Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Kitchen Classroom (rerun)

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Kitchen Classroom (rerun)

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids in the Kitchen
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how kids get involved in cooking and feeding. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

The kitchen is the most complete learning experience everyone has readily available in their house. It invites our children to play, to experience and to taste. In this first post of the series, I want to focus on the skills your child will be practicing, just by watching and helping in the kitchen.

Image: WoodleyWonderWorks on Flickr
It’s evident that cooking, especially baking is mathematics in practice. Without noticing it, we handle numbers all the time in the kitchen. We add, we subtract, divide and multiply. From simple counting to more advanced calculations, your child will pick these things up gradually if he is invited to work alongside you in the kitchen.
When you drop an egg, it falls to the floor. Just as Newton with his apple, your child will experience physics in action, just by participating in the kitchen. Your child will learn about volumes when measuring liquids or flower, about weight when baking a cake, about shapes when rolling dough and filling moulds. She’ll find out how coagulation works and how to dilute substances. Your child will start grasping concepts such as weight, length, height, volume, pressure, time and temperature.
Participating in cooking on a regular basis, your child will see several chemical reactions occur. Fermatation, making yoghurt, making vinegar, they’re all biochemicall processes, occuring right in your kitchen.
Obviously, being around fruit and vegetables and maybe meat and dairy, your child will ask questions from time to time, but will also experience first hand what a stem like when you cut it through, what’s inside a chicken, what do bones look like and much more. When you’re cooking spinach, your child will see that it reduces and liquid comes out, thus concluding that much of what makes up spinach is water.
Who would have though that the kitchen would even invite your child’s artistic skills? But what else is decorating a pie? Being in the kitchen alongside mother or father, your child will learn to handle lots of artistic tools (a brush, a moldable dough, knives...) and different media.
Gross Motor Skills
Carrying bowls from one side of the kitchen to the other, climbing on a chair or step to help alongside you, crawling over the floor to pick up fallen bits of vegetable clippings... there are no limits to your child’s exploration of space in the kitchen, and the best thing is that they all happen naturally, no prompting!
Fine motor skills
Just think “decorating a cake” and you have a scoop of the many many ways in which your child can improve his fine motor skills.
Smell, taste and texture
The kitchen is first and foremost a field of exploration for a small child, a way to sense and taste, to feel and observe. Your child will explore a field of flavors and a panoply of textures. Don’t be afraid to bring different things into your kitchen, try things you never ate before, even if you don’t know how to cook them or what they taste like (if you know what it’s called, you’ll quickly find a multitude of recipes online).
Try different kinds of cooking: Indian, Thai, Chinese, Hungarian, English, African... Let the table be your lab. You’ll get to learn different cultures and their cooking habits alongside your child and you might discover some exciting tastes you didn’t know before.
Language skills
Along with some neat cooking lingo, your child will pick up the names of vegetables and fruits, discover how nuts and seeds are called, what cow’s meat looks like. They’ll also pick up numbers and materials (give me the glass bowl please)...
Healthy eating habits
Being in the kitchen and able to participate in creating healthy meals for the whole family, your child will inherit respect for the food he eats and a deep connection to wholesome food, which can only be beneficial to his eating pattern later in life. Aren’t the sweetest childhood memories those of the cookies grandmother baked? The pancakes we consumed together as a family and the jam made from freshly picked strawberries?

