In the Kitchen
The goals in the kitchen are many; including, nutrition, healthy eating habits, food preparation, safety and customs surrounding food.
This child is 11 months old. He is having his lunch (tuna salad) served on a plate with a glass of water and is using a child-sized fork. He is sitting at a table and chair his size. Grandfather supervises in the background. He is learning the customs of his culture by eating at a certain time of the day, the way in which his food is served and the utensils used in feeding. Throughout his many meals to come there will be the opportunity for him to learn the proper way to drink from a glass (without blowing bubbles), how to eat soup in a polite way, how to set the table and so on.
Children love to imitate. Below are photos of a child browning beef, cooking spaghetti, and learning to make Swedish rolls with Grandmother. He enjoys being with his parents in the kitchen. They have a set of tools that are his, in the utensil drawer. He frequently helps with measuring, mixing, pouring, and cleaning up. Cleaning up is an important part of learning respect for others and the environment. When you are cooking and preparing food, make sure your child is supervised by an adult at all times.
The kitchen should be a place where children can join in activities at their level, have their own things available to them, a place to learn about food and nutrition and variety. Encourage your children to try new foods, even outside of your preference. Frequently when children are involved in food preparation and growing their own food, they are more willing to try it. At school we have vegetable slicing. The children love food activities. They enjoy cutting their fresh beans into tiny little pieces, or slicing blanched carrots with a wavy slicer. Parents are often amazed at what their children joyfully eat at school and apparently will not touch at home.
Below is a photo of a low cabinet which has been assigned to the child containing her dishes and acceptable snacks. There is a low shelf for her kitchen items including a jug with water she may serve herself. You can also create a shelf in the refridgerator from which the child may serve themselves. There is a place in the silverware drawer for her smaller silverware. If you have room, your child might even have thier own table and chair. In this kitchen they have stools for the child to reach the work space.
Working in the kitchen can be messy! We have a "spill bucket" and clean up cloths readily available. Our spill bucket consists of a little metal pail with a sponge and a little soapy water. "Clean up cloths" are simply a basket of washcloths, all the same color. In our house the clean up supplies are under the kitchen sink. Be sure you show your child where those items are and how to use them. For dry spills, we have a child-sized dustpan and broom, or a table crumber (a small dust pan and brush.)
Activities in the kitchen: pouring, slicing strawberries with an egg slicer, spooning, measuring, mixing, peeling a hard boiled egg, how to make ... anything. This is a vocabulary rich environment. Discuss textures, tastes, and colors with the child. You may have conversations about where food actually comes from and at a later date, go explore that environment first hand. Baking deals with all sorts of science, so ask your child what happened to the batter while it was baking? Tell them about what caused the change. The older child can hypothesize, predict and experiment, what would happen if you left out certain ingredients?
Our table and chairs are from Michael Olaf. The little chef set is from Target. Our favorite cook books for children are First Meals by Annabelle Carmel and Family Fun Kids Cook book. These are listed in Our favorites page.