There are so many ways to supplement your lessons, but one of the best is cooking. Something magical happens the moment that two sets of hands - one big, one little - begin to work together to create a yummy dish. It certainly is one of my children's favorite activities!
I'm sure many of you already get a little help from your kids en la cocina, but have you ever thought about the number of benefits that result from this interaction? Or about how you can use cooking to reinforce concepts? Take a look at some of the benefits and ways to incorporate cooking in your curriculum...
It is Versatile
Cooking can complement almost any subject. Here are just a few examples:
• Math: Following a simple recipe can teach fractions, volume, and measurements.
• Health: Taking the time to create wholesome meals gives you an opportunity to talk about healthy diets, the food pyramid, nutrition, and the body.
• Science: Use simple ingredients in your pantry or cupboard to teach about chemical reactions, primary colors, texture, etc.
• Reading: Practice reading skills while reading recipes, ingredients, labels, and more.
• Music: Small children can use kitchen items to "experiment" and explore sound. Older children can use containers filled with liquid to learn about pitch. Use songs to inspire cooking then discuss why the songwriter may have written about that particular dish (think Arroz con leche, I'm a Little Teapot, Naranja Dulce, The Muffin Man, etc.)
• History: Make dishes that were popular during a specific time in history. For example, Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to create and discuss dishes that early settlers may have used.
• Geography: Look up and make dishes that are popular in other countries (i.e., fish 'n chips for England, crepes for France, paella for Spain, arepas for Venezuela, etc.) Be sure to find the country on a map or globe! You might even consider making a "Cuisine Passport" which includes the recipe, photos, and country of origin.
• Social Studies: Take your geography lesson one step further by exploring the cultures and traditions of the people who typically eat a particular dish. Include information about how the native people dress, what language they speak, special holidays (how about a Pan de Muerto recipe to celebrate Día de los Muertos?) and other important facts in your "Cuisine Passport".
It Builds Character
Cooking with your child instills confidence. By teaching your child to cook, you are helping to develop his or her Life Skills. You are giving them the gift of independence and, yes, creativity. Encourage your child to be adventurous by trying out new recipes.
Cooking can also foster self-sufficience. Next time your child runs out of play-doh, try making your own using this recipe. ¿Qué? Your bottle of glue just dried up? Try this simple homemade paste recipe that uses flour and water.
It is Special
Cooking with your child is a bonding experience. For ages, familias and friends have shared stories, secrets, and so much more over a wooden table or a bubbling pot. With out a doubt, some of my best memories of my great grandmother are of our time together in her kitchen. And making tamales, tortillas, or even cookies, are often a family affair, special moments in the hearts of Latinos across the nation. So next time you decide to whip something up in the kitchen, be sure to invite your child to participate. You'll be amazed at the joy the sound of little hands going pat-pat-pat will create in you both.
For some simple (and kid-friendly) recipes, check out these sites:
• Agua Fresca: Agua de Tuna Roja :: The Other Side of the Tortilla
• Sandía Paletas :: Culture Mami
• From Abuelita's Kitchen: Flan de Queso :: Spanglish Baby
• Cooking for Kids :: Earth's Kids
• Age Appropriate Kids Cooking Lessons :: Kids Cooking Activities
• Freaky Foods From Around The World / Platillos Sorprendentes de Todo el Mundo by Ramona Moreno Winner
• The Handstand Kids Mexican Cookbook by Yvette Garfield, Cricket Azima
• A Kid’s Guide to Latino History by Valerie Petrillo
• The Kids' Multicultural Cookbook (Kids Can!) by Deanna F. Cook
Favorite Latino Cooking Blogs:
• The Other Side of the Tortilla
• A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate
• From Argentina with Love
• My Big Fat Cuban Family
• Eric Rivera's Cooking Blog
Con mucho cariño...