My daughter loves to cook. Actually, she loves to bake. And, by bake, I mean lick the spoon, the bowl and whatever else she can get her little hands on. You’d better watch out, too, because she’ll battle to the end for the spatula.
Cooking and baking with kids is fun, educational and, above all, messy. Messes aside, though, it’s a great way to help kids learn. Measuring ingredients teaches kids about numbers, in particular, adding and fractions. Following recipes encourages and enhances reading skills and attention to detail. And, when you have more than one kid in the kitchen, cooking promotes teamwork and patience.
What I love most about cooking, however, is that it opens my daughter’s eyes to the world. We love to explore different countries and regions through recipes (especially the sweet ones requiring the use of a spatula, of course).
Cooking and baking are fun ways to introduce or reinforce cultural and geographical lessons your kids are learning at home or at school.
1. Geography. Once we’ve decided what we are going to cook or bake, my daughter and I locate on a map the country in which the recipe originated. We’ll note whether it’s a place we’ve visited (or whether it’s on our bucket list) and try to learn a few facts about each place.
2. Regional dishes and mealtimes. We learn about what people in the region eat and when. When making Ethiopian Dabo, we discovered that Ethiopians typically do not eat sweet foods for breakfast. Instead, many Ethiopian families start the day with this very lightly sweetened honey bread slathered with shiro, a chickpea spread. When making sushi one day, my daughter was surprised to learn that in Japan, families typically include fish, rice and pickled vegetables in their morning meal – so different from ours!
3. Cultural eating habits. My daughter loves experimenting with chopsticks (she has been known to consume an entire bowl of cheerios and milk using them). She also finds it cool, of course, that, in some countries, people eat entire meals with their hands.
4. Trying new foods. An added bonus to cooking with kids is that it makes them more likely to try new foods, whether because they lent a hand in making the new dish or because they are inspired to try a food eaten by kids in other countries. Whatever the motivation, it’s a great way to get them to expand their palettes and their minds.
Additionally, Our Whole Village recently started posting a monthly regional spotlight series, which includes a kid-friendly recipe from the country highlighted. And, if you sign up for the Our Whole Village newsletter, they’ll send you a free e-recipe cook book with 12 recipes from around the world. It’s a great way to get started!
Have fun learning about the world through the kitchen lens. Just remember to have on hand as many spatulas as you do kids!
Kara Suro is a co-founder of Our Whole Village. She loves wine travel (even with the kids), baking (especially with peanut butter) and exploring the world with her husband, daughter and son (from the corner bakery to the mountains of Patagonia).