If you are looking for a fun and educational way to connect with your children, try teaching them to cook. Cooking is an important life skill and helps engage their creativity. Cooking reinforces math skills such as fractions, unit conversions, estimating, measuring, planning and problem solving. You have to make dinner anyway, so you might as well turn the time into a fun and educational moment with your children.
Spending fun time cooking or baking together will also encourage your kids to be better helpers in the kitchen. Cooking healthy foods could help them develop healthier, lifelong habits too!
Steps for Cooking with Children
Step 1: Choose a recipe
Gather some recipes intended for children and/or a few which are simple. Your local library should have some good children’s cookbooks. You may also like the kid-friendly recipes from the Food Network. Look through the recipes with your children and together choose a few simple dinner recipes that appeal to them. If your child is under ten and/or new to cooking, look for recipes with less than ten ingredients and less than five steps.
Step 2: Create a Shopping List and go Shopping
Look at the list of ingredients together and decide what you need to buy and how much of it. Create a shopping list together.
Bring your child to the store with you to help shop. Shopping has many opportunities to infuse real-life math skills. Show them how to save money by comparing prices per unit or measurement, and not just the total package price. If the recipe calls for a cup of honey, but the honey package is in ounces, they will need to convert from one unit of measurement to another. Even if you allow them to use a conversion calculator, the process of converting the units will reinforce concepts such as volume and weight.
Step 3: Discuss safety and hygiene
Instruct kids to wash their hands before starting and after touching anything that might have a pathogen.
Cooking often involves cutting and using the stove and oven, which can be dangerous if they do not follow certain rules and techniques. Stay with your child to teach them how to stay safe in the kitchen. The website "The Kids Cook Mondays” has great resources about cooking safely with kids, including at what age you can introduce specific skills.
Step 4: Read the recipe together three times
The first reading will help your child understand the structure of a recipe - cooking can be a great literacy activity too! The second reading will help your child understand the steps involved. The third reading will help your child begin to plan the timing of the steps and organize materials. The planning and organizing reinforces their analytical thinking skills and sequencing. Keep the recipe handy for easy reference.
Step 5: Start measuring and mixing the ingredients
Measuring ingredients is a great way to reinforce recognizing and using fractions. Help your child learn the difference between exact measurements and estimating. You can even experiment by making the same recipe two times. One time have the child estimate the measurements and the second time follow the recipe exactly.
Older kids can further their fraction skills with scaling baking recipes. Explain that using exact measurements is more important in baking than in other recipes. Have them try to double a recipe. They will need to multiply fractions and understand proportions.
Mistakes are okay because they teach the importance of accurate measurement and computation. It will help motivate your child to get it right next time. Just ask twelve-year-old Heidi, who accidently made cookies with two cups of oil instead of half a cup of oil.
Step 5: Finish the recipe and enjoy the food!
The best part about cooking is getting to eat the creation together as a family. Add some more math to the dinnertime conversation by asking your child how they might alter the recipe in the future. Was it salty or sweet enough for their liking? If not, how could they change it? Reflecting on possible changes will sharpen their analytical and problem solving skills, both important skills in math.
Step 6: Clean up together
There isn’t much math (if any) to cleaning up. We just think you will be more inspired to cook together again if you end up with a clean kitchen.
As your child gets more comfortable in the kitchen, you can help them expand their cooking repertoire. Remember to encourage them to be creative and have fun!
Mathnasium of Cambridge wants every child to enjoy and feel confident in math. Cooking is one way to have fun with math. There are many other ways, too, like playing games. The important thing is to doing math with your child in ways that you both enjoy. If homework and school math has you down, come see what makes our program different! Call us for a FREE math skills assessment and/or to set up a FREE Trial Session including tutoring, Mathnasium curriculum and math homework help! 519-623-6668.