.


Variation and colour on the plate give way to conversations about the importance of “eating the rainbow” and why it is good for our health. The more educated children are about food, is more likely they will appreciate your suggestions to eat something healthy. An example of this is our snack table: our little gems independently choose what will be on offer at our snack table - they often opt for buying broccoli, carrots and apples and always looking for local fresh products in season.


Children are also more likely to eat what they make, especially when they are actively involved from the beginning of the process. Starting from deciding which ingredients to use from the shop, then helping prepare in the kitchen, and finally cooking it - true “chefs” in action! This creates a sense of ownership and pride that shifts their perception and relationship with food. So, children who cook become children who taste and often are willing to try different flavours.


By making cooking fun, children also learn to participate in household chores without perceiving it as something they are forced to do. It is a great way to reduce time spent on sedentary activities, such as playing video games or watching mobile devices and TV. Beyond this, children will also gain a better appreciation for the amount of work and thought that really goes into preparing meals.


Let’s have a closer look at the benefits of cooking :

  • Social-Emotional Development: Hands-on cooking activities help children develop confidence and skill. Following recipes encourages children to be self-directed and independent, it also teaches them to follow directions and develop problem-solving skills.

  • Physical Development: Fine & large motor skills and eye-hand coordination are being refined by chopping, mixing, squeezing and spreading.

  • Cognitive Development: Cooking encourages children’s thinking and understanding, problem-solving and creativity. It also allows children the opportunity to use the knowledge they have and apply it by counting, measuring, following a sequence, following directions, and cause and effect.

  • Language Development: Cooking offers the opportunity to develop language development by linking it to all other areas, including Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Arts and Literacy. This is done by encouraging the children to talk about what they are doing, counting and watching materials change colour, texture and medium.

With two-years-olds we can for example start with practising the use of large muscles in their arms with the following activities:

  • Scrubbing vegetables and fruits

  • Carrying items to the table.

  • Washing and tearing vegetable greens.

The next step (around 3 + years old) might be to practise dexterity, that is, to be able to use their right and left hands equally well by the following processes:

  • Pouring liquids into different containers and through the funnel

  • Mixing batter or other dry and wet ingredients together.

  • Shaking a drink in a closed container.

  • Spreading kinds of butter or spreads with a small knife

  • Kneading dough.

  • Washing vegetables, fruits and dishes

  • Setting table and serving food.

  • Cleaning up and recycling what can be recycled.

At around four to five years old the children have developed and refined their finer motor muscles to do the following activities:

  • Juicing oranges, lemons and limes.

  • Peeling fruits and vegetables

  • Scrubbing fruits and vegetables.

  • Cutting some fruits and vegetables with small knives

  • Measuring dry ingredients according to the recipe

  • Mixing ingredients.

  • Setting the table.

  • Using the stove under adult supervision

  • Make pancakes, waffles and yummy birthday cakes!

The most important thing to remember is to have fun with the children as they have those learning experiences and learn about the joy and safety of cooking.


I have included a fun and practical cooking exercise that you can explore with your child. It is an easy and safe recipe and it is super yummy!


Banana Oatmeal Pancakes


Ingredients

- ½ cup Almond Milk unsweetened

· 2 Eggs

· 1 Banana

· 2 Tablespoons 100% Real Maple Syrup

· 1 ½ cups Oats

· ¼ - ½ teaspoon Salt

· 1 teaspoon Vanilla optional

Toppings Ideas:

· Fresh Berries

· Real Maple Syrup

· Chocolate Chips

· Fresh Banana Slices

· Sliced Almonds


Instructions

1. In a blender, pour in Almond Milk, eggs, banana, maple syrup, vanilla (optional), oats and salt.

2. Blend until smooth.

3. Heat pan over medium heat. Once warmed, spray with non-stick cooking spray or place coconut oil or butter. Pour pancake batter into the pan in round circles.

4. Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side. Turn over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

5. Drizzle with real maple syrup and toppings of choice.


Thank you for reading my blog. Let’s cook and have fun!!

Maria!


Maria is one of Little Gems Montessori’s lead teachers in the Topaz classroom in our Nicosia setting. Maria truly enjoys her cooking always involving the children in the process. Wonderful smells often find their way throughout our school and delicious tasting smoothies, cookies, jams and more find their way to our snack tables. If you would like advice on children and cooking, give us a call or send us an email: littlegemsmontessori@gmail.com. +357 22 351319. Bon Appetit!

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