By Chris Barry, STEM Specialist, DuPage Children’s Museum
What can you do to beat Cabin Fever? Try cooking! Cooking with your kids can be fun AND educational! It is sometimes said that “Cooking is science (or math) for hungry people!”
Think about all the science and math your children are observing and using when cooking. There’s the math of measuring out the ingredients. For an extra challenge, you can double the recipe or divide it in half. Look at the way a set of measuring cups or spoons nests together. Just getting young children to realize the ¼ and ½ are part of a whole (1) is a major mathematical concept that they will use in school when they learn about fractions.
Cooking and baking are all based on science. When heated, liquids can become solids (scrambled eggs) and solids can become liquids (melted butter). This is your children witnessing changing states of matter! Observe what happens to yeast when added to warm water and a little sugar – Hello fermentation! Then to watch the dough rise and get baked into bread is just short of magical.
In addition to the science and math, children benefit by being in the kitchen in other ways. They love to learn to use the tools of the kitchen – wooden spoons, egg beaters, whisks, and yes, at the proper age, knives. Being able to help an adult chop, mix, and stir gives children great confidence. Yes – they make a bigger mess than you probably would. But learning how to clean that up is just another life skill.
There’s also plenty of evidence indicating that children are more willing to eat a dish that they’ve helped create. Cooking and baking engages all the senses. As children experience the food in different stages, they gain a better understanding of not only the food itself but what it takes to have someone prepare it for them. They become more appreciative of the food and the people who provide it.
Being in the kitchen with your kids builds memories. Whether you’re teaching them to cook something from your childhood, or starting your own list of family favorites, the memories being created and the stories being told will last forever.
So get in the kitchen and make a mess! You and your children will not regret it.
Chris Barry has a BA in Biology from Lake Forest College. She spent many years working in clinical genetics labs in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. After moving to Naperville, she started working at the Museum as a Learning Lab Facilitator, and is now the STEM Specialist and School Programs Manager. She has been with the Museum for over 20 years.