When Kids Cook: Part 1

31 Mar

Positive cooking experiences early in life can significantly influence intellectual, physical, mental, and social youth development.

No, I didn’t conduct a study (I’m happy to collaborate if someone wants to…), but I’m 100% confident in the statement above. I’m excited about this, so rather than bombard you with one long essay, I’m dividing ‘When Kids Cook’ into a four-part series focusing on how cooking relates to intellectual, physical, mental, and social development.

I’ve been thinking about how to inspire youth to cook and bake (see my couscous post here). Kitchen experiences are ideal for project-based learning (my interest in experiential learning isn’t a huge surprise if you’re familiar with my alma mater, Hampshire College). Here’s why:

Consider educational frustrations that youth experience during middle/high school. I could write a book on education reform, but for right now just think back to your experience. What were the most memorable and (and probably beneficial) lessons from middle and high school? See if they fit into these four categories:

  • flexibility to work alone or in a group/team
  • opportunity to apply information to life experiences (the ‘how does this affect me’ question)
  • develop a practical product to share with others
  • acquire new and transferable skills

When I was a student – I’ll always be a student, but for the sake of example – I would have commented that the lesson qualities above were ‘enjoyable’, ‘didn’t seem like (school) work’, ‘fit my wants/needs’, and were a sign of a ‘good teacher’.

Yes, you guessed it, any positive kitchen experience fulfills all of what I loved – and still love – about project-based learning. There is a huge potential for intellectual development in the kitchen. Want to encourage youth to be curious and engaged? Want to provide alternative tools for students to pursue their interests? Want to make math, chemistry, nutrition, ecology, cultural studies, geography, design, history (I’m sure there are more) fun for students? Try bringing them into a kitchen!

In the coming weeks I will discuss how cooking skills can positively contribute to physical, mental, and social development. I look forward to exploring these topics and I hope to hear some of your knowledge, experiences, and opinions as well.

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5 Responses to “When Kids Cook: Part 1”

  1. Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic April 18, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    When I was a kid, my mom gave me a cookbook called “Cooking for Kids” or something like that – and I had so much fun creating the recipes with my parents. I definitely agree that introducing cooking early on is a positive contribution to a child’s growth!

    • Liz April 18, 2011 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks for sharing, Bianca! I love hearing about early cooking memories.

  2. Laurie April 1, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    So funny you say that, Samantha. I was just going to say that I’ve been having quite a few scientific experiences in the kitchen recently. I’ve been experimenting with making a less sweet caramel buttercream and there’s quite a lot of science in the process.

    And Liz, you’re so right. I just saw a link to something on this topic – http://strength.org/blog/megan_crowe/let_kids_cook/ She’s an Americorps volunteer too!

    If you think about all that goes into feeding a family in a creative and healthy way, and not spend a fortune, and keep things as natural as possible, it’s a real coming together of so many areas of knowledge. And that’s not even getting into gardening!

    I’ve told your mother this and I’ll share it here too – spending so much time with her in the kitchen, seeing her care about the food she cooked for all of us, and the garden and animals your parents cared for, really instilled in me a basis for how I feel about food and nature and the world. I know the concern I feel about what I feed my family and where it comes from didn’t happen by accident and your family has to be the cause. And I really thank your parents for that!

    • Liz April 18, 2011 at 10:02 am #

      Thanks so much for your comments. You make a great point: having the privilege of caring for food (understanding where it comes from and being mindful in its preparation) is educational on so many levels.

      I hope my parents can see the legacy they’ve already passed on!

  3. Samantha April 1, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    This looks great! I have a Food Network book from Aunt Laurie that includes the chemistry of cooking, and recipes too of course, if you’re ever interested. 🙂

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