cooking with kids

A Guide to Kitchen Schooling

In this Guide to Kitchen Schooling you will find proven techniques, tools and recipes to help your child better understand mathematics and science in the kitchen.  In addition, we provide guidance to help you work alongside your child in ways which will increase reading skills, motor skills and more.

Our kitchens offer our children a multi-sensory world filled with rich experiences.  These experiences can easily translate to all academic subject areas.  This is the basis for Kitchen Schooling!

Kids Coooking

What is Kitchen Schooling?

Kitchen Schooling is the ability to learn, using all five senses, in the kitchen.  Any academic area can be reinforced in the kitchen.  In doing so, your child will grasp a complete understanding of the subject area.  This happens because the kitchen offers a way for us to engage all of our senses. 

How do children learn?

All of us learn in different ways. 

Did you know that sight is our primary sense used in learning?  And that doesn’t mean being able to read a bunch of black and white words on paper (that’s a different brain function altogether).  I mean seeing pictures, graphics and manipulative’s. 

What other place in your home is filled with as many manipulative’s as the kitchen!

Every child uses their senses in different ways to learn.  Which is why the multi-censorial environment of the kitchen is so rich and conducive to learning.

And it’s not just sight and hearing that affect the way we learn.  Taste, smell and touch affect the way we understand and remember what we learn.  When we are in the kitchen together, cooking, using our measuring cups, talking, next to each other, eating and smelling our delicious food.  Your child might remember all his fractions just because it brings him back to the smell of chocolate cupcakes.  Isn’t that funny the way our brains work.

The slightest smell can trigger a memory from years past and all of a sudden we remember.

Your child might remember all his fractions just because it brings him back to the smell of chocolate cupcakes.

But anyway, this is not a scientific paper.  Let’s get to the fun stuff and jump into our kitchens!

Kids recipes

Your Guide to Kitchen Schooling

First – An Invitation

That’s right.  The first step to Kitchen Schooling is to invite your child to cook with you. 

It does not matter what you cook.  Don’t worry about fractions the first few times you are in the kitchen together.  The focus here is to be with your child, to talk and to connect.

Sometimes the first step in learning is connection.

Don’t focus on the results or where your child is struggling right now.  The best way to teach your child is through making a connection with him or her first.

Open a conversation (and put your phones away, in another room, with the ringer off…my suggestion).  Be present.  Talk about anything and everything, from sports, to movies, to books, to weekend plans and all about their favorite foods.

Make a plan to make these foods, together, as your schedule allows.  Making this a priority, not only benefits us in a healthy way, but will go a long way in making a strong connection with your child.

Ok, I think you get it by now, making a strong connection with your child is an important first step to opening the gateways of teaching.  Now, moving on!

Kids Coooking

Second – Safety

It’s everyone’s disclaimer SAFETY FIRST.

Always remember to be safe when you’re in the kitchen with your children.

And this is why the first step is to simply, cook together.  Gather in the kitchen and make several dishes together alongside your child.  While you cook you can safely guide your child on how to use cooking tools correctly and safely.  What they can use and those kitchen gadgets that are off limits.

You, the parent, know your child’s ability.  I always say keep a watchful eye until you are comfortable to give more freedom.

You also want to be sure your child understands your safety rules in the kitchen.  Here are  some suggestions, that I use with my kids:

  1. Always wash your hands before cooking or eating.
  2. Always wash your hands after cooking or eating.
  3. Ask permission before you start a meal or snack.

As you cook together you will gather your own set of kitchen safety rules.  You know your child best.  Make sure to communicate those and that your child understands.

Cooking together just for fun will show you what your child is capable of, where they need your help and if you need to get any safety tools.

For example, if you are working with young children, a learning tower is a wonderful tool to keep them at counter height safely standing next to you.

Here is a complete list of great kitchen tools for your youngest chefs, that they will love and will help keep them safe.

Around the kindergarten age I love these chef knives.  Your kids will feel just like you chopping veggies but using a knife that is completely safe.  Soft fruits and veggies work best with these chef knives.

Check out our favorite tools for children here.  These are colorful and made especially for little hands.  I selected tools that help build cognitive skills as well as fine and gross motor skills.
As children get older and their motor skills improve you can give access to more kitchen tools.  I have a recommended list of my favorite kitchen tools for ‘big chefs’, that we use with our kids.

Of course, my kids have their absolute favorites.  Those are a child sized chef knife and a hand blender.  They use these a lot!

What I love the most about kid’s kitchen tools are that they are so colorful.  They bring beautiful life into the kitchen and are perfect for little hands to have complete control in the kitchen.

kids cooking tools
kids cooking tools
Kids Cooking tools

Third – Interact and Ask Questions

This is the where we will begin to understand and put into practice our kitchen schooling techniques.

I think the easiest place to start using the kitchen as a learning tool is with math. Ask what they are learning in math.  Ask if they like math.  Why or why not? Engage your child in a conversation about their favorite and least favorite things about math. 

Figure out where they might need help.  Also find out where they flourish and are loving what they are learning. 

If your child has mastered certain areas of math, then great! Now they can use their skills and put them into practice.  Aha, the ultimate test!

For example, if they love addition give them a really simple recipe and ask them to double it. The same can be done with subtraction.  Snacks are a great place to begin because most recipes are very simple.

If they are division genius’s then ask them to help you divide a more complex recipe in half. 

Trouble with fractions? Well then, take out all of your measuring cups! Bake a cake or a pie or a bread.  Divide the pie, cake or bread into equal parts.  Order a pizza and study how it’s cut.  When you take one slice, how much is left?  How about when you take three slices?

Take the same sets of questions into other areas you see your child needs extra practice.  If it’s reading, ask them to read a recipe with you and help you make it.

Reading comprehension? Read through the steps in a simple recipe.  Together, with your child, build the recipe from what you remember.  This will help build those brain neurons to retain and comprehend. 

Science?  Well, that’s a whole other blog post (coming soon) because from our stoves to our freezers, it’s all science!

Fourth – Kitchen Learning Manipulative’s

Measuring cups, measuring spoons, pancake mixes, cake recipes, soup recipes, even the flatware we use to serve our dishes all become learning manipulatives.  Just open your drawer and start looking.

In addition to what you might already have at home, here are some favorite additions to elevate your kitchen schooling:

  • I really like white boards.  If your child struggles and the kitchen is becoming a main learning source, I like to recommend a white board.  These places are great to store any additional learning tools you might need.  Simple lap boards are great too and can slide with your pot lids to be out of the way.
  • I also like to have a conversion chart handy in the kitchen, these magnetic ones work great.  Referring your kids straight to the conversation chart will help them better understand and remember capacity figures.
  • A kitchen scale is a must have and will be used to measure ingredients in cooking and in science experiments.  Plus many recipes from other countries are only written in weight measurements. 
  • Fun table work, like the capacity apple in our math units, are fun to have in the kitchen too.  I use these manipulative’s when my child it not able to help me with a task but they still want to be engaged with you, in some way.  It’s also fun to have these learning tools as a way to reinforce and continue their retention and comprehension by now putting it in words, which they need for the classroom and workbooks.
Want direct links to all the learning kitchen tools? Click here!

Fifth – Take it beyond the kitchen

Kitchen schooling can include geography, reading comprehension, social studies (traditions, our family, our community).  We can experience it all, with our five senses, through cooking.

Making recipes from other countries is one example of how to bring in geography and cultural studies into your kitchen.  No, I do not place a large map over my kitchen counters, but we do have one in our school room.  A playroom, a bedroom or a hallway are also great places for maps.  When you make a cultural recipe, go and find the country it’s from and mark your map (yes, I mark my maps, I like learning maps, not decoration maps).

Books! You make a recipe and then read a book.  Find stories that correlate to what you are making.  For example, making a big salad for dinner, read a Beatrix Potter story.  Making fish for dinner? How about introducing 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

This is where your creativity expands education to a whole other level, utilizing all five senses, and exploding a child’s level of knowledge, understanding and skills.

kids garden and cooking

Need help getting started? 

Start with our lessons.  They will walk through each step of ‘kitchen schooling’.

We love that you are joining us on our kitchen schooling adventures.  I hope that this Guide to Kitchen Schooling has helped you in your journey to connect and learn in the kitchen.

Grab this freebie to start your Kitchen Schooling adventure:

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