Hidden STEM Lessons In Cooking

January 27, 2021

Cooking with the kiddos can be an awesome way to bond and beat the winter doldrums together…best of all, there’s a delicious reward at the end.

Another benefit is that there’s plenty of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lessons to be learned in the kitchen. It’s no surprise that the techno-pandemic is causing kids to miss out on aspects experiential learning, so whipping out the aprons is great for re-engaging their senses and doing something hands-on that doesn’t involve a screen.

Ready to embark on a culinary adventure in your own kitchen? Read on to learn about cooking’s brain-boosting benefits!

Math Skills and Measuring

The success of any recipe hinges on the ability to add just the right amount of each ingredient and cooking the dish for the correct amount of time. Focus your aspiring “foodie” on the measuring cups and spoons.

Fractions may be too advanced, but they can pick up the basics with measuring cups. It may just take one recipe to familiarize the kids with the idea that a 1/2 cup of milk is more than a 1/4 cup of milk.

The ability to measure precise portions is a critical skill in many STEM subjects. When you allow the children to mix exact amounts of ingredients, you could be watching a future chemist or engineer!

Cooking can also assist younger kids to understand the concept of time. After all, everything is supposed to be in the oven or the microwave for a certain amount of time. Kids will feel special when you “assign” them the role of time keeper. Even the littlest ones in your crew can learn counting while older siblings do the more advanced measuring. Point them towards the berries or the banana slices and help them to do some hands-on counting, and they’ll be thrilled to feel included.


So. Much. Science.

Yummy science is the best science! The kitchen is fertile ground for all sorts of experiments. No matter how old your kids are, there’s a science lesson to be learned, whether it’s convection, states of matter (liquids, solids, etc.), temperature or chemical reactions.

There are endless ways for little ones to predict, analyze, observe and form their own hypotheses. Plus, they’ll spark a lifelong curiosity about different food groups, how food grows and how it changes while cooking.


Experiential Learning= Problem-solving Skills

Preparing and cooking food is a basic life skill that boosts kids’ self-esteem. It lays the groundwork for developing critical thinking, observation skills and problem-solving, as well as the ability to be self-sufficient. While current circumstances have so many of us feeling powerless, putting together a meal helps kids gain a sense of accomplishment and pride.

When you are teaching a child to cook, it starts with the recipe. This is the perfect place for your mini chef to begin to evaluate and apply information correctly. And the entire effort teaches them to multi-task and focus on completing goals. 

If your child is old enough to read, get out the recipe book and have them practice reading aloud. It’s a great way to increase their vocabulary and learn to pronounce words that are only used in the culinary world. If they’re not quite ready for reading, find a “job” (any job) for them to do, whether it’s stirring batter or simply turning the pages of the cookbook.


Adventures in Cooking Can Take Kids Around the World

Cooking is a great way to boost your kids knowledge about geography and your family heritage. While cooking may go down in the kitchen, it nurtures curiosity about the world at large and encourages an adventurous palate.

If your grandparents came from Italy, maybe it’s time to introduce little ones to the treasured family spaghetti recipe. While you’re whipping up that hand-me-down dish, you can also share stories about their ancestors.

Or, pick a foreign country or continent — perhaps a place your child has shown an interest in, or somewhere you vacationed — and research the culture together. You can even launch a weekly or monthly “theme night” where each child chooses a dish from an exotic locale. Or, post a map or spin a globe together to find some inspiration. You can also simply talk about where different ingredients come from. 

This is a wonderful way to expand your kids’ horizons and show them that cooking doesn’t have to be a routine chore, but an endlessly creative process. 


Bon Appetit! 

We hope you enjoy bonding with your tiny chef-in-training! It’s been said that the kitchen is the “heart” of any home. So enjoy making recipes together and be sure to add a dash of love.

For more family-friendly tips, check out the CA Parents’ Corner blog.

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