Whatever their age – children will at some point want to help mom or dad in the kitchen. Whether it begins with emptying Tupperware cupboards, making drums out of pots and pans, or smearing a baby chair table with pureed pumpkin – the kitchen is a stimulating environment for piquing the curiosity of budding little chefs. However, it is also a high-risk zone for accidents. With knives of every size and sharpness; electrical points and appliances designed to chop, slice, dice and mangle; scorching ovens and boiling kettles; it can be challenging to say the least to invite little chefs in to experiment. Teaching good habits and safety from a young age, such as turning plugs off at the wall after use, slicing away from your body, not sticking knives into electrical appliances, and sealing lids tightly on harmful products, for example, will reduce the risk of injury but most importantly, supervision is the key to kitchen safety.
For little chefs, the kitchen provides an opportunity for developing essential skills. Co-ordination can be developed by pouring and transferring activities, as replicated in Montessori classrooms. Teaching children to pour liquid from a jug into another container without spilling is one way to enhance co-ordination and concentration, as is transferring food items, such as beans, from one bowl to another, using a small pair of ice tongs or a spoon. Sorting cutlery is also a great learning activity as is threading fruit onto skewers.
Developing the senses of taste, smell and texture are also benefits of time experimenting in the kitchen. Another activity used in Montessori classrooms makes use of smelling bottles. Using twelve small bottles, divide equally into two sets marked by two different colours (i.e. six red bottles and six blue bottles). Fill each set with six different and distinct scents, for example coffee, vanilla essence, cinnamon etc. Your child needs to match the bottle from one group with the corresponding scent in a bottle from the other group.
Baking biscuits using a variety of shaped cookie cutters can also be a useful introduction to shapes and sizes, and much fun can be had rolling the dough and decorating the end result. For older children, maths skills begin to take practical form with the introduction of measuring ingredients, setting oven temperature and monitoring cooking time.
It seems all fun and games, but once these foundations have been laid and your children have developed exceptional abilities for distinguishing taste, smell and texture, who knows what gourmet dish may find its way onto your dining table as your little chefs explore their culinary world?
Easy recipe idea: Easter Smores:
Put a marshmallow between two Marie biscuits and pop it into the microwave for a few seconds remove it just as it begins to expand. Press the biscuits together, sandwiching the yummy filling in between. Lets see you resist a second one.