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If you are a parent of a young child, you know that they are continually growing both in stature and in cognition and therefore, ability. Like any construction project that needs a strong foundation, brains are also built upon a strong foundation and a child’s experiences and interactions help to make their foundation solid. During early childhood, the brain undergoes a series of extraordinary changes with connections forming between the brain cells at a rapid pace. Connections that are regularly used will be kept and those that are not will be eliminated. Because children are learning everyday through experiences, it is important to offer a variety of experiences to learn from as well as repeated experiences. Repetition helps children develop and master new skills as well as allowing them to construct meaning of their world and how they fit into it. Repetition promotes learning and can also be achieved through daily tasks and routines such as making meals and baking in the kitchen. Introduce learning in the kitchen through:
While adults crave variety, preschoolers thrive on repetition. When preschoolers do things over and over again, they develop and master new skills while also constructing new understandings of their world. Think of how people master a new skill such as baking or playing a musical instrument. It takes repetition and practice. As preschoolers repeat and practice a variety of skills, they build their proficiency in those skills, which in turn leads to greater self-confidence.
Working in the kitchen also teaches children about cause and effect. Sometimes a recipe might not turn out the way you thought because a step was missed, measured incorrectly or misunderstood. A child can learn from the mishap and repeating the recipe will help them to master the task and allow for success, building confidence and self-esteem. It will also demonstrate to a child that their actions have consequences, both positive and negative. A fun watch to include might be 'Little Bear and the Cupcakes' where Emily and Little Bear’s muffins turn out hard as rocks because they forgot to add baking powder.
Another way that learning occurs in the kitchen that has a pedagogical association is learning by teaching and we aren’t talking about the parent as the teacher but your child. When a child becomes the teacher, understanding is on a deeper level because the child has taken ownership of their learning. This has also been termed the protégé effect, “a psychological phenomenon where teaching, pretending to teach, or preparing to teach information to others helps a person learn that information.” I remember watching my mother in the kitchen and then later as an adult thought, “no problem, I can handle that” only to discover that it wasn’t working out the way I thought it would. But when I had to do it myself and explain to another what I did or how to do it, it stuck in my mind because I had to struggle to gain an understanding of it and make it clear enough in my mind to explain it to my own child. First hand knowledge is always the best and when someone can explain it and teach it to another, a deeper understanding has been gained and perhaps has even allowed that person to see it in a new way putting a whole new twist on it, fueling the imagination. So, as you cook with your child, have them explain to you what they are doing and why and make sure that you offer opportunities for pretend play to extend the learning.
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.”
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.