At Square Roots Preschool, we do a group project every day–something all the students do together. Cooking projects are some of our favorites. Not only are they fun and produce tasty results, they teach and reinforce a variety of developing skills for preschool-aged students.
What are those skills?
• Following Directions–We love open-ended free time, but it’s also important to know how to follow directions. In contrast to an activity like finger-painting, preschoolers can’t just toss any amount of whatever into a pot and stir. In order to produce a favorable result, we have to go step-by-step and do as instructed.
• Measuring–Knowing that a cup is more than a teaspoon is a great life skill to have, but on an even more basic level, preschoolers who cook know the real-life application of concepts of more and less, liquid and solid, and slowly and quickly. These are all concepts that cooking teaches.
• Self Control–Preschool-aged children are developing their self control. What better a test than not sticking little fingers into a community pot or chomping up an ingredient that’s meant to be part of a recipe?
• Patience–Cooking projects aren’t instant. Good things come to those who wait. Whether we’re baking bread or blending a smoothie, we have to wait for the final product, the fruits of our labor.
• Taking Turns and Contributing in Different Ways–We let each child have a chance to add an ingredient. Only one child can add a teaspoon of vanilla or a cup of yogurt. Each child might not get the exact ingredient he or she wanted to pour, but waiting for your turn and watching and supporting others as everyone contributes is a good skill to have.
• Fine and Large Motor Skills–Pouring small amounts of ingredients is a great way to practice fine motor skills, as is pushing a button on a blender or cutting a strawberry (with a child-safe knife). Stirring the pot and pouring a cup of milk with accuracy help our students practice their large motor skills.
• A Sense of Accomplishment and Teamwork–Perhaps most important of all, students who work together to cook something are a team and get to enjoy the results together. Looking at each other and socializing over a slice of Friendship Bread or a Strawberry Smoothie lets the students know that they’ve done a great job and accomplished their goal.
All of these concepts can be explored at home, as well. Young children love to help in the kitchen, so take advantage of it, and teach them valuable skills in the process!