I deliberately placed the scholastic skills first and then the ones that aren’t taught explicitly, just to show you that you really don’t need to step further than your kitchen for your young child to get just as much education as they would in school (and then some). And instead of seeing these things chalked on a blackboard, they’ll get to feel and experience it. Isn’t experience richer than paper?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 8 with all the carnival links.)
  • Baking & letting go — Cooking with kids can be a mess. Nadia at Red White & GREEN Mom is learning to relax, be patient, and have fun with the process.
  • Family feeding in Child of Mine — Lauren at Hobo Mama reviews Ellyn Satter's suggestions for appropriate feeding and points out where her family has problems following through.
  • Children with Knives! (And other Kitchen Tools) — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy teaches her children how to safely use knives.
  • "Mommy, Can I Help?" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment writes about how she lets her kiddos help out with cooking, despite her {sometimes} lack of patience!
  • Solids the Second Time Around — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes recounts her experiences introducing solids to her second child.
  • The Adventure of Toddler TastebudsThe Accidental Natural Mama shares a few things that helped her daughter develop an adventurous palate.
  • A Tradition of Love — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy looks forward to sharing the kitchen traditions passed on from her mom and has already found several ways to involve baby in the kitchen.
  • The Very Best Classroom — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts reveals how her kitchen is more than a place to make food - it's a classroom!
  • Raising Little Chefs — Chef Mike guest posts on Natural Parents Network about how he went from a guy who couldn't cook to a chef who wanted to teach his boys to know how the food we love is made.
  • In the Kitchen with my kids — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine shares a delicious soup recipe that her kids love.
  • Papa, the Pancake Artist — Papa's making an incredible breakfast over at Our Mindful Life.
  • Kids won't eat salad? Try this one! — Tat at Mum in Search is sharing her children's favourite salad recipe.
  • Recipe For a Great Relationship — Cooking with kids is about feeding hearts as well as bellies, writes Hannah at Wild Parenting.
  • The Ritual of Mealtimes — Syenna at Gently Parenting Twins writes about the significance of mealtimes in her family’s daily rhythm.
  • Kid, Meet Food. Food, Kid. — Alburnet at What's Next? panicks about passing on her food "issues" to her offspring.
  • Growing Up in the Kitchen — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares how her son is growing up in the kitchen.
  • Harvesting Corn and History — From Kenna at School Garden Year: The kids in the school garden harvest their corn and learn how much history grows in their food.
  • My Guiding Principles for Teaching my Child about Food — Tree at Mom Grooves uses these guiding principles to give her daughter a love of good food and an understanding of nutrition as well as to empower her to make the best choices for her body.
  • Kitchen Control — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro writes about her struggles to relinquish control in the kitchen to her children.
  • Food — Emma at Your Fonder Heart lets her seven month old teach her how to feed a baby.
  • Kitchen Fun? — Adrienne at Mommying My Way questions how much fun she can have in a non-functional kitchen, while trying to remain positive about the blessings of cooking for her family.
  • Kitchen Adventures — Erica at ChildOrganics shares fun ways to connect with your kids in the kitchen.
  • Kids in the Kitchen: Finding the Right Tools — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings shares some of her favorite child-sized kitchen gadgets and where to find them.
  • The Kitchen Classroom — Laura at Authentic Parenting knows that everything your kids want to learn is at the end of the ladle.
  • Kids in the Kitchen — Luschka from Diary of a First Child talks about the role of the kitchen in family communication and shares fun kitchen activities for the under two.
  • Our Kitchen is an Unschooling Classroom. — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle explores the many ways her kitchen has become a rich environment for learning.
  • Montessori-Inspired Food Preparation for Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares lots of resources for using Montessori food preparation activities for young children in the kitchen.
  • My Little Healthy Eater — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares her research on what is the best first food for babies, and includes a healthy and yummy breakfast recipe.
  • Two Boys and Papa in the Kitchen: Recipe for Disaster?MudpieMama shares all about her fears, joys and discoveries when the boys and handsome hubby took over the kitchen.
  • Food choices, Food treats — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea shares her family's relationship with food.
  • learning to eat — Catherine at learner mummy reflects on little M's first adventures with food.



  1. What a great unschooling post! I love that you've quantified all of it. I will go back to this post if ever asked to defend what my child is learning all day with us. ;)

  2. I love to be nerdy like that... even though I don't really think about it in real life

  3. I love how you break it all down. It's easy to get caught up in more explicit things and forget the value of spending time in the kitchen. What a wonderful reminder!

  4. I love posts like these, it's always so awesome to see what kids are learning just by living. Today Kieran and I were reading and a child said something about "school is where you learn things." We discussed that it is fun that we are able to learn things *anywhere* - not just in one building!

  5. how sad that that child was already conditioned to think that he could not learn unassisted... sigh

  6. the kiddos and I were just watching our cookies bake and talking about heat and how it affects the ingredients and their state. the kitchen is a fantastic place to learn!!

  7. Thanks for this informative post!!! I'm actually discovering that I am in LOVE with your blog :) I'm going to be passing this article on to a lot of people I know that don't quite understand how unschooling works - it's a perfect explanation of how cooking in the kitchen is a great learning experience for your kids.

    xo, mrs. stone

  8. Thank you so much. I'm very flattered. The whole idea of this post made me chuckle, because we never think about things that way, so - for those who are skeptical - I wanted to try it out... and I didn't even have to think very hard. I have another post about when I went swimming with my daughter in this idea... It's funny how when you divide a normal situation into 'subjects' all of a sudden people do realize that you can learn from daily life...

  9. I love this so much! What a great idea for this topic.
    I think I do a lot of this naturally, but I can see where I can make some things "pop" even more.

  10. Oh, so great! I love this! As a former teacher turned mom, this post was right up my alley. :) I'm so looking forward to teaching my son all of the things a kitchen has to offer!

  11. And all of those subjects are so easily taught through something as fun as cooking (and eating!). I would have so rathered bake something than do an overhead in high school. If it's yucky, your math/bio/physics/etc. were wrong. Lesson learned.

  12. What an inspiring article for this homeschooling mom! Perhaps I should print this out and turn it in with our attendance record at the end of the year! Thanks!

  13. what I notice with my daughter is that, even though she's still very young, she's extremely interested in the world, and since we don't separate into subjects, she's just as interested in the 'harder' things or the more boring things then she is in fun things like crafting and nature. The other day I had to explain the vascular system, and she came to me for the same explanation several times. And on another occasion, she went to help my husband getting a car started again, looked under the hood and asked about all the parts

  14. This describes exactly how I feel about homeschooling! I think the greatest learning experience at home is one that includes kids cooking three meals a day in between doing "school work." Just as you mentioned, there are so many things to be learned in the kitchen and I feel that anything they do in the kitchen will reinforce everything else they've learned that day. I don't think learning *should* happen any other way.


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