Cooking with Young Children

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Food plays a huge role in supporting physical and emotional wellbeing, but can often be a contentious issue for children. Commonly, children have little control over their day-to-day lives, so refusing to eat something is often one of the only ways in which they are able to exert their will!

At Westgate, our menu offers a variety of flavours, textures and cuisines, and we are pleased to say that the children love their meals. Of course, one reason for this is down to our fantastic chef, but we also try to give our children ownership of their food by encouraging them to participate in regular cooking activities. The children gain a sense of pride and accomplishment when they share food that they have cooked with their peers, and we find that this can motivate reluctant eaters to try – and enjoy – something new.

As well as encouraging children to develop a varied palate for foods, the educational benefits of cooking for young children are numerous:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional – the children practice taking turns and sharing roles as they cook in a group; developing patience and tolerance. There is also a wonderful sense of pride when a child serves the food they have made themselves, which could contribute to a self-esteem and confidence boost.
  • Communication and Language – listening and concentration skills are developed as the children listen to instructions.
  • Physical Development – Stirring, kneading, and using rolling pins builds strength in arm muscles which is necessary for later fine motor control. Similarly, using (child-appropriate) knives to cut foods supports the fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination which is used for writing. Children also practice their independence skills, developing their ability to use tools including cutlery to feed themselves. Not to mention the physical health benefits of preparing and eating nutritional foods!
  • Literacy – the children begin to realise that text holds meaning as they ‘read’ the recipes and become increasingly familiar with different forms of text and print. The children can also be encouraged to write their own recipes!
  • Mathematics – The children are introduced to measurement and time as they weigh and measure capacity and count to ‘time’ turns mixing. Understanding of time is further developed when the meal is cooking, as they children learn that things do not always happen instantly.  Understanding that numerals and quantities can correspond will also be developed, as they children have a physical representation to explore.
  • Understanding the World – Cookery is great for teaching early science concepts, as it affords opportunities for the children to recognise the effects of processes (for example, butter melting clearly demonstrates to the child that solids can become liquid when hot). Collecting and planting seeds from fruit and vegetables which can then be grown and used in cookery would also offer many fantastic opportunities to learn about growth and care for living things, but is very tricky!
  • Expressive Arts and Design – Children can express themselves through personalising and decorating their cooking!

Which leads us to introduce… The Westgate Cook Book!  We’ve ‘translated’ some of our more popular meals into a cookbook that is accessible to everyone – most importantly our children! Each ingredients list includes writing and visual aids to enable the children to count how many spoons or cups of each ingredient they will need to make the dish, meaning that they feel in control of the cooking process. We will be using these with our children at nursery, but if you would like to join in you can download a copy HERE: Westgate Nursery Cookbook.

Please let us know how you get on, and happy cooking!

